November 18, 2014

How-To Tune a Violin

AUTHOR: Jennifer Grenus

Have you ever had a violin in your hand and wondered, how do I get this to stay in tune or how to tune it?  All those lessons you had as a little kid you always had your teacher tune the instrument for you to a piano.  Now you’re either in high school or college, and you don’t have a teacher doing that for you anymore.  Now how do you tune it without breaking the string? It’s very easy.

One thing you will need before you start tuning is a tuner.  It is not always safe to tune your violin to a piano because pianos are not always in tune.  Therefore, you need an actual tuner.  I use a tuner that has a metronome with it.  I set the tuner to 440.  Another thing that is helpful before tuning is making sure that your violin has not been stored in extreme hot or cold conditions.  Not only will the wood separate on your violin, the tuning pegs will become stuck and you will not be able to tune your violin properly or it will become very difficult (I know from experience).  Store it at room temperature.

Another thing you want to avoid before you start tuning are pulling the tuning pegs out completely.  You will unravel the string and it will no longer be usable.  You can pull the tuning peg out but you must do it ever so slightly. 

You should also know what tuning pegs go with what string.  If you have the violin facing you, the top right will belong to the A string, and the bottom right is for the E string.  The bottom left peg is for the G string, and the top left peg is for the D string. It is important to know what pegs go with what string.

When you are tuning, to make the pitch go up you must twist the peg forward, and if you need to lower the pitch twist the peg backwards.  When you know you have the right pitch, push in the tuning peg but make sure you keep the peg at the same position that it was where it was tuned or else the pitch will change and you will not have the proper pitch.  Sometimes if you have a new instrument you need to put a bit of pressure at pushing the pegs in because they will slide and the pitch will be way different than what you are tuning it to.

On the tuner, if the pitch matches up in the middle with the tuner, then you are in tune.  If the tuner pointer goes to the right, you are sharp.  If it goes to the left, you are flat. There is another way to change the pitch if you don’t have to change it to the extreme.

At the bottom of the violin past the bridge there are four circle things.  This would also be located near the tailpiece and the chin rest.  They are called fine tuners.  There should be four of them, one for each string.  Sometimes players are out of luck though because sometimes they become unattached from the instrument.  If you do have them, then you can adjust the pitch for minor adjustments.  Each fine tuner lines up with each string, the one farthest to the right is for the E string, the one left of that is for the A string, the one left of that is for the D string, and the farthest one to the left is for the G string.  It is very easy to adjust the pitch using this.  To raise the pitch, you twist the fine tuner to the right. To lower the pitch, you twist the fine tuner to the left.  Keep in mind the saying “lefty loosy, righty tighty.”  That always helps me keep in mind how to tune.

If you follow these steps, tuning your violin should be a breeze.  I know that when I first had to start tuning my violin on my own, especially after getting my own violin, I needed to ask for advice from several people because I had absolutely no idea how to tune my own violin without breaking the string.  I would adjust the tuning peg way too much and would break the string.  Strings aren’t very costly, but if you break more than one string then it really can add up.  Teachers, it is very helpful to teach your beginning students when they are a little bit older how to tune their instrument so they don’t end up in the same situation I had.

November 17, 2014

How-To Tie a Cymbal Knot

AUTHOR: Brian Miller

Many musicians not involved greatly with percussion instruments overlook some fine details that can make or break your percussion section. Making sure you have the appropriate mallets for your xylophones, marimbas etc. and knowing how to change drum heads to name a few. Today I am going to explain how to solve a crucial problem in your percussion section: How to tie a Cymbal Knot (Square knot). Usually the only time you need to tie a cymbal knot is when you either adjust the handles on your cymbals, or change old rotted handles.

First you will need the following:

1. A pencil
2. New cymbal handles (if you are changing out from old ones)
3. Cymbal pads (if you decide to use them).
4. Cymbals


That’s it!

Now, untie your old knots buy using a pencil to loosen the knot. Once you have loosened both knots, remove the old handles open up your new ones. One of the trickier parts of this process is threading the straps through the cymbal hole. One you squeeze all four pieces of leather through the cymbal whole, you will want to arrange them on the cymbal like so:

Some cymbals have cymbal pads you can use for the outside of the cymbal. Some straps come with these. If you use them, make sure to thread the strap through the pads before threading the strap through the cymbal hole.

Next, take one strap and take it in a loop, like you would loop shoe laces:

Now take the strap under the loop, and lay it over the strap across from it.

Do the same thing with the strap under that loop.

Do this two more times, until you get to the last piece of leather. Carefully take the last strap and pull it through the small loop by where you started:

Once you have pulled the ends of the straps tight, you’ll have a sturdy cymbal knot!