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I know that when plucked as in pizzicato, the violin produces a muted sound. However, I was surprised to find out when I checked with my tuner that if I tune my violin by plucking, it seems somewhat flat when I double check it by bowing! So there's this slight discrepancy between the two. why is that? Is the bowed version correct (which I'm assuming) ? If so then why? also, is it true for any instrument when you play it muted?

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This could be related to intonation, similar to how tuning a guitar by fourths will not be as accurate as tuning by the 5th/7th fret harmonics. Also note that a plucked note is more sharp on the initial attack and will decay down to the "real" frequency. –  Matthew Read May 27 '14 at 17:42
So what method does the tuner use? Anyways, I am not knowledgeable about the different methods of tuning so all these jargon are kinda confusing –  Sazid_violin May 27 '14 at 18:04
The tuner doesn't use a method, you do (plucking or bowing). See if the tuner will pick up the fact that the plucked string gets more flat after a moment -- if you're going by its initial reading that might explain the discrepancy. –  Matthew Read May 27 '14 at 18:43
I would suggest that, if you're mostly going to play pizzicato, then that is correct, but if you're mostly going to bow (which is to be expected; if you're mostly picking, play a mandolin!) then making sure that's in tune is correct. Guitarists like me have a similar issue, where hard picking can drive you sharp. If you're going to do hard picking mostly, tune so the attack is correct, but if you're largely a lead player, tune so the sustain is in tune. –  VarLogRant May 27 '14 at 20:47
So, dragging a bow across a string will put the string under more tension than plucking. You're comparing the sounds made by a string in two different states. –  Lee Kowalkowski May 28 '14 at 8:52

1 Answer 1

Many things can enter in. Bow pressure can force a string out of tune. Try this: tune the open string bowed, then play the string with excessively heavy bow pressure. You'll go out of tune.

Depending on the quality of the instrument, the bridge&soundpost setup, and the phases of Jupiter's moons, you may find that a perfectly tuned (bowed) open string will decay slightly out of tune after you remove the bow. The behavior of a freely oscillating string differs from that of a string driven with a bow.

From a physics standpoint, the resonant frequency of a string under tension, for real-world strings (not those infamous massless ones :-) ), can change with amplitude. Add to that the fact that a plucked string is resonating freely, while a bowed string is actually being caught and released by the bowhairs (at a very high rate), and the math gets well-nigh impossible. I fear I don't have any info as to what the magnitudes of these various effects are. Perhaps someone can chime in w/ some references.

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You are correct about the sound getting sharper if I put on more pressure but I am sure that is not the main reason because I don't put that much pressure when I tune. But yeah, the phases of Jupiter's moon definitely did something there :P –  Sazid_violin May 27 '14 at 18:01
I was just listing that as an example of detuning effects, no deprecation of your bowing skills intended :-) –  Carl Witthoft May 27 '14 at 19:22

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