Changing strings is its own art, and it takes a while to get good at it.
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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Normally, you should change only one string at a time, so that the bridge and sound post always stay in place and under tension from three strings.
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 began changing strings on my own in my early teens -- right about the time I moved up to my first 4/4-size instrument. Not sure how long it took me to get the system down, but I remember my teacher showing me a few steps. Learned about the same time that it's best to change all four strings in one session, one string at a time, if possible. The sequence I follow: E, G, D, A -- outer strings first.
I'll echo the point Trevor brought up about using pencil on nut and bridge notches.
My first teacher taught me to change strings the first time one broke...lead in notches and all.
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.
Changing my own strings was something I learned the first time my first instrument (guitar) needed strings. I've always changed them myself and I have a very specific way I do it depending on which instrument I'm working on.
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.
I can hardly believe that any violinist who is beyond the stage of young beginner would not know how to change strings. I learned at the age of 7 or 8 and all my fellow students knew how too. I have no recollection of learning how to do it.
Of course this was back in the 1930 era when we used gut strings that wore out fast. We changed strings pretty often.
In grade school and high school orchrstras when someone broke a string they were expected to put on a new one thenselves at once.
SHAR has a video on how to do this. Students need to learn how to take care of their own instruments.
String changing for dummies:
I change them myself, but I can't be doing it the right way, because I have to use tweezers/forceps to grab hold of the end when I've pushed it through the hole, and then have wind the loose part of the string round the other part a couple of times or more before I turn the peg at all. Seems to hold, though. I don't sew on buttons correctly either, but my knots do hold.
Please post a video for all the "Strings" Moms out there helping their budding violinists (violists, cellists, bassists)!
Give me a few weeks, I'll make a video!
Plenty of instruction already exists in changing violin strings for those so inclined but not yet informed. One only has to look for it online, though it's a lot easier to just have someone guide you in person during your first attempts. Here are some examples of what can be found.
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 change my strings myself as most of professional musicians do but I always found the first days with new strings a terrible time where nothing sounds properly, tuning endlessly ets. Than I got a Ready String device and sinds then I am no longer stressed about those issues anymore.You can read all about it at www.readystring.com and buy them at www.readystring.nl
I just remember changing my strings the way my teacher changed them when they broke. I found it easy. It was a good thing to know especially with the violin since the E string was a fragile string.
One downside of geared pegs is that you'll have to rotate the peg grip end anywhere from 4 to 8.5 revolutions for every turn of the shaft that holds the string. The manufacturers of these pegs (e.g. Wittner) do make small, inexpensive plastic cranks that fit over the peg ends and will make changing strings much faster! You can get them from most violin shops. They are light and small enough to keep in your case.
I agree with those who say you should be able to change your own strings. You don't want to have to wait for someone to change them for you - what if you break a string during a rehearsal or - worse! - a concert? It's just one of those things you have to do, like tying your shoes.
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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April 24, 2015 at 07:57 PM · I used to help my band director work on woodwinds. I have decades of experience with steel string and classical guitars. And have changed strings for others as well as myself. I first took up the fiddle in about 1990 and played for about a year. So I was an adult (37) when I first touched a violin.
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.