Strings - tuning

February 12, 2020, 12:14 PM · I think this will be a quick question!

I’ve noticed in the last few weeks that my A string rings at a very different frequency when I’m holding the tone versus after I left the bow from the strings. In other words, the after-vibrations are very flat. Does this mean the strings are old?

(And how...do I tune? To the long tone frequency, or to the after-ring?)

Thank you!

Replies (13)

February 12, 2020, 12:30 PM · It is possible that you are pressing your bow into the string too hard while tuning. If you are, the "after-vibrations" will be flatter.
February 12, 2020, 12:35 PM · What Andy says is especially a problem if you are using weich strings. Also if you have ever tried to tune tiny fractional violins for small children you know you have to bow VERY lightly. (But then the kids come along and they press down like crazy.)
February 12, 2020, 12:38 PM · Anita, this is normal. Congratulations to you for noticing it. The string will be under higher tension under the bow, than when the bow is removed. Higher tension results in higher pitch.
February 12, 2020, 1:12 PM · So, some follow up questions. :)

Why would it be more extreme on one string than others? (My A falls quite a bit. The others less.)

It’s kind of driving me crazy! I want to the sound that remains in the air to be in tune… Is that just not possible?

I know some teachers advocate that you tune using the upper half of the bow with a very light touch using up bows. But when the concert master then gives an A to the orchestra with long, full bows, won’t her/his A be lower than everyone else’s?

Edited: February 12, 2020, 1:24 PM · This is why we don't tune violin family instruments by plucking the strings like a guitar. The pitch is sharper under the bow, and the bowed pitch is the one we want to tune to. And it's why we bow lightly when tuning. The phenomenon gets more apparent as strings age because they lose some of their elasticity, so, as you surmised, that's one indicator that your strings are nearing the end of their life. Your A string has a smaller mass and diameter, and it's under greater tension than the G or D, so the effect will be greater.
February 12, 2020, 1:45 PM · Ok! Thanks for the input and answers! :)

It has been about 5 months with the strings, now that I think about it...

February 12, 2020, 1:59 PM · Anita wrote:
"I know some teachers advocate that you tune using the upper half of the bow with a very light touch using up bows. But when the concert master then gives an A to the orchestra with long, full bows, won’t her/his A be lower than everyone else’s?"
_____________

I would expect the concertmaster's pitch, using long and full bows to be higher than those noodling around lightly in the upper part of the bow.

February 12, 2020, 3:11 PM · Yes! Sorry! I went the wrong direction... :)
February 12, 2020, 4:21 PM · "It has been about 5 months with the strings, now that I think about it... "

if you're practicing as much as you should be given your goals, you probably should have changed them twice already. I wouldn't be surprised if they're false and that's exacerbating the pitch bend.

Edited: February 12, 2020, 5:00 PM · So many times when I tell my students to check the strings tuning, they play the two strings at the same time and I say it's not good, give me that! But when I start tuning I see that it's actually perfect. It was too much bow pressure from them and also not equal for both strings.
February 13, 2020, 10:15 AM · I don’t want to spoil myself so much by changing strings very often...although it is less an example of stoicism and more an issue of cha-ching cha-ching, if you don’t mind me being so very informal.

Is there a grave danger to playing on old strings that might upset the cost/risk/benefit balance I’m imagining? (I will order strings now and put them on as soon as I get them. I think it’s safe to say I’ve done so about every 4-5 months in the past year...I use the Infeld that come in the silver packaging.)

February 13, 2020, 10:55 AM · I sometimes prefer tuning left-hand pizz. Guitarists tune pizz. all the time.
February 13, 2020, 11:21 AM · personally I find that when I'm using strings that are too old, I don't get the feedback I need to actually play in tune - especially when I'm trying to do things like double stop thirds. Also, it's just more fun playing on strings that are resonant and alive, and I have a really hard time practicing when it's not enjoyable. For me, the extra motivation is worth the cost, but I'm also using strings that are less expensive than PIs (and buy them when shar puts them on sale).


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