Equipment for tuning a fiddle
There are various different types of tuners that you can use to help with tuning your fiddle. The simplest of these create a note for you to listen to, so you can try to match the note of your fiddle to that pitch.
When you’re playing a note to work out if the string is in tune, play long slow bow strokes rather than lots of short quick strokes. It’s easier for you or the tuner/app to pick up the note pitch this way
The simplest piece of equipment is a tuning fork. You can buy tuning forks for different pitches. To tune a fiddle you need a tuning fork tuned to the note A. To create the note, hold the tuning fork by the single prong (on the left in the photo below) and hit one of the two prongs smartly off a solid object. This makes the prongs resonate. If you bring the tuning fork up to your ear, you will hear the note.
Pitch pipes are also fairly straightforward. Each of the 4 tubes in a set of pitch pipes creates a different note when you blow into it. You can buy a set of pitch pipes with the four notes your fiddle is tuned to: E, A, D and G
There are a number of electronic tuners available which have a screen that indicates if the note you’re playing is sharp, flat or in tune. Some of these use a needle and dial type display. Others will indicate pitch through change of colour on the screen and/or linear displays.
Clip on electronic tuners
These are electronic devices that clip on to your instrument.
An electronic tuner has a small screen with a digital display, and some sort of clamp mechanism to attach it to the fiddle. Many of them are designed primarily for guitars, and don’t clip easily onto a fiddle. It’s worth trying an electronic tuner out before buying it, as many of the tuners designed for guitars can only be used by clipping them on to the peg of the fiddle – not only is this fairly insecure, it often results in the tuner being angled in a way that it’s pretty much impossible to see the screen while you’re tuning up, which renders it pretty much useless for fiddle tuning. One of the best designs, made specifically for fiddles is the D’Addario tuner, which clips snugly onto the body of the fiddle, and is neat enough that it can be left permanently in place there.
The tuner has a sensor that picks up the vibrations from the fiddle. The biggest advantage of using an electronic tuner like this is that it will still work well in a noisy environment such as a pub session.
Tuning apps on mobiles
There are numerous free apps that you can download onto a smart phone. They generally work in fairly similar ways – the screen will display the note, and will have some visual indication of whether the note is flat, sharp or in tune. Because they work by picking up the sound from your fiddle, they may be less reliable in noisy environments.
The app pictured is called Da Tuner Lite. The screen shows the note name in the middle, with the tuning indicator beneath it. The screen display turns also changes colour when the note is in tune, making it really easy to see.
Online tuning apps
There are many tuning apps available that you can use online. Find one that has a really clear display. Often the display changes colour when the note you’re playing is in tune. Tuner Ninja is an example with a very clear display – you can see here that the arrow turns green when the note is in tune