Method to prolong string lifespan and regain initial brilliance

December 26, 2018, 7:19 AM · Hi everyone,

Recently I tried loosening the violin strings one by one (not completely),and then tightening them back again. The result was amazing! Previously I was playing with a set of 'dead' evah pirazzis, but after trying this they seemed to miraculously regain their brilliance and power.

Had anyone experienced/tried this before?

Replies (13)

Edited: December 26, 2018, 10:40 AM · I never tried although I heard something to that effect, but how long does it last? I suspect not very long.
December 26, 2018, 10:42 AM · Question: When you tune them back up how stable are they? are they still in tune 10 minutes after that? Or 30 minutes?
Edited: December 26, 2018, 11:15 AM · Don't be cheap. Get new strings.
I've put on older strings occasionally in a pinch--they never sound new.
Edited: December 26, 2018, 3:56 PM · The effect described origins of the wooden parts of the instrument, not of the strings.

As the ribs of each VSO proof: wood under a mechanical load reacts partly by elastic and partly by plastic deformation. For a bowed string instrument with a bridge that transmits part of the load of the strings perpendicular on to the resonating body of the instrument, that means that the instrument will be sagged by that force. This will not happen immediately while tuning up a new set of strings, but depending on the plastic component of the deformation, this takes several days until the force of the string and the counterforce which the instrument must build up by an adequate deformation of it's parts, comes to an equilibrium. By this deformation the distance between table and back becomes smaller so that the force on the sound post increases by and by during that process of deformation.

That mechanism is one reason why it takes usually several days until new strings sound their best. During that time the force on the sound post must reach it's optimal value. If after reaching that point the sound starts to decay, the reason for that can be that the force on the sound post still rises beyond the optimal value. So this decay of sound must not exclusively be an aging effect of the strings.

When you release the string tension, the wooden parts of the instrument can relax and partially regain their former shape. If you tune up the instrument again, the above described process will be repeated.

For the instrument of Joel Hoe the observation of this effect means, that the tension of the strings he uses is too high for the structure of his instrument. He has to look for softer strings, so that the equilibrium between string force and counterforce of the instrument is reached when the force on the sound post is optimal.

December 26, 2018, 9:10 PM · Roger, I'm not sure yet as I have just tried this recently. I'll monitor for a few more weeks to see how long it will take for the sound quality to deteoriate again.

Albretch, tuning stability is surprisingly good. It doesn't take more than 20 mins of playing to regain stability of pitch. Then again, it might be the type of strings themselves. Evah Pirazzis have a short break in time and are very stable.

Scott, I wanted to change strings, but my parents wouldn't allow me to until next April at least. So I have to make do with what I have :(

Jose, thanks for the enlightening (and slightly mindblowing) explanation! The problem, though, is that my violin is rather dark and warm, which necessitates the use of higher tension, brighter strings.

December 26, 2018, 9:11 PM · Interesting theory, Jose. Thanks!
December 26, 2018, 9:23 PM · When I was using gut strings, I could extend the life a little, by first having the knot in the slot, and then later, putting the string through the loop. That puts the wear on different spots.
Edited: December 27, 2018, 6:28 AM · Hi Joel,

sorry to disappoint you, but the contrary of your opinion about strings is true!
The higher tension version of a particular string model has a bigger diameter than the lower tension version of the same string model. The bigger diameter results in a more rigid string. A more rigid string won't easily be bend into the small standing waves with short wavelength which generates the higher harmonics. Furthermore the high string tension causes high restoring forces for a transversal displacement of the string, which also acts against the formation of a lot of small waves with short wavelength along the string. In the consequence the sound of a high tension string is strongly focused around the fundamental tone. The harmonics especially the higher harmoincs are strongly reduced in their amplitude if they are present at all. So a high tension string has a warm, dark sound with (strongly) reduced brilliance and brightness.

If you already have a dark and warm sounding instrument and you want to add some more brightness and brilliance you have to use strings that are more flexible and have a reduced tension. These are able to deliver more higher harmonics with an increased amplitude. That means you have to use strings with a smaller diameter which results in more transversal flexibility and less tension.

So, buy a set of soft strings next time. The outcoming of your above described experiment also points in that direction. You should listen to that what your instrument tells you.

December 27, 2018, 8:07 AM · Wow thanks Jose! Very interesting! Strange that Evahs, which are rather high tension, are known to be brilliant sounding though. Are there any suggestions for a good set of "soft strings"??
Edited: December 27, 2018, 4:00 PM · Hi Joel,

no, not so strange as it looks like at a first glance. You have to keep in mind that knowledge you gain by comparison of two things is relative. So, compared to a string with a nylon core of comparable thickness and the same tension and pitch as a string out of a set of evahs, the string of the evah set has more brilliance and brightness, because the core material of the evahs is more flexible than nylon. But compared to a string with a thinner nylon core that has the same transversal flexibility as the evah string but a lower tension, the evah will be less brilliant and bright.
You see, you mustn't look on one parameter only but keep in mind the influence of all parameters to the sound and behaviour of a string.

For finding a fitting set of strings for your instrument, you shouldn't do an abrupt change from a set with high tension to a set with very low tension. Changing from one extreme to another isn't helpful. Finding the right set of strings with the right tension, the right spectrum of frequences, the right playability is an iterative process done by small steps that takes some time and some sets of strings. (Asking an informed person who knows your instrument (luthier?) may shorten that process in some aspects.)
As a first step you can change to a lower tension version of the string model you used up to now. When you are now playing on Evahs medium tension, then next time you mount Evahs low tension (weich). Same string model, same sound characteristic, same playing style. You can compare directly how the lower tension changes the sound of your instrument. As told above, give your instrument at least one week to adapt to the new tension before you do a judgement. After that you can lower or rise the pitch to see if the sound of your instrument can be improved further and in which direction you have to go with the tension.
When you got the impression that you want to go on changing the tension, you have to switch to other string models. For that you need another concept for choosing a string model. If you are interested just ask. I may help you with that.

Edit:
Oh, I nearly forgot. Switching to a string set with lower tension means that not only your instrument has to adapt to the new situation but also your bowing style. Depending on your versatility with the bow this may need more or less time. So take your time for that and don't forget: less weight on the string, contact point higher to the bridge, slightly more bow speed for a full sound.

December 27, 2018, 2:10 PM · Who told you that you were initially brilliant? Would everyone who's known you over the years agree with that assessment? Seems kind of presumptuous.
December 27, 2018, 2:16 PM · "The higher tension version of a particular string model has a bigger diameter than the lower tension version of the same string model. The bigger diameter results in a more rigid string. A more rigid string won't easily be bend into the small standing waves with short wavelength which generates the higher harmonics."
______________________

Sometimes, but there are many exceptions, like when a string manufacturer incorporates a viscous damping material, or uses a high-mass winding layer, like tungsten (which is even heavier than lead).

Edited: December 27, 2018, 4:27 PM · Yes you are right with that in respect to different string models. But comparing different tension versions of the same string model e.g. Evah Pirazzi stark mittel and weich, my observation is that the kind of used materials keeps the same but the used amount of the materials varies with respect to the tension. Wouldn't it otherwise be difficult to keep the typical characteristics of the particular string model?


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