What do you do with old/used strings?

October 9, 2015 at 02:11 PM · I always kept used unbroken strings in my string tube in my case and cycled through them before I opened a new set to put on my violin. Being a full time student, playing violin as a hobby encourages recycling.

My new violin Socia, came with Obligato GDA and Warchal Amber E, I initially found the set to be very loud and a little bright. Later it broke in and started sounding warmer and nicer, but my A string always sounded too bright for the E string.

While I'm searching for cause of a buzz on an A string, I swapped it out with an old Infeld Red A string, and it seems to sound much warmer, quieter and not holding the tuning at all. Basically I have to tune it every 30 mins(very good for ear training with fifths).

I find that with each cycle, the used strings sound warmer and quieter and lose tuning stability. I have read quite a bit on string orientation and about string durability, I cannot say that I find Obligato set to be warm at all. I will have to agree on how loud they are. I also read that some people said Obligato do not last very long. I'm finding that my G string especially is losing responsiveness. I also think Obligato may be too high tension for my violin, the pegs are wearing down to the point where I can see ebony dust forming in the pegbox.

I am contemplating if I should change the strings in the near future(I've had Warchal sample sets sitting in my case since July), but I'm curious what others do with their used strings before I stuff the string tube with 4 more strings.

Replies (32)

October 9, 2015 at 02:25 PM · I keep all my old strings that aren't broken or twisted beyond repair in the back of my case as spares. I don't usually need them myself, but other people in the orchestras I'm in have needed spare strings in the past.

October 9, 2015 at 03:46 PM · I keep the most recent set as spares. The rest go in a box...when I retire I am going to turn them into Fine Art...

October 9, 2015 at 04:43 PM · When I put on new strings, I remove and store the previous set in case a new string breaks or frays. I play on three fiddles, about an hour a day on each one. When I was rotating my instruments -- i.e., playing 3 months at a stretch on each -- I could get 2 months out of my strings before they started to get past their prime. By splitting the time each day among three instruments, I can keep each string set up to 6 months.

No firsthand experience so far with Obligato or any Warchal products. Infeld Reds, which you also mentioned, have worked well for me on two fiddles. No tuning stability issues with the A, but I don’t keep strings very long -- only the current set and the set just retired.

October 9, 2015 at 04:52 PM · Worn out plain gut strings are useful in the garden (they are 100% organic of course) - the E in particular because they last for only a few weeks playing before fraying sets in; the A and D perhaps not so much because they seem to last forever on the violin. And don't forget the traditional use for the broken Pecatte bow stick that can't be repaired - holding up the tomato plants :).

October 9, 2015 at 04:54 PM · I sorted through all my used strings and tossed those I would never ever put back on or give to a friend. Now somewhat committed to using strings to point of failure. I have tons of volume and projection for what I'm doing in the foreseeable future.

Question, if I may. Are natural harmonics an indication of string condition?

October 9, 2015 at 06:04 PM · I throw my old strings in the trash can. (Sorry, not very creative!)

October 9, 2015 at 08:41 PM · Send them to Cuba via a trusted friend.

October 9, 2015 at 08:48 PM · I've been experimenting with violin strings since Dominants were first marketed in the US in 1970 and with cello strings since around 1995. If I found a better string for an instrument I would replace whatever was on it, sometimes even after a few weeks. (This is on 4 - 5 violins and 3 cellos - so that's a lot of excess strings.)

That's a lot of lightly used strings. When I was teaching I would gift still useful strings to students and friends who needed them. And I would sell them unused brands I no longer used at my cost.

Recently I became associated with a youth orchestra program in the Latino area of our city (relate to the La Sistema approach, with links to the LA Phil - about 100 kids) and donated all my excess strings to them - probably at least several thousand dollars worth (if they were all new). I also donated shoulder rests, chinrests, tailpieces, endpins, etc. that no longer work for me.

That's what I do/did (now that I've got nothing more to give) with my old strings, etc.


October 9, 2015 at 09:34 PM · My cats love to play with discarded strings.

October 10, 2015 at 02:44 AM · I give the silver wound strings and steel strings to a friend who makes jewelry

October 10, 2015 at 03:57 AM · Relatively not too worn or false used strings go into a few of my cases . (I have several violins.) Not usually E's. They get too scrunched-up in the peg box area - especially for a quick change. Those plus older G, D and A strings, along with various violin-related items, from polish to old mutes to what-not, go into a cabinet I have just for such things.

Old strings, especially old E's, in a drawer are kind of like socks in a drier - they try to make a break whenever they can. And my dear departed cat interpreted that as "more toys for ME". She would grab them and, knowing that I didn't want her to have them, would run away like a little bandit!

October 10, 2015 at 04:06 AM · Recycle is the answer.

I take my old strings and fasten a good, healthy bunch of them to a 6" section of broomstick as a handle, thereby fashioning a fearsome cat-o-nine-tales that comes in handy to lash the kids when it's time for them to practice!

Other than that, I usually keep a set that's not too far gone in my case. And if I try out a set that just doesn't groove for me, I give them to my teacher.

October 10, 2015 at 04:36 AM · Like Rocky, send them to Cuba.

Tom Wilder in Montreal will collect used strings and has connections in Cuba where they are gratefully accepted. There is a vibrant music culture in Cuba but many cannot afford half decent strings.

October 10, 2015 at 05:08 AM · I have a box labeled "Old Strings". They go in there. Occasionally I've picked a not-too-worn-out one from there but for the most part once in the box they are forgotten.

October 10, 2015 at 10:15 AM · David, yes, harmonics get progressively out of tune as the string core and the winding wear out unevenly.

October 10, 2015 at 10:15 AM · Oops!

October 10, 2015 at 07:27 PM · Well I found the imbalance:

Obligato GDA + Amber E, has extra low tension E, so all the tension is on A string, choking A and unmatched A and E.

I switched E to used Infeld Red E, higher tension, the violin now sounds like it just got over the cold and sounds even better. I always found it to be G heavy and silent E, now it feels very well balanced.

Also I stuck the Obligato A back on because I think it's time for my 3-cycled Infeld Red A's to retire. I think I will give it to whoever need/want it, probably a youth centre.

October 11, 2015 at 03:18 AM · Save for emergencies, or students who need a functional replacement immediately

October 11, 2015 at 04:35 PM · Andrew,

Well done! This world needs more people like you.


October 16, 2015 at 05:07 AM · Hello dear violinists of the website:

I am coordinator of the Chicago Area Chamber Music Meetup Group and usually try to help some of the 60 or more less fortunate violinists violists and cellists in our group.

If you have any slightly used strings to donate, please send me an email at


Thanks for your help ... Ted Kruzich

January 4, 2016 at 05:51 AM · My first teacher actually gave me 4 sets of her used strings (for my viola) as a present when she moved away. I'm still using them.

January 6, 2016 at 05:50 PM · When I first started my friends and I would turn our old strnings, that we could not reuse as spares, into rings or necklaces. It was a popular idea amongst the student orchestra I was apart of since it gave us something go do while on long drives. Now I just save the more recent set for spares, if they can be reused, and the ones that can't I turn them into fishing lines and other usfull tools.

January 7, 2016 at 03:00 PM · Use them to snare rabbits. . .

January 7, 2016 at 03:00 PM · Don't travel with them on an airline though. My daughter-in-law had hers confiscated because they thought she might use them to garrotte a fellow passenger.

January 7, 2016 at 05:16 PM · Which idiot would see strings being used to choke someone would be likely or practical? :O

If I wanted to do that, I'd use my hands! Much faster and more efficient to boot anyways... :) (Be calm, this is a JOKE!)


January 7, 2016 at 06:53 PM · Ha! Agreed. Rabbits beware. A sad commentary on the times we live in, though, that you needed to add an emoticon and a warning that your comical statement was a joke! Don't anybody panic or head for the exits!

January 7, 2016 at 09:40 PM · I have used them to snare rabbits and other small mammals. And I just keep them in my violin case when I travel no one asks questions.

January 9, 2016 at 04:33 AM · Rabbits and other small mammals in the violin case. Man, that is REALLY cool! You can come to our sessions any time!

January 9, 2016 at 06:37 AM · Haha I'd love too, but I'm not worth the time. Also yeah in my old case (not the one in my profile pic), but this old one that I don't use anymore cause it broke up. Anyway yeah I still have that case and yeah some how I'd get through customs without any questions about the dead animals in my case.

January 9, 2016 at 10:49 PM · I am making a flowers from my old used strings and they look quite nice

January 19, 2016 at 01:42 AM · I'm curious, what do they look like?

January 19, 2016 at 09:52 PM · It is also worth mentioning that Warchal has their Green program where you can recycle your strings.

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