One method of calibrating and tuning a 1-string instrument with a fingerboard:

Part A:  Creating approximate marks locating tones.  Instead of following all of the steps below, this can also be done by ear (if your ear is trained).

  1. Plug your headset (microphone and headphones) into the computer.
  2. Follow this link to a virtual piano.  Enter the piano.
  3. Find the piano note that best matches your "open" string's tone.  ["Open" means that you're plucking the full string.  You're note pressing any part of the string to the fingerboard.]. 
  4. If no note matches your string's tone exactly, pick one that is close.  Then tighten or loosen your string until it sounds like the piano note.
  5. Write down the note.  This is your "tonic" -- the first note of the scale that you will be playing.  For now, it doesn't matter what scale you are playing.  You can adjust the entire scale later by simply adjusting the string tension.
  6. Get acquainted with the major scale you will be tuning by playing it on the virtual piano.  To do this, first play the tonic (your open string's note) and then take a series of whole or half steps (WWHWWWH).  A whole step means skipping a key; a half step means going to the next key.  All of the keys (black and white) count.  "WWHWWWH" means that you take a Whole step, then another Whole step, then a Half step, then three more Whole steps, and finally another Half step.  When you take a whole step, the key number should go up by 2.  When you take a half step, the key number should go up by 1.
  7. Now start playing the scale on your instrument.  Play the tonic and then use your finger to hold down the string so that you play the second note.  Alternate between playing the note on your instrument and on the virtual piano.  Once you've located the right finger position, mark it lightly on your fingerboard using pencil. 
  8. Now play your first two notes, and try to add the third.  Use the piano to find the right fingerboard location for the third note.  Strings loosen over time, so you may need to re-tighten your string so that your tonic matches the tonic on the piano. 
  9. Keep going until you have marked the locations of all 8 notes.  Play your scale and see if it sounds right.  If it doesn't, adjust the notes that need work.

Part B:  Fine adjustment of your fingerboard marks.

  1. Open "Audacity" from the programs menu.
  2. Plug your headset (microphone and headphones) into the computer. 
  3. Holding the microphone close to your instrument, press the round, red ("record") button.  Play your scale carefully using the marks you made.  Then press the square ("stop") button.  If you want, you can press play and listen to your scale.  If you don't like it, press the X on the sound file to delete the file.
  4. On the graph of your recording, drag to highlight the first note that you played.  Open the "effects" menu, and click "change pitch."
  5. Audacity will tell you your tonic's frequency.  Write down the frequency. 
  6. Now do the same thing with the rest of your notes.  Make a vertical list of your notes' frequencies, with the tonic on top.
  7. Then, keeping Audacity open...
  8. Open this relative pitch calculator.  Save it to your folder.
  9. Type your tonic's pitch in the yellow cell.  When you do this, the tables will show you all of the semitones (think of piano keys) for the octave beginning with your unique tonic frequency.  Since you played a major scale, your eight tones should be the frequencies in blue. 
  10. Compare the frequencies in blue with your notes' frequencies.  Pay attention to which fingerboard marks are giving you frequencies that are too high, and which ones are too low. 
  11. Adjust your fingerboard marks and repeat steps 3-10 until you're happy with your scale.
  12. If you want an A+, repeat these steps with all 13 semitones in the octaove, not just a scale.

Part C:  Tuning to an A

  1. Follow this link to an online tone generator.
  2. Plug your headset (microphone and headphones) into the computer. 
  3. Type the frequency for an A (55, 110, 220, 440, or 880) into the frequency box.  Then click "play."  Try different A's until you find one that you think will work well for your scale's tonic.
  4. While listening to the A, play your tonic and adjust your string tension until your tonic matches the pitch of the tone generator's A.
  5. Use Audacity to check your pitch.  Keep tuning until your tonic is a close as possible to an A.