Tuning in a Noisy Room? Get a mic
WHY: If you tune using an electronic tuner, you may find that you have to wait until your neighbour has finished tuning before you start on yours. Otherwise your tuner hears their viol as well as (or instead of) yours.
You can solve this problem using a small microphone that picks up vibrations directly from contact with the viol body rather than through the air. The mic only detects your viol. If your neighbour has one too, you can both tune at the same time. In fact, a whole roomful of players can tune simultaneously.
Its really effective. And its cheap.
WHAT and HOW: This is what it looks like:
(Illustration taken from Maplins online catalog - link to the catalog entry here)
Look on the tuner for a socket marked INPUT and insert the jack plug. Drop the little button-sized mic down the F-hole of your viol or else tuck it in between the tailpiece and the body; or even rest the mic on the bridge somehow. Thats all you need to do.
(A few tuners have no input socket, in which case youre stuck. And Ive seen one with a small socket; youd need an adaptor from large to small, readily available at any music shop dealoing with audio gear.)
The mic that I use is called an Acoustic Guitar Transducer.
WHERE: Im sure you can get such things in lots of places, but mine came from Maplins, a UK chain store dealing in electronic hardware bits and pieces. They do mail order, I believe, but I bought mine in the shop. (Incidentally, if you cant find it, their counter staff seem to be extremely helpful).
(BTW I have no connection with Maplins - Im just a satisfied customer)
ADDED VALUE: If you need to amplify your viol, you can maybe use your contact mic. But we found that it had to be properly attached. The black button has a sticky surface, normally covered by a sheet of thin plastic; the idea is to peel off the plastic and stick the mic directly on the body of a guitar.
In an emergency, we once tried that. It worked fine and it came off OK without marking the varnish. I have no idea whether it will work for you; it might or might not damage your viol. I am not recommending this procedure, Im just telling you what we did. If you try it and it damages your viol, I accept no responsibility.
Thomas Green Aug 2001