Monday, July 27, 2020

Tips & Tricks for Surviving the Online Lesson World

By Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins and Mikaela Marget

"A little too sharp... not quite... now it's too flat! Go the other way... Nope, too far..." Bam! Oops. Now you need a new string.  

If you're a student who has recently had to start taking online-lessons, you know this struggle: learning to tune. There can be a bit of a learning curve to this, but don't get discouraged--we are here to help! 

We've made some helpful videos to help you as students (or parents) learn how to tune, change a string, and reset a bridge without teacher help during the times of video lessons. This way, even though you can't see your teacher in-person, you can keep up with the daily maintenance of your instrument.


In the pre-COVID world, if you are having trouble tuning, your teacher can just grab your violin/viola/cello, tune it up, then you can get on to the fun stuff! With video lessons, though, students are responsible for correctly and efficiently tuning their instruments. 

How to Tune your Violin with Amy Tobin

How to tune your cello with Megan Scott 

Basic things to keep in mind when tuning your instrument:

1. Go Slow! 
2. For your fine tuners- Right = sharper/higher pitch, Left = flatter/lower pitch
3. If you have to make small adjustments, use the fine tuners (especially on cello).
4. For larger adjustments- Sorry! You're going to have to learn to use your pegs.

Another thing to keep in mind when tuning your instrument is that the fine tuners do not have infinite tuning powers. Eventually, they will either be turned all the way out (or cranked too far in) and you will have to give them space by loosening the strings with the pegs.

If your fine tuners look like this: (too loose)


Or this: (too tight)

Loosen the pegs up top, then adjust the tuners near the bottom.

You can tell if the fine tuners are correct if they look like this: 

When the fine tuners look correct, then tune up the pegs and you are all set to play!

Changing a String
Turn, Turn, Turn, Snap! Oh no... 

With the relentless humidity and heat, it is possible that your strings may slip, and when you try to tune it up, your string breaks! (Don't worry, this happens to seasoned professionals sometimes too). Or maybe you are just playing on really, really old strings and need an upgrade. Whatever the cause, you may need to put a new string on themselves without the help of a teacher. 

                                          How to change a string with Andy Fein

Things to remember when changing a string:

1. Go Slow! 
2. Make sure the winding goes on as straight as possible.
3. Watch the bridge, is it straight? If not, watch the next video! 

How to reset your Bridge
As much as we try not to, sometimes a violin or cello bridge gets knocked out of place. This one might not be something a young student can do, but their parents certainly can give it a try! 

How to straighten your violin bridge 

                            How to straighten your cello bridge

Important points when straightening a bridge: 

1. Go Slow! 
2. Make sure it is perpendicular to the arch of the instrument
3. Straighten your bridge often, about once a month

Your Bow- Wondering how much to tighten your bow? You're not alone! Click on that link for our blog on that subject. And don't forget to rosin your bow!

How to use a Dampit

This is more important during those dry, winter months (especially in Minnesota).

The first thing to note is that if anyone tells you that you don't need to use a humidifier, they are wrong. Instruments can be very sensitive to the humidity and temperature, so make sure to keep them happy or they might get damaged. 

   How to use a Dampit
Important things to remember with the Dampit:

1. Dry the outside of the Dampit before putting it in your instrument (It shouldn't drip!)
2. Refill your Dampit every day. 
3. Dampits are only for humidity, they don't regulate temperature. So, if you leave your instrument out in a hot car, a Dampit won't do much to save it!

Someday, we may be able to get back to taking in person-lessons!! For now, we hope these videos help, and you can find more useful videos on our Youtube 

Speaking of hot cars. Or cold cars. Or cars at any temperature. DON'T leave your instrument in the car!

Are you having trouble using your pegs? If you have the traditional friction pegs, we feel for you! Friction pegs are very, very hard to learn to tune with. We highly recommend switching to Wittner Finetune Pegs. Almost all of our rental instruments have them and we recommend them for every instrument we sell. It's one of the free options when you purchase an instrument from us. We can also install them on just about any instrument. Current prices for Wittner FineTune pegs, with installation, are $225 (plus Sales Tax) for violins and violas, $325 (plus Sales Tax) for cellos. 

Here at Fein Violins, we carry a variety of strings and rosin. We rent and sell instruments too! Everything you need to get started playing and keep playing. 

Here's hoping that in a few months, or sooner, we'll all be back to meeting face to face!

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