How To Tune A Violin (2020)

There is no other instrument that sounds as wonderful as the violin. It is literally music to your ears, we've collected some of our favorite violin songs of all time just to give you a taster of what the violin has to offer.

The problem is most people have no idea how to properly tune a violin. Even worse is the fact they don’t know which violin tuners are the best ones to use. Because of this, many violinists find themselves playing out of tune.

Being that the violin has no frets, tuning one can be a very difficult challenge. Unless of course you have a good violin tuner to help you out.

Before we discuss the various ways in which you can tune a violin, we must first understand how the violin is actually tuned.

In order to do that we must gain a better understanding of the violin so pull your violin out of it's case and let's take a closer look.

Understanding The Violin

Regardless of the violin brand or type, there are usually three main parts that make up the violin. They are the body, the fingerboard, and the tuning pegs. There's also other components that make up a violin like the shoulder rest or bow but these aren't influential fo tuning. The strings are also a component but we will talk about them in a little bit.

When it comes to tuning a violin, the pegboard, which is what the tuning pegs are attached to, is the main component used. If you are trying to tune the violin with 100% accuracy, that is when you will need to use the fine tuners that are attached to the body of the violin.

Now let’s talk about the strings. Each string on the violin is named after a music note. In this case the notes are G, D, A, and E. If you move from left to right, you will notice that each string is higher than the one before it.

The lower half of the violin body is where you will find the strings attached to the fine tuners. The strings then make their way over the bridge, to the other end of the violin. This is where the strings are attached to the tuning pegs.

How Is a Violin Actually Tuned?

Regardless of the manner in which you tune a violin, be it with a piano, tuning app, or violin tuner, there will always be certain principles that apply.

You must follow the four violin notes previously mentioned. These notes are often referred to as violin tuning notes and you must remember which is which if you want to properly tune your violin.

Standard Violin Tuning

When tuning a violin for the first time, it is very important you choose the right string. Most orchestral violinists will start with the “A” string, followed by the “D” string, the “G” string, and lastly, the “E” string.

While no one really knows why it is done in this order, the general belief is because the “A” and “D strings are closed to the middle of the fingerboard, less damage is done to the violin. But the result is a really great tone.

However, if you dig a little deeper into how a violin is actually tuned, you will find the following to be the best practice.

First, make sure each string is within a semi-tone of the required note. This can be done one of two ways. By copying the notes on a piano, or by using a violin tuner.

Once each string is close enough to the required note, you will switch from using the violin pegs to tune the violin, to using the fine tuners which are attached to the fingerboard.

The purpose of the fine tuners is to make sure each violin string is pitch perfect. Please note that accuracy varies from tuner to tuner.

Different Types of Violin Tuning & How To Use Them

Now that you know the basics of tuning a violin with tuning pegs, it's time to move to the next step which is learning the different methods than can be used to tune a violin.

The two main methods used are tuning by ear, or by using a violin tuner. Using a violin tuner is by far the most accurate method.

How To Tune a Violin By Ear

There are two methods that fall into this category. When tuning by ear you can either do so using a piano, or using a method known as relative violin tuning. With relative tuning you will use the pitches of the other strings to tune the violin.

Tuning Using The Piano

If you choose to tune a violin using the piano, always start with the “A” key on the piano, and then play the “A” key on the violin. You must play the notes at the same time so you can compare them.

Based on the difference in tone, you can make adjustments to the tuning peg until it is spot on.  You will then continue to repeat the process with each string.

Tuning With Relative Tuning

Relative tuning is straight up tuning by ear. This type of tuning is not recommended for beginners as it requires a seasoned ear.

Here’s how it works…

You will start on low “G” and work your way up from there. Place your fingers on the fingerboard in the 1, 2, flat-3, 4 position. If your fourth finger is in the correct place, the pitch will be exactly the same as the next string.

If the next string up is a little off, simply adjust the fine tuner until it sounds just right. Next, just move your hand one string higher, and repeat the process.

After a while you will be able play two adjoining strings while listening for that “perfect fifth” note difference.

As you develop your ear, the easier it will be for you to make the needed adjustments.

How To Tune a Violin With a Tuner

While this method may sound a little complicated, in reality it's the simplest method. Especially if you are a beginner.

Similar to tuning with a piano, you will want to start with the “A” string when using this method.

Here’s how this process works..

You will start by playing a string on your violin and seeing which note registars on the tuner. Depending on what the note is, you may need to adjust higher or lower. You will continue adjusting until the desired note is showing on the tuner.

Once the correct note is showing, use the fine tuners to make sure it is pitch perfect. It should not be showing up as flat or sharp.

Repeat the process until all strings are properly tuned.

Using violin tuners is not only more accurate, but it is also easier and takes a lot less time than the more conventional methods.

Best Violin Tuners Reviewed 

Now that you know violin tuners are the best way to tune a violin, you might be wondering which tuner would be the best to invest in.

That really depends on your budget, and how accurate you want your tuning to be. There are literally hundreds of different tuners on the market. Some are more advanced, and others are very basic.

There are tuners that can be downloaded as an app, and tuners that load onto a computer.

To make this process a little easier, we have listed what we believe to be the best tuners currently on the market:

Standard Violin Tuners

A standard violin tuner can be used anywhere. They are usually battery powered, and can hear and measure the pitch coming from the violin. It will then tell you whether it's flat, sharp, or in tune.

Below you will find two of the best standard violin tuners currently on the market. We will provide a short review as well as outline some of the pros and cons.

1. Snark SN-5 Tuner

Snark SN-5 Tuner for Guitar, Bass and Violin (Black)

This is probably one of the most popular tuners used today. It's a clip on tuner meaning it uses vibrations to pick up the notes. If you are in a noisy environment this tuner will prove to be very useful.

The one big problem with this tuner is its size. Because it is so small it doesn’t have some of the enhancements you see on other tuners. While you can’t set it to a particular note, its ability to find notes is quite impressive.

Being able to clip this tuner on makes it a great option for any violinist. Because it is so easy to use, we highly recommend it for beginners.

Pros

  • It is a clip on tuner.
  • The head can easily be adjusted.
  • Can be used in noisy environments.
  • Rubber clips ensure the violin doesn’t get damaged.
  • Very affordable.
  • Can also be used as a metronome.

Cons

  • It's very small which makes it easy to break or lose.
  • Material isn’t all that durable.
  • Lacking in terms of functionality.
Sale
Snark SN-5 Tuner for Guitar, Bass and Violin (Black)
  • Full Color Display
  • Display rotates 360 degrees for easy viewing
  • Features frequency range tailored to guitar and bass
  • Tuner can be used on front of back of headstock

2. Korg CA-30 Chromatic Tuner

Korg CA-2 Chromatic Tuner (CA2)

While Korg is well known for their electronic keyboards, they have also done a decent job when it comes to designing electric violin tuners.

The CA-30 has a built-in microphone, and a cable input. This makes it one of the more versatile tuners on the market.

The great thing about this tuner is its ability to sound any note. This is great for beginners who are still learning pitch intonations.

The cool thing is this tuner is also a violin chromatic tuner. This basically means it is very accurate.

Overall this is a good violin tuner. It's quite versatile in that it can be used with a variety of different instruments.

Due to the cable input this is considered a more advanced tuner. It is also considered one of the best because of its loud speaker and ability to easily be heard.

Pros

  • Comes with a built in microphone.
  • Has an input for electric violins.
  • Can easily sound out pitches.
  • Can be set to a particular note.
  • Portable.
  • Can be used as a metronome.

Cons

  • When held at certain angles the LCD screen is very difficult to read.
  • If you are using an electric violin, or a violin mic, you can only use this tuner in noisy areas.
  • Not the most robust tuner.
Sale
Korg CA-2 Chromatic Tuner (CA2)
  • Large, high visibility display with a needle-style meter
  • Compact, slim and lightweight body
  • A wide variety of tuning functions that are suitable for a variety of instruments
  • Adjustable calibration (410-480 Hz); Pure major third & minor third indicators
  • Up to 200 hours of battery life; Five year warranty

Mobile Based Violin Tuners

Mobile based violin tuners are tuners that can be used on your mobile phone. The great thing about this type of tuner is how convenient they are. If you’re like most people, you keep your mobile device on you at all times. That means you will always have your tuner with you.

1. Cleartune Chromatic Tuner App

This is a fantastic app that is used by many celebrity musicians. It is a paid app and it is well worth it. The really cool thing about this app is it has transposition functionality. That means if you need to change the key of your violin, it can easily be done.

Pros

  • Features a Chromatic Violin Tuner.
  • Can be used on both Android and iOS.
  • Great price.
  • Versatile.

Cons

  • The design is not what you would expect with a paid app.
  • Can only be used in quiet environments.
  • Doesn’t have a metronome.

Even though the design is a bit cheap, you still can’t go wrong with this app. It's easy to use and has the ability to tune any acoustic instrument. This is without a doubt the best digital tuner currently available.

Online Violin Tuners

Many people question whether or not online violin tuners are usual. And I guess that really depends on who you ask. For some people, a web based tuner is the preferred option.

With that being said, here is one of the best online violin tuners.

1. 8Notes.com

One look at this website and you will see how well thought it is. It shows you the four notes on the violin and allows you to access your microphone.

Not only can it tell you when you're out of pitch, but it can also play out the note for you.

Pros

  • Web based.
  • It's a free interactive online tuner.
  • Works on both Mac and Windows operating systems.

Cons

  • Very simple design.
  • May not work on your mobile phone.
  • Can only be used in quiet areas.
  • Doesn’t have a metronome.

I would say use this website as more of a last resort. While it is most definitely useful, it's not as convenient as the other tuners.

Final Thoughts

If you were wanting to learn how to tune a violin, this article should get you moving in the right direction.

The first thing you will need to do is figure out what’s the best way for you to tune your violin. Do you want to tune by ear, using a piano, or with a tuner? If you are a beginner, it is recommended you use a tuner when tuning your violin.

The tuner you choose to use will boil down to personal preference. Each tuner on the market will have its pros and cons. You have to find the one that will work best for you.

If you want a tuner that is easy to use, and convenient, go with an app tuner such as the Cleartune Chromatic Tuner. It's easy to use, accurate, and affordable.

As you develop your ear, as a child player or a beginner adult, you can start tuning using the more advanced options.