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I am very new to violin, like newborn baby new. My eldest son just bought me my first violin and I am having serious tuning issues. Firstly, the violin is a SV-75 Cremona premiere Novice 4/4. Secondly, I live in a very small town and have already checked, the closest professional that I could have do it is over 2 hours away...no teachers nearby either. My issue is that I picked up the violin for the first time this morning and spent nearly an hour and a half tuning it.

The issue I was having was that I would get one string in tune (did A, D, G, E) then move to the next. But then by the time I would get the next string in tune, I would discover the first was out again. After a lot of work I had it near/perfect and placed it back in the case. This afternoon I was drawn back to it and very disheartened to find every string was out of tune again! Not to the extent as at first, but it took around 20 minutes to get it back in tune. I also encountered the same issue of when moving to another string, the first going out of tune. Not as severely as the first time, but still to a small degree. Placed it back in the case until this evening. Then when I got it back out this evening, out of tune again! All the previous mentioned tunings, it was tuned and placed straight back in the case...no playing. This evening it took less time, around 10 minutes to tune and the incident of having to retune an already tuned string was even less, but is this normal?

I took a lot of care to make sure not to touch other pegs and fine tuners when working on a single string. My husband suspects (but is not at all instrumentally knowledgeable so it is just a guess) that it is because it is new and the strings are so new. Is that possible? If not, any suspicions on what I might be doing wrong? I know I have a long road ahead and a lot of work, and if this is a normal part of the process then I totally accept it. But if I'm doing something wrong I'd like to fix that!

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Doktor Mayhem Jan 10 at 14:58
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    How are you tuning it? Are you using the wooden pegs at the end of the neck in the pegbox, or are you using the fine tuner screws at the tailpiece? See this image if you have no idea what I am talking about. Do you have fine tuners? – terdon Jan 10 at 19:46
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    It does have fine tuners on all strings. I am using the wooden pegs until I get as close as possible (to the point that using the peg at a very small turn seems to be too much) and then I resort to the fine tuners. I have found the past couple of days that it is only minimally out of tune and only takes a couple of minutes to get back in tune so I think all the issues mentioned, such as string stretch, humidity/temperature adaptation, etc, are finally starting to level out, so to speak. I'm very glad as I was worried I was just doing something incorrectly. – user66171 Jan 11 at 15:35
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    What tonal reference source are you using to tune it? Can you use a tuning app to characterize how far out of tune the strings are slipping? (This would be measured in either hertz or cents.) And when a string goes out of tune are you always finding it at a lower pitch than you left it? Or sometimes higher? – feetwet Jan 11 at 22:54
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  1. Alas, string instruments notoriously lose tuning for seemingly trivial reasons, especially classical guitars and wooden bowed strings. Temperature, humidity, looking at it... so, better get used to tuning. Good news is, like with the actual playing, practising tuning helps getting it done a lot quicker! Experienced players can completely re-string and tune an instrument in 5~10 minutes, and normal tuning is much quicker.
  2. How quickly an instrument goes out of tune does depend on the quality, but not as much. Generally speaking, all wooden instruments are so sensitive. Carbon fibre is much better, which is IMO a considerable reason to use it. But clearly, wooden instruments can still be used perfectly well – just, yeah, you'll need to tune very often.
    There's one thing that can turn this often into unacceptably-all-the-time: if the tuning pegs are slipping. Make sure you actually push/“screw” them in tightly. If even that doesn't help, ask a luthier – they have tricks to increase or decrease friction as needed.
  3. Your husband is right: after an instrument is tuned up from scratch (i.e. from no-tension state), it can takes quite some time to settle in. At first the strings go down every 5 minutes, after twice tuning up again maybe half an hour, and only after a week or so can you expect optimal stability.
    Though, this is mostly a problem with nylon or gut strings. Steel strings are pretty fast. Though it's also possible that the instrument itself flexes after long too-low tension, but that's something I'd definitely be worried about.

To be safe, ask a luthier. But don't desperate – tuning may be annoying, but it's a fact of life for a musician, and it's not that bad.

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The strings should have been tuned up to pitch before it was packed up for sale, otherwise there is a risk that something would shift out of alignment. You may not realize that the bridge, the tail piece, and the internal "sound post" that stops the top and bottom of the instrument from collapsing under the tension of the strings are not actually fixed in place by glue or screws, everything is held in place by the tension of the strings.

Looking at an advert for your violin, it appears to be fitted with steel strings at the factory. Steel strings stretch much less than "gut" (more likely, nylon) strings, which can take a few days to settle down. (Most string players who use gut strings carry a spare set of pre-stretched strings as replacements in case of breakage, otherwise the instrument is more or less unplayable for a day or two until the new string stretches).

It is possible that a big change in humidity or temperature will mess up the tuning until the wood of the instrument has stabilized in a new environment. That should settle down in a day or two.

When you are doing coarse tuning using the pegs, make sure the peg is firmly pressed into the holes. The pegs and holes are slightly tapered so the friction between them will hold the string tension. You need to learn the "trick" of slightly easing the peg out so it will turn smoothly, and pushing it firmly in when it is in the correct position.

Before you tune using the pegs, set the fine tuner for the string to the mid position so you can make small adjustments up or down without moving the peg again.

Check that the bridge is standing straight on the body of the violin, and not leaning towards the fingerboard. If it is leaning, you can slacken of the string tension (but don't make the strings completely loose, otherwise the bridge will fall out and you won't know what position to replace it!) and then push the top of the bridge back to straighten it.

It is normal that you have to "fine tune" a violin every time you play it (or even part way through a long practice session) but that should not take "several minutes" once you get used to doing it, and tuning one string should not affect the others.

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    Re-bridge position: a good thing to do before touching the bridge is to mark the position of the feet, either with a couple tiny drops of paint or by laying down blue painter's tape to set borders. The tape will in no way harm the varnish. Also: a significant adjustment of one string, especially the lower ones, will tweak the bridge and push the upper strings slightly out of tune. – Carl Witthoft Jan 9 at 14:32
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Yes, your instrument will require more tuning from its original set up. As it settles in it will require less tuning to get it in tune, but all string instruments require regular tuning.

Initially the strings haven't been stretched yet, so under tension they will "relax" some as they stretch out. Even steel strings will do this, although less than nylon based strings.

As you tune up one string, especially a large amount such as pulling a new string up to full in-tune tension, the pressure on the bridge at that string will unbalance the tension on the bridge putting the other strings out of tune. This is normal, and when tuning up a violin for the first time or after a string change it is usual to have to go back and forth across the strings until you get the instrument into balance.

In some cases on the less expensive instruments the tail gut can slip a bit when it is first tuned up, causing a drop in tuning. The painted tuning pegs can also take a little while to lock in, and the strings to settle into the peg.

Eventually the instrument should settle down and only require small tuning adjustments every time you pick it up to play, and probably after you've been practicing for a little while.

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    Not just violins. Takes about 5 - 6 passes to tune a steel string guitar properly, even with hand-stretching the strings each time (not sure if that would be recommended on a violin with the more fragile bridge). Cheaper strings require more stretching, too. – Whelkaholism Jan 9 at 10:03
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    Hand stretching isn't recommended either as it can cause uneven stretches in the string shortening the lifespan. I do it anyway myself and haven't really noticed a problem, but you are correct, I wouldn't do it on the violin strings. For customer instruments I often tune up the string a half step high and let them settle back down to tune. – Alphonso Balvenie Jan 9 at 19:29
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My husband suspects (...) that it is because it is new and the strings are so new. Is that possible?

Not only possible, but almost always generates a great deal of disappointment with new strings on a variety of string instruments. The instrument itself being new is less important.

Don't worry, the strings will settle in a few days. Or week.

Just keep tuning them.

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leftaroundabout touched on this briefly but no one else has, so I thought I'd point it out specifically. The tuning knobs may be loose. My daughter's first guitar experienced this. I would tune it up and it would immediately slip. Coming from a guitar world, I'm used to ratcheted tuners, but the violin appears to just rely on friction alone to keep the knob in place.

I cured the tuning problems on her violin by simply pushing the knobs IN further as I twisted it up a bit. I had to do this several times but it seems much more stable now than before. Also mentioned was that there may be techniques to increase the friction and prevent slippage.

That, along with string-relaxation (which may take a week before finally stabilizing). Hope that helps!

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    Loose pegs can especially be a problem on entry level instruments where the pegs aren't hardwood, but painted black. The paint can be slick and not grip well in the peg slot, and the extra flexibility of the softer wood can make it hard to engage the peg. One treatment is to rub some rosin on the pegs to make them a little stickier. A little fine sand paper to rough up the paint can help also. – Alphonso Balvenie Jan 9 at 19:32
  • After the strings have stretched, you may still experience difficulty tuning if the pegs are slipping. To increase friction, some players apply a tiny dab of toothpaste to each peg. The added friction comes from the diatomaceous earth in the paste. Don't overdo the toothpaste or you won't be able to turn the pegs at all! – Phil Freedenberg Jan 9 at 20:40
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One thing you can do is not tune adjacent strings consecutively. Tune the outer strings, then inner, or skip a string. My experience is with guitar, where there are more strings and a wider fingerboard, but tuning this way helps to even out the tension across the neck and make tuning more stable.

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Good answers here, I would add that some violins have have little knobs called "fine tuners" which make small adjustments to the tuning much easier. You may be able to add these to an existing instrument at a violin shop, I'm not sure of the specifics. Other than that waiting for the strings to get broken in can help, and if you are experiencing intense weather that tends to worsen things.

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I think it may be due to the weather and violin strings go out of time very easily due to this. Make sure to store the violin somewhere with moderate temperature and with less humidity. Violins are prone to getting out of tune if there is too much of an imbalance in the temperature. Practise somewhere with moderate temperature and try not to switch around the temperature much. Going from a, let's say, warm room to a cooler room may make the violin go off tune, the reason why the violin went out of tune in the box, due to the temperature difference. But the fact that the violin is taking less time to tune as time goes by means that the violin is getting used to the room temperature. Violin strings can loosen and tighten depending on the temperature, and the proof is that it is taking lesser time to tune it. It happened to me when one of my violin string snapped. I replaced it with another one, but the string had the tendency to go out of tune rather frequently for a few weeks.

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