How to Tune a Violin with a Guitar Tuner

By Christopher Godwin
A properly tuned violin will make practice more beneficial and enjoyable

Tuning a violin with a guitar tuner is a simple process that can be achieved in a matter of minutes. It is best to use a chromatic guitar tuner with a microphone when tuning a violin, as most regular guitar tuners base their readings on actual frequency instead of on just the note. Violins do not produce the same frequency, even when the same note is played, so using a standard, non-chromatic tuner can make it very difficult to achieve proper pitch. On the violin, your top string must be tuned to a G note. The next three strings are tuned to D, A, and E in descending order.

Place the tuner on a flat surface within 3 feet of where you are playing. If your tuner is too far away from you when attempting to tune, it will be difficult for the tuner to give an accurate reading, and this may make it very difficult to tune your strings to their proper pitch.

Play only the string closest to the top of your instrument while watching the tuner. Most chromatic tuners will show you the note that you play, and will guide you to the perfect pitch with a series of flashing diodes. Generally, if the note you are playing is flat, the flashing diodes will be on the left, and they will move closer to center as you increase your pitch. The reverse is also true, and when you are sharp, the flashing diodes will be on the right, moving to the left as you reduce your pitch. Note where flashing diodes are, and raise or reduce your pitch until the tuner reads a perfect G note and only the center diode lights up.

Play the next string down while watching the tuner, making sure you are not playing other strings at the same time. Make the appropriate changes, either reducing or raising your pitch until the note is a perfect D.

Play the third or A string only, and alter the pitch as necessary until the tuner shows a perfect A note.

Play the final string, again making sure not to play any other strings at the same time. Watch the tuner and raise or reduce the pitch until the tuner shows a perfect E note. If your violin has a fine tuner on the E string, you may need to alter the pitch of that as well to achieve perfect pitch on this string if the tuner shows that the string is only a few cents sharp or flat.

Check to make sure all of your notes are still in tune by playing them one at a time in the order they were tuned while watching the tuner. Make any necessary changes along the way, as the added or reduced tension may have altered the final pitch of each string.

Tip

Always tune before practicing.

Take your time when you are learning to tune. You will greatly benefit from listening to the changes you are making while using a tuner, and doing this will help you to hear when your violin is out of tune while playing.

Warning

Avoid guitar tuners that clip onto the headstock of the guitar for violin tuning. These tuners base most of their information the resonant frequencies produced by a guitar when a note is plucked, which will not be the same on a violin. This can make tuning an exhausting, often impossible task.

About the Author

Christopher Godwin is a freelance writer from Los Angeles. He spent his formative years as a chef and bartender crafting signature dishes and cocktails as the head of an upscale catering firm. He has since ventured into sharing original creations and expertise with the public. Godwin has published poetry, fiction and nonfiction in publications like "Spork Magazine," "Cold Mountain Review" and "From Abalone To Zest."