How often should you tune your violin?

by | Jul 13, 2013 | Maintenance | 3 comments

I got another question: Hi Zlata, I just recently started playing the violin. Now I know how to use the bow and so far I’m getting good at it. But my question is: should I untune the violin right after I’m done using it?

How often should you tune your viola or violin?

The answer to it is: every time you practice, so hopefully everyday. And when it untuned while you practice, then you should tune it several times during your practice.

It is also good to play on a violin that is not exactly tuned

However, I read a book, unfortunately I can’t remember which one, that says it is also good to play and practice on a violin that is not tuned exactly. Why? Say you have to perform late Beethoven’s quartet and you are not allowed to tune in between the parts then your violin and also the instruments of the other players will untune while you are playing. You must be able to intonate and play on a violin that is slightly out of tune. And a good violinist can play in tune on an untune violin, if it is not extremely untuned. So it is also good to practice that your intonation is flexible. That you can adjust your intonation to the violin that untunes a little. Because you will need this while you are performing your instrument untunes.

So don’t be too rigid about tuning your violin all the time. Some people tune it every 5 minutes but that doesn’t make sense because you cannot tune your instrument every 5 minutes while you are performing can you?

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  1. avianstudent

    Hmm, I think I have to respectfully disagree on this one. Although it’s critical to be able to play on an instrument that slips out a little (especially during performances, as you mention), I would say it’s most important for a learning musician to tune and maintain that – just because this is the critical point where one’s ear is developing. Without tuning carefully and rigidly, you won’t be able to learn how to know what is or isn’t right. Consistency is key in the early stages. Learning to make adjustments can come after a pupil’s ear has begun to develop, and he or she can identify if something is indeed in tune…or not. That’s just me, though!

    • Violinist Zlata

      Hi, first of all: thank you for your response!

      I agree with you: in the beginning we must develop our ear. An instrument in tune as a must for that and as your say: consistency is key.

      That’s exactly why I disagree with teachers who teach their students to tune their instruments after years instead of in the beginning. Students must have a tuned instrument while practicing… certainly in the beginning.

      I would like to see your comment as an addition and perhaps you agree: the flexible intonation is maybe more something for the advanced students.

      And than another note: My experience with students is that if they are playing out of tune, they suddenly start tuning their instrument… while it’s not out of tune. If we check every five minutes if our instruments are in tune… valuable practice time gets lost (except if there is reason to tune every five minutes… but than a visit to the violin builder must be a solution).

      Have a nice Sunday!

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