Retuning and String Life
I was curious if retuning strings repeatedly when swapping between sets multiple times or retuning to alternate tunings such as is popular in some folk music could lead to a shortening of string life or early "deadening" of strings? If so, would the E with its different structure be effected differently?
Thank you :)
I frequently change tunings between standard and AEAE or ADAE. I have never found this to adversely affect my strings.
Hysteresis is the dependence of the state of a system on its history; google it! Hysteresis in any object depends on the material it is made of - so hysteresis of your strings will depend on their material. Behavior of gut and gut-core strings is known to be very dependent on their history; synthetics, less so; and steel and steel-core strings that are not stretched to far not much at all.
I play in AEAE tunings for certain Cape Breton scordatura fiddle sets (or high bass as it's called in CB), and I've also attempted some of the Biber mystery sonatas (from the Baroque era). It can take a while for the violin to settle down afterwards, but I've never noticed any effect on string life. I am using a violin set up with Tonica (synthetic) strings for the scordatura pieces. Basically, though, I am still learning this technique. I think if you try to re-tune frequently during performance you are likely to have problems getting the instrument back to normal quickly enough. Scordatura pieces in Scottish or Cape Breton traditional music were often left for the end of the performance for this reason, or sometimes the musician would retain a second violin for these compositions.
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I bet modern string makers would like you to replace your strings as often as possible.
Strings can be kept indefintely on the store shelves or the manufacturer's warehouses. Once sold to the end user, they will deteriorate within months while still in their original package. </sarcasm>
Bob, most of the string engineers I've spoken with have said that repeated stretching and relaxing of the strings will degrade the sound, and that this should be kept to a minimum.
Clearly it would be a better idea, then, in the light of this information, not to to make a frequent habit of re-tuning your violin up to higher pitches, and then loosening them again, if you are practicing a lot of scordatura pieces. However, a separate violin kept at AEAE, for example -- if you're lucky enough to possess two instruments) -- would probably extend the string life, if that is an issue for your wallet. I have wondered though, what about stress from the increased tension on the instrument itself?