As a beginning cellist, properly tuning a cello is one of the most important skills you’ll need to learn early on. If your cello is out of tune, it is practically impossible to practice or improve your playing. In order to learn how to tune your cello, you’ll first need to become familiar with the pieces of your instrument and how they function together as a unit.
The cello has four strings which are tuned in perfect fifths like a violin. The notes are: C, G, D, A, in a descending order of thickness. The low C on your cello corresponds to two octaves below the middle C on a piano.
Cellos have four tuning pegs, one for each string, that are located on the scroll of the instrument. Some cellos have four fine tuners affixed to the base of the strings on the tailpiece and allow for more minute and precise tuning adjustments with the use of a lever.
C, G, D, A
When you’re first learning to play the cello, one good mnemonic that can help you remember the order of the strings is “Cats Go Down Alleys.” It’s also beneficial to learn the “circle of fifths,” a diagram that’s used in music theory in order to understand the major and minor keys in music. Using C as the starting point, the circle starts with C, G, D, A.
Most students first learning to play the cello use a tuning device. Digital turners that clip on to the peg box are reasonably priced and very convenient to use. Once your intonation becomes more developed, using a tuning fork and harmonics to keep your cello in tune will work just as well. Regardless of whether you decide to tune with or without the use of a digital tune, you start tuning with your A string; the standard tuning for A is 440 Hz.
When learning about the cello it’s vital to know that, just like other instruments crafted from wood, it’s susceptible to changes in humidity, temperature, and atmospheric pressure. Not only can these types of conditions result in severe damage to your cello, they can also affect how frequently you’ll need to tune your strings.
All the strings you could need
Choosing the right strings for your instrument and playing style is important as well. The three factors to take into consideration when choosing your strings are:
- Gauge or thickness
Over time and as you become more proficient on your cello, you’ll choose the type of string, the gauge, and the brands that produce the best sounds from your instrument.
There are many different brands of cello string, and each brand has its different makes. Some of the most popular cello strings include: Larsen, Jargar, Thomastik-Infeld, and Pirastro. When you need to buy cello strings, whether it’s an individual string or a set, JSI has a wide selection of both.
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