By Katharine Rapoport

A beginner violinist eventually becomes best buddies with the pegs and fine tuners, but at first, using them feels somewhat strange, and they don’t always behave perfectly. The following shows you how to manage pegs and fine tuners. Consider doing some trial runs with the pegs and fine tuners before you actually start tuning to specific notes, so that you get a feel for the process without the pressure of doing it precisely right away.

Fine‐tuning your violin

The easiest way for a beginner to tune the violin is by using the fine tuners, which work well if the strings need only a little adjustment in tension to get in tune. When turning your fine tuners, remember this great rhyme: Righty, tighty; lefty, loosey.

You usually need to turn a fine tuner for one or two complete turns before you can hear a change in the pitch of the note. So don’t be afraid to turn them freely — you can always turn them back again if you don’t like what you hear!

Tuning is ordinarily done with the bow sounding the open strings. But to get started, tune your violin using your right hand to pluck each string, because it’s easier to manage.

Sit in a chair, and then place the violin on your left knee, scroll end up. Hold the violin with your left hand around the neck (of the violin, that is!), with the front of the violin facing you With your right hand, pluck each string with your thumb, a bit like a guitarist. Turn the fine tuners using your right thumb and index finger together: right = tight (clockwise), and left = loose (counterclockwise — or anticlockwise to Brits!).

Tuning with the fine tuners. [Credit: Photograph by Nathan Saliwonchyk]

Credit: Photograph by Nathan Saliwonchyk
Tuning with the fine tuners.

Tuning with pegs

The most important thing for beginners to know about tuning is that turning the peg even a quarter‐turn makes a considerable difference to the string’s pitch. So turn only a little bit at a time — about one‐eighth of a turn is a good starting point. If you think of the circular turning of the peg as hands on a clock face, each “hour” you turn makes the string sound distinctly different.

Tuning with pegs is a lot trickier than tuning with fine tuners. Pegs are slightly narrower at the far end from the “handle” bit that you turn, a design that helps them stay in place by being wedged in with a slight push as you tune.

Sometimes pegs can feel stuck in place, and in that case, loosen the string by a quarter‐turn before you attempt to tighten it. As with your first acquaintance with fine tuners, hold the violin facing you on your knee, with the scroll end up, for your first peg‐tuning adventure. To keep things simple, the bow doesn’t play any part in this initial process. Just pluck the string gently with your free thumb to hear the pitch.

For peg tuning, you can choose any string to tune first, except the E string, which rarely requires this kind of tuning, due to being made of hardier steel wire, which is less susceptible to pitch changes. Also, it’s your tightest string and, therefore, it’s likely to break without too much encouragement.

If you’re right‐handed, you may be most comfortable holding the violin’s neck with your left hand and making adjustments to the A‐string peg with your right hand.

For lefties, you can hold the violin’s neck securely with your right hand and tune the D or G string by turning the pegs with your left hand. Having your dominant hand turn the peg at first helps build your confidence and strength.

Tuning with the pegs. [Credit: Photograph by Nathan Saliwonchyk]

Credit: Photograph by Nathan Saliwonchyk
Tuning with the pegs.

To make the pitch higher, turn the peg so that its top edge moves toward the scroll end of the violin. To make the pitch lower, turn the top edge of the peg toward the body of the violin.

Playing the violin is one activity where left‐handed people are at an advantage, because, eventually, you bow the violin with your right hand on the bow, you operate the fine tuners and pegs with your left hand, and you do all the fingering stuff with your left‐hand fingers. For once, the world favors left‐handers!