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Some Questions and Some Apprehension
I just have some questions about my violin and expressing some anxiety over tuning my strings for the first time.
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AmandaKulp
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March 21, 2018 - 5:06 pm
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Hello,

I have two questions I wanted to ask as I just started learning the violin under a week ago. I am wondering if it is possible for my left hand to be too small to place correctly on the violin strings? I am going by the photos of finger placement from my Essential Elements String book and I have to say, it is difficult to follow photos on finger placement correctly but If I even have them similarly close to what they suggest, I am thinking my fingers are not long enough especially my pinky and ring finger. I have always had very small hands. I still have people tell me I have child-sized hands. Perhaps I am not wrapping my hand around and grasping the violin correctly and therefore not reaching the strings correctly. My hand just feels very uncomfortable trying to stretch my fingers to where I am thinking I am supposed to place them. 

When I do place my fingers on the strings, how do you know when you are in the right place? I'd hate to order fingerboard stickers but I am thinking I will need to. I have no clue where to place them each learning material I look at for finger placement seems to have slight variations. Some place their thumb at the curve of the neck near the tuning pegs. I see others placing the thumb farther down. I sound so terrible right now I cannot distinguish if I am getting the right placement just yet. Can I use my tuner while learning? Will that let me know when I am making the correct notes with my fingers? 

On a completely different topic, I noticed when I use my tuner it says my G and D strings are perfectly in tune, however, my A and E strings are slightly high. I am literally terrified to tune my violin for the first time so I play with them the way they are, which cannot be helping me in learning. Do I use the fine tuners for the first time? My tuner is only showing the A and E strings as being one notch too high. I only have one yellow line on the tuner when testing them. I have watched tuning videos but that has not helped my apprehension. 

Thank you in advance for the help. 

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Bob
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March 21, 2018 - 5:53 pm
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Amanda, the apprehension you feel is what everybody who first gets a violin in their hands feels. When I first started violin (I was 49 at the time), I was petrified of breaking a string by continually tuning to try to get them in tune according to my tuner. At the time I only had a "whistle" device that you blow in one pipe for the A another for the G, D and E. I was completely lost!

Eventually I got close enough so that I could follow some cassette tape (remember them) lessons very slowly. After a bit I found a teacher that would work with a rank beginner and he helped me to get more relaxed. I highly recommend finding a teacher, at least to get you off on the right foot.

At first tuning is hard, but soon you'll start to be able to hear whether one string is in tune with the others. You'll become familiar with the sound of G and D bowed together, then D and A and then A and E. Don't rush it. Fiddlerman has some good examples of playing on each string, one at a time, so that you don't have to think about bow changes to other strings. 

You will be able to do this. Just don't get discouraged if it takes a bit of time to come.

Bob

Bob in Lone Oak, Texas

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damfino
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March 21, 2018 - 5:54 pm
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For the tuning, go ahead and use the fine tuners to tune them down (assuming that they aren't so high that they are showing close to the next notes, in that case you'd want to use the peg a little bit). Don't be scared. You need your fiddle in tune to learn note placement correctly. 

On the hands, I'm a fellow child-sized-hands person, lol. If I remember right, Essential Elements won't have you work your pinky finger too much in the beginning, so don't worry about that pesky finger too much yet. Let your other fingers get used to their placements. I have small hands, but my fingers have always had pretty decent flexibility, so I didn't have to stretch too much until I got into 4th finger stuff. I'm sure you can do it, it'll just take your fingers a little limbering up.

When you get into 4th finger stuff, there are a few tricks my teacher gave me, the best one was leaving one finger down (middle or ring) as a pivot point, and rock your hand forward to reach the 4th finger note. 

For knowing if your finger is in the right place, if you don't trust your ear, leave your tuner on your fiddle, and watch what note you're on, but make sure you are listening, you don't want that to become a crutch, you really want to train your ear to hear where your fingers belong. It really doesn't take long at all for your fingers to learn the feel of where they should go. Also, 3rd finger note you can test with the string above (3rd finger on D string is a G, so play that and the G string to see if they sound the same, 3rd on A string is D, 3rd on E is an A). 

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bluesviolin
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March 22, 2018 - 2:25 am
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when you do use the pegs sooner or later, try and remember to use some inward pressure (toward the peg box) as you turn them. if you turn them without any inward pressure the pegs will loosen as you turn them, and when you take your fingers off the peg it will slip and you will be left with a completely loose string.

if that happens, oh well, just tune it back up with a bit of inward pressure as you turn the peg.

or to put it another way...too much inward pressure and the peg will bind, too little inward pressure and the peg will slip. it takes a while to get the feel for it.

"Striving to attain Mediocrity"

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AndrewH
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March 22, 2018 - 2:42 am
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One of the most useful things you'll learn, and something you should try to learn as soon as you can, is what intervals and scales sound like. The only really reliable way to learn where your fingers should be is by listening to yourself and adjusting so that you sound right.

(This goes at higher levels too. No one plays every single note in tune. The pros simply correct themselves quickly enough that it's not easily noticeable when they misplace a finger.)

You should be able to find recordings of major and minor scales online. When practicing scales, again, the key is to listen.

This may be helpful for learning intervals:
http://www.madelinesalocks.com.....tenpg.html

Don't worry too much about where to place your thumb. Every violinist and violist uses a slightly different thumb placement. What matters is that you can reach notes comfortably, and without gripping the neck of the instrument tightly. I play viola and have small hands. My thumb often shifts up the neck a little to allow my third and fourth fingers to reach more easily. If you have small hands, your thumb may have to be more mobile than those of most violinists.

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Bob
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March 22, 2018 - 9:26 am
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The link Andrew posted is really a good resource to HEAR the different intervals, I'm definitely going to save that link.

Another link I found that is a visual representation of all the scales and the violin fingering at http://www.fretlessfingerguide.....les.html 

There are numerous resources online to help learn to play the violin. I find it necessary, however, to record myself practicing so I can see my posture, bowing, and hear what it "really" sounds like.

I'm eager to hear your progress, so don't forget to start making some videos soon 🙂 On Youtube you can post as "unlisted" so that only the folks you share the link with will ever know it exists. I prefer not to post my "oopies" with the world, but we're among friends here 🙂

Bob in Lone Oak, Texas

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Fiddlerman
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March 22, 2018 - 12:51 pm
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Amanda, for small hands, you can place your thumb much more on the end rather than in the groove. To reach with your shorter fingers you need to carefully, without hurting yourself, come around the violin with your elbow to approach all your fingers to the fingerboard. You may have to use more fat of the fingers (fingers laying a bit) rather than the tips.....

As for the intonation, you can get the guides. It's simple enough to get started using them and later on, force yourself to remove them when the time is right.

Tuning the violin is another problem all together. LOL
The pegs are conical so you need to learn to push them in enough to keep them from slipping but not so much that you can't turn them. Loosen them with baby steps at first. You need to get used to using pegs before making big movements.

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Charles
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March 22, 2018 - 7:36 pm
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Hi, Amanda,

A few tips for tuning while you're learning how to work the pegs:

1. Use the fine tuners when you can. They have a 20:1 ratio (the pegs are 1:1), so you're making adjustments 20 times as fine. You're not nearly as likely to make something go *sproing* with them.  (A bit of reassurance, having something go *sproing* might break your string - it won't break your violin.)

2. If you do need to use the peg, adjust the fine tuner so that it's in the middle of it's range before you start. You may (probably will, in the early days) have the peg in place and holding, but the note is not quite right.  Use the fine tuners to take care of that.

3. The way pegs work, it's nearly impossible to make a direct, small adjustment. You have to be turning it towards the note and pushing it in at the same time to get it to hold at the note.  Nobody every broke a string by having it too loose, so always start out turning the peg to make the pitch go down (I'm talking like a half tone here, not a huge amount), then sneak up on the note from below (in terms of pitch).  If you're close enough for the fine tuner to get the rest when the peg quits turning, use it. You'll eventually get to where you can nail it first time out, but don't add to your stress level expecting to be able to do that day one.

4. You don't have to to use the bow to tune the violin. Plucking the string will work, too, and that might allow you to do something like hold the violin facing you on the foot, with the scroll end up above it. That will let you get a much better grip on both the peg and the violin.  The "proper" technique is to grab the scroll with a couple of fingers, the peg with another couple and move the peg around with weird contortions of your fingers. Practice that when you're about to change strings and don't care if you break one.  (Earlier if you have very nimble fingers - I don't.)

Ignore #4 if it's important to you to do it "right" as soon as possible. Fair warning, though: that one-handed business with the scroll and pegs ain't easy. One caution: if things slip and the notes goes WAY flat, do something to sound the note as you're tightening it back up, so you don't overshoot. That 1:1 ratio on the pegs means it changes the pitch a LOT, in very few turns (or even quarter turns).

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Fiddlerman
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March 23, 2018 - 10:50 am
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@AmandaKulp - Let us know how it goes. 🙂

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but the one who needs the least."

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ryonass
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March 23, 2018 - 2:28 pm
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All great info up top. I would say having the left hand positioned correctly will help a lot. This video is great guide for you. Also, tune your violin. You don't want your ears getting used to playing out of tune. There are a lot of resources on Youtube on how to tune violin.

 

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bluesviolin
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March 23, 2018 - 8:54 pm
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Charles said

 The "proper" technique is to grab the scroll with a couple of fingers, the peg with another couple and move the peg around with weird contortions of your fingers.   

I think this is the best and most concise description of how to tune the pegs with the scroll that I've ever heard....seriously

I wonder if there is any place on the inter-web that shows some of these weird finger contortions.

"Striving to attain Mediocrity"

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AmandaKulp
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March 27, 2018 - 12:35 pm
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Someone, please help me. I'm pretty upset right now. I finally got the courage to tune my violin and I really messed my strings up. My strings aren't even registering as the right notes anymore. The only string I got right is the E string thank goodness cause that was the one string I was worried would break. My G string is registering as E on my tuner and my D is registering as a B now. When I was tuning the E string, my G string peg just moved on its own, a lot! I wasn't even touching the G peg.

 

EDIT: I fixed my D string. Now I cannot get my G and A strings back on note. I am afraid to mess with them more. I just want to get back to playing and practicing but I don't know how to fix my strings. 

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damfino
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If a string was out of tune enough, tuning it back up will change the tuning slightly of at least one of the others. It also sounds like your G string peg slipped. Don't stress 🙂 

 
Since I can't hear where your fiddle is at, what I would do if this were me, and I wasn't sure if my string was too high or low by just listening to it, starting with the A string, loosen the peg and start over (not so much that the string falls out of the peg, just loosen it a little so you know for sure it is too low) and loosen the fine tuners, too. If the string is taught, and then check your tuner, see what note it is at, and keep tuning it up little by little until it gets to a flat A and then use the fine tuner to finish up. Then repeat that with the other strings. 
 
Make sure you push your pegs in so they don't slip when you move on to the next string 🙂 As you do this, you might find that you remember what your strings sounded like before they went out of tune, and you'll recognize the pitch they belong in.
 
Or, if you want you can do a quick video playing just your open strings where they are at the moment, and we could tell you if you are high or low 🙂 
 
If you are afraid to mess with it more, you could always take it to a music shop and have them tune it for you, but this is actually a good exercise for you, as annoying and scary as it might seem right now 🙂 

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CyndieZ
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Hi Amanda @AmandaKulp - 

First of all, take a deep breath and relax! 🙂 I am a relative newbie also, so I understand it can be scary. Your pegs probably slipped a little and got you off kilter. But it can be fixed.

Have you tried using the Fiddlerman tuner? It plays the note that you should be tuning to so that you can hear whether your string is too high or too low. That will let you get at least close to the note that it should be. Then you can make fine adjustments using your tuner. 

(On the Fiddlerman website go to LEARNING TOOLS, and the Violin Tuner will be in the drop down menu.)

Let us know if that works for you! 

Cyndie

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AmandaKulp
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March 27, 2018 - 1:19 pm
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damfino said
If a string was out of tune enough, tuning it back up will change the tuning slightly of at least one of the others. It also sounds like your G string peg slipped. Don't stress 🙂 

 
Since I can't hear where your fiddle is at, what I would do if this were me, and I wasn't sure if my string was too high or low by just listening to it, starting with the A string, loosen the peg and start over (not so much that the string falls out of the peg, just loosen it a little so you know for sure it is too low) and loosen the fine tuners, too. If the string is taught, and then check your tuner, see what note it is at, and keep tuning it up little by little until it gets to a flat A and then use the fine tuner to finish up. Then repeat that with the other strings. 
 
Make sure you push your pegs in so they don't slip when you move on to the next string 🙂 As you do this, you might find that you remember what your strings sounded like before they went out of tune, and you'll recognize the pitch they belong in.
 
Or, if you want you can do a quick video playing just your open strings where they are at the moment, and we could tell you if you are high or low 🙂 
 
If you are afraid to mess with it more, you could always take it to a music shop and have them tune it for you, but this is actually a good exercise for you, as annoying and scary as it might seem right now 🙂 

  

Your post is a little confusing to me. Tuning a string can change one of my other strings? How is that if they aren't touching? 

My D, A, and, E strings are registering as being correct however, my A string does not sound right to me. 

Is my understanding of your post that I should start over with tuning all the strings correct? 

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AmandaKulp
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March 27, 2018 - 1:24 pm
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CyndieZ said
Hi Amanda @AmandaKulp - 

First of all, take a deep breath and relax! 🙂 I am a relative newbie also, so I understand it can be scary. Your pegs probably slipped a little and got you off kilter. But it can be fixed.

Have you tried using the Fiddlerman tuner? It plays the note that you should be tuning to so that you can hear whether your string is too high or too low. That will let you get at least close to the note that it should be. Then you can make fine adjustments using your tuner. 

(On the Fiddlerman website go to LEARNING TOOLS, and the Violin Tuner will be in the drop down menu.)

Let us know if that works for you! 

Cyndie  

Hi!

Yes, I am on the fiddlerman tuner right now. I also have my snark tuner here and an tuner app I downloaded to my phone. 

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AmandaKulp
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March 27, 2018 - 1:25 pm
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I called the only two instrument shops in my town and both said they do not do violin tuning. They offer classes for stringed instruments so I am not sure why they do not do tuning. 

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AmandaKulp
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March 27, 2018 - 1:28 pm
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Okay, I am just going to post a video of my plucking my strings and then maybe someone can help me. 

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AmandaKulp
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Okay, I hope this is good enough. I cannot guarantee how good my mic is but if you need me to I will film it a different way. Hopefully, someone can help me. 

feature=youtu.be

 

For future reference, if anyone else has this issue, this video seems helpful: 

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Fiddlerman
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March 27, 2018 - 2:16 pm
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You'll look back at this in the future and laugh. We can easily help you with a video to start with. Do you have Skype?

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