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Newbie issue with A string
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September 13, 2017 - 11:06 pm
Member Since: August 29, 2017
Forum Posts: 7
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I'm sure I'm doing something wrong here but I just got a Cecilio violin which is my first violin. I've figured out the use of the pegs but I'm having the strangest issue with only the A string.

When I bring it up to tune, using my chromatic tuner, it jumps from B3 to the higher notes in the 4th octave. It skips over A4 by a wide margin. I've even tried using the fine tuner, same thing.

Even past A4, the string tension seems slacker than the other strings. I've even swapped the string to ensure it wasn't a wonky string. What am I doing wrong?

Brora, North-east Scotland
September 14, 2017 - 12:53 am
Member Since: March 22, 2014
Forum Posts: 2148
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I had an entirely different thing I was about to write - but something else suddenly struck me so I'll go for that first - you said it "jumps from "B3" ...." 

Is your tuner ACTUALLY telling you the octave - i.e. the "3" or are you just suggesting to us that that's what it says ? (My little clip-on tuner - a "Snark" does not tell me which octave - it just shows "G" on the open G and "G" on the D-string when stopped with the 3rd finger - but I don't need it to tell me - I can tell the difference between G3 and G4 anyway)

I ask this because frequency-wise the note B3 is only around 246Hz, clearly B3 is just below C4 and is to be found a couple of finger-positions up the G-string !!!.

The note you're looking for is A4 at a frequency of 440Hz....   that's MILES away from B3.....

Your tuner (if it shows the octave) should be showing you E4, F4, F#4, G4, G#4 as you move towards the correctly tuned A4 - "B3" is, as I say MILES - almost a full octave - below what you are going for.......

You also say the string is "seems slack" - my guess is that you may well have tuned it an octave too low.....  you're looking for A4 ( 440Hz if your tuner or app shows frequency)....   

With a "very" slack string, all sorts of other resonances and vibrations can possibly occur in the instrument and that may well be why the tuner suddenly seems to jump around.  

I hate to suggest to someone new to this to continue tightening the string - but - you said you had got another anyway - so go on - try it.....  (and since you tell us the other strings ( G3, D4 ) are tuned - find A4 on the D string and compare it by ear to what the open A string sounds like - they should be the same frequency - somewhat different tonality, but the same basic frequency, 440Hz )

EDIT: Don't know how much music theory you know, but it suddenly struck me which probably adds weight to my thoughts above - the octave number changes at C, not A - the notes in order in the scale (ignoring sharps) are

G3 A3 B3 C4 D4 E4 F4 G4 A4 B4 C5 D5 E5 and so on - you weren't by any chance thinking the octave number change occurred on the A ?   It doesn't...

Hahaha - I have NO idea if any of that helped... if you're still unsure, or my suggestions are way-off-base - ask again ! thumbs-up   We'll get you there !

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

Honorary advisor

September 14, 2017 - 9:10 am
Member Since: June 7, 2016
Forum Posts: 225
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What does your ear say?

The A should be higher pitched than the D, lower pitched than the E.  A great many tuners have major problems with violins - they can give seriously wonky results.  If the string is not at least as high as the D, it needs to go higher. Assuming you have standard pegs on it, though, it can go a lot higher very quickly, so use some caution.

If you've got a good ear, you can tune it to itself by playing the 1st four notes of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.  The first two are a fifth from the second two.  (According to my teacher, that was one of the main reasons Mozart wrote it.)  I don't think I've ever played the whole song but once (and that was mostly to prove I could), but I play the hell out of those first four.

If you're familiar with the Game of Thrones theme, that first couple of notes is also a fifth, going down.

You should be able to at least use your ear to get it in the ballpark. Then use the tuner to get it from, say, a Bb or a G# to an A. If it sounds right but the tuner is giving you nonsensical results, I'd blame the tuner.  The Snark brand Bill mentioned seem to work well with violins. (They're relatively cheap, too.)

You can also get tuning apps for your phone. Since you already have a tuner, I'd recommend one that generates the right note and lets you match it by ear (as opposed to another tuner like you already have).  I can recommend one called TuningTone if you have an iPhone.  It generates a G, D, A, E, and the 3 combos (G+D, D+A, A+E).

When you get experienced, that's the way most people tune their violins. They'll tune one string to an external source (usually the A, which makes your problem especially ironic) and then play both strings at once and change the one string they're tuning until they get a perfect fifth.  You have to know what a perfect fifth sounds like, of course, but I found it fairly easy to pick up.

So I'll repeat - trust your ear more than the tuner. Use the tuner for small (half step or so) adjustments, but make the major changes by ear and you'll probably get better results.


September 14, 2017 - 1:14 pm
Member Since: July 23, 2015
Forum Posts: 1358
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This video might help you:

Billy and Charles have given you some good advice already, I don't think I have anything to add past the link 🙂


On a journey to learn the fiddle since July 24, 2015
☆•*¨*•.¸¸¸.•*¨* •☆•*¨*¨*•¸¸¸.•*¨*•☆

September 14, 2017 - 10:11 pm
Member Since: August 29, 2017
Forum Posts: 7
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Thanks for all the info, everyone. Very informative.

I've been told before that relying too much on a tuner was gonna get me in trouble. It finally did.

Know how oblivious I was? I have a mandolin. Not only did I know how to tune off the mandolin, I already knew how to tune across the strings from playing said mandolin. Sometimes the obvious escapes us.

Now all my strings are in tune.

Brora, North-east Scotland
September 15, 2017 - 3:20 am
Member Since: March 22, 2014
Forum Posts: 2148
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@Amateur - 

Sometimes the obvious escapes us.

  Indeed !!!   It happens to us all facepalm

  Glad you're sorted !   thumbs-up

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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