Precision, Precision, Precision

The name of the game in tuning is precision. All tuning procedures are arranged in such a way that you tune the first note to the tuning fork, the second to the first, etc., in sequence. Therefore, any errors will quickly add up. In fact, an error at one point will often make some succeeding steps impossible. This happens because you are listening for the smallest hint of beats and if the beats were not totally eliminated in one note, you can't use it to tune another as those beats will be clearly heard. In fact, for beginners, this will happen frequently before you learn how precise you need to be. When this happens, you will hear beats that you can't eliminate. In that case, go back to your reference note and see if you hear the same beat; if you do, there is the source of your problem -- fix it.

The best way to assure precision is by checking the tuning. Errors occur because every string is different and you are never sure that the beat you hear is the one you are looking for, especially for the beginner. Another factor is that you need to count beats per second (bps), and your idea of, say 2bps, will be different on different days or at different times of the same day until you have those "beat speeds" well memorized. Because of the critical importance of precision, it pays to check each tuned note. This is especially true when "setting the bearings" which is explained below. Unfortunately, it is just as difficult to check as it is to tune correctly; that is, a person who cannot tune sufficiently accurately is usually unable to perform a meaningful check. In addition, if the tuning is sufficiently off, the checking doesn't work. Therefore, I have provided methods of tuning below that use a minimum of checks. The resulting tuning will not be very good initially, for equal temperament. The Kirnberger temperament (see below) is easier to tune accurately. On the other hand, beginners can't produce good tunings anyway, no matter what methods they use. At least, the procedures presented below will provide a tuning which should not be a disaster and which will improve as your skills improve. In fact, the procedure described here is probably the fastest way to learn. After you have improved sufficiently, you can then investigate the checking procedures, such as those given in Reblitz, or "Tuning" by Jorgensen.