Retuning and String Life

January 12, 2018, 11:48 PM · 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?

Just curious
Thank you :)

Replies (8)

January 13, 2018, 4:16 AM · I frequently change tunings between standard and AEAE or ADAE. I have never found this to adversely affect my strings.
Edited: January 13, 2018, 9:05 AM · 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 used to reinstall used strings and did not notice problems. I also gave used strings, that had not worked so well for me to other players - and they could keep going for a long time.

The problem you face is if you try to raise the pitch of a string too high and the material yields or breaks. Other than that you lose nothing by trying - kind of like cleaning bow hair instead of going right for a re-hair job.

Edited: January 13, 2018, 10:39 AM · 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.
January 13, 2018, 6:46 PM · There was an interesting discussion going on at Maestronet where two modern strings makers seem to attest that the foremost normal cause for strings to go bad is microscopic contamination due to rosin/sweat/oils/dirt seeping into the winding and altering the way the strings are supposed to vibrate.
I'm sure stretching them repeatedly putting them on and off must have some detrimental effect too but apparently it's much less than what I originally though.
January 14, 2018, 8:30 AM · I bet modern string makers would like you to replace your strings as often as possible.
January 14, 2018, 8:54 AM · 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>
January 16, 2018, 3:03 AM · 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.

When I'm doing work on an instrument which will require that the strings be tensioned and loosened multiple times, I'll usually start with used strings, and then replace them with new when the work is done. If I start with new strings, I may still replace them if they have been tensioned and loosened multiple times. I wouldn't say that the difference is huge, but it is usually perceptible.

Edited: January 16, 2018, 10:03 AM · 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?

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