Tuning the violin down (g string)

Edited: June 10, 2021, 2:31 PM · What's the best note to tune the G string to if I'm trying to play everything from the lower F natural. Should I tune to F natural or does it make more sense to tune to E natural or D natural? Or I should I just retune all the strings to F,C,G,D? I'm thinking it's perhaps wise to just tune the G string down to F natural and make any adjustments on the G string.

Replies (8)

Edited: June 12, 2021, 7:13 AM · I suspect that you haven't had any responses yet because it's pretty unclear what you want. Are you saying you want to play a low F on the G string? What key do you want to play in? What sympathetic resonances do you want? You might like to think about whether you want vibrato or not. I'd suggest E might be best.
June 12, 2021, 7:58 AM · I'm trying to play the melody of this Stevie Wonder song. Several times he sings a low F. Keys of A Major and B Flat Major I believe (not sure about the intro).

I think E might make more sense as it will allow me to finger the F natural.


Edited: June 13, 2021, 10:01 AM · Use a viola - OR - just do what is usually done when playing "scordatora" and tune the G string down to the F natural that you need. You can't tune down too far without losing the sound quality of the string, but this is not at all an uncommon practice.

If I recall correctly, this is done on the lowest string of viola (the C string) when playing the last movement of the Elgar Cello Concerto (on viola).

June 12, 2021, 8:24 AM · What a violinist would usually do is transpose the song so that it fits on the violin...
June 12, 2021, 10:45 AM · I find Violin to be hard enough without adding scordatura. Whatever you do, do not tune a string up more than a half-step. That puts extra pressure on the top plate.
First transcribe the melody as recorded, or published. Then transpose it to a key that better fits your instrument, or vocal range.
June 12, 2021, 10:56 AM · Thanks Joel. That's good to know about tuning the instrument. There is plenty of tension already. I'll try transposing it.

June 12, 2021, 11:38 AM · Biber's scordatura in his Rosary sonatas calls for strings to be retuned as much as a major third higher or lower than normal. I wouldn't do it to my best violin but my others don't seem to have suffered any trauma as a result. I haven't broken any strings yet either. The sonatas exist in editions for normal tuning but that negates a lot of the effects Biber was aiming for, and many of the chords are harder if not impossible to play
June 13, 2021, 3:13 PM · Many years ago, in my orchestral cello days, we performed one of the Mahler symphonies (I don't remember which one), in one of the movements of which the CM is required to tune his violin up a tone on all strings, the idea apparently being to imitate the screechy playing of a folk fiddler - sorry guys! all you session fiddlers out there, but I know from my own folk sessions you're not at all like that, and Mahler was probably getting the wrong end of the stick.

Anyway, our CM said there was no way he was going to subject his 1700 violin to that treatment, so he asked his wife, a music teacher at a local school, to borrow for the occasion a 7/8 VSO from the school's collection. This was done, a set of steel strings installed and tuned up beyond pitch. The setup got through rehearsal and concert without disaster - although I think a string breaking during the solo would have enhanced the effect Mahler was after. I think that choosing a 7/8 violin was the trick that did it.


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