Dick's Forum

                     Dick’s Forum – No. 5

 

 

 My first lesson with John was about tuning a violin. In those days there were no electronic tuners as we know them today. The choices were a piano, which may or may not be of proper pitch, a pitch pipe and its harmonica type tone, or a tuning fork. I learned to use a tuning fork. It was small enough to fit in my case and holding it by its handle I would strike one of its forks against the leather of my shoe, my knee, or some other firm but not brittle surface to cause the forks to vibrate. Then, still holding the handle, I would place the tip of the handle against the violin bridge or belly and it would produce a clear flute-like tone, clearly audible, pitched to A= 440 cps. That then became the pitch to which I would tune the A string of the violin. So far so good!

 Next, I would tune the D string and E string to the A string which I now trusted to be in tune. The trick is to play the two strings together, i.e. D and A string with equal volume and intensity so I could begin to hear the “warble” tones between them. This warble tone is a third tone produced by two similar sounds that disappears when the two sounds become exactly in sync. A pilot friend tells me this exact phenomenon occurs between engines on twin engine aircraft and listening for and adjusting the warble tones is one way a pilot learns to synchronize the engines.

 So, the first week of my studies with John I spent two hours a day tuning the A string to a tuning fork, then, learning to tune the D string to the A string, E string to the A string, then G string to D string, and by this time the A string may well be out of tune again. Retune the A string and start all over again. I became a real expert at hearing the warble tones (which are much easier to experience than to write about) and, without knowing it, had started the beginnings of my studies in bow control.