When do you change your strings?
Being halfway through a BMus I'm somewhat embarrassed to be asking this question, but anyway:
When exactly are you supposed to change your strings if there's no visible wear & tear?
What are the signs to look out for?
Until now I've just been changing them before a big performance, which is every 1-2 months, so there haven't been any issues & I've never felt the need to ask my teacher. But it would be nice to actually know when it's necessary.
Worn strings will produce a dull sound, will lack brilliancy. It depends a bit on how many hours you play everyday.
I am impressed by maestro's budget: that is roughly $5,200 per annum spent on strings only.
Every week seems excessive, even if someone's playing 12 hours a day!
Many top players receive free strings from manufacturers. He was the concertmaster of the NY Philharmonic...
still... if not on his wallet, the impact on environment is huge.
I've always wondered... why exactly do worn strings produce a dull sound, compared to new? And which component of the string becomes worn?
I change mine when I have money...which is never.
I change strings when my instrument(s) sound sub-normal to me. I also sometimes change them to try a new string brand or combination.
We use EP green ($42 per set for fractional sizes) and after 2 weeks, the “sparkle” is gone so if we go by that, we’d be changing every 2 weeks.
I usually wait until my e string starts going false since it is the first to go. By then the other strings have lost their luster. I can’t afford to put new strings on every time they lose their initial brilliance.
Wound strings go dull because the oils from your hand seep into the winding and the core and cause all sorts of trouble. The winding also moves along the string, causing it to eventually go false.
one changes strings upon an exciting new review on violinist dot com promising to make your average fiddle sound like a Strad!
Exactly my issue: I notice the 'sparkle' has gone after a couple of weeks, but can't afford (or be bothered) to change them this often.
As a viola maker, I get very sad whenever I see one of my violas with worn out strings, or cheap strings. That's because I invested a lot of energy to make the instrument (and the player made an effort to get it) and, eventually, it is not sounding in its full capacity due the the bad strings.
Cotton: so for plain gut strings does the seeping oil also affect them?
I change E strings at least twice as often as the rest. It is the first to go, and there is nothing for the "oils" so seep into....
The E strings corrode, obviously. I have a stainless E and it's still in perfect condition after a month of heavy use, whereas all my plain steel Es would be black by now.
Change intervals will vary, depending on the player -- and the strings being played. I play on three fiddles -- 45-60 minutes a day on each instrument -- for 2-1/2 to 3 hours per day. At this rate, a set of strings will give me good results for about 5 months -- sometimes a little longer.
I'm not entirely convinced that natural oils on the skin are a major factor in strings losing their tone. It is much more likely in my view that the interfaces between the multiple layers of a synthetic core string are breaking down due to no more than the action of the bow during playing (the better the player the more vigorous the playing), ruining the vibration characteristics of the string and hence the tone. Sadly, it seems that the more expensive, and presumably the more hi-tech, the string the more likely it is that the interfaces will wear out that much quicker. Strings without internal interfaces to break down are a different matter - they are either plain gut or plain metal.
Oils and dead skin get lodged in the windings. If you've ever boiled electric bass strings... Well, you'd have to throw that pot away. It would never be safe for food again.
Kate - my luthier's rule of thumb is every 120 hours. I follow it pretty carefully (for me that means twice per year) and have never had a problem. I use Obligatos which are synthetic. I suppose there might be a different rule of thumb for gut or steel.
All-- If you are replacing expensive strings that often, from your heavy practice, rehearsal, and performance schedule, maybe have another practice violin with ordinary strings, and save your good violin for last rehearsals and performances. Some of that wear can be from ordinary friction; having the finger hard down on the wood while shifting, instead of being light.
But Joel, if we believe in the concept of "playing in" a violin (which obviously not all of us do), then shouldn't it sound best if played regularly? And even if we don't believe in it, then it should still be arguably better if one performed on a violin he or she knew from endless practice sessions and has internalized how it reacts specifically?
I am changing my strings around 6 months, so I use two sets for a year, E string needs replacement soon. Sometimes I bought a "piece" E and replace it in the half of the lifespan of the set of strings.
I replace my strings twice a year. I probably get between 150 and 180 hours out of a set of strings, and when I replace them they're a little bit dull but still serviceable as backup strings.
Luis, I agree with that principle, however changing strings every week or two weeks seems excessive.
I switched to Dominants some time ago. They tend to last almost forever. However, there is a point where they simply will not hold their pitch and it is very obvious. That is when I change them. I used to have gut core wound strings (Eudoxa's) and they would usually last about six months +/- a week or so.
I found the same with Dominants. Unfortunately they don't sound good on my violin. Would love to be able to use them.
IF I am having problems in producing a sound I used to be able to make.
Thanks, Carlos - those sound like some good guidelines for me too.
Yes, that serves well for a rule of thumb.
Now we change them when it noticeably becomes harder to tear a strong sound out of it, maybe after 5-6 months. Although my wife prefers the old strings - she still dreams of our flat as a quiet place! :-)
I'll change mine (for the first time) when my teacher tells me to. It will be interesting to see when that happens!
This is such a good thread
Most sweat is slightly acidic, I think, which is bad for the metals.
Warchal has on its webpage experimentation about cleaning with alcohol and other methods, and he concludes that it is bad for the strings.
I must add that I do clean the rosin residue of the strings once a day with dry cloth but it alone just doesnt help, the string just goes dull very fast. After I started cleaning with alcohol also the part of the string which is touched by fingers, the sound of the string improved a lot. It must be our oily hands, sweat and oily skin.
To clean strings, I use a cork from a wine bottle. Works well and does not have any downsides.
I use a dry cloth over the whole length of the strings every time I'm done with practicing, and during longer practice sessions when taking a break after maybe 90 minutes. When I rosin my bow I eventually wipe them even after a few minutes of playing in. (I do not rosin too much, and since I own a daytime job, I'm usually fine rosining twice a week.) I cannot refer specifically to Evah Pirazzi strings (which are btw also a brand from the Pirastro company, like the Tonica) but I clean the strings (usually either Vision solo, Vision titanium solo, Obligato or Dominant) maybe once a month with purified alcohol. After this treatment their sound and response improve significantly, so I honestly do not care at all if this shortens their life span or not. My violin usually feels like a sports car - only a little tip with the toe and it goes from 0 to 100 within seconds. And it's quite irritating when this feeling vanishes.
Here is a great article on string cleaning from Bohdan Warchal or Warchal Strings:
Exactly. And only if the strings go dull despite wiping, and you start dreaming of a new set, then give alcohol a try.
Cork is one of the worse ways to clean your strings. It damages the surface via friction and fills the winding with little cork bits you can't see.
Thanks. It is difficult with oily hands, which sweat.
Meanwhile on another string thread, Cajun fiddling and ensemble chamber work are being conflated. I've seen all this among uke players and guitarists - strings are a great receptacle for transferred neurosis.
Before my strings are changed, when the sound degrades, I am able to hold them for around 2 - 4 weeks using alcohol cleaning method. But it is only last chance to let it longer.
I usually change mine at the 3-4 month mark (sometimes longer than 4 months), typically following Carlos's first point about not being able to draw a sound that I am normally able to. If a heavy practice period (for me 1.5-2hrs a day is a lot!) then every 3 months, if a light practice period (45mins) is interspersed with standard practice periods (60-75mins) - then every 4-5 months depending on what is going on with my life. I wish I had the time to practice 2hrs a day, sigh.
I have had an Eudoxa "Stiff" G & D since early May, and they sound so good I feel it's a crime to change them right now. The synthetic Aricore-Eudoxa that I installed at the same date "expired" some months ago, though it was a good match. Right now I have those "old" Eudoxa G&D, a two month or so pure gut Tricolore A, and a new medium Hill replacing a EP Platinum "Weich" E. I have a set of Oliv and Platinum E ready, waiting for months, that I planned to install way before this time, but since these strings still work so well, I feel it would be a shame to give up on them this "early."
Adalberto, although my experience with gut strings is limited to Eudoxa medium and stiff, I totally agree with you. They definitely last way longer than any synthetics I've ever tried, at least the G and D (not sure about the A).
When my strings get lose their tone over time, it eventually leads to a mismatch in my mixed set. I normally use Vision C/G/D and Larsen A strings on my viola. For the first 4-5 months, they match extremely well. After that, the synthetic strings start to get duller, and around the 6-month mark, the difference in brightness between the D and A strings becomes noticeable enough that I start to avoid crossing between D and A strings in lyrical passages. That's my cue to change strings. At that point, the strings are still serviceable as emergency backups to keep in my case, but I'd rather not keep them on my viola.
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