Reviving dead strings

August 3, 2018, 6:42 PM · A well-known trick for electric bass and guitar is to boil your strings to get all the gunk out. Provided the string isn't completely rusted out (and isn't plain steel, obviously) it immediately brings back the upper harmonics and gets rid of that dead sound. Bass strings can last a decade with this treatment!

Well, maybe not. But it is a huge money saver.

Anyways. I was wondering if anyone has tried this with synthetic core strings, 'cause I have a real nasty Larsen A, a crusty old dominant D and some long-past-their-date Evahs I keep as spares (with my sweat, you never know when a string might pack its bags and run for the border). They sound awful, though. It'd be nice to have spares that at least sound passable in case of emergency.

A fun factoid: if your E string breaks and you're really in a pickle, nylon fishing line works great. By great, of course, I mean it's shrill and horrible and slippery and just bad. But if you're considering using fishing line as a spare string, tone is probably not your first concern.

Replies (5)

August 3, 2018, 10:15 PM · Bury your long-gone cadavers, and keep buying new strings, would be my advice. It's nice to have a few not-so-dead around in case of string breakage, but not worth pondering whether one can re-use dead ones.

(To be fair, I would suggest the same to people washing gunk off their old bass strings-those last almost forever without any washing anyway, given the different construction. The player just has to be OK with the upper register being duller over time-for some players, old, dull strings are subjectively good for bass guitar.)

If money is a concern and you are fine with synthetics, there are a few that are more resistant to sweat. Chrome-wound strings. Indeed the Aricore have a chrome-wound variant, but of course not for the full set.

Frankly, if I was you I would just be fine with the idea of purchasing high quality, affordable strings more often if money is a concern.

Tonica about $30.00, Cantiga about $40.00, the Dominant are actually not a bargain anymore for some years. Don't go super cheap, as in worst of the worse. But there are good strings at a fair price out there.

For steel violin strings, Prims last forever, though I generally only recommend their A, and for a specific use (discussed below). But players who are OK with the whole set are often witness to their absurd longevity.

For pure gut, varnished strings.

For Wound gut, no other option but to keep changing strings when the windings go bad due to sweat (no chrome wound variant that I know of.) Gold Label is a good way to save in this case, because even though not suoer cheap, they are the more affordable of the more common brands.

Another option to save $, buy another Hill or similar fine tuner, one of the more affordable chrome wound steel As, many cheap (but great) Goldbrokats, and two Eudoxa or Gold Label for the G&Ds. The plan is to change the Gs and Ds as needed (whether dead by sweat or regular use), keep changing the Es as needed (Goldbrokats are not a huge expense), and keep the Prim A for a long time, immune to your sweat. The sound balance can possibly be pretty good this way. A so-called Russian setup like this saves a lot of money if you don't change your Prim or other affordable chrome wound steel A (such as Spirocore, etc.)

Sorry I didn't give your initial idea much hope, though. Some violinists may clean their strings, but I will perhaps be a bit more negative and just suggest you keep buying them as they start to die.

August 3, 2018, 10:37 PM · There isn't much you can do to revive the synthetic core strings. You can prolong their life by diligently wiping them down after every session and removing any rosin buildup with a little alcohol, don't get any on the instrument. Also a bit of 0000 steel wool can be used not too aggressively. A set of Pirastro strings should last 4 to 8 month and Infeld 6-12 months with diligent cleaning. If you are looking for decent sounding spares, just change a set a little early and keep those around just in case.
August 4, 2018, 6:55 AM · A plain gut string that has had its day will have a useful after-life in a garden.

"keep buying them as they start to die" - that keeps the economy alive.

August 4, 2018, 8:04 AM · Life is too short for playing with old strings and bad instruments.
Edited: August 4, 2018, 8:47 AM · I learned from my father to keep old strings in my violin case to help out orchestral colleagues when their strings broke (helped myself a few times too). Being a sucker for trying new strings when they were marketed, it seems I was always removing my old strings while they still had some life and I would keep them as those "spares."

I had a lot of unused Dominant sets (I guess I had overbought) that I would sell at my original cost to a friend when she needed new strings. She was quite unusual; European conservatory trained and an excellent violinist and decent pianist, she was a total klutz when it came to mechanical things - even changing strings. When I had slightly used strings I would just gift them to her for free and install them. We performed together, mostly for senior groups for years, so I continued to benefit from those gifted strings.

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