Changing the strings

April 13, 2009 at 08:01 PM ·

Hi Everyone  -

I have a question:

If you've never changed your strings before, it is easy enough to try at home, or would you recommend a proffessional teaching you how to do it?



---Ann Marie

Replies (40)

April 13, 2009 at 08:15 PM ·

Who is changing your strings now? Does your teacher do it, or do you have them put on at a music store?

I was worried for a long time about accidentally breaking a string while installing them, so I kept paying the folks at the music store to put them on (their installation fee was pricey, at $2.50 per string... but if THEY broke the string, they replaced it for free). I paid very close attention to what they were doing, though, because I planned to eventually do this for myself and save the $$$. I also talked to my teacher about it, and he gave me some tips on how to wind them so the pegs wouldn't slip. Finally I got up the nerve to try it myself, after a year and a half of playing. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be, but I did break a couple of E strings the first few times I tried.

Some things to remember are: 1) the soundpost can fall if all the strings are removed, so only change strings one at a time, 2) when you tighten new strings the bridge will tilt, so you'll have to carefully straighten it back up, and 3) make sure the strings aren't wound too close to the pegbox wall.

April 13, 2009 at 08:32 PM ·

First of all, nice to meet you!  Congratulations on falling in love with violins and violas.

Glenda gave you some excellent advice.  From looking at your biography, it looks like you have a private teacher.  The next time you need a replacement, I would either ask him to do it for you, or if you're feeling particularly brave, have him watch you while you do it.  Changing a string is an indispensible repair any violinist (or violist) should be able to perform.


Happy playing.

April 13, 2009 at 09:30 PM ·


I feel that showing the student how to properly change strings as well as "basic" instrument care and maintenance is part of the teacher's responsiblity. I used to also have a variety of strings on hand but after a few whining parents moaned about the extra charge for the lesson (string cost), I now leave the string procurement to the student (parent).

April 13, 2009 at 09:44 PM ·

watch a pro do it, ask appropriate questions if you're unsure, and give it a whirl.  MAKE SURE YOU KNOW HOW TO TUNE it before you decide to do it on your own though.  otherwise you might have a horrible sounding instrument on your hands until your next private lesson...


-ross christopher

April 13, 2009 at 10:13 PM ·


it`s a relatvely simple job which should be taught a soon asposisble.  With commonsense there is no need ot have any problems at all.  Incidentally,  I do win the string up so it touches the wall of the peg box.  I think it helps keep the peg in place without having to press it into the box.  At leats thts my theory and I`m sticking to it.  ...Not clear what the argument for not doing it is anyway?

When I bought a fiddle from Beares it wa sdone taht way. Beares also wrap the string one time to the opposite side of where most of the winding is going to go for extra security.   I have sene in a book this is actually described and attributed to Beares.  I think it might have bene one of their publications though;)



April 13, 2009 at 11:47 PM ·

Have your maker or teacher show it to you!


April 14, 2009 at 03:40 AM ·

Have to learn this skill sooner or later. Have someone show you and experiment. I'm always scared of changing the E tho, but only broke one because I forgot to put the E loop protector on the fine tuner.

"Incidentally,  I do win the string up so it touches the wall of the peg box.  I think it helps keep the peg in place without having to press it into the box.  At leats thts my theory and I`m sticking to it.  ...Not clear what the argument for not doing it is anyway?"

I think it helps stop the pegs from slipping but sometimes in my case it makes the peg hard to turn if there's to much silk touching.

April 21, 2009 at 03:11 PM ·

Thanks for all your replies!

I will take you up on the advice to have my instructor show me.  I have been having my local music shop replace the strings, and they charge $10.00 to do it.  Unfortunately, they would not let me watch - I asked a couple of times and was turned down.

April 21, 2009 at 03:30 PM ·

Of course they won't let you watch. They'd lose their source of easy money in the future if they did. $2.50 per string---that's outrageous! My shop does it for free, as do all the other respectable violin shops I know of in town.

It's not at all hard to learn; just make sure you have some extras on hand in case you break one (you can also keep the old set in your case for that purpose). There are three other things to attend to while you're changing the strings:

1. As you remove each string, clean the peg with an alcohol wipe to remove any dust/rosin/old peg dope (keep it away from the instrument and let it dry thoroughly so you don't get any of the alcohol near your violin).

2. Have some peg dope that you can apply to the pegs before you stick them back into the pegbox---two small swipes (not more!) at both points that contact the pegbox should do it---this will help your pegs turn smoothly.

3. Before you put the new string on, take a graphite pencil and mark the grooves in the nut and the bridge where the string will go---this will eliminate friction as the string moves, and protect the string against fraying.

April 21, 2009 at 04:54 PM ·

This has been mentioned already, but it's important enough to bear repeating: 

Change the strings one by one--don't remove them all at once. 

If you remove all the strings (or even more than one) all at one time, the pressure that holds the sound-post wedged in place between the belly and the back of the violin can slacken to the point where the sound-post falls or shifts its position slightly.  A very tiny shift in the position of the sound-post can result in a very significant deterioration in the sound of the instrument.  A fallen or a shifted sound-post requires an expensive sound-post adjustment, which is a task that should only be undertaken by a qualified professional.

April 21, 2009 at 04:55 PM ·

I've never found it necessary to alcohol wipe the pegs merely as a matter of course. I would suggest only doing that if there is a problem with the pegs. If they were working fine, leave well enough alone and simply change the strings :-)

April 21, 2009 at 07:25 PM ·

I've never changed my own strings but I need to soon. Just wondering is it anything like changing guitar of mandolin strings. I've done those before. 

April 21, 2009 at 08:08 PM ·


your local shop is ripping you off.  If you can go elsewhere.  And tell them why.  Charging for a changed string s one of the meanest ,  money grubbing actions I have heard in a long time.



April 21, 2009 at 09:01 PM ·

Buri: The shop I was going to charged $2.50 per string to install, and I thought it was because I'd bought the strings online. The next time, I bought strings from the music store and they STILL charged me the installation fee. When you add the cost of gasoline (30 mile round trip from work - closest shop around) it became way too expensive not to learn how to do it myself.

Daniel: For me, changing violin strings is similar to changing guitar strings, only slipperier. The strings are so slender they want to fall back out of the peg hole, and when I finally get the peg turning sometimes the ball end has come out of the tailpiece, making me start over again. It gets easier each time, though...

April 21, 2009 at 11:05 PM ·

Sheeoot, get someone who knows to teach you. It's not the simplest thing in the world if you consider all the ramifications, but the basics can be learned in one session if you take notes. If the shop you're  going to won't do this, kiss 'em goodby and find another. If they don't have enough business that they don't want to be bothered with changing strings, I think that says a lot.

As a former restorer, I'm personally not a fan of winding the string up against the pegbox to wedge the peg in place.

April 22, 2009 at 05:45 AM ·

One of the local luthiers in my  area doesn't charge for installing / changing a string  but  the string itself is above retail .. a Domiant  G string  sells for 35$ 

April 22, 2009 at 02:08 PM ·

For what it's worth, my shop installs my new strings for free. The last time, he even showed me what he was doing so I could try it myself next time.

April 22, 2009 at 04:50 PM ·

>Change the strings one by one--don't remove them all at once. 

I don't know if I'm the only one to do this, but I will not only change them one at a time, I'll let several days pass before changing the next string. The way the strings stretch and take a few days to settle into place, staying fully in tune, it's easier for me to deal with this, one string at a time.

I also agree with the "change it yourself" philosophy. Because otherwise what happens if you're at home and an old string breaks right before you begin your practice? (My local music store is 40 minutes away.) It's intimidating the first time, but by the 3rd time you don't think twice about it, and you can change it whenever the urge strikes you.

April 22, 2009 at 05:34 PM ·

Changing Strings should be viewed like a rite of passage for students! Once you've done it it's a cake walk!  But it is scarey at first, and can be like threading a needle for the first time.  Have your teacher there but you do it.  Once you are doing it on your own it's like riding your bike without training wheels and you are no longer falling down! :^)


April 22, 2009 at 07:22 PM ·

Changing strings is a very difficult maneuver, one that requires the utmost care, experience, and theoretical background in disciplines from solid-state physics to semiotics. I would ONLY have a professional do it. Please send me the violin and strings and I will do it. My fee is $75 for the first string, and $14.95 for each additional. Please include shipping and handling back. Due to high demand and the fact that I am the only certified expert currently performing what is commonly referred to as "rocket surgery," expect a turnaround time of about 4-6 weeks. The instrument will require re-tuning, which I will be happy to do at half-price after 6 months. This should be considered as a root canal or criminal defense: get an expert! Don't try this at home!

April 22, 2009 at 07:27 PM ·

 Scott, what has gotten INTO you?! Have you been dipping into Buri's fermented prune juice? : )

April 22, 2009 at 09:04 PM ·


don`t mock the poor guy. He invented string theory.  One mistake and you could end up in a parallel universe



April 22, 2009 at 09:32 PM ·

Fredrick's of Hollywood & Victoria Secrets has G-Strings for sale..... No E, D or A's though.

April 22, 2009 at 10:10 PM ·


I volunteer to fit them for free.  Don@t listen to thta dude from Chicago.



April 22, 2009 at 11:09 PM ·

Since I won't tolerate being outbid by a man wearing "Fruit of the Loom" skivvies adorned with dancing prunes, I will pay you 25 cents per string to install them for you.

April 22, 2009 at 11:17 PM ·


You didn't realize that I'm an expert on both types of worm holes--those in violins, and those I use to travel to gigs. There's a reason I'm seldom late to rehearsal.

I see that others are trying to undercut me. Do you trust them?


It would seem that the internet is rendering all business models useless. It's amazing that anyone is able to make a living doing anything. Please don't tell my students how much they should be paying for string changes.....

April 22, 2009 at 11:23 PM ·


I wish you guys would get serious.  Mostly it`s about building up confidence.  Like all things in education we move fromwhat we are familiar and comfortable with to the new.  So go around your house with a sketched out plan. Not toodetailed but mark initems like the sofa and stove. This is also helpful becuas eif you confuse the two you can get a nasty burn.   Mark on your map all pieces of string or string like objects in your house.   These may vary from the pull chords for the venetions blinds,  to your cats tail to your tracksuit bottom drwastring.   Now schedule some down time when nobody else is in the house.  In this quiet atmosphere change all the strings in your house.

After you have build up confidence i this way the violin is no problem.



April 23, 2009 at 12:33 AM ·

I'm a little confused about pulling on the cat's tail versus pulling on the cord for the venetian blinds. The venetian blinds, while generally obedient, seem emotionally unresponsive. The cats will generally exhibit pleasure, absent of obedience, but so much depends on their mood.

Which has a better probability of transporting me through space and time?

April 23, 2009 at 12:55 AM ·

Changing strings = simple. Much harder to actually play the instrument!

I routinely find time to teach every student that I meet how to do it for themselves if they are not already my classroom, I keep used strings and some beater instruments so kids can practice the skills.

April 23, 2009 at 01:22 AM ·


>I keep used strings and some beater instruments

I thought this was a family show?



April 23, 2009 at 01:41 AM ·


Venetian blinds may work, but probably wont' fit in your camera bag. I'd suggest a circular polarizer.


April 23, 2009 at 02:26 AM ·

Stephen Brivati wrote:
"I thought this was a family show?"

It is. Prunophelia and prunophobia don't always have a Freudian sexual context. I won't pass judgment on any associations which you may have, and choose or choose not to disclose.

April 23, 2009 at 04:04 AM ·


are you saying sometimes a czardas is just a czardas?  Life is full of disappointments.



April 23, 2009 at 04:26 AM ·

I see there is much confusing advice about changing the strings. Before I discovered the Unistring, I had significant difficulties changing the strings on my violin. First, the strings had this little metal thingie on the end. It was very difficult getting that through the hole in the peg. Then I carefully threaded it through the neck thingie, down the neck, over the bridge (I wasn't certain if those fancy holes were to loop the extra string through, si I did, just in case). Then, I tried to remember which fine tuner went to which string. You see, I did mark which tuner went to which place on the tailpiece, however aftre threading the strings through the bridge thingie, I was not sure which string started where. So, I simply made a guess (I would call it an educated guess, but it wasn't very educated).

By thetime I was done, I found I had some real issues getting the strings tightened. I had to keep readjusting the bridge, and the tighter the strings became, the more work it was to do so. Eventually, I found that if I put a bit of graphite on teh string, it was much easier. Then, once that tedious process was complete, I tried to play the instrument.

Guess what? The graphite did a pretty good job of neutralizing the rosin. I really had to cake the rosin up on my bow before I could get any real sound out of the thing.

Based on my experience, I would suggest taking Scott up on his offer.

If you do decide to 'string your own', I would suggest the Unistring. You simply tie a loop on one end, hook it over the peg, run the other end down to the tailpiece, and use a trucker's knot to tighten it.
Easy as it gets!

April 23, 2009 at 05:27 AM ·


wait till w eget to rehairing your own bow....



April 23, 2009 at 03:20 PM ·


I agree with your statement about a Czardas. I think Obama should appoint an "Arts Czardas."

But what would that look like? Would the arts then be nationalized, and poorly-performing symphonies put into a "bad-asset" hall? Or would the arts just declare bankruptcy like GM will probably do? Does that mean I won' t have to pay my credit card?


April 23, 2009 at 08:34 PM ·


Probably the arts (and everybody in them) will just be sent to Afghanistan.



April 23, 2009 at 08:55 PM ·

 Is that part of the new "surge?" I feel honored to go and be a patriot and all. 


April 23, 2009 at 10:30 PM ·

a whole new dimension in poppylar music?

April 24, 2009 at 02:44 AM ·

The new Surge would need a leader, ao maybe a Surgeon General? And the resistance could be described as a surge supressor? Or since it is limiting the surge, would it be capitance instead of resistance.... I get so confused......

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