Tuning apps?

Edited: May 8, 2017, 11:21 PM · Hi, I have to revive my tuning app/ tuner discussion as the names of the tuner programs are lost.

So to sum it up shortly (though being short isnot my forte ;) ) is that I cannot tune to perfect fifths and my girl of early 4 years old needs a violin that is tuned just right as she is developing her ear very fast in the direction of perfect pitch.

I know the theory and have tried to listen to perfect fifths to no avail. Did all that was suggested in the last thread but I simply just cannot hear it. i know it is hard for all of you to understand that I just dont hear the perfect fifths even though I do have a strong musical backround in piano, but I just dont, Im more that sorry myself that I dont have the ability. Maybe it develops but the thing is my girl needs the prefect tuning now, so I need an app or a machine with a needle to show Pythagorean tuning.

So please if any of you beginners are using one or any of you know a good one, preferably something that can be used also outdoors where there are more noise, please let me know. I can buy a machine to carry with us also, but it needs to have a needle or a curve so that I still continue to use my ear too in the vain hope that it might become better in time. Currently I use tuner lite app, but it doesnt do pythagorean tuning.
The other option is to get a list of Hz frequencies for every note lol.

And to add that encouraged by you, I let her once try to tune the e string herself, she can tune it just by ear to about +/- 10 now, but doesnt make it to just right yet but she yet doesnt play two string at the same time and she had dificulty in turning the fine tuner. So she cannot do this herself yet, but needs my assistance both in turning the finetuners and also getting it just right.

Replies (30)

May 8, 2017, 11:10 PM · ClearTune is my first recommendation for iOS and Android. Only $3.99.

Peterson has iStroboSoft which is also very nice if you're familiar with their physical strobe tuners, but pricey, $9.99, plus a whole bunch of in-app extras for purchase.

May 9, 2017, 12:11 AM · ClearTune is a great app I use everyday for practice, rehearsals, and concerts. Well worth the money.

But for a four year old and her non-violinist parent, I recommend going with a simple clip-on tuner like Snark. It picks up vibration directly from the instrument and is easy to use.


The difference between a pure fifth and other kinds of tempered fifths isn't really that great compared to other pitch issues with small violins. I would be more concerned with establishing a great left hand foundation rather than worrying about tuning the violin to equal temperament, which is not a bad idea anyway if you are going to play with piano. When she grows older and move on to bigger violins she will learn to tune by ear.

No need to go crazy!

To clarify some terminology — a perfect fifth (compared to augmented fifth or diminished fifth) describes an interval that covers seven semitones, but you can get nit picky with how wide or narrow a perfect fifth can be. I'm guessing what you're asking for is a pure fifth with a just intonation 3:2 ratio. Tuning your E string with just intonation is 660 Hz and E string with equal temperament is 659.3 Hz; I think they are hardly distinguishable for most four year olds and untrained adults...

I'm not quite sure about the comment, "...developing her ear very fast in the direction of perfect pitch." Having perfect pitch or absolute pitch is an innate ability to recognize pitch names; it's a gift/disease that one just has it or not, and cannot be acquire through practice. Yes, of course one can enhance pitch memory and develop relative pitch. But my point is even if your daughter do have perfect pitch, her hearing won't be damaged by tuning to the piano/your average equal temperament tuner at age four.

May 9, 2017, 12:16 AM · Gene, thank you. Cleartune looks simple enough, didnt really understand iStroboSoft, probably as I have no clue on what a physical strobe tuner is. Is it something that I should learn?

Edited: May 9, 2017, 12:52 AM · Dorian, thank you, yes the small violin, allthough it is a very good one, is difficult to tune and goes out of tune quickly too.

Now regarding the perfect pitch thing, the thing I fear is that I have heard of people who have had their perfect pitch tuned to an untuned piano or tuned to being a bit sharp or flat depending on what they have heard when young so that is what I am afraid of. I have no idea if she has just a very good pitch memory (more likely) or some kind of perfect pitch, but I think it doesnt really make a difference now, just that the ear developes to recognize the exact pitches and not too flat or sharp.

I downloaded the ClearTune, but Im sorry to say, it informed me that it is not going to be updated to further ios versions, so any other suggestions?

And yes developing a great left hand and a great right hand is of course very important, maybe it is just my nature and education that make me want to be just exact in the pitch thing too lol. I do not have perfect pitch and cannot hear perfect fifths but it really hurts my ears when she plays a pitch badly wrong so I have "my own cow in the trench too" as the saying goes in our language. Dont know if there is a similar saying in english? :D

Edit. With CleatTune, how do I put the settings, string family or pythagorean or pythagorean just?

Edited: May 9, 2017, 1:24 AM · D'Addario NS micro violin tuner hands down. I use one and I love it.

Features :

Easy to use lever-lock clamp fits most standard violins and violas
Built-in piezo transducer picks up instrument's vibration rather than sound
Quick note response and tuning accuracy
Bright multi-color, backlit, reversible display
Wide calibration Range (410 – 480)
Includes visual metronome (20 – 270bpm)

It is always better to have a nice tuner and metronome in your violin case than iOS apps like Cleartune or Tempo. iOS app tuners can't be used in noisy environments and the iPhone's speaker isn't loud enough to be used as a metronome. The Seiko SQ50V quartz metronome and D'Addario NS micro violin tuner are my best buddies. If you are ok with a visual metronome, the latter will do.

May 9, 2017, 1:30 AM · Gautam, thank you, so Snark and dAddario are similar tuners? Anyone knows them both to say which is better and more accurate? Both have good reviews on amazon.

Metronome we dont need, I have a good enough built in metronome in my head, it will take years for her to outgrow my metronome :)

May 9, 2017, 11:26 AM · I use InsTuner. Don't remember the upgrade cost (maybe $3.99?) from the free version. I like it well enough to keep using it.
May 9, 2017, 1:28 PM · I've been using gStrings (Android) for about 2 years and it does the job well enough. It's free with ads and I think you can buy it ad-free.
Edited: May 9, 2017, 8:29 PM · I don't think you'd like the D'Addario micro tuner as it doesn't show the frequency or cents directly or allow for anything but equal temperament. It is good in noisy environments because of its contact mic, but otherwise I don't think it'll really help you improve tuning the way you want to.

DaTuner for Android has an auto-level option which allows it to ignore background noise assuming that you can exceed its volume with your instrument. Otherwise you're out of luck and a device with a contact mic or a contact mic attachment would be needed in noisy environments.

Little kids playing violin can be super cute and quickly rack up busking money, so I can see the motivation for playing outdoors to help offset some of the costs.

I wish I could say that DaTuner was also available for iOS, but unfortunately it isn't, so I can only weakly suggest getting a cheap Android phone and installing DaTuner over WiFi.

Finally, I suggest using a drone or piano/keyboard to help you lean tuning by ear -- hearing the beats and understanding them might be easier when trying to match the same pitch. Afterwards, you should be able to identify the beats when trying to tune fifths. A good tuner app should have a drone/pitch pipe function. Part of the problem is likely to be playing a constant pitch and making the adjustments for tuning -- this should also get better over time.

May 9, 2017, 9:08 PM · Forget all that stuff about "cents." By the time your technique and your general pitch sense are good enough that it matters which "temperament" you tune to, your ear will be good enough to tune just your A to a tuner and the rest of the strings by fifths. That's how this works: Your need for precision in tuning evolves parallel to your skill.

A piano is a rotten reference for pitch because usually the unisons are never perfect. In case you do not know, each note on the piano, within the register of the violin, has three strings that are struck simultaneously and must be in perfect tune with one another to afford a clear pitch. Therefore trying to listen to "beats" against a piano is going to be very very frustrating for this reason.

May 9, 2017, 11:21 PM · While an electronic tuner might be your only option if you simply can't tune by ear, I don't think any tuner can be as accurate as tuning perfect beatless fifths by ear, by all means learn how to do this if you possibly can, electronic devices are notoriously inaccurate when it comes to really small differences, like fractions of a cent etc. That's why I always tune my keyboards and violins by ear, starting with a tuning fork.
May 10, 2017, 1:07 AM · Thank you all,

J Rey, what is a device with a contact mic? When weather permits she practices a lot outdoors, not for money though, just that its a good way to learn to enjoy playing for others so in the summer we would need something to tune the violin with outside, if the ipad app doesnt work. Do professionals use something in very noicy environments? Well I mean actually good amateurs as professionals probably tune just with ear right?

Paul, you are right, probably when I would need better tuning I wound have developed a good enough ear, but this is for my girl, I can tell she needs the perfect tuning now and cant really wait for my lousy ear to catch up

Lyndon, you are right of course, that a very good ear does the tuning best and eventually I hope that my girl will do the tuning to both our violins, but for now I think electronic tuning is enough for her. She is after all not a prodigy with a perfect pitch, though she is very good.

May 10, 2017, 1:11 AM · perfect pitch has very little to do with whether you are a prodigy or not, it can be as much of a curse when people play at slightly different pitches, worst thing is to try and encourage someone to have perfect pitch, if they develop it they'll let you know!!
May 10, 2017, 2:06 AM · Oh please lets not turn this into debate of perfect pitch or not, might as wellstart the shoulder rest debate too lol.

My point was that I do not think my girl is a prodigy allthough she is very good, Prodiges are somethingtotally different. So that the level ofaccuracy of tuning that can be achieved with outside equipment is enough for her. as things stand, it is that or then the violin is out of tune

May 10, 2017, 2:21 AM · I use Tunable by AffinityBlue on my android. It lets you use various tuning systems (including ol' Mr. A+B=C)including allowing you to center the tonality on a key.

Extra features:
-Useable for practice (you can set how wise the green area is, to account for vibrato or learning intonation)
-Pitch feature
-several customization options
-Shows cents off pitch, pitch name, and hz
-Visual metronome with subdividing options

Hope it helps :)

May 10, 2017, 3:02 AM · Michael,thank you, sounds promissing, bought it too, lets see how it goes with it.
May 10, 2017, 5:36 AM · Excuse my ignorance, but isn't tuning to the perfect fifth relative to the frequency chosen for the A? Theoretically any tuner capable of showing the frequency could be used to tune to perfect fifth if you know what frequency the perfect fifth will be (relative to the A frequency), am I wrong to think that?
Edited: May 10, 2017, 5:50 AM · Hey Roger;

Perfect 5th doesn't always mean Perfect 5th. When tuning a string instrument using 5ths we use 'true' or 'pure' 5ths, which are different than what you would get when playing a perfect 5th on a piano. These 5ths are the 5ths used in Just intonation and Pythagorean tunings. Because of this the exact frequency of each note changes a bit depending on what key you're in. Normally a high grade string player will do this automatically when playing with other non-fixed pitch instruments, making sharps and flats a little more of each. You might think it would sound out of tune, and with a piano it would, but with other strings doing the same thing and listening to each other it actually have an excellent effect. You're probably doing it without realizing it when you sing and play solo.

A 'normal' P5 isn't really pure because in equal temperament everything is shifted off centre a little bit to allow there to be 12 equal steps in each octave (hence the equal part).


Hey Maria,

I hope it works for you. I enjoy using it very much. The nice thing about these apps is they are cheap enough that if one doesn't work for you, you are only out a few dollars, opposed to buying a tuner and being out quite a few more.

May 10, 2017, 5:49 AM · "what is a device with a contact mic? When weather permits she practices a lot outdoors, not for money though, just that its a good way to learn to enjoy playing for others so in the summer we would need something to tune the violin with outside, if the ipad app doesnt work"

The D'Addario NS Micro is an example, as is the Korg Slimpitch, more literally as its contact mic can be detached. Korg also sells a contact mic separately, the CM 200, but it has a 1/4" plug so an adapter or plug replacement would be needed for it. For outdoor usage, using a tablet or phone together with a contact mic add-on would be awkward when both hands are already busy, so I'll reverse myself and suggest that a clip-on tuner such as the D'Addario would be better for just such usage. Visibility in sunlight can also be an issue -- the D'Addario would be bright enough if there's a bit of cloud or shade, and it might be bright enough in direct clear sunlight, but I'm not sure of that.

Edited: May 10, 2017, 5:55 AM · "isn't tuning to the perfect fifth relative to the frequency chosen for the A? Theoretically any tuner capable of showing the frequency could be used to tune to perfect fifth if you know what frequency the perfect fifth will be (relative to the A frequency), am I wrong to think that?"

No, you're right. Not everyone knows or remembers the frequencies though, and it can be hard to deal with that many digits which are moving around while tuning, so a 'needle' is easier to use, and one which points to the correct relative frequency is best.

Edited: May 10, 2017, 5:58 AM · @ J Ray

Oops, I may have misunderstood his question -blush-

May 10, 2017, 7:31 AM · Cleartune is amazing. One of the best that i tried.
May 10, 2017, 8:52 AM · I've been playing around with an app called Pitch - Tuner & Musical Fitness Tracker, and so far I really like it. It does a few things - first, it's a solid tuner that shows whether you are sharp or flat and by how many Hz. Second, and to me the most interesting, it does realtime data analysis of your playing and gives tells you 1. What percentage of time you were in tune. 2. On average how long it took you to correct out of tune notes. 3. A list of what notes seemed to be consistently out of tune and by how much. It's available on Apple's app store, but not sure if there is an Android equivalent.

I have been using ClearTune for a long time and find the UI really well designed, but like others have noted, the lack of updates means that there is a good chance that it won't be compatible with later iOS updates and will crash.

May 10, 2017, 6:34 PM · ClearTune has a setting for violins, but it still does not adjust well for perfect fifths. I have two tuners on my iPhone and mostly use them to the the 440 A

Any recommendations for the best tuning fork?

May 10, 2017, 6:37 PM · Hi Dexter,

I have a small Wittner tuning fork I got off of amazon. Just enough volume to tune with, while being small enough to fit into my overly packed case.

May 13, 2017, 8:43 PM · I use Cleartune occasionally, but I am constantly going between groups at 442 and 440 so I carry a cheap clip-on that can be adjusted and will ignore the rest of the group as we sit down before rehearsals. I tune by ear, but the clip gets me close faster before I finish by ear to match the group.
May 14, 2017, 12:20 AM · I use tunable for tuning, but when I work on etudes or pieces I never use any of tuning apps. I think it's more important to make the notes sound beautifully nice, than just make sure they are in tune but robotically. But well, it's good to train your ears too!
May 14, 2017, 1:29 AM · Forget artificial aids - concentrate on ear training instead. Just imitating the pitch of notes played on the piano by singing is good training. (Even if you have a dreadful voice like mine. By the way, good training is reading a book out loud and using some pitch variation like a good actor might. This can help you sing in tune. The important thing about violin playing is to get to the very centre of the note, by ear. A famous teacher (and i will remember his name in a second - Oh, yes - it was Gingold) said - the best players always have the most perfect intonation. (Or words to that effect).
May 14, 2017, 7:39 AM · The only function of an electronic tuner for a violinist is to tune one's A string.

Intonation is like your tennis serve. If you don't practice it's the thing you lose first.

May 14, 2017, 8:01 PM · I don't usually use apps, but of the ones I have downloaded, I prefer TonalEnergy. It offers various temperaments, a tone generator (in the instrument of your choice) a pretty well featured metronome and an analysis feature that shows the sound wave. Also the ability to record and playback. For me it gets the most use as a metronome and drone generator, but I've found the tuner to be quite accurate as well.

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