Frontpage Forums Orchestra Tuning?

Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
  • Author
  • #42438

    What is the most efficient way to tune a large group of beginning string player’s instruments?


    Since my low strings play our school instruments, I tune those before the students arrive. Then I only have to tune the violins and violas. I take a ton of time at the beginning of the year to teach the little ones how to tune. This pays itself off ten times over, since by October they can all tune themselves. However, I do require them all to have a tuner in their case, or download the “Musician’s Kit” app onto their i-pads. I show them exactly how to use it and only allow them to use the fine tuners at first. If their strings are way out of tune then I do it. Once the cellists and bassists have watched this tuning process, then they quickly learn to tune as well.
    Other strategies that I have seen include having all violins and violas line up to be tuned and the teacher quickly tunes each. Another is the teacher has each section play one string at a time then the teacher comes around and adjusts those who need it.
    I hope this helps!
    All the Best,
    Linda Simon-Mietus
    PS: If anyone else has any other suggestions, please post them. Thanks!


    Linda has many great points. 🙂

    I also consider the teaching of tuning an investment. It will take more of your time at the beginning, but it will help save time later, once students start becoming comfortable tuning their own instruments. Students will also train their ears, build self-confidence and begin to become independent musicians.

    I teach tuning as early as possible because I feel it is important for students begin to explore from the beginning of their study (without touching the pegs of course!). One area I focus on is helping students internalize the pitch. This really helps them focus on what they are listening for. Have a tuner sustain the A, then sing the A to your students in four quarter notes at a moderato tempo. Have students sing the A back to you. Then have them sing, followed by the plucking of their strings and making adjustments. I like to start small, with just the A string and fine tuners. I allow students to fix their mistakes and try not to give away the “correct” answer. This takes a lot of patience, but again, is worth it in the long run.

    Dr. Michael Hopkins from the University of Michigan has a wonderful article on the stages of tuning in the classroom. The article can be found here.

    Best of luck!


    Hello Fellow String Teachers!
    Wondering which grade level your beginning students are in? Approximately how many students are particating in the ensemble?

    I attended the CMEA workshop today and had the opportunity to chat with other strings teachers. We discussed the issue of tuning beginning string ensembles.

    For larger string orchestras, with 40 or more students, some teachers choose to:
    1). Use an ongoing “A” provided by an electronic tuner device. Instruments are individually tuned, as students gradually unpack and form a line to enter the orchestra room. Use fine tuners whenever possible!
    2). Ask musical parents to come volunteer to assist with tuning process. If school can afford to pay a local private strings teacher to come help, that could work too.

    During small group lessons: (supporting what Charles mentioned above, re: investment of time)
    Students enjoy playing the game “telephone tuning”. Ask students to stand in a circle. You tune ONE instrument. The second student in the circle plays their “A” string to see if it matches the first students’ already tuned “A” string. The other students in the circle participate by providing a “thumbs up” gesture if they think the second person’s string needs to be made higher, “thumbs down” if string needs to be made lower, and “safe” gesture (baseball) when the 2 “A” stings sound in tune with each other.

    The second person sends their newly tuned “A” string to the third person in the circle, and so on all the way around the circle. The last person checks their “A” with the first that you tuned. Hopefully the first and last “A’s” match…then do the same process with “D” strings. If the first and last strings in the circle do not match, ask students to help you find which strings within the circle didn’t match, causing the end of the telephone chain to not match.

    If/when your students seem ready to do this, it works well and allows you time to take attendance, etc.
    There will be significance to how many students are in the ensemble and what their levels are.
    Hope this gives you an idea, if not appropriate for use now, perhaps an activity to consider for future?!

Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
  • The forum ‘Orchestra’ is closed to new topics and replies.