Violin Tuning – The Complete Guide to Get Your Violin in Tune

To get started with violin tuning, you want to make sure your violin is setup in the proper position. 

The violin strings should be laying on four notches in the bridge as shown below.

violin tuning strings

It’s important to note that each violin string is a different width/thickness. That means you have to have the correct type of string from left to right.

String all the way to the left – G string

Second string from the left – D String

Third string from the left – A String

String all the way to the right – E String

Every string brand is different and represented by different colors. Just because you don’t have the same color strings as the above picture, doesn’t mean you have the wrong strings on your violin. The string brand you see above are Dominant strings, which is a common brand that I recommend. 

Violin Tuning – Getting Proper Tightness

Getting violin strings to the proper tightness is the core fundamental of violin tuning. Once you have each string at the proper tightness, the strings will ring to a certain pitch when played. 

Many times when you get a new violin, or if a violin has been exposed to improper temperatures, the string tightness can be far off to where you need to have them. 

The way to get strings significantly tighter is by using the violin pegs. In the picture below, you’ll see four violin pegs – two on each side of the violin wood. They are removable black objects, turntable, and jabbed into the peg box. 

violin tuning

By tuning a peg away from you towards the scroll, you will notice the string to get tighter.

But be very careful…

Turning the peg too far will break the string. 

I’ll help you understand how to do this properly, so don’t worry. 

Violin Tuning – Turning the Pegs

Check out the video below to learn how to turn the pegs properly. It’s very important to press into the peg box as you are turning for the pegs to stick. 

If you find that a peg is slipping (going back to the previous position), this means you aren’t pressing hard enough into the peg box to get the peg to stick properly. It’s important to turn and push at the same time – the video above explains this in detail. 

I encourage you to check out my free playlist on Youtube to learn how to play the violin and this post: How to Play the Violin

Violin Tuning – Finding the Proper String Pitch

I highly recommend downloading a free tuner on your smartphone devices or Ipads. There are many free apps that aid in tuning – one of my favorites to use is the INSTunerLite app

If you can’t download a free tuning app, you can also get an affordable violin tuner like this one that clips right onto your instrument. 

Now I want to explain to you musical notes as related to octaves. This is important in finding the proper string pitch. 

An octave is a range of  7 notes A, B, C, D, E, F, G.

Just like on a piano (or when you sing), an “A” note, can sound differently, depending on which octave it is in. Sometimes higher in pitch or lower in pitch. 

Think of a man who sings an A…and then a woman soprano who sings an A…they can both sing an A note but they sound much different. They are in different octaves. 

When it comes to the violin, here are the four strings you are going to have to tune, including which octave they are located in. 

G String Pitch – String all the way to the left – 3rd Octave

D String Pitch – String second from the left – 4th Octave

A String Pitch – String third from the left – 4th Octave

E String Pitch – String all the way to the right – 5th Octave

Now go ahead and turn on your tuner and pluck the G string. Plucking means just taking your finger and moving the string so that it vibrates and transmits a certain pitch. 

You want your tuner to read G – along with the number 3 next to it. This indicates a G string pitch in the 3rd octave. 

Getting the hang of how to get the string to stick to where you are moving it to is definitely an art. Refer to the video above for help with that. 

Now do the same with the other 3 strings. It’s very important to be in the correct octave, otherwise your string will either not be high enough, or it will break. 

Violin Tuning – Fine Tuning the Strings

Once you get each violin string to a close position that it needs to be, you now need to “fine tune” the strings, to get them to be in exactly the right position. 

This is very important for playing the violin properly, and always should be done before you start playing.

Even if one of your strings is a little bit “off,” this will cause your music to sound out of tune, which is just like a singer not quite making a song sound like the way it should…

To “fine tune” each string, pay attention to where the meter reads when you are on the right string pitch. 

violin tuner

When you see the tuner showing in the “red” range, this means it is pretty far off to exact pitch. Yellow means you are close and green means you are in the correct position.

To adjust the pitch to be in exact position, this is where you will need to use your fine tuners.

Violin Tuning – Using the Fine Tuners

The fine tuners are used to get your strings into exact string pitches in order to practice and play. 

When you turn the fine tuner to the left, this will loosen the string slightly. 

Don’t be afraid to “crank” at least one full turn. Fine tuners adjust the string very slightly and only a slight move will do so much. 

If you need to get the string slightly tighter, turn the fine tuner to the right.

Violin Tuning – Why You Sometimes Only See One Fine Tuner

Synthetic strings like Dominant strings don’t turn as well with fine tuners. 

They take a lot of cranking the fine tuner, and many times you won’t see more than one fine tuner on a violin because of this (only on the E). 

This doesn’t mean you lack appropriate parts. The reason you commonly see this is that strings can be fine tuned with the pegs. When students are using Synthetic strings (instead of steel), commonly they are able to do just fine tuning with just the pegs.

If you are just a beginner though, this can be quite annoying. 

You can request for a violin to have fine tuners installed. This doesn’t cost that much and can be done by any local music shop that carries fine tuners. 

It’s best to learn how to use the pegs to tune, but using fine tuners is also acceptable. 

One trick to fine tune with the pegs…

Pull the string away from the fingerboard to slightly lower the pitch and poke the string above the nut (near the pegs) to make the string pitch slightly higher. 

Violin Tuning – Making Adjustments

When you first get a violin with brand new strings, the strings take a while to break in. 

This means they will start at the proper pitch after tuning, and quickly loosen – thus getting your violin out of tune. 

If you have new strings, I recommend tuning every 10-20 minutes to be in the good habit of having your violin in tune.

After a few weeks, strings will break in and it will not require as much adjustment after they have fully stretched. 

In the case of strings being fully stretched, I recommend tuning once before each practice session. You’ll find over time it will take less and less effort to get a string to stick where you need it to be. 

Hope you enjoyed this post! If you want to learn more how to play the violin properly including learning vibrato and technique fundamentals, I highly recommend you check out my Violin School. I’ve been teaching violin for over 10 years and have been playing close to 30 years. I’m sure you’ll find a lot of good advice and tips through the school. Happy learning!

The Technical vs. Musical Violinist – Which One Are You?

There are three areas of violin learning that I want you to be aware of.

The technical side, the musical side, and the mental side.

By managing each of these three areas, you will be in a position to improve most efficiently on the violin AND be in a state of happiness with playing your violin.

I see students deal with many inhibitors with these three groups and they directly relate to them quitting the violin or becoming so passionate about learning that the violin becomes a part of not just what they do, but who they are.

Let’s first see how you score in each of these areas, and then I’ll give you an evaluation based on your score.

The Technical Side of Violin Playing – What’s your Score?

Give yourself one point if you can say “yes” to any of the five positive traits of being a technical player below:

In the past week, you have…
1. Worked on violin scales/drills for at least 30 minutes, or 1/3 of your total practice sessions.
2. Practiced exercises at least three times, to improve a bad habit.
3. Taken a challenging part in your violin music and worked on it slowly.
4. Worked on rhythm by slowing down or using a metronome.
5. Practiced articulation SLOWLY in your music (slurs, staccato, spiccato).

Give yourself one point if you can say “yes” to any of the five positive traits of being a musical player below.

In the past week, you have…
1. Practiced multiple songs/pieces.
2. Played for any other human being, not including your teacher.
3. Listened to an inspirational violin/fiddle song.
4. Practiced preparing for a performance of any kind.
5. Worked on playing a piece from the heart, and not thinking about technique.

Give yourself one point if you can say “yes” to any of the five negative traits below.

In the past week, you have…
1. Been overwhelmed with how much progress you are making on the violin.
2. Been frustrated with the amount of time you are not spending with the violin.
3. Decided to not practice violin because of some mental inhibitor (overwhelm, discouragement, lack of knowledge, etc.).
4. Felt like you are not sure where you are going with the violin and practicing has felt like a drag.
5. Not felt any inspiration of any kind.

Evaluating your Scores

First, I want you to know that some weeks are better than others with playing the violin.

Don’t be critical of yourself if this week has just been bad.

If that is the case, give yourself scores based in general what you would say “yes” to, although this scoring system does help you identify positive health with progressing on the violin on a week-to-week basis as well.

**Take your first two scores and put them together and subtract it from the last score.**

In my opinion, here is what each score means for you.
-5 : It is highly likely you will quit the violin soon, or never practice.

-4 to -1 : You are very discouraged with the violin and combined with the fact you are not doing the right things, this will lead to negative progress, discouragement and likely you will quit if you don’t get help.

0 : With not practicing correctly and being overwhelmed, you are not likely to quit, but to see positive results, I recommend improving any of the areas to start feeling happier about violin playing (and to see better results).

1-4 : This is a standard range. I would say you have inhibitors to progressing or staying motivated, but you might just be having a bad week/month. Try to improve, and you’ll start accelerating your progress and find more joy in violin playing.

5-9 : This is a healthy range where you will see decent progress over-time, and don’t have enough mental inhibitors to make you degress. Still, try to find ways to improve to become an even happier violin player and see better progress/happiness.

10-14 : You are probably feeling “in the zone” with violin playing and are excited to see ways to improve. There are no issues, just ways to continue to grow and become even better.

15 : This is the utopia. You are in the best possible state of mind to improve and are a balanced musical/technical player. Keep it up, and you will only see dramatic results on the violin.

If you want detailed help on how to establish solid technique on the violin, I highly recommend my Perfect Vibrato course which covers foundations of setting up the left hand, right hand and detailed steps on how to improve your sound.

This course covers how to improve vibrato, and also is an excellent four-week study of how to get rid of many bad habits you may have currently when playing the violin (learn more here). It is appropriate for beginners as well as anyone under fifteen years of experience who wants to improve their sound.

Violin Scales – 3 Things to Focus on when Practicing Scales

Violin Scales

There are many reasons why practicing violin scales is so essential when you are trying to learn the violin.

Working on violin scales allows a student to focus on intonation, or in other words, where to place your fingers down in the right places.

Being that the violin is a fretless instrument, there needs to be a significant amount of time spent on mastering muscle memory in the left-hand.

This can be done by working on violin scales.

The key to effective violin scale practice is having a sense of focus.

Just playing through a few violin scales is not going to increase your ability level if you don’t practice scales properly.

What Violin Scales Should You Practice?

I recommend working on these scales based on your ability level on the violin:

0-3 Months Experience – D Major 1 Octave

3-12 Months Experience – C Major 1 Octave, G Major 2 Octaves

1-2 Years Experience – A Major 2 Octaves, Bb Major 2 Octaves, F Major 1 Octave

2-4 Years Experience – Eb Major 1 Octave, C Major 2 Octaves (3rd position), D Major 2 Octaves (3rd position)

4-6 Years Experience – Ab Major 2 Octaves, B Major 2 Octaves, F Major 2 Octaves (5th Position), G Major 3 Octaves (5th Position)

6-10 Years Experience – All 2 Octave Scales (including minors), A Major 3 Octaves (7th Position), Bb Major 3 Octaves (7th Position), C Major 3 Octaves (9th Position), D Major 3 Octaves (9th Position)

10+ Years Experience – All 3 Octave Scales (including minors)

Here is a link to download every violin scale that you can practice.

My recommendation is always to be working on 2-5 violin scales and focus on these three things.
1. Intonation (finger placement)
2. Right-hand technique/bowing
3. Left-hand habits

Check out dragon scales as a good resource for practicing scales slowly and quickly.

Focus #1 – Intonation work with Violin Scales

In the case of working on intonation, I recommend downloading any violin tuner on your devices and working on getting each note as close to in tune as possible.

My favorite tuner is INSTunerLite on Iphone, but there are many others out there that will do the job.

Don’t kill yourself trying to perfect intonation on EVERY note, as perfect intonation is very challenging to achieve.

Try to be at least 95% accurate with all your notes when focusing on intonation with violin scales.

This type of practice will carry over into how in tune you sound in general when playing the violin.

Focus #2 – Right-Hand Practice with Violin Scales

When focusing on right-hand technique/bowing with scales, try to identify any bad habits you have and focus on fixing them during scales.

If you aren’t sure what some of these bad habits are, I recommend you go through my playlist on Youtube that helps you identify any bad habits you may have on the violin.

Equally as necessary, you can work on various bowing patterns when practicing violin scales.

Here are tips for practicing violin scales related to bowings based on ability level:

0-3 Months Experience – Focus on using the whole bow, keeping the bow moving the same speed.

3-12 Months Experience – Throw in working on two notes per bow stroke (slurs)

1-2 Years Experience – Work on staccato, and the staccato slur with various scales

2-4 Years Experience – Practice thirds with scales

4+ Years Experience – Practice spiccato (off the string), and four notes per bow stroke

If you aren’t sure how to do any of these techniques, I recommend you start going through my playlist on Youtube of how to play the violin which will cover all of these concepts in detail.

Focus #3 – Left-Hand Practice with Violin Scales

There are so many habits you can be doing incorrectly on the violin related to the left-hand (outside of just being out of tune).

Having a solid structure of the hand is key to your success – many students are doing these things improperly:

1. Moving fingers too much to find notes
2. Fingers popping up in the air
3. Over-pressure into the fingerboard
4. Not having the hand high enough
5. Using stress/strain to make finite adjustments

These are just some of the things that can be challenging for students, and it’s so important to identify them.

If you haven’t done a lot of technical work with your violin playing, understanding these things will give you a significant boost to your progress efficiency.

I cover many of these concepts through my Youtube playlist especially in course one, as it’s key to have a perfect left-hand to succeed with the violin.

How long should you practice violin scales?

I’m huge on balance when it comes to practicing the violin, including how long to practice your scales.

The amount of time that you spend practicing scales should be based on a percentage of the amount of time you dedicate to practicing the violin each session.

Have the mindset that your practice sessions should be split up into these three parts.
1. The first third – Focus on drills, violin scales and any technical habits that you need to improve.
2. The second third – Focus on intonation, rhythm, articulation, and dynamics with etudes and short excerpts/songs.
3. The last third – Focus on longer pieces, thinking less about technique and more about the musicality of your playing.

So if you decide to practice for 30 minutes, spend the first third (10 minutes) practicing what’s in the first third (violin scales and drills).

Even if you only plan on practicing for 6 minutes, use this same structure to get optimal results with your violin playing.

If you want detailed help on how to establish solid technique on the violin, I highly recommend my Perfect Vibrato course which covers foundations of setting up the left hand, right hand and detailed steps on how to improve your sound.

This course covers how to improve vibrato, and also is an excellent four-week study of how to get rid of many bad habits you may have currently when playing the violin (learn more here). It is appropriate for beginners as well as anyone under fifteen years of experience who wants to improve their sound.

I also recommend checking out these blog articles if you want to improve on the violin:

How to Play the Violin

Learn Violin Vibrato

How to Hold a Violin Bow – Beginner Violin Video

How to Hold a Violin Bow

One of the most important things in learning how to hold a violin bow is understanding where to place the fingers on the bow.

By learning how to hold a violin bow correctly, you’ll be on your way to getting a good sound.

Make sure your index finger is nicely over the stick.

Make sure you aren’t holding the bow too tight.

You also want to make sure your fingers are overall relaxed on the bow.

Make sure you curve the thumb in the groove of the violin bow.

Also, ensure that your pinky is curved on the button.

These are all very important elements how how to hold a violin bow that you must work on.

Many students stiffen their pinky which causes issues later on with playing the violin bow at the frog.

If you do these things, you’ll be on your way to applying proper application to pulling the bow back and forth.

how to hold a violin bow

How to Hold the Violin Bow – Additional Tips

  1. Avoid using your thumb and pinky to guide the violin bow.
  2. Use the index finger to push the violin bow downwards for varying dynamics.
  3. Focus on keeping tension away from the violin bow at all times.

If you want detailed help on how to establish solid technique on the violin, I highly recommend my Perfect Vibrato course which covers foundations of setting up the left hand, right hand and detailed steps on how to improve your sound.

This course covers how to improve vibrato, and also is an excellent four-week study of how to get rid of many bad habits you may have currently when playing the violin. The course includes how to hold a violin bow properly, and how to get the most efficiently out of your bow stroke.

It is appropriate for beginners as well as anyone under fifteen years of experience who wants to improve their sound.

I also have a great article that you can covers how to learn the violin from scratch. I highly recommend checking it our as it will teach you all the basics you should know about playing the violin.

Here is also a free Youtube playlist for how to play the violin.