Using an app to tune is a good way to make sure you are ready for a good practice session or cello lesson. Tuning apps can be multi-purpose tools, sometimes including metronomes or practice logs as well. There are many options to consider, so I will discuss what to look for in a tuning app and how to use the app effectively instead of recommending a specific app.
Although there are many free options for tuning apps, remember it is important to understand why something is free. The first result you find on the app store search bar might not be the best tuning app for cello, it might be a sponsored result which isn’t very useful. If you decide to purchase an app you want to make sure you get the best option available. With this article you will learn how to find the best tuning app for cello and be able to tune at home in no time.
Getting Started Tuning Your Cello
When using an app to tune your cello you won’t need to compare your open string to a reference pitch. This is good for beginners to clearly hear how the pitch changes when using the fine tuners and pegs. Most apps allow you to play any open string and the tuner will automatically detect the pitch you are close to. If your open strings are close to the correct pitches already (A, D, G, and C) then you can use the tuner easily. This is not always the case.
For example if you are putting on new strings, or if one of your pegs has slipped then you will need to adjust the string up to the correct pitch first (or as close as you can). I recommend finding a tuning app which tells you the pitch you are currently playing for these circumstances. You can also find apps which include metronomes, or which play reference pitches. These are both great practice tools which I recommend my students have on their stand as well, so you should definitely look for these features. When you have decided on an app, you are ready to begin the tuning process.
1. Tuning Your A String
Start by tuning your A string, the string furthest to the left. Make sure you play loud enough for the tuning app to register the pitch. If the string is too flat, adjust the string up; and likewise if the string is sharp then you will adjust the string down. Small changes can be made using the fine tuners only.
If your strings are off by more than a quarter step, you may need to use the pegs as well as the fine tuners. I always recommend tuning starting below the pitch, and raising the tension just until the right pitch is reached. Using this method won’t make the string tighter than needed, which helps improve its life span. Your strings will usually be flat before you start tuning, but it also helps to turn your fine tuners two or three turns counter clockwise before starting to make sure you approach the pitch from below.
3. Tuning Your Other Open Strings
After your A string is tuned you can use the same process on the other open strings, moving from left to right. The first round of tuning will bring your individual strings close to perfect intonation, but you may need to tune again even if they were perfectly tuned before. The second time you tune you probably won’t need to use the pegs because the strings are only slightly flat or sharp.
This happens because the bridge is flexible so when you tune one string it moves beneath the adjacent strings, causing small adjustments to pitch. Using a tuning app can make you a perfectionist, so remember that even if the open string is only a few percent off it will still be close enough!
Best Tuning App for Cello? Find What Works for You.
The best tuning app for cello should be accessible in your practice sessions, but if your app is on your smartphone make sure it doesn’t distract you. You can make sure that other apps on your smartphone don’t interfere with your focus by turning on “Do Not Disturb” or “Silent” mode, or disabling notifications while using the app.
This is especially important if your tuning app will also be used for metronome or practice log functions. I make sure my students turn on these modes during our virtual lessons, because when you get distracted by pop up notifications on your phone it takes valuable practice and lesson time.