V.com weekend vote: Have you ever had a string break?

October 26, 2018, 11:26 AM · Most of the time we change our strings before they actually break, but occasionally they can cause us a little drama.

violin strings

That happened last week, when a colleague in the viola section had a string break, right during a performance. It can be even more dramatic, when a soloist has a string break! I also saw this happen recently at a competition, and though the concertmaster offered up his instrument, the soloist chose to go backstage, change the string and then start anew.

Sudden changes in weather, such as temperature or humidity swings, can also make strings more vulnerable to breakage. You might just open the case one morning and find that a string went "pop" overnight. Recently one of my students was carrying his fiddle on his back while cycling and went over a big bump -- later he found his e-string had "come off." Upon closer examination, the loop at the end of the string had been cut through, probably by the hook on the fine tuner. We never did solve the mystery of how exactly that happened!

Have you had a string break recently? What was the story? Do you have any dramatic or interesting string-breaking stories to share? Please answer the poll and then share your stories!

Replies

October 26, 2018 at 06:19 PM · I'm not an aggressive player, as I feel that great tone is drawn out, and not forced. So I can't remember breaking a string while playing. In fact it's a very rare event that I even break a bow hair, such that I'm usually startled if/when it happens. My preference is for strong bows that won't allow the stick to bottom out against the strings.

Recently I opened my classical guitar case to find that a string had broken. This is despite the fact that I had tuned the instrument down several whole tones to take off the tension because I knew I wasn't going to be using it. But it had been left untouched for a couple of years, so I wasn't surprised.

October 26, 2018 at 06:33 PM · "Yes, I opened up the case and it had broken."

It happened this past summer on one fiddle after a 2-week break from playing. The Passione regular A, which I had put on this instrument several months earlier, came undone at the lower end of the peg box. There wasn't enough length in the remaining string to rewind it, so I replaced it with a spare Wondertone Solo A. The Passione wasn't ideal for this instrument anyway -- tension too high -- so no loss. The WS lets the instrument open up more and meshes well with the stiff Eudoxa D-G I have on this fiddle.

I have a faint recollection of an E string breaking on me, early in high school, during home practice; but I never had one break on me during performance. I play on all three of my active fiddles each day and keep them tuned; so if a string breaks, I have a backup instrument that I already know well and can trust.

Regarding "...the loop at the end of the string had been cut through, probably by the hook on the fine tuner. We never did solve the mystery of how exactly that happened":

It sounds like the impact of the bike going over the bump made the hook on the fine tuner cut into the loop.

October 26, 2018 at 06:50 PM · I've had one string break. A kid from the neighborhood also plays violin, and asked if she could try mine. She proceeded to crank on the G peg until the string snapped. No idea why, it was already in tune. The string was many years old, and steel core.

October 26, 2018 at 08:03 PM · Broke an E string at the loop end once. Filing smooth the fine tuner hook sharp edges solved the problem.

October 26, 2018 at 08:15 PM · I have had many strings break over the years, almost always over night in the case. Maybe because I have always played on gut strings which I guess are more prone to breaking than the other kinds.

One time it was the perfect storm. We were going to audition for membership in a club with our string quartet. The affair was taking place in somebody's home. We asked to be allowed to arrive an hour early to warm up and acclimate the instruments. Which was rudely declined by the host.

So we warmed up in our house, then walked the 10 minutes to get there. I opened my case and my E had broken on this short walk! Of all my string the steel string --which essentially never breaks--had to break. I stringed up a new one, played a few scales on it and we had to start. So long as I had to play in position 1 and 3 my "autocorrect" worked and I didn't quite realize how far out of tune the string was. But then came a passage going into higher positions and my intonation was almost a minor third flat!

October 26, 2018 at 08:29 PM · I witnessed a fiddler one night who had two strings break within the same song. He just kept switching to lower and lower strings. People were entertained by his predicament, and his ability to compensate.

October 26, 2018 at 09:40 PM · A personal record last week - two E strings within the same movement of a symphony! I broke mine early on, switched violins with my desk partner, and handed him the spare in my pocket. He waited for a while for the music to get loud enough and started to change my string. Then during the climax of the movement I broke his E string too! He then had to change his with the audience waiting patiently (and his peg fell out on the floor, which everyone found amusing!). Poor guy - he was incredibly professional and swift about it all. I owe him a few drinks! (Andrew Haveron, concertmaster Sydney Symphony)

October 26, 2018 at 09:49 PM · String break? Sure. More often the peg just comes lose. Similar sort of sound. But a couple of years ago when we had the windows open and it was warm I heard a different kind of thunk from the corner where my violin and viola hang. Upon investigation, the neck had come detached from my viola and only the strings kept the body from falling.

October 26, 2018 at 10:35 PM · I only broke strings while tuning.

October 26, 2018 at 11:28 PM · Oh boy, so many stories. For some reason, I break viola G strings all the time, though never in performance or in interesting ways. My 13yo is probably our prize winning E string breaker. He tends to get a little over excited. He broke two strings in Praeludium and Allegro, including in performance, on the chord section near the end. The end of Bartok's Romanian Dances led to a string breaking and hitting him in the face. One on Lalo SE 5th movement that flew across the room (that one he nicked with a cheapo lender bow while his was getting rehaired). And he pizzed one off the bridge in Zigeunerweisen, though it didn't actually break. My 9yo has only ever broken one, and she promptly burst into tears. It scared the heck out of her.

October 27, 2018 at 01:12 AM · The thing with gut strings is that you can usually see a break coming from a mile away. They start to unravel and warble really bad; it's impossible to miss. I never take a damaged string onstage.

Once, though, I was off in the middle of nowhere (ages away from any music store) and all three of my top strings broke in the same day. Luck had it that a bunch of family was coming for a get-together that day and expected me to play some sort of concert, so I had to play everything on one string. It was a fun challenge. I spent about 5 hours playing three octave scales on one string, and I had to practise like that until I could replace my other strings. I was sul G for a week!

October 27, 2018 at 01:21 PM · My 11-year-old daughter was having her major orchestral debut playing the Mendelssohn. When she got to the octaves on the first page, she snapped both the E and A strings at once and sliced through half of her bow hair!! Understandably, none of the violinists would lend her their precious Italian violins (or their French bows) after that, so her 6-year-old brother toddled onto the stage (in pajamas!) and finished for her with his 1/4 size violin. (Except he doesn't know Mendelssohn so they all switched to the Glazunov.) He broke the G-string during the last movement but that was okay because he just pegged his D-string down whenever he got to any of those notes.

October 27, 2018 at 01:49 PM · Well, just yesterday when I was demonstrating for my adult student!

October 27, 2018 at 01:57 PM · Since I've been playing violin, cello and viola starting 80 years ago course I have had strings break - especially when I was a kid when they were never changed before they broke.

Most dramatic was in an orchestra performance. I'd played in orchestras for years, through high school and college, but after graduation I was married, worked full time and went to grad school after work and we started our family - so it wasn't till after finishing grad school that I joined an orchestra again - first concert I was near the inside back of the 2nd violins and my gut A string popped not too far into the concert. So since I was fairly invisible from the audience I just went back through the curtain and drove home. We moved from the DC suburbs to California shortly after that and I've played in orchestras and chamber groups all 56 years since.

Second most memorable was an E string that hit me in the eye when it broke in my mid teens. For the last 40 years I've worn eye glasses when I play so that won't likely happen again. In that same teen time frame I was studying cello and I was wearing out a gut A string just about every week - and sometimes they broke before they wore out.

My first 2 Pirastro Obligato cello A strings broke the first time I ever tried to to install them because they could not tolerate even slight over-tuning - finally got it right with the third one.

All other breaks are lost with other memories, and for the past 30+ years I usually get new strings on before breakage is likely.

October 27, 2018 at 02:12 PM · Amazing platform for folks to boast of their repertoire...."I had my viola C string break while playing a concert of all the Paganini vln concerti with the Schweinhundt Symphony of Dorfblatt....the 1st cellist lent me her cello and I finished the cadenza to #5 on that rare instrument...I believe it was a Glutz Bros Gene Autry Model...."....and on and on.....

October 27, 2018 at 04:11 PM · The later Golden Spiral A strings (produced after the Red-O-Ray label ceased to appear on their strings) had a tendency to break on my violin - I lost 3 at least that had not been on there for that long. I don't know whether it was the particular adjuster on my tailpiece or a weakness in the string in that area, but they'd all broken overnight at roughly the same place. This hadn't happened in the 60s and 70s, when they lasted as well as any other gut string.

I've had other strings break, of course.

October 27, 2018 at 06:05 PM · When I first started playing violin and through college the strings of choice for A, D, and G were wire wound gut. These strings had limited lifetimes with the A lasting 3-6 months before breaking. The strings would break during practice and concerts.

I am impressed with the newer generation strings which use a synthetic core. I play from 1-1/2 to 2 hours daily. To date I have not experienced a break of these strings. I have been using the synthetic core strings for over 20 years. I do rehair every 6 months at which time I also change the strings after the rehairing is complete.

I started with Dominants. My issue with them is that they brightened as they stabilized. Replacing them every 6 months was more to regain the warmer tone. Later I discovered the Infeld Reds. These start warm and keep warm. In my experience they are an improvement over the Dominants and well worth the price.

Everyone has their own preference with respect to strings. The synthetic core strings are definitely more durable than gut.

October 27, 2018 at 06:18 PM · Rarely have a string break. Watch out for sharp edges on the peg hole, nut, bridge, tailpiece, fine tuners. A stand partner frequently broke his E string and the cause was always the same; playing too far away from the bridge while trying to play too loud. When the winding starts to break on a string change it ASAP. Gut not durable ?? The connective tissue (tendons etc.) inside your body can last a lifetime if not abused. It is made of high-sulfur proteins.

October 27, 2018 at 08:40 PM · When I was young I broke several of those steel strings tuning. The only strings broken in the past 35 years were some Chinese strings I got off e bay. The A broke as I was putting it on and the E broke while in the case two days later.

October 27, 2018 at 08:43 PM · Most often when opening the case and finding a string has broken.

However, there was the one occasion where I was showing off in church and the hymn ended with an A on the E-string, trying to make it dramatic I brought the bow down hard, caught the ferrule on the frog and the e-string snapped with a twang - not exactly what I had planned.

October 28, 2018 at 12:03 AM · Ray Chen had a string break during his Sydney concert recently.

He went offstage to change it and started the movement again from the beginning.

He told us that it has happened before.

October 28, 2018 at 12:47 AM · lol....when I was a newbie and learning to tune. I tried to tune the G to the wrong octave ! x-D

Also opened the case recently had found a string broken....after having some work done on my violin.... >:-\

October 28, 2018 at 12:54 AM · I remember my gut A string broke the day before my gr 5 exam, not every music store stocked the gut strings so was really hard at 4.30 to find a store that had one. Then as we all know gut strings go out of tune more when they are new so on my exam report it said' tuning of a string not always correct '

October 28, 2018 at 04:55 AM · Mostly from changes in the weather, but a couple by absent-mindedly over tightening the string when doing a major retuning (usually after a change in the weather). In the latter case, mostly because I forgot what string I was tuning and tuned it too high. But at least the last time I broke a string, I successfully replaced it myself. Before that, my teacher would always replace my broken strings.

October 28, 2018 at 05:06 PM · For emergency,back-up strings in the case I have used strings. They are already stretched out.

October 28, 2018 at 11:53 PM · On a more serious note, yes, it's happened to me. I was performing the third movement of the Franck Sonata (just the third movement, mind you) with a pianist friend and as soon as she started playing the first few chords, my E string broke and I had to change it. I was the last performer on a little adults-only recital so everyone had to wait. Fortunately it was quick -- that was before I had gear pegs put into my violin. However every small gap in that piece I was twisting on my fine tuner to bring that string up. That's one disadvantage of gear pegs is that if you do have to change a string quickly, well, you can't. LOL

October 29, 2018 at 07:56 AM · I've never broken a viola string.

I broke a violin E string tuning once in my first year learning violin. The other time I had a string break was when I opened my case and found it broken. I don't remember which string it was, but I remember the string somehow being caught in the Velcro strap that holds the neck of the violin in place, and breaking right in that spot.

October 29, 2018 at 10:22 PM · To All ~

A fascinating and in a few instances, hilarious string-break happening's, I've enjoyed reading all posts here & particularly from Andrew Haveron, of the Sydney Symphony! If you read this, did you ever work with or know of a former Concertmaster of the Melbourne Symphony, Neville Taweel, who emigrated to London to become the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Leader? (I knew him quite well as we made music together when I was the guest soloist in the Brahms Violin Concerto, On Tour w/the RPO & Neville was most gracious to me?) Anyway, concert playing certainly has its hazards, but in this regard I've been quite fortunate Until ~ of all things & in New York City, debut performing at the 92nd Street 'Y' in Kaufman Concert Hall, a shocking A string popped very loudly in my face in the midst of the Unaccompanied Bach Violin Sonata #2 in a minor! Just Wham, Pow!!! It was startling to say the least & in one's NYC Violin Recital Debut ~ Ouch!!! I rushed off stage after trying to make 'lite' of a popped A string to the NY audience, in a latter part of the Sonata ... Back on stage I began at the beginning of the Andante again & things went smoothly for the rest of the heavy violin recital repertoire Recital ~ Fortunately, no mention of the incident was written about in the music critic reviews ... All said, the New York critic's were most gracious ~

Although this little incident isn't about a string breaking in Live performance, a crazy flying thing occurred when soloing with a regional Symphony in Bruch's g minor Violin Concerto #1. All of the sudden in the sixteenth triplet passages, something hit the scroll of my violin which caused me to whirl around in a full 360 degree circle - still playing non-stop! The shock of it didn't really sink in until Concerto's end! Afraid to get very close to the Conductor when taking bows, I 'woke up', so to speak, to the reality of what had happened! As my Great Violin Mentor, Jascha Heifetz, did say on our first day of his Jascha Heifetz Violin Master Classes, to we 7, "Pupil's, playing the violin is Dangerous!" Mr. Heifetz certainly knew all of what he spoke!!!

A word ~ to the Responder who mentioned this forum being a place for displaying repertoire, it's all important no matter what any of us play on the violin because in so doing, we improve our own playing & ourselves while sometimes helping others in ways we may never know ...

Respectfully submitted by

Elisabeth Matesky / Chicago **

*@Paul Deck ~ Your 11 yo & 6 yo, are more than gifted!! And

* @S. Agrawal ~ You've 2 amazing young ones, my goodness!

October 30, 2018 at 12:06 AM · @Joel Quivey ~ Hi, Joel ... I was glad to learn you can perform the whole programme next Summer in a nice setting. All will be exceptional!!

Best for now ~

Elisabeth 'M'

October 30, 2018 at 03:30 AM · Dearest Elisabeth, I'm sorry to say that the 11-year-old and 6-year-old that I described in my earlier post are fictitious. I do have two wonderful daughters, of which I am very proud, and they have done well with violin and cello, respectively, but they are not debuting with major orchestras any time soon. Fortunately they both like science and math, like their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents before them.

October 30, 2018 at 04:25 PM · @Paul Deck ~

Perhaps your 2 daughter's are following a Biblical scriptural saying unknowingly (?) that sort of suggests not going past the Boundary Lines of one's ancestor's & more current Family ~ They seem to be most wise!!! Like their Dad!!!!!

Hugs from Chicago ~

Elisabeth 'M'

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