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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Tuning by perfect fifths?


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.fiddlehangout.com/archive/55292

DougBrock - Posted - 05/27/2021:  06:13:41


Do you tune your fiddle by perfect fifths? (Tune the A with an electronic tuner or other source, then tune E, D, and G strings by perfect fifths with the adjacent string?)



I’m new to violin, so EVERYTHING is new to me, lol. I’ve seen lots of recommendations to tune the violin by perfect fifths, but so far had just been using an electronic tuner to tune each note to Equal Temperament.



This week I tried tuning by perfect fifths. I could NOT hear beating like I can when I tune the mandolin strings, but I could find the high and low “out of tune” pitches, then hone in on the middle sweet spot. I am insecure enough about my tuning abilities and my ear that I am still checking my tuning with a couple of resources - hardware and software Peterson strobe tuners. (By frequency, or by cents - cents is easy for me to remember. The E is +2 cents compared to Equal Temperament, the D is -2 cents, and the G is -4 cents.) I was pleased (and surprised) that my attempts were spot on, at least according to the tuners.



After tuning to perfect fifths, I was also surprised that my violin sounded a little sweeter. I had totally expected my old ears to not be able to tell a difference, but there was just a cleaner, sweeter sound that I liked. Dang it.



Do you tune in perfect fifths? I can see that it wouldn’t be as quick and easy as using a tuner to Equal Temperament when I get back out and jamming with my friends (I’ve been the mandolin player, pre-Covid.). I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to tune to fifths by ear in a noisy environment. For “quick and easy,” I can’t beat my D’Addario violin tuner, but that’s Equal Temperament.



I’m HOPING that if I keep practicing this method of tuning, I’ll get better at just drawing my bow across a pair of strings and being able to hear if they’re in tune without having to drop a string’s pitch and pull it back up into tune.


Edited by - DougBrock on 05/27/2021 06:16:01

DougD - Posted - 05/27/2021:  06:35:53


Did you somehow miss this lengthy recent discussion about this topic? fiddlehangout.com/topic/55159

You pretty much summed it up - sounds like you're on the right track. Time will tell how it goes.



BTW, I thought of something while tuning my old mandolin the other day. The equal tempered fourths and fifths are really pretty close to the perfect intervals, but some of the others, especially major and minor thirds, are way off. If you have a tuner that can read accurately in cents, you could tune one string of a pair to the usual note, and the other off by whatever amount might be used for any interval, just to hear the difference. Its quite dramatic.


Edited by - DougD on 05/27/2021 06:43:08

DougBrock - Posted - 05/27/2021:  07:52:03


quote:

Originally posted by DougD

Did you somehow miss this lengthy recent discussion about this topic? fiddlehangout.com/topic/55159

You pretty much summed it up - sounds like you're on the right track. Time will tell how it goes.



BTW, I thought of something while tuning my old mandolin the other day. The equal tempered fourths and fifths are really pretty close to the perfect intervals, but some of the others, especially major and minor thirds, are way off. If you have a tuner that can read accurately in cents, you could tune one string of a pair to the usual note, and the other off by whatever amount might be used for any interval, just to hear the difference. Its quite dramatic.




Thanks for the link! I'll read it! (Oops I HAD read that thread and I even responded in the thread about buying a recommended book about the history of tuning and temperaments!)


Edited by - DougBrock on 05/27/2021 08:11:33

DougBrock - Posted - 05/27/2021:  08:28:21


quote:

Originally posted by DougD

BTW, I thought of something while tuning my old mandolin the other day. The equal tempered fourths and fifths are really pretty close to the perfect intervals, but some of the others, especially major and minor thirds, are way off. If you have a tuner that can read accurately in cents, you could tune one string of a pair to the usual note, and the other off by whatever amount might be used for any interval, just to hear the difference. Its quite dramatic.




I haven't been playing much mandolin lately (too much time with violin), but I had a LOT harder time finding satisfactory tuning when I tuned a mandolin a few days ago. My violin intervals can be as sweet as I want them - the mandolin intervals are compromises that I hadn't fully appreciated before.

DougD - Posted - 05/27/2021:  09:30:42


Yes, I agree about the mandolin. Some people think that a fretted instrument is "locked in" to equal temperament (someone said as much in that other thread) but that's only true if its just one string. Especially with guitar, choices have to be made depending on the situation - will that B string be a third (in G) or a fifth (in E) and so forth.
I didn't mean to cut you off - was there something new you wanted to bring up? In answer to your original question - some do and some don't. Those who do think it sounds better that way, those who don't think it doesn't matter.

groundhogpeggy - Posted - 05/27/2021:  09:32:23


I have a 440 A tuning fork I got 60 years ago...I've always tuned any instrument I ever played to the A I get from clanging that thing onto a chair leg or something. That's the only way I like to tune, to perfect fifths, by ear, or to whatever interval I need, for whatever instrument I'm tuning, by ear, going by the sound of each string against the A, and then on guitar going by how chording it sounds too. Lots of people like to tune other ways, of course, but my old tuning fork has never let me down through the decades, so it's all I do.

The Violin Beautiful - Posted - 05/27/2021:  11:24:44


Tuning by fifths is the standard for the violin family and produces the best tonal results.

However, how you tune can depend on the ensemble in which you’re playing. If you’re playing with other string players, tuning by fifths will be best, but if you play with a piano, you may need to tune to the piano to be closer in temperament.

The beauty of playing an unfretted instrument like the violin is the ability to adjust pitch at the micro level as you play. Even if the strings aren’t in tune, you can fix it by adjusting your fingers if you have a good ear. I think I remember either Heifetz or Milstein having students practice with the strings intentionally out of tune as an exercise to improve their ability to adjust pitch on the fly.

I read an interesting article a little while ago about double bass tuning. Originally, the bass was tuned in fifths, but when the German school of playing took over, tuning in fourths became the new standard because it made finger patterns a little easier. There is a movement to return to fifths, and many bass players who try it say that the instrument takes on a new life when the tuning is adjusted that way. New string technology has eliminated some of the difficulties that bass players once faced.

groundhogpeggy - Posted - 05/27/2021:  11:44:05


I heard the same story about one of those famous classical violinists tuning students' strings slightly off to get them to be able to adjust on the fly. I've had that issue myself, though certainly not on purpose...for a short time when I played in a little amateur BG band, I tuned in between things where it was noisy and they didn't always give me enough time to get it good...I mean, I didn't need a ton of time but they really hurried from one song to the next sometimes...so...I'd start playing and realize one string or another was a little off on the singing parts, then be ready to make up for that in the fiddling break that came after a verse or two...lol...not my favorite way to play, but it happens like that sometimes, especially if you tune to cross tunings a lot like I do...whew...challenging!

boxbow - Posted - 05/27/2021:  14:06:10


For practice sessions or noodling sessions by myself it's perfect 5ths insofar as I'm capable of that day. My hearing is a little wonky any more. After a little playing in time, I can tell if adjustments are necessary. If my hearing is really yanking me around, I use a clip on tuner as needed. Otherwise I just tune to 5ths by ear off of the A string and check the A string with the tuner every so often depending on the weather changes, mostly. It's almost impossible to hear beats these days. For jams I tune the A and D to Equal temperament with the clip on tuner and the others by ear. When it's too noisy I do them all with the tuner. Eventually I'll adjust all the strings as the other instruments sort out. I know about how far off to tune the E and G using my tuner to come about as close as I'll need to start off with that bunch.

Quincy - Posted - 05/27/2021:  15:59:18


Nice to find this topic, this was also one of my questions.
I recently bought a tiny tuning fork to tune the A-string, but cannot remember/ copy the sound, it's a tiny fork, I think I just need a bigger one, that sounds for a long time?

It's my wish also to learn how to tune by ear instead of using the visual aid of a digital tuner.

In future (I start to get very curious) I want to be able to tune in GDGD or AEAE also. I guess I first should try to tune by ear.

DougD - Posted - 05/27/2021:  16:26:39


After you hit the tuning fork (on your knee, edge of a chair, etc.) do you touch it to the top of your violin, next to the bridge? It needs something to resonate and amplify the vibrations.

groundhogpeggy - Posted - 05/27/2021:  16:27:48


This might be an obvious thing you already know, and if so, I apologize in advance...but, is there a ball at the end of your tuning fork? Just in case you aren't aware, after your strike the fork you have to set the ball end on a surface, such as wood, that will allow the sound of the A to come through. You probably know that already...sorry...just making sure. I think tuning forks are the best way to tune, because they act on the physics of sound. I use mine for going to GDGD too...first I strike and allow my A to sound, then hum one step down to find a G, and go from there...a fifth for the D, octave for G and the other D. Tuning the strings to each other just works out so much better for me than tuning each individual string to an electronic tuner...they never sound right to me when I've ever tried that. Of course, as I said, lots of, probably most people I've seen at BG jams and such, do prefer the electronic tuners...just doesn't work as well for me as the tuning fork. In the end, I say, do whatever works because every fiddler deserves to dwell within their own comfort zone, not somebody else's.

groundhogpeggy - Posted - 05/27/2021:  16:29:20


Oh sorry...I didn't see Doug's post...lol...didn't mean to duplicate that idea.

Quincy - Posted - 05/27/2021:  16:32:40


I read that you can hold it to your violin, but didn't really dare to.
Have to try this...
I hope I will do it right this time, I held it to my ear so far after hitting it haha.

DougBrock - Posted - 05/27/2021:  17:24:15


After tapping the tines of the tuning fork on something hard, you can touch the ball end of the tuning fork to the bridge of your violin. That will convey the vibrations to your violin so you can nicely hear the pitch, and you won't have to worry about hurting the finish on your violin.

groundhogpeggy - Posted - 05/27/2021:  18:32:02


I got my tuning fork when I got my first guitar, and I used to set it on the pick guard to hear the A sound. I don't do that on my fiddle though...I try to find some wooden surface that will resonate enough for me to hear it...maybe it's ok on the fiddle...but I'm not gonna try that...lol. Just me. A thin wooden surface top...like a stool or some types of chairs or something like that, works ok.

ChickenMan - Posted - 05/27/2021:  19:15:37


When playing with others, I tune the D to the guitar and everything else in 5ths to that.

buckhenry - Posted - 05/27/2021:  20:01:01


I've always used a tuning fork. When tunning guitar I pluck the string first; holding the fork in the right hand I then tap the fork and place the ball end on the bridge, some times I just hold it to my ear. When tunning fiddle, after tapping the fork, I hold it in my left hand so I can place the ball end on the scroll and hold both at the same time while plucking the string and adjusting with the fine tuner. I haven't noticed any damage to the varnish, maybe because I often tune when fiddle is still in the case, thats when I use fork to ear method.

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 05/28/2021:  00:34:33


I tune the A string to 440 by ear, establishing the pitch either with a tuning fork or the A generated by my Seiko electronic metronome. When the beats stop, I figure I'm in tune. I then tune the other strings to perfect fifths by ear. To be sure, as I fine tune the various strings, the shifting tensions on the fiddle & bridge do put some of the other strings' pitches a little out of whack (particularly the G and E strings), so I continue to fine-tune until my ear is satisfied.



If I'm at a jam (which happens way too seldom, nowadays), I'll just tune my fiddle to whoever seems to be the Alpha Dog. I'll usually adjust my fingering to the Alpha Dog's intonation, as well. When I'm the Alpha Dog, I just let everybody else do what they want to do. Hey, I ain't Herbert Von Karajan. We ain't being paid...


Edited by - Lonesome Fiddler on 05/28/2021 00:36:28

farmerjones - Posted - 05/28/2021:  06:15:00


I bow, hee hee, haw haw, ho ho, heee. If that's ok, good to go.

banjopaolo - Posted - 05/29/2021:  13:03:50


I usually put my diapason (tuning fork) between my theets and hit it with my nail to tune the A string, then tune the other string in perfect 5th by hear...



Than play out of tune! ;-)



 



a dear friend of mine mine great cello player alway said: intonation is a bourgeous issue! 


Edited by - banjopaolo on 05/29/2021 13:06:36

bsed - Posted - 05/29/2021:  18:29:57


quote:

Originally posted by groundhogpeggy

I have a 440 A tuning fork I got 60 years ago...I've always tuned any instrument I ever played to the A I get from clanging that thing onto a chair leg or something. That's the only way I like to tune, to perfect fifths, by ear, or to whatever interval I need, for whatever instrument I'm tuning, by ear, going by the sound of each string against the A, and then on guitar going by how chording it sounds too. Lots of people like to tune other ways, of course, but my old tuning fork has never let me down through the decades, so it's all I do.






What Peggy said.

Humbled by this instrument - Posted - 05/29/2021:  18:57:10


Tune to a D and then tune the other strings to the D by ear.   


Edited by - Humbled by this instrument on 05/29/2021 18:58:05

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