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A String Sounds Out Of Tune
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starise
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September 5, 2019 - 2:10 pm
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So initially I thought that maybe I just have bad ears. I recently changed strings  and the problem remains.

I'm tuning to A 440 using an electronic clip on tuner. When I play a tune using open A the note sounds flat, even when I'm tuned perfect using the tuner. Last evening I experimented alternating between 4th finger A played on the D string and the open A. I could play in tune with the 4th finger, but not with the open a. Something just sounds off to my ears. 

I believe I've had this issue much longer than I realized because there have been numerous times I have tried to play a tune and something wasn't right fingering the A string. I always attributed it to something I must have not been doing correctly. I think a light bulb finally went off for me and I seen that it's something else. Do you think it my tuner gone bad? Should I be tuning to something besides A440? I haven't a clue????

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cid
September 5, 2019 - 3:13 pm
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I don’t know, but can you try tuning the A string to the A on D string? How does it register on the tuner after you have tuned the open A to the A on the D string? Does the tuner say it is on the mark, flat or sharp? Just a thought as a way to check it.

Will the B, C and D sound right when you tune the open A to the A on the D string? You could do that until you replace your tuner. 

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Pete_Violin
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September 5, 2019 - 4:14 pm
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cid said
I don’t know, but can you try tuning the A string to the A on D string? How does it register on the tuner after you have tuned the open A to the A on the D string? Does the tuner say it is on the mark, flat or sharp? Just a thought as a way to check it.  

@cid 

The only problem with this is that you are relying on stopping precisely on 4th finger and this may not be quite as accurate.

My suggestion is to use an app for tuning until you can replace the tuner itself.  There are many free tuners for iOS and Android that work well.  This will also help to determine if the clip on tuner is damaged.  An accurate note from another source like an app should be the same, if not very close to the clip on.  It's not absolutely sure, but it will indicate there may be a problem.

- Pete -

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cid
September 5, 2019 - 4:31 pm
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@Pete_Violin True. I just never think of the apps because I am so tired of them and don’t use apps and my phone with my instruments. Just a bugaboo with me.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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BillyG
Brora, North-east Scotland
September 6, 2019 - 1:10 pm
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@starise - tim - if you use a PC or laptop, you can generate accurate tones using the free Audacity program.  There's a choice of simple sinusoidal, triangular and saw-tooth wave-forms built in.  The saw-tooth (sort of) sounds like a violin (on steroids)....

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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Gordon Shumway
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September 6, 2019 - 1:42 pm
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Impossible to say without hearing you. All I can add is that my teacher doesn't like tuning strings using pizzicato - she says it affects the way we hear the note. Are you tuning the A string by bowing it or by using pizzicato? (this may be completely irrelevant if you are using a tuner, but I can't think of anything else)

Andrew

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starise
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September 6, 2019 - 2:50 pm
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Thanks to all of you for these fine ideas to try.

Gordon, I'm mostly tuning by bowing not using pizzicato. I commented to my teacher last evening about this. At first she commented that the song sounded off because I started playing at the wrong places on the other strings. A few minutes later I was comparing my tuner to her tuner. When my tuner indicated an acceptable pitch, her tuner was indicating I was a few cents off ( not me , the tuner...well ok maybe me too) anyways it sure appears that my tuner isn't reading entirely correctly.

 Playing the A on the D string pulled things into shape meaning that my finger position was acting like the tuner.

I didn't remember I had a tuner in one of my apps. Thanks for that suggestion. I will see if it's closer. I might need to get rid of the clip on I relied on. I no longer trust it.

My teacher recommends "tuning by bow" which I guess is referencing off of one known string or position. I used to do that with guitar.Not so much with violin.

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BillyG
Brora, North-east Scotland
September 7, 2019 - 3:07 pm
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Indeed - if we are really looking for a "few cents difference" and equally "does a couple of cents really MATTER to the observer/listener" - well yes - that's another question entirely - then - plucking a string (pizzicato) can be different from a bowed action.  I'm just wondering if "something else" is going on here....  dunno really.  I doubt if anything less that 5c would be ( between two isolated instruments ) would be noticeable - but really - dunno -dunno - maybe, for a sustained pair of notes, you MIGHT hear a "beat frequency" at a few Hz or so - even so...   really just a thought experiment here.... and just throwing some thoughts and observations out..... Let me ramble on...   and feel free to discuss !!!!!!!

A "plucked" string will give an "initial impulse" and the string will relax into its normal vibrational decay mode, where it is under no external influence, and is what a tuner will observe (and will, if you could see the waveform, look more like a clean sinusoidal waveform, rather than the (sort of) saw-tooth waveform you would see from a bowed string (with the repetitive slip-and-grip physical mechanism of the rosined bow-hair occurring every 2.2 mSec or so - i.e.on a 440Hz open A, if that's the frequency you "choose" for the"A" - it's all your choice really depending on what you are doing.....)

A "bowed" string spectrum will be (slightly) different from a plucked string - it (a bowed string) is being "repeatedly temporarily held and released" in a slightly stretched state under the bow. 

It will be (on average) more highly tensioned (because of the physical displacement recurring rapidly, from the bow).  Therefore, being under a (slightly) higher on-average tension it will be (slightly) higher pitched than the result from the "decay" of a plucked string decay vibration, as measured by a tuner (of any type, clip on or external microphone picked-up app on a phone) - but - there is MORE to it than that I believe - read on.... ( 2 paragraphs down )

The ONLY time I have really seen/heard this effect is on Octave strings - and to my ear - yes - I can JUST sense that.   I do not have the aural acuity to hear or be aware of the same (although it must occur) on a normally strung violin an octave up from the D'Addario Octave strings....

As an aside, and ignoring my points about "what I observe with Octave strings" I believe this is one of the reasons why we perceive the violin/fiddle the way we do - unlike many instruments which produce a fairly constant pitch (excluding manually induced effects such as vibrato and so on, where possible, instrument dependent), a bowed instrument WILL without doubt have a "frequency modulation component" (FM - lol NOT FiddlerMan ! ) where the bowed frequency is NOT REALLY a completely "stable 440Hz" on an open A for instance - there WILL be, and there measurably ARE, admittedly at fairly low levels, frequency components around the frequency of the open ( or whatever played note ) string, giving a very specific sound profile.

Interesting..... (although not necessarily related to the question/issue in the thread, just wanted to throw my own somewhat-related observations in, is all )

 

Always curious about the physical mechanisms involved - feel free to discuss/correct/enlighten - I could be COMPLETELY on the wrong track, but right now, that's more or less how I see it for sound generation on a bowed instrument....

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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