How to "activate" new strings

Edited: April 3, 2018, 7:42 AM · Would playing on high registers, vibrating frequently, or other activities quicken the process of strings "stablizing" on the string?

Replies (11)

Edited: April 3, 2018, 8:35 AM · Since I have multiple instruments and have been at this for nearly 80 years I have a variety of experience with new strings including installing new strings and:
(1) tuning them up to pitch and letting them sit and just tuning them up a few times the first day and them less regularly for a while,
(2) tuning them somewhat sharp and continuing to do this until they will remain at "440,"
(3) playing on them and continuing to tune them until they remain at pitch

(3) worked fastest to stabilize intonation and the harder the workout on the strings the less time it took. However much depends on the material composition of the strings. My most most recent new string installation was with a set of Tricolore gut violin strings and they took a really long time to stabilize - and of course remained very sensitive to humidity change.
Steel core strings stabilize fastest.
I've been advised that (2) is not recommended, but I don't see why slight over-tuning should be damaging as long as you stop before the strings are completely stabilized.

I know a violinist who used her 2nd instrument to pre-tune strings for her primary instrument.

Sam asked, "Would playing on high registers, vibrating frequently, or other activities quicken the process of strings "stablizing" on the string?"
I think it is the vigor of the workout that counts - so if playing that way on the 3 lower strings puts more stress on them it might speed the stabilization process - but I don't think playing up high on the E string will contribute anything to it. My experience with steel E strings is they tune up pretty fast anyway.

April 3, 2018, 8:25 AM · Amongst the synthetics, the older nylon (=Perlon) cores (e.g. Dominant, Tonica, Larsen, Pro Arte, Aricore) stretch more than the more recent "composite" cores. They are also cheaper, last longer and can be safely over-stretched by a semitone before retiring to bed. I found overstretching a composte A damaged the core.
Edited: April 9, 2018, 3:27 PM · I have a related issue. I have been experimenting with certain traditional Cape Breton fiddle tunes which are normally played in scordatura. This involves tuning the G and D up a full tone, so you have an AEAE tuning. I am using my second violin with has older well-used strings on it -- in this case Tonica. Apart from a certain instability in re-tuning the instrument afterwards, I haven't noticed any marked deterioration in sound. But the strings are already past their prime. I'm guessing it wouldn't be a good idea to give this kind of punishment to fresher strings. Anybody had any experience with this, or have any opinions about strings to use for this kind of playing? ( My luthier says it's not a problem for the instrument.)
April 9, 2018, 7:55 AM · One thing I do with new strings is tune the new string up a halftone and then rub it hard with a cloth. That heats up the string. While rubbing it the string pitch goes down. When its gone down a halftone I tune it up a halftone again and rub it again. I repeat this until it hold its pitch. Then I tune it normally and it holds its tuning.

Another thing I do with synthetic strings after rubbing is play the open string as close to the bridge as I can as loud as I can pulling the bow as slow as possible. I do that a few minutes the first three days after putting on a new string. This improves the sound of the new string.

April 9, 2018, 10:54 AM · From the Thomastik Infeld website:

"Bowing near the bridge with considerable pressure (bow up and down about five times each) will make the strings ready for concert use in the shortest time possible – to be exact in as little as two to three hours.

However don’t forget that these preparatory measures can shorten the sonic life span of the strings and should only be used if circumstances only give you a short time to prepare your strings"


Edited: April 10, 2018, 12:36 AM · Some months ago, Han N. Gave me a very good advice, which worked very well for me ( I copy it here:

Han N: "strings can be broken in effectively by "massaging" them while under tension. The idea is that you use your fingers or a gadget to create a Z bend in the string:
nut -------\_____ bridge

Then, run fingers or gadget along the strings a couple of times, so that every centimeter of string will have been bent. (If you use your fingers, use a cloth or it will hurt.) It was claimed that this trick has the same result on new strings as days of playing."

April 10, 2018, 9:07 PM · I find massaging works okay, but less well than my teacher's trick, which is to play the theme from Paganini Moses on each new string, at maximum volume, fairly nearly the bridge. This effectively is similar to the Thomastik-suggested trick.
April 12, 2018, 4:49 AM · Parker, I briefly played in an Appalachian traditional music session, where re-tuning of instruments twice in a session is common. A session might typically start in a scordatura tuning suiting G major, shift to D major after an hour, and then to A major.

All of the fiddlers in that session used metal strings, normally Helicore, precisely because they could cope with that amount of change, and the slight over-tension that comes from e.g. AEAE tuning.

April 12, 2018, 7:29 AM · I just play them really aggressively for 1/2 hour or so and they are ready to go!
April 12, 2018, 10:27 AM · If anything, emphasis on the higher registers would probably lengthen the time needed to stabilize the string, since only an upper fraction of the string will be vibrating. Playing in a lower position will exercise more of the string and hasten its play-in time.
April 12, 2018, 11:31 AM · Tuning new strings up above pitch, especially the high-tension ones (evah, ect) will shorten their useful life. Rubbing them to heat them up will have the same negative effects.

Really, they just need to stretch out and stabilize on the instrument while being played and tuned to pitch.

There used to be a device that was sold via the pages of Strad, ect that had a stop for the end of the string, a peg at the other end, and allowed you to pre-stretch your gut violin strings.

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