How to tune your cello
The strings of the cello (from left to right) are C, G, D, A, where C is the lowest pitch, and A is the highest pitch.
The degree to which each string is out of tune will determine whether or not you use the pegs. Generally, the pegs are used if the strings are significantly out of tune. Once a cello is tuned, you can expect to use the fine tuners day-to-day.
Using fine tuners:
- Start with the A string (furthest to the right on the fingerboard). Press the tuner button labeled “A” and listen for the tuning tone. If the tuning tone is too loud, you can adjust the volume with the slider (the webpage will remember the volume next time you visit).
- Pluck the A string and use the fine tuner to adjust the pitch of the string to as close to the tuning tone as possible. If by adjusting the fine tuner you are unable to reach the pitch of the tuning tone, then the peg must be used. Refer to the peg tuning process in the section below.
- Use the bow on the A string to try and match the tuning tone. It is important to use the bow, since plucking alone can produce a false pitch. Repeat the process of bowing and adjusting the fine tuner until it perfectly matches the tuning tone.
- Repeat the process above for each of the other strings, D, G, and C.
- To ensure that all strings are properly tuned relative to each other, play each combination, (AD, DG, and GC) together and listen for a perfect fifth. If tuned correctly, a perfect fifth should sound smooth, warm, and harmonious.
- Loosen the fine tuners a good amount. This will allow the most leeway for adjustments when you return to them.
- Tighten the peg close to the desired tone.
- While adjusting the peg, you will need to push inward toward the pegbox, otherwise it will slip.
- Return to the fine tuner method above to complete the tuning.
- Sometimes it can be difficult to tune in an orchestra setting. A cellist can lean their head so one of the pegs is close to, or in the ear. This will allow the cello’s vibrations to go directly into the ear and make it easier to tune amongst all the noise.
- For expert players, harmonics can be used to aid with tuning. We’ll use tuning the D string as an example. Placing a finger on the A3 position on the A string without pushing down will produce an A3 harmonic. Placing a finger on the A2 position on the D string without pushing down will also produce an A3 harmonic. Tune the D string until the notes match exactly.