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Tuning with Fine Tuners- Advice Needed
Need some tips on tuning between lessons
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NoxGold175
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September 6, 2012 - 7:11 pm
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Hiya,

I'm looking for some advice about using the fine tuners because I just got new ones and a new tailpiece fitted so don't want to break anything. Sadly, I couldn't go to the music shop in person to ask the expert because I had to work so my brother took my violin in and I'm not seeing my teacher this week due to holiday.

I'm only two months into lessons and not confident at all about tuning my violin. For the first few weeks, I would just let it go flat rather than try to tune it because my teacher tunes it every lesson. Now that I'm using all my fingers though, I'm finding it harder to practise when the violin is flat, because I compare my sound to my CD's a lot to know my finger's in the right place and I've read the music correctly, which I find hard.

Anyway, I have an electronic tuner which makes finding the pitch easy with a scale from +10 to -10 that lights up but I'm so worried about overdoing it with the tuners. The tuner indicated I was a tiny bit flat the past two nights so I corrected it with the fine tuners but now I'm worried about turning them any further, even though I know it'll be flat again soon. How do I avoid turning the tuner too far? I've not really found the pitch too high but do I need to detune first to avoid breaking the tuner? I don't want to make the violin too flat because I find the pegs virtually impossible at the moment. I moved the G peg by accident and it ended up really flat because I wasn't firm enough at pushing it in to stop it moving.

I know the tuning won't be perfect until I can master the pegs but I'd rather get the hang of the adjusters first  and I'm not sure I'll trust myself to use the E peg for a while. It would be just like me to break the string. All I really need is to keep the violin reasonably in tune for a few days between lessons.

Thanks!

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Kevin M.
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September 6, 2012 - 9:16 pm
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After tuning up a few times with fine tuners you have to unscrew them and turn tthe peg until it is close.  It is easier if you loosen the string first before tightening it.  Make sure to put a little pressure in on the peg as you are tuning.

If your strings are going out of tune so fast you might need better strings.  They should calm down after a short while and hold tune.

 

Instead of having your teacher tune your violin, turn it yourself with him or her helping you.  You would be surprised at how well your ear works after just a short time.

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RosinedUp
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September 7, 2012 - 1:44 am
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Wow, you seem way too fearful of making a mistake.  It sounds like you are playing a $20,000 violin with $100 strings.  Or maybe you have a setup that is so cheap you are afraid it will fall apart.  I think you need to relax a little.  Here are some things that might help:

Look at online videos showing how to tune a violin and how to change strings.

Keep a spare set of strings.  If you look around, you can buy a cheap set online, delivered for under $2.  Not saying you should go that cheap, but you can if you have to.  Ask your teacher about the strings you would buy. If you happen to break one, you can replace it yourself so you can practice until you tell your teacher what happened and he checks your work.

Study about the various parts of your instrument.  Respect it, and try to understand how it works, and get familiar with it.

You might want to keep a spare fine  tuner or a complete spare tailpiece with built-in fine tuners.  They are not real expensive.  Shop around a little.

I am trying to get you to develop some little recovery plans in case things go wrong.  Your anxiety will go away when you know there is a way out of any problem you would have from tuning your fiddle.

But really there is not that much that is likely to go wrong when you just use the fine tuners.  You have your electronic tuner to keep you from going too high and snapping a string.  You have to go way more than a semitone too high to break a string, except for maybe the E string, unless I am wrong.

 

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Fiddlestix
Michigan, USA
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September 7, 2012 - 5:13 am
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Alex, Alex, Alex... I feel for you man. I can appreciate your nervousness, but you can't leave your violin out of tune and expect to play anything or for that matter have a decent practice . Playing, "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" could be mistaken for "Three Blind Mice".  You said you replaced the tailpiece, I'm assuming you put one on with built in fine tuner's ?

Kevin gave some excellent advice on letting your string's stretch for a period of time and pushing in on the peg while turning them then backing off on the tuner's before using the pegs to get it back close to being in tune then tweeking it with the fine tuner's.

The only string you should really worry about breaking is the E string, being that it's so thin it's almost impossible to get it to tune with just the peg, that's the reason all violin's have a fine tuner for the E string even if there are no fine tuner's for the other three string's. Turning the peg just a "micro" twist will send the pitch reeling out of tune.

RosinedUP , made some good point's about video tutorial's on tuning and changing string's, which you will have to learn to do on your own in the very near future, like now. There are some great video's here on this site about changing string's, how to tune your violin, how to hold it, etc......

You can do it, i'm sure.  and smile while your're doing it, you can make it a fun thing to do.

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Picklefish
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September 7, 2012 - 8:17 am
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Its no big deal. you can do it!crossedfingers

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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razor02097
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September 7, 2012 - 8:23 am
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Great advice here!  Definitely keep the violin in tune!!!!  The fingerboard doesn't have frets like a guitar so your reference is muscle memory and your verification is your ear.  Being out of tune will destroy progress.

 

If you let your instructor tune your violin every time then you won't get good at doing it yourself... I never ever rely on my instructor to tune my instrument.  She used to check it every time I went but I always tune it before I leave the house then play open double stops just to make sure nothing slipped.

 

I have broken one E string so far but not from tuning... I hit it really hard with the frog.  A new E string is cheap and easy to install yourself.

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DanielB
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September 7, 2012 - 8:39 am
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You are maybe worrying a bit too much about peg tuning, NoxGold175.  It is easy enough, just take your time and don't turn the peg to far at once and you should be fine.

Like most things, the more you've done it, the less you'll worry about it and the easier it gets.  Sure, it will take a few times before you are used to applying the right amount of pressure to get the peg to stay in tune without just jamming it in as tight as possible or something. 

If you are real nervous about it, ask your teacher to teach you how to tune from the pegs, change a string, etc. 

Personally, I only use the fine tuners for.. well.. fine tuning?  If the string is more than a teeny bit out, I'll use the pegs, since I usually try to keep the fine tuner fairly near to the middle of their range. 

But you want to keep the instrument in tune.  Being out of tune doesn't help you learn to play and it won't give you the best sound out of your instrument.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
September 7, 2012 - 10:30 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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You can actually safely experiment with turning the pegs if you experiment below the pitch. What I recommend is that you tune down below and up to until you reach. Every time you want to raise it a bit you go below and up and always check your intonation while doing this. In other words, find a way to pluck with one of your hands while tuning. The ONLY thing you need to be concerned about is tuning way over in which case you might break a string. In all my years of playing I have never had a string break while tuning and I tune instruments constantly. I've even been in orchestra coaching situations where I have to tune 50 or so kids instruments. It's just not that easy to break them. However, some people can't hear the pitch and go WAY over. Those who say they broke a string while tuning with a tuner are probably tuning an octave higher than the correct pitch.
The best way to learn is to conquer your fear and tune more often.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Barry
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September 7, 2012 - 11:06 am
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Pierre said : "In all my years of playing I have never had a string break while tuning and I tune instruments constantly."

 

You havent tuned a big enough assortment then...LOL.   The most recent new string break while tuning up was on a mandolin 2 years ago, the bottom E went way before pitch. Also had a high E break on Michelles guitar not to long ago on a new set before pitch.

 

Cant recall any violin strings doing that but definitely have had failures on other instruments

There is no shame in playing twinkle, youre playing Mozart

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Fiddlerman
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September 7, 2012 - 5:17 pm
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I've had older strings break while playing, especially E strings but never while tuning, "knock on wood".....

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Kevin M.
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September 7, 2012 - 6:56 pm
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Pierre has that super hearing. He hears the string starting to go and tells the student they need new strings.  Actually can you hear a difference in the string when it'd ready to break?

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Fiddlerman
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September 7, 2012 - 9:00 pm
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I can tell the difference if it is old and dead but not before it's about to go.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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RosinedUp
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September 9, 2012 - 9:37 pm
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One way to break a string is to pluck one string while turning the peg for a different peg.  "Why isn't it getting sharper?"

But it would be hard to break one if you stick to the fine tuners, even if you space out and turn the wrong one.

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Fiddlerman
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September 10, 2012 - 9:28 am
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Good point RosinedUP which everyone should think about, especially beginners, when choosing the string to pluck. smile

Fine tuners are not good for tuning large intervals. If one only uses fine tuners they won't be able to tune the instrument for very long. A few times only. If you keep raising the pitch at the tailpiece it will only come so far and not work to raise the pitch until you tighten the peg and loosen the fine tuner. Also when the screw is all the way in the tailpiece you run the risk of damaging the top and varnish directly under. Most old violins have damage in that area or visible repairs.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Fiddlestix
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September 10, 2012 - 9:57 am
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I recently snapped an E string while tuning with the violin in position. I had just changed string's from one violin to the other, in other word's I was taking the new string's off my old violin and putting them on the Chinese violin and during the process of tweeking the E string with the fine tuner it snapped and went flying over my right shoulder and landed on the carpet. I didn't find it for two week's until I saw the sun reflecting from it. I dug out an old Dominant E string and replaced it.

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Fiddlerman
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September 10, 2012 - 3:02 pm
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Don't forget to order a new one ;-)

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Fiddlestix
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September 10, 2012 - 6:13 pm
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I think i'll wait on that FM until I order another new set in a couple month's. Not being cheap but i'd be paying as much for shipping as would the cost be for a new E string.

It's been about 4 week's since my last order of Zyexs' anyway. You know, you alway's want to have nice new string's on your fiddle so you can be top banana in the orchestra.        

 

     

 

       

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Fiddlerman
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September 11, 2012 - 8:10 am
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I guess you are right. Unless, you order a gold-plated Kaplan E-string. They are more expensive than the shipping. blink

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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RosinedUp
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September 18, 2012 - 3:44 am
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A couple other things that can go wrong:

1) Some tuners support transposing instruments:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T.....instrument

If you get the tuner in the wrong transposition mode (for the violin, something other than C), you could be tuning to a pitch other than what you believe you are tuning to.  For example, if you got into E-flat mode, you would be playing Eb when the tuner is displaying "C".

 

2) Some tuners let you set A4 to something other than 440 Hz, so you could tune all the strings a little sharp or a little flat if you are not paying attention.

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