New Strings, New Life!
Changing the strings on your violin gives it new energy and life. But you don’t want to change them too often, or too little. It is recommended that every 250-300 hours of playing your violin strings should be changed before they break.
This can be challenging to determine, but if you can feel your strings are starting to lose their sound, fray, or seem worn, it’s probably a good idea to change them. Obviously, if one or more of the strings break, then they definitely need to be replaced. If you take private violin lessons & training, it’s a good idea to check with your teacher before changing your strings.
If you have never attempted this task before, this might be challenging and intimidating to try on your own. Changing the strings does not have to be daunting though; it can be fairly simple. Below are some very helpful tips and steps on how to change your violin strings.
1. Purchase New Strings
Violin strings typically come in sets that are matched to the size of the instrument. This ensures the string length will match the violin’s scale length. Strings also come in a wide range of quality. For new violinists, the best violin strings for a beginner should be a well recognized brand. As you progress as a musician, your tastes will become more refined and allow you to be more selective about your string choices.
Some fine violin string choices:
2. Loosen the Strings, One at a Time
To begin, first, loosen the peg. If your string is broken, you will have to remove any remnants on the peg first, which will allow it to unwind. Carefully take or unwind the string out from the peg.
Be sure that you’re holding the other strings firmly in your hand while you loosen each string out individually. The end of the string should fall out on its own easily after you’ve loosened the string enough on the top. There is an easy tutorial you can follow if you need a visual.
The bridge will fall off if you try taking the strings out all at once. It can also create a problem with the sound post on the inside of the violin if you take them all off at the same time, which can render your violin essentially useless. So the important tip to take away from this is to only remove one string at a time.
Once you take out your first string, you are ready to replace it. Make sure you know whether you need to have a ball end or loop end to your strings before you buy, so you’re replacing the correct strings. Some violins will accept either type of string end, so it may not matter the type of strings you buy to replace. But it’s important to note, as some violins may not be able to take both types of string ends.
Please take your time while doing this. It should take you approximately 20 minutes to change strings, maybe more if it’s your first few times attempting it yourself. You do not need to rush. Once you have done it enough times and have figured out the process, it becomes easier and can be done much more quickly.
3. Put in the New Strings
First, put your ball or loop end into the bottom of your violin and pull it tightly up and across the bridge. You can lubricate the nut and the bridge areas where the string will be laying against, usually with a lead pencil. The lead creates lubrication for your strings to lay easily.
Using your free hand, control the string slack by keeping tension on the string over the bridge the entire time you do this. If you don’t hold it tight enough, the end that is loose will fall out continuously, so the ball or loop will fall out, and it will become frustrating and difficult to replace your strings.
Putting the string in the hole where the peg goes is the next step. Then place the ball end in the arm of the fine tuner or tailpiece. When you adjust the peg to see the hole, then you can thread or feed the string through, and start to wind it in.
Keep the strings organized. You do not want the string to be going over the top of or underneath the other strings in your peg box. The easiest way to avoid this is when you put the peg in, make sure the hole is next to the inside of the box where you can easily see it to place the string in the space. This will help avoid having the strings mingle together so each string has its own spot.
(To help you with this, take a picture of the inside of your peg box before removing strings to see exactly where the strings need to go.) Visuals are helpful as you become more acquainted with the changing process, you can see how to change your strings like a professional.
4. Wind the Strings into Place
Wind the string in towards the peg head, while making sure that the string is wound up as close to the side of the peg box that it is on while you’re winding it.
If you’re working with the strings on the right of the middle, you want it close to the right side of the peg box, and vice versa – for strings on the left it should be close to the left side. An easy way to do this is to push the slack from the string with your free hand towards the peg that you are turning while you wind it, and push the peg in gently while you turn it.
This will wind the string against the sides of the scroll box, which prevents the peg from unwinding at all once you get it tightly wound. The harder you push the peg in as you wind it, the tighter it becomes. It takes some practice to figure out just how much you need to push your peg as you go, so be patient and go slowly your first attempts.
Make sure you have a little bit of a “tail” of the string hanging out when you wind it as well, as this will allow you to tune your string easily after you wind it in. Don’t forget to continue to keep tension on the string the entire time you are putting it back into the peg and winding it.
Guide the string in as you wind, making sure it is on the nut and the board laying across the bridge in the right place. With E strings, most of the time they have a little plastic sleeve on the bottom of the string, so you need to make sure you push that into the part of the string that goes on the bridge so that it doesn’t bite or dig into the bridge.
Make sure you don’t wind the string too tightly, leave some room so that you can tune it once you’ve replaced all your strings.Repeat this process with each string, starting with loosening and unwinding.
5. Tune the Violin
Once you have replaced the strings then you can tune your violin, using either a tuner, pitch fork, piano, or anything that can help you match the pitch to get the right notes. You are now ready to play!