Anyone tried tuning a violin GCEA?

kissing

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Hi folks,

I have dabbled with violin on and off throughout the years and own a Cricket Violin by Magic Fluke.

While I am capable of playing the violin at a beginner level with the original tuning (GDAE), because I have been an ukulele player for much longer and play ukulele more frequently, I find having to adjust myself to fifths tuning a bit cumbersome.

Hence I intend to experiment tuning the violin to GCEA (low G) tuning.

Upon extensive Google searching, I have been unable to find any information on how GCEA tuning can be achieved on a violin, though tuning in fourths is not completely unheard of.

So I have taken matters in my own hands and have ordered some strings.

My plan is:

G: Regular violin G string
C: Heavy violin D string
E: Light violin D string
A: Regular violin A string


What do you think about my train of logic?
Anyone else tried GCEA tuning on a violin? If so, how did you achieve it?

The strings will take a while to get here (postal service is slow due to coronavirus).
 

bigsciota

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You can do anything you want, and it'd certainly be an interesting experiment, but what exactly are you going to do with the violin once it's in GCEA? By this point there are probably millions of tutorial videos, books, websites, etc. all geared towards learning to play the violin in standard tuning. If you're serious about wanting to play the violin, I think you'll be hampering yourself significantly by tuning it differently. Not to mention the fact that you're reducing its range significantly, and your strings are probably not going to sound quite right since you're jury-rigging the tuning.

Again, you can do anything at all that you want, but I would look at this the opposite way. Ukulele strings cost a hell of a lot less than violin strings. If you have a soprano, get a set of the Aquila GDAE soprano strings. Hell, decent violin strings cost so much that you could buy a cheap Kmise or Makala soprano AND a set of GDAE strings and still come out ahead. Spend time learning the tuning on an instrument you're familiar with. It's actually remarkably intuitive, even more so than ukulele/guitar tuning IMHO. Look up mandolin tutorial videos to help you. Once you're more comfortable, THEN you can switch over to learning the violin. You won't have to be learning everything at once and you'll probably find it a lot easier.

It might seem easier to just have everything in the same tuning, but as someone who regularly switches between instruments, it's actually much easier to just keep them in the right tunings and do a bit of rewiring in your brain.
 

kissing

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Thanks bigsciota,

While I am not a professional musician, I am accomplished enough on several instruments to no longer require training materials per se, but just practice time.

Every instrument, provided I have the basic playing technique and know the notes, are the same in my eyes. Just a means to produce the desired notes/chords.

Hence a GCEA violin would allow me to directly transfer my familiarity with the ukulele fretboard onto a bowed violin platform. No lessons required.

I can play violin in GDAE, but as less time is dedicated to it, I think GCEA would benefit me for my purposes of personal enjoyment. Alternative tunings like 4ths is not unheard of in bowed strings.

And I am not joining any traditional orchestra or string quartet. More so a solo instrumentalist.
 
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bigsciota

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Thanks bigsciota,

While I am not a professional musician, I am accomplished enough on several instruments to no longer require training materials per se, but just practice time.

I don't really understand this sentence, but at the end of the day, if this is all just for personal pleasure my opinion doesn't matter much.
 

OregonJim

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Well, you're not forming chords on a violin, and the traditional 5th tuning makes for dead simple scale shapes. I don't see any advantage to tuning in 4ths on a non-chordal instrument. Even if you were able to form chords, say with a flattened bridge, the short scale of a violin combined with compressed 4th tuning would leave no room for fingers! Plus, you're giving up 1/2 an octave of range.

I play several different instruments in traditional tunings, and treat each one as a separate instrument. While there may be crossover in technique, there is no crossover in how I visualize the note layout. For instance, I don't visualize the ukulele or the guitalele as a guitar capoed at the 5th fret. That requires too much translation in the brain and wastes time. It's much easier to treat it as a totally different instrument. That might seem counter-intuitive at first, but that's the way it plays out in reality.

Alternate tunings are far more common on fretted (chordal) instruments, but there's no harm in experimenting (assuming you keep the string tensions within reasonable limits).
 
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kissing

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I don't really understand this sentence, but at the end of the day, if this is all just for personal pleasure my opinion doesn't matter much.

Thanks :)
All I mean is, the availability of various learning materials for the violin is not relevant to me, as I primarily self-teach based on my own experience with music fundamentals.

OregonJim said:
I don't see any advantage to tuning in 4ths on a non-chordal instrument. Even if you were able to form chords, say with a flattened bridge, the short scale of a violin combined with compressed 4th tuning would leave no room for fingers! Plus, you're giving up 1/2 an octave of range.
Some very good points.
You are right - the violin is tuned in fifths for a reason and it is an elegant instrument.

However, this is more about modifying from the norm to better suit my own tastes.

I am better at solo-ing on an ukulele (and guitar) fretboard than on a violin due to the time I have already dedicated to those instruments.

As for chords, bowed strings utilise chords (arpeggio and occasional bowing over 2 strings).

I don't think fifths are inherently better at soloing nor fourths inherently better at chording.
The electric guitar is tuned in fourths like ukulele and is a huge testament to solo note playing.
Mandolins are tuned in fifths and play chords just fine.
 
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OregonJim

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I am better at solo-ing on an ukulele (and guitar) fretboard than on a violin due to the time I have already dedicated to those instruments.

As for chords, bowed strings utilise chords (arpeggio and occasional bowing over 2 strings).

I don't think fifths are inherently better at soloing nor fourths inherently better at chording.
The electric guitar is tuned in fourths like ukulele and is a huge testament to solo note playing.
Mandolins are tuned in fifths and play chords just fine.

You appear to have made up your mind from the beginning, so I'm not sure why this thread exists. Good luck.
 

kissing

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You appear to have made up your mind from the beginning, so I'm not sure why this thread exists. Good luck.

Have you read the opening post?

kissing said:
Upon extensive Google searching, I have been unable to find any information on how GCEA tuning can be achieved on a violin, though tuning in fourths is not completely unheard of.

So I have taken matters in my own hands and have ordered some strings.

My plan is:

G: Regular violin G string
C: Heavy violin D string
E: Light violin D string
A: Regular violin A string


What do you think about my train of logic?
Anyone else tried GCEA tuning on a violin? If so, how did you achieve it?

And did we not have a good discussion?
I'm not seeing the problem here.
 

bigsciota

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What do you think about my train of logic?

I think that the issue is that both of us have answered that question honestly (in that we don't think that your train of logic works), and you don't seem to take that into consideration.

Actual knowledge of "music fundamentals" would make it very easy to switch between GCEA and GDAE. I know this because I do that regularly, along with CGBD, CGDA, and EADGBE among others. I have learned completely new tunings specific to a single piece that calls for that tuning, and it's a snap if you've got any kind of background in "music fundamentals." What "music fundamentals" won't teach you is how to hold a bow, how to get a tone that doesn't resemble cats being strangled, how to most efficiently use your bowstrokes for articulation, and a whole host of other violin-specific technique. You can probably muddle through OK, but why do that when there are thousands of tutorials available online that will significantly speed up your progress? As a matter of fact, I've got four videos open right now as I'm trying to learn a new guitar technique. I've played guitar for 17 years, so I could get it OK eventually without instruction, but it's so much easier and faster using the materials available to me. Ignoring them is just making things hard for the sake of it.

I'll reiterate as someone who has tried out bowed instruments from mainly being a fretted/plucked string instrument guy: the tuning is the absolute least of it if you want to learn properly (and by "properly" I mean more than a few pitiful scratching sounds). If you're having trouble with that, get comfortable with GDAE on a uke or mandolin, where you can apply the technique you already know. Then, you can focus on the much, much harder task of learning proper violin technique. By trying to make is "easy" early on you will be handicapping yourself immensely down the road.
 

OregonJim

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I think that the issue is that both of us have answered that question honestly (in that we don't think that your train of logic works), and you don't seem to take that into consideration.

This ^^^

And did we not have a good discussion?
I'm not seeing the problem here.


We've answered your question only to be told, in so many words, that you know better. That's fine - so why ask the question?
 
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kissing

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I never said I knew better. I just had a different opinion in response.

When I asked about my train of thought, it was more towards my theoretical choice of strings for making GCEA tuning possible moreso than justifying my choice to try an alternate tuning. Perhaps we had a misunderstanding in that respect.

We all have different purposes for music and are at different levels. I am a determined hobbyist who plays for personal enjoyment first, and performance second. I play ukulele, guitar, piano, trumpet, ocarina, bass, drum/percussion, recorder, tin whistle and have dabbled with countless others. I have a preference for an intuitive, self-taught approach over following lessons. I do rely on lessons as required; for instance how to hold a bow properly; but I don't subscribe to following them religiously once I have a fundamental means of utilising the instrument.

I don't believe there is a right or wrong in this respect as there are plenty of accomplished musicians on either end of the spectrum.

When I provide a counter-argument I am not proposing to know better. It's for discussion. For instance, a claim was made that fourths are suited for chords and fifths are suited to melodies - yet we see lots of melody applications for instruments in fourths and chord applications for instruments in fifths. I was just emphasising this fact; feel free to offer a contrary opinion.
 
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EDW

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Since this is an old thread, I would be interested to know if it was ever tried and how it worked out.
 

kissing

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Since this is an old thread, I would be interested to know if it was ever tried and how it worked out.
Hi yes, I did manage to successfully tune a violin in GCEA using the specific strings.
It worked!

However, strangely I reverted to tuning back to GDAE now.
For some reason, my brain could not play the violin like an ukulele as easily as I thought it would.
Maybe it's because I was used to playing violin in GDAE. Or maybe because holding it against the neck and using a bow is so different to picking/strumming at an ukulele. Furthermore, violin being fretless may also have played a part.

Long story short, I play violin in its normal tuning (GDAE) and ukulele in its normal tuning (GCEA).
I practice both, and they don't seem to adversely affect the other. My brain just registers them as 2 separate instruments.
 

EDW

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I have had the same experience. It is always interesting to me that the brain can just make that connection and adjust somewhat subconsciously.
 

ploverwing

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I practice both, and they don't seem to adversely affect the other. My brain just registers them as 2 separate instruments.

I'm finally starting to treat the ukulele separately from the violin, for the most part, but I still err periodically. But, I'm a noob to ukulele with barely a few months into it, whereas the violin was my first and longest played instrument (I think I started when I was 4, took lessons into my teens, and noodled around with it throughout adulthood). I do think that if I pick up my violin again it might trigger a reset on the ukulele briefly, but since I've not picked up the violin much for years, it's not likely to be a risk :)
 

Voran

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I want to learn the violin! Huge mindfuck not having frets, but I love the sound, and there's certain classical pieces I'd love to play.
 

ploverwing

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I want to learn the violin! Huge mindfuck not having frets, but I love the sound, and there's certain classical pieces I'd love to play.
Lol I find frets mindbending. What you get used to...
 

inkaterу

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It all depends on what you like and want from the violin. I have not done that myself, but I’ve heard guys who did that to their instruments play, which was not much of a difference.
If you do something like this on the best violin you have, you will probably hear the difference, and maybe you will even like it. But I’m not sure that I will be accepted into an orchestra. Most people are used to regular order and familiar sounds.
And still, the difference will not be too big, and it will mostly mean that you have to play slightly differently
 
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Wiggy

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Hi yes, I did manage to successfully tune a violin in GCEA using the specific strings.
It worked!

However, strangely I reverted to tuning back to GDAE now.
For some reason, my brain could not play the violin like an ukulele as easily as I thought it would.
Maybe it's because I was used to playing violin in GDAE. Or maybe because holding it against the neck and using a bow is so different to picking/strumming at an ukulele. Furthermore, violin being fretless may also have played a part.

Long story short, I play violin in its normal tuning (GDAE) and ukulele in its normal tuning (GCEA).
I practice both, and they don't seem to adversely affect the other. My brain just registers them as 2 separate instruments.

I went the other way. My first uke years were with a DGBE baritone, so had difficulty picking up gCEA. My brain refused to learn 2 names for every chord shape. I diddled around with strings, and on my own quite nicely set up a soprano for GDAE. That was 2017.

GDAE (specifically, chord shapes and the abundance of fiddle/mandolin sources) was different enough from DGBE that my brain said "sure" let's do it. I presently have 6 sops in GDAE with 6 "others" in (variations of) DGBE and having a blast.

As for violin/mandolin, violin requires too much precision and literally is a pain in the neck. Mandolins have too many strings and are terribly expensive even for an entry-level. I've tried both.

I considered CGDA (viola) tuning, doable on the baritone, but that would put me back in the "2 names for every chord" dilemma. That, and 5ths chord shapes would become unreachable with that scale. So no, I need no more tunings.
 
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ploverwing

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As for violin/mandolin, violin requires too much precision and literally is a pain in the neck. Mandolins have too many strings and are terribly expensive even for an entry-level. I've tried both.
Too many strings and are HARD to fret in a chord shape especially. I admire the mando so much, but just nope. I might try to tune a uke GDAE at some point, just so I can play some of my mando stuff without bending my brain.