Written by The Weekend Vote
Published: April 24, 2015 at 7:20 PM [UTC]
If you don't know how to change strings, or if you aren't yet very good at it, it makes sense to have someone else do it, particularly if you are short on time. Often, violin shops will offer to change them for you, either for free or for a small fee. This works well if you don't wish to take up lesson time, having your teacher change strings.
On the other hand, having your teacher change your strings can be an opportunity for you to learn how to do it. You can watch each step, as your teacher takes off the old string(s) and puts on the new, or if you are feeling confident, you can have your teacher supervise while you try changing them yourself. Of course, it does take up lesson time, but I'd say this is an important lesson in the maintenance of your violin. As a teacher, I do like to teach this skill to students, but the best time to do it is not the week before an audition or performance! Rather, plan that lesson for a break time or summer week.
If you have a relationship with a luthier, sometimes he or she can help show you how to change strings; I learned at least as much about changing strings from my local luthier as I did from my violin teacher. You can also learn from Youtube tutorials! (Maybe I'll make one!)
Recently I had to learn how to change strings with a new kind of pegs -- the geared pegs, or "planetary" pegs. Here's the secret: You change the strings in much the same way as you do with traditional pegs, you just have to wind, and wind, and wind, and wind!
Tell us who changes your strings, and if you do it yourself, how long did it take to learn this skill? Who taught you?
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I changed strings on that first violin from the beginning but I will admit that the first time I took all the strings off and the sound post fell.
I remembered where the cut in the sound post belonged and about where the post had been located. Twenty years later, when I started taking lessons, a luthier moved it a little bit. So I was lucky.
When I started getting my BS-Violin (Baroque Style) in order I had no difficulty with gut strings. But the web has lots of references to help know what you're supposed to do.
However, there may be an occasion, typically when changing the tail piece, when all the strings have to be removed. To ensure that the sound post remains in place - unless you know your violin intimately this cannot be guaranteed - what I do first is to wrap a thick towel or cloth round the waist of the instrument between the bridge and the fingerboard and hold it in place with an adjustable strap or belt. The idea is to apply a similar pressure to the top that the bridge and strings do, but a little less. Don't overdo the tightening of the strap - any creaking is bad news! When you've done this you can then safely let the strings down, remove the bridge and replace the tail piece. Then restring the instrument, removing the towel only when there is pressure on the bridge from all four strings.
As a further safety measure - congenital pessimist that I am - I always do things like the above with the violin horizontal and immovable; within the violin case is usually sufficient.
When winding on a new string (in my case it will be gut), when the initial windings are secure and I start winding the rest of the string onto the peg I hold the string away from the fingerboard with my index finger, about halfway between nut and bridge, so as to tension the string a little as it goes onto the peg. This gives a tighter winding and the string settles down on the peg that much quicker.
Another important step when replacing a string is to re-apply pencil lead (3HB is fine) to the notches in the nut and the bridge. This helps the string to move freely and minimizes sticking in these locations when tuning.
I'll echo the point Trevor brought up about using pencil on nut and bridge notches.
She's also the one who taught me to cover the frog edge of my bow when rosining to avoid chipping the rosin. I lent my rosin to a stand partner recently, who chipped the s**t out of it, because no one had ever told him that. Sheesh!
If I need to change a whole set of strings, I may wait and ask my luthier friend to do it because he adjusts everything back into place better than I can. Single strings? no problem.
On guitar I NEVER let excess string pile up or wind over itself, however on violin I start the first wind or two in one direction then come back again the other way to finish, depending on which string. Also, I change violin strings one side of the pegbox at a time. I loosen the D, change the G then change the D on the bass side. Then loosen the A, change the E then change the A on the treble side.
I continuously tune each string to pitch as I go and retune the other strings already changed. Then I tune the whole thing up to pitch, put it in the case, close the lid and walk away for a while to let it settle.
To me, changing your own strings is something every musician should learn to do. Maybe it should be part of learning the instrument for students old enough to comprehend it.
A lot of words from the Strad.
Videos are more helpful. One from Strings magazine.
One from Shar for changing only one string, but didn't mention using a lead pencil on nut and bridge, or double-checking bridge is still perpendicular after final tuning, and peg box views are kind of dark and not close-up.
Part I - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l98rzDScwv8
Part 2 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKj4Q3mNn0M
I came to violin and viola from guitar and mandolin, on which I already knew how to change strings. When changing strings on a guitar I got into the habit of taking all the strings off so I could clean the fretboard. The first time I tried that on a mandolin my bridge fell off, so I got out of that habit before I even thought of taking up the violin.
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