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Viola Tuning Guide

This information is to be used as a guide only. Data is approximate. For best results, you should consult with the instructor before purchasing.

How To Tune The Viola?

When you receive your instrument, you will need to perform the following:
  • Insert the "bridge" into the proper position,
  • Carefully tighten and tune the strings, and
  • Floss the bow with rosin (supplied).
Beginners and novices are encouraged to seek advice and knowledge from experienced player and/or service center for assistance, since these sorts of breakage issues are not covered under our guarantee. Even the most seasoned professionals may break the strings, bows, etc. Take your time, and be careful!
Viola Diagram
Viola Diagram
How to Set Up the Bridge
How to Set Up the BridgeHow to Set Up the Bridge
You stand the bridge up across from the little notches in the f holes in the front of the viola. That is about halfway between the tailpiece and end of fingerboard. The shorter end of the bridge goes under the thinnest string.
Loosen the strings up just a little bit so you can just put the whole bridge there under the strings and stand the bridge up. The strings need to be tight enough to hold it upright once you have it up straight and let go of it.
Before you get the strings real tight you can push them side-to-side to get them spaced how you like it. You can even use a knife to put a very shallow notch in the bridge right where you want them to stay.
The strings need to be spaced apart over the bridge, evenly away from each edge, and evenly apart from each other too. Normally they will stay in place just from being tightened to tune correctly but shallow notches or dents help the strings stay in place. You can pull the bridge sideways as necessary before the strings are too tight to get the bridge and strings centered over the fingerboard too.
Strings should be spread evenly across the bridge, and the bridge should be moved side to side so the strings are centered over the fingerboard.
Fine tuners should be screwed in half way so you can tighten or loosen them when you're ready for that step. Screw them in all the way and then back them out halfway.
How to Tune the Viola
There are 2 ways to tune a viola: tuning pegs or fine tuners (also called string adjusters). Tuning pegs are used for tuning when the string is at least a half note out of tune, while the fine tuners are used when the string is less than a half note out of tune. Fine tuners' tuning range is a lot smaller than the tuning pegs. For more experienced players, you will find that their violas are not equipped with fine tuners on D, G or C strings; only A string is equipped with a fine tuner. This is because A string is the most fragile and requires the most care during tuning.
You need to take extra care while tuning, if 2-4 strings are very out of tune:
  • Gradually tighten each string in the sequence of C-G-D-A. The reason for starting from C string is to prevent damaging the thinner A and D strings.
  • Tighten only 1-2 notes higher on one string at a time. Then tighten the next. Do not tighten one string all the way to the desire pitch while leaving the other strings very loose. This will create unequal pressure on the bridge causing it to fall.
  • Since the tuning will cause enough movement of the strings and sway the bridge, you need to make sure the bridge continues to stay perpendicular to the viola surface while being tuned. Make sure the bridge is completely straight especially where it makes contact with the strings. If it has become tilted, carefully make it straight. The viola bridge is neither glued nor screwed onto the viola. It is the tension from the 4 strings that keeps the bridge in its place.
  • In order to keep the tuning pegs from slipping, you will need to apply inward pressure on the tuning pegs toward the viola head as you turn the tuning peg, but not using so much force that you may damage the peg hole. Tuning pegs are tapered hence the inward pressure will ensure that they stay in position once released.
  • If you have tuner, pluck the string and the tone will get registered on the tuner. If you have a chromatic tuner, it will tell you what note you are on and how much further you have to go. If you have a viola tuner, the tone will not register on the tuner until the tone is within the tuner's detection limit. This is usually 1 note below or above the desired pitch.
  • Once you are within 1-2 notes from the desired pitch, you can use the fine tuners to adjust each string.
  • If you cannot tighten a fine tuner any more, loose the fine tuner halfway first then bring the string closer to the pitch by using the tuning peg. Then use the fine tuner again for the adjustment. Depending on the design of the fine tuner, fine tuners that are tightened all the way are more likely to dent the viola top since the space between the viola top and the fine tuner is very small.
  • If you cannot loosen a fine tuner any more, tighten the fine tuner halfway first then loosen the string closer to the pitch by using the tuning peg. Then use the fine tuner again for the adjustment.
If strings are slightly out of tune, you should always follow the instruction above. You may be able to tune the strings with just the fine tuners. However, you should always check to make sure the bridge is still straight after tuning.
How to Take Care the Bow
Since the bow we sold to you is brand new, you need to apply rosin on the bow. When applied to the bow hair, rosin creates the friction with the string, which in turn generates the sound. You will need to use a knife or sand paper to scrape the top of the rosin in several places so that the powder appears. Then run the bow hair over it until you see the hair getting whiter.
IMPORTANT: Do not over-tighten the bow. After tightening, the bow stick should still be slightly curved. It is vital that the bow be slackened after use. If this is not done, the bow stick will straighten making it impossible to tighten the bow properly and the metal ferrule holding the hair may break as you attempt to tension it more. If the bow has been left tensioned, loosen the adjuster and leave it for a day or two. The stick may then resume its natural shape.