ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Use a Tuning Fork to Tune a String Instrument

Updated on May 9, 2015

While you may be enchanted with the idea of an electronic tuner that will play each string pitch of your instrument for you, and tell you whether your string is in or out of tune, since the eighteenth century professional musicians of the highest caliber have relied on one cheap, simple solution: the tuning fork. While not glamorous, and certainly not a technological marvel, this humble device will work without batteries, without a large investment, and will even help to improve your ear and pitch accuracy. So without further ado, here is how you use a tuning fork properly.

A viola
A viola | Source
  1. Have your instrument (and bow if needed) ready. Find the string on your instrument that is tuned to "A".
  2. Hold the tuning fork by the handle. Bang the tuning fork (don't be afraid, you won't hurt it) on your knee, case, hand, or somewhere else convenient. The surface you choose should be not too soft, but don't hit your fork against metal, stone, or wood, to prevent damage. Although many people will place their forks against the surface of some part of their instrument, long-term this can lead to significant damage. Instead, place the tip of the handle between your teeth (don't touch it with your tongue or it will stop vibrating) and hold it there. This allows you to have your hands free, and the fork will vibrate for a long time. In addition, the resonance through the bones of your head will make it easier to hear whether your instrument is in perfect tune.
  3. Bow or pluck the string while the tuning fork is vibrating and listen to the sound. If the pitch of the string is lower, tighten the tuning peg; if the string is higher, loosen the tuning peg. Keep at it until you are satisfied with the sound. If necessary, start the tuning fork again as described in step 2. When the sound is correct, you can literally feel the string go into tune. For guitars and some other instruments, the string will need to be tuned an octave below the tuning fork.
  4. Violins, violas, violoncellos and string basses are tuned in fifths. Once the "A" string is correct, then to find the fifth above, start on the "A" string and think "Twinkle, Twinkle" and adjust the "E" string until it sounds correct. Bow the two strings together to see if the fifth is perfectly in tune, and adjust the "E" string until it comes into tune.
  5. For tuning strings lower than "A" to a fifth, think "Twinkle, Twinkle" with the top pitch being the "A" string. Adjust the "D" string until you have a perfect fifth; bow together for correct intonation. Repeat with the "G" and "C" strings, etc.
  6. For instruments tuned in fourths, such as the guitar, once the "A" string is in tune, follow the directions above but think "Here Comes the Bride" instead of "Twinkle, Twinkle."

Metal Tuning Fork A-440 with Plastic Case
Metal Tuning Fork A-440 with Plastic Case

This tuning fork is sold by a reputable company that also sells professional instruments and accessories, and has an excellent reputation.


Tuning forks are cheap, sturdy and practically indestructible. However, it makes sense to keep it clean since you're going to be holding it in your teeth, so wipe after each use with a cotton ball moistened with a product like Listerine to sanitize it. It may take a while to get the hang of using a tuning fork, but it will be worth the effort and it will also really improve your ear for tuning. Don't be discouraged if it takes a while; you'll get much better with practice.

Best of all, tuning forks are cheap, while electronic tuners are expensive. If you misplace a tuning fork, you won't be kicking yourself for your carelessness.


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)