Tuning the Violin for Carnatic Music

In order to be able to play in a tuneful way, the violin has to be tuned well before we can start playing the instrument.

The Mechanism:

We can change the tuning of the violin by changing the tension on the string, and that we accomplish by using the two parts of the violin:

  1. Tuning pegs: Changes the pitch of the string in a significant manner.
  2. Fine Tuners: As the name suggest, this is used to make minute adjustments.



The Notes to Tune to:

As we have learnt earlier in the video about shruti, Indian musical notes are relative to the tonic. They are not like the western musical notes which have been standardized to certain frequencies. Every time that the tonic (or foundational note) is changed, the tuning of the violin is also changed. The tuning of the 4 strings, starting from lowest pitch to highest pitch:

  • Lower Tonic (Lower Sa)
  • Lower Fifth (Lower Pa)
  • Tonic (Sa)
  • Fifth (Pa)

In the table below, I have mentioned a few examples using western music notes. Tuning Table

In my opinion, the violin sounds the best  in the Indian style when tonic string is tuned to E4. This tuning is much lower than the western tuning, so we shall explore string selection in future videos. So the 4 notes to tune the violin would be:

  • E3
  • B3
  • E4
  • B4


Tuning Process:

Students are usually expected to tune the violin by ear after a while. But for beginners, that might seem difficult. So you can use tuners for help, be it physical tuners or digital ones in the form of software.  You need to match the tuning of each string to the notes listed above. In my testing, a lot of smartphone apps performed poorly leading to erroneous results. So make sure to download a highly rated application. Tuner – DaTuner (Lite!) is one such free android application that worked very well.

  1. Switch on the tuner device or open the tuner application. Make sure that it is registering changes based on the sound.
  2. Using your finger, start plucking the string you wish to tune.
  3. Using the pegs, match up the note that you see on the tuner to the desired musical note. Be sure to screw your pegs in tight, or they will slip, causing the tuning to change.
  4. Don’t look for 100% accuracy yet.
  5. Once you have all the four strings in approximately the correct position, start bowing the strings and refine your tuning to perfection.



 Let me know below in the comments section if you are having trouble with the tuning process.


31 Responses to “Tuning the Violin for Carnatic Music

  • Bhava Sagar
    2 years ago

    Hi Tejas,
    This is Sagar! I have seen the video you posted in YouTube about the tuning the violin! I got a violin a week ago and i tried tuning by an electronic tuner . But i got failed to tune it correctly!To tune to E4-B4-E3-B3 I ended up with all different combination which I dnt know the order! For say when I Pa- the small thin string ( That is Base Pa- correct me because I dont know anything about carnatic music but I wanted to learn ,but never before ) make the pegs turn they will tune to E3,G3,and so on.. Is there any order for these like if I see E3, making the peg to tighten makes E4??? like any other order like tighten the string makes this order ??? E4 E3 E2 E1 C4 C3 C2 C1 B4 B3 B2 B1 A4 A3 A2 A1
    Please let me know how exactly I make the tuning from other nodes !


    • Sorry, but I can’t make complete sense of your query. But if I understood you right, here is the answer. Strings are certainly placed in order. If you are tuning them from thickest to thinnest string, the order of the strings is Lower Sa, Lower Pa, Sa and Pa. So if you shruti is tuned to E, then the corresponding western notes are E3, B3, E4 & B4. And for the tuning process, you will need to use a tuner or tune by ear. If this answer doesn’t solve your problem, please frame your question more clearly.

  • Bhava Sagar Peyyalamitta
    2 years ago

    Hi Tejas ,
    Thanks for the prompt reply! Okay ! Cool ! Am using clip type electronic tuner ! I want to make my ‘Sa’ with second thin string I.E ‘E4’ right! For the first time when i checked it I saw with G3 ! Then how can i make then to G3-E4!

    • First make sure we are talking about the correct string, Sa is the 2nd thinnest string. So if it is currently playing at G3, you need to tighten it significantly using the corresponding tuning peg. It will go from G3, A3, B3, C4, D4 and finally reach E4. Use the fine tuner screws to match the tuning up accurately. Again, make sure that we are talking about the correct Sa string, as you risk breaking the string if you are wrong.

      • Bhava Sagar Peyyalamitta
        2 years ago

        Thanks for the info! Now I got the order! Alright Sir! I will make sure the correct string as Sa!

        Thanks Much
        Bhava Sagar

        • Bhava Sagar Peyyalamitta
          2 years ago

          Let me check with this one if i got it right ! For example from “F2-F3”
          order is F2-G2-A2-B2-C3-D3-E3-F3! Isn’t it?

  • praveen
    2 years ago

    Hi sir as i am very New to voilin i purchased and also tune very sharply with the help of your vedio but i want to learn more in voilin so i can play any song toy mother she is music lover too but one thing i want to ask u may i

  • Ronnie Pillay
    2 years ago

    Hello Tejas,
    Greetings and respect to you! Thank you for sharing your knowledge for those of us keen on learning the violin. Your gesture is highly appreciated.

    Please advise suitable sruthi petti to get for violin. Also, I understand can we also use the tamboura sruthi as well.

    Thank you.
    God bless!
    Ronnie Pillay

    • Tejas mallela
      2 years ago

      Hello Ronnie,

      Tanpura backing is almost a must while learning, practicing or performing Indian classical music. You have some amazing apps these days that offer the 2nd best option to using a real tanpura. For iOS I would suggest iTanpura, and for android: Bheema Tanpura. You should connect your phone or tablet to speakers while using these apps, as the internal speakers are not loud enough.



  • Ronnie Pillay
    2 years ago

    Hello Tejas,
    Warm greetings to you!
    Thank you very much for your learned advice and suggestions. Highly appreciated. Will follow through as suggested.

    Thank you.
    God bless!

  • Ronnie Pillay
    2 years ago

    Hello Tejas,

    Warm greetings to you!

    As per your good advice:

    1. I have down loaded the iTanpura.

    2. I have tuned the violin as per your suggestion above, viz: E3 -B3-E4-B4 ..(as best as I could).

    3. Commenced training with iTanpura – connected to external speaker and with settings as below:


    First String Sa

    Pitch E

    pitch semi ‘ – 0 ‘+

    4. Not sure if this is correct, kindly advise .

    Sincere thanks and appreciation.
    God bless!


    • Tejas mallela
      2 years ago

      Everything sounds correct. Note that this tuning for the violin is much lower than the standard western tuning. So for best results, using heavy gauge violin strings is recommended.

  • Hello Tejas,
    Warm greetings to you!

    Thank you for your most helpful feedback. Most highly appreciated.
    I have taken note of your kind comments regarding the violin strings.

    In appreciation.
    God bless!


  • I am using the first row C3-G3-C4-G4 and I tune it by ear using the piano keys for reference.

  • ajaikumar
    2 years ago

    Hai Thejus sir
    When you referred to heavy gauge violin strings, what you mean , can you specify the gauge and the best suitable brand?
    Thank you

    • Tejas mallela
      2 months ago

      Sorry for the late reply. Indian tuning can often much lower than western tuning. So if one were to use western strings, it would become quite slack. I use D’addario Helicore Heavy Gauge strings which are slightly thicker. So they are playable at lower tunings too.

  • Hello sir,
    I have been trying to tune my violin as the thinnest string as Sa, then the second string as Pa, the third string as Sa and the last string As PA. Can you please help me out here. I have tried everything.

  • Manjunath
    1 year ago

    Hi Tejas, thank you for the info. I am looking to tune my violin to shruthi A, can you provide me the table to tune it. Appreciate your feedback.

    • Tejas mallela
      1 year ago

      The notes will be Low Sa – A3, Low Pa – E4, Sa – A4, Pa – E5. Be careful while tuning at this pitch, the tension will be very high especially on the lower strings. You need to use appropriate strings.

  • I hav been playing carnatic violin for some time….but can i convert my current carnatic violin to a western violin by changing the strings or will i hav to buy an entirely new western violin…

  • Hi Tejas, awesome instructions and video. I would like to tune my violin to shruthi G, can you please provide me with the notes? Any help is appreciated. Thanks, Andal

    • Tejas mallela
      9 months ago

      You use the tuner app for help, and tune to the following notes:

      Lower Sa String (fattest string): G3
      Lower Pa String : D4
      Sa String : G5
      Pa String (thinnest String) : D5

      • Hi Tejas,

        Should the setting be not


        • Tejas mallela
          2 months ago

          Yes, that is Sa – Pa – Sa – Pa tuning, with G as the Tonic (or base) note. Typically when violin is being played in the carnatic style as a solo instrument, the tonic note is D, D#, E or F. But if G is what your preference is, that would work too.

  • Maura Enright
    5 months ago

    Greetings from an American fiddle player. Your series is wonderful! Clear and concise.

  • Sirsendu Ray Choudhuri
    4 months ago

    Hii….i want to tune my violen in indian classical pa sa pa sa style…..what will be tha best notes for it…..please send me the sound frequencies for these notes please

    • Tejas mallela
      4 months ago

      Depends on what note you choose your Sa (tonic note) to be. Read this article again.

  • The group is singing in g# then how the violin to be tuned in our Carnatic system.

    • Tejas mallela
      2 months ago

      That means that the tonic note is G#. The tuning in increasing order would be G#3, D#4, G#4, D#5. Be careful while tuning, the strings at these notes will be quite tense.

  • Thanks. What should be string gauge for it.

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