How to Learn to Tune Your Cello

Tuning a cello requires certain precautions to avoid collapsing the bridge or breaking the neck of the cello from the tension the strings create. To tune a cello properly, you must proceed in a methodical manner, starting with the heaviest and thickest strings and ending with the finest, thinnest strings. Spending time with a tuner and tuning your cello correctly will improve the intonation of the instrument and your ability to bow efficiently. A loose string will not respond correctly.

Step 1 Use a tuner to check the pitches while you are tuning. Turn on the tuner and set it by your cello on a nearby chair where you can easily see how much the strings are flat or sharp. Flat strings will need to be tightened to raise the pitch; sharp strings need to be loosened to lower the pitch. The tuner will indicate the level of sharpness or flatness either with a needle or a digital read-out.

Step 2 Tune the strings from lowest to highest. Start with the C string. Press in on the tuning peg lightly as you turn to increase the tension in the string. Tension will hold the string in place, so you don't need to push the peg in too much.

Step 3 Adjust the remaining strings to within one to two notes of the appropriate pitch for each string. The remaining strings should be tuned to G, D and A. A is the highest string and the most delicate, so you must tune this string last.

Step 4 Use the fine-tuners located at the bass of each string to fine-tune the cello to the final pitch. The fine-tuners are small, round knobs that can be turned to adjust the pitch much more accurately than the tuning pegs. However, they can adjust the pitch by only about one note.

Ensure that while tuning, the bridge of the cello does not move. It must be perpendicular to the bridge. Do not raise the pitch of a string more than one to two notes at a time. Adjusting a single string too much at the expense of other strings can cause the neck to align incorrectly and possibly damage the bridge or cause it to collapse. You may need to take several passes to completely tune all of the strings.


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