Many people are reluctant to try and tune their cello, viola or violin. There are two main reasons given for this reluctance. The first reason given is an uncertainty on obtaining the correct pitch. The second reason is a fear of popping a string. This article will try to address both concerns.
Basics: What notes am I trying to hit? For Viola and professional cello from left to right while looking down at the instrument if it is laid on the ground the notes are C, G, D and A. For Violin the notes are G, D, A and E. The notes go from lowest to highest as can also be seen by the thickness of the strings. The easiest way to tune is with a with a Tuner, which is a device that determines the frequency of any note. You can find Tuner applications available for you smartphone. A very good inexpensive Tuner is the Korg CA KT-40 and can be purchased online or at your local instrument store. The tuner will indicate exactly how sharp or flat a string is by picking up the sound as you play that string.
The strings are attached at the top of the instrument to pegs. The other end of the strings is attached to a Tailpiece. On many instruments there is what is known as Fine Tuners on the Tailpiece. If the string is slightly out of tune then an adjustment with the Fine Tuner is all that is needed. Turning clockwise on the Fine Tuner screw raises the note and makes it sharper. Turning counterclockwise on the Fine Tuner lowers the note and makes it flatter. Do not tighten the Fine Tuner screw all the way nor should you loosen the screw entirely as it may cause vibration or fall out. If you find the Fine Tuner screw at an extreme then you will need to use the pegs to tune the string. Here comes the tricky part.
Let’s first examine the pegs. The pegs are conical shaped and hold the string tension by friction with the Pegbox. While tuning with pegs, hold the violin in front of you so that you can see the strings. One hand should always be firmly holding the violin and the other hand should be tuning. This position will help you to create the force needed to turn the pegs correctly and it will keep your instrument safe.
Observe that each of your violin’s four strings is attached to one of the four pegs. Turning one of these pegs tightens or loosens one of the strings, therefore changing its pitch. If you are tuning “E,” (“A” for cello and viola) for example, then you will be turning the bottom right peg. If you are tuning “A,” (“D” for cello and viola) you will be turning the top right peg. If you are tuning “D,” (“G” for cello and viola) you will be turning the top left peg. And, finally, if you are tuning “G,” (“C” for cello and viola) you will be turning the bottom left peg.
With one hand, grip the desired peg. You will be turning the peg towards you to lower the pitch or away from to raise the pitch. Always loosen the strings first before tightening in order to not put too much force on the string while tightening. As you loosen the string gently pull it away from the Pegbox as you turn the Peg towards the bottom of the instrument. Then, to tighten, slowly turn the Peg away from you towards the top of the instrument. As you do so, pluck to continue to pluck the string until you reach the correct pitch. As you turn the Peg, push it into the pegbox to create the friction needed to hold the string.