Tuesday, June 9, 2015

How to Tune in Fifths

Using a piano is a good way to check your intonation.

Tuning in fifths requires a string player to know what a fifth sounds like to begin with. The first step in learning to tune in fifths is to memorize the sound of a fifth. This also applies to instrumentalists who prefer to use a fifth to tune their instruments. In either case, the instrumentalist must first have the ability to recognize a perfect fifth and then hear the interference beats that an improperly tuned instrument emits.

Play a perfect fifth on a piano. Learn to recognize the characteristic sound of the fifth by paying attention to the differences between a fifth and other intervals. Compare the fifth to a fourth and an octave, as these are two intervals that commonly cause confusion.

Match the pitch of your instrument with the pitches of the piano. With string instruments, you may alternate between two adjacent strings or play them simultaneously as a double stop to check pitch. Using a piano will ensure you are tuning to the correct pitches.

Continue to practice tuning your instrument with the piano as a reference until you have memorized the sound of a fifth. Once you have memorized a fifth, you will no longer need to use the piano for reference.


  • When comparing pitches, an in-tune instrument will sound clean and without interference beats. An instrument that is out of tune will create interference beats and emit a “wobbling” sound effect.
  • Use a tuner to check your pitch if you don't have a piano. The tuner will tell you whether the pitch played is too high or low.