Tips for Putting on New Strings?

June 3, 2019, 1:24 PM · Any tips for putting on new violin strings? For example, how tightly should I wind the string around the peg? How do you do it, in detail please. Please include every detail and tips. Thanks!

Replies (8)

June 3, 2019, 2:00 PM · The string will get the proper tension just by the winding itself. There are many youtube videos that explain how to do this better than most people on this board can.

One tip is to make sure the ball sits snugly in the tailpiece, and also that, when winding strings, you don't cross the string over itself in the scroll.

Other than that, it's fairly straightforward. Change only 1 string at a time. Insert the ball end into the tailpiece, and make sure the ball is fit snug into the tailpiece. There will be a hole in the peg, so you insert the other end of the string into that hole until it just barely peaks out the other end, then start winding until it hits pitch.

New strings will take a few days to stretch out and settle, so you will have to retune frequently. Even within the course of a practice session.

Edited: June 3, 2019, 2:26 PM · I stick the end through about an inch. Then I wind once around alongside the hole opposite the peg head. This cause the string to overlap once, which helps bind it there. Then I cross over to the other side of the protruding string end, and wind as closely as possible toward the peg head without any more crossings. I use the end of a pencil or a chin-rest tool to push and align my windings so that that they're tightly arrayed on the peg. All the while I've got the ball in the tail piece (I have gear pegs so I don't have fine tuners at all), and then I just start winding, applying tension with my other hand at first, and eventually when the string finds the grooves in the nut and bridge, it'll all tighten up quite naturally. The tension of the string usually ensures that the tension around the peg is adequate, but with gear pegs the tightening is so smooth and gradual that you can have tension gaps around the peg if you do not wind it carefully. This can cause a few apparent "slips" in the first few days of playing -- but the peg is not slipping, rather the winding of the string around the peg is slipping. Careful initial winding obviates that though. If you share your email address in your profile, I can email you a photo of my pegbox later this evening.

Installing my strings that carefully takes me about an hour. It's harder to do with gear pegs -- this is the one main disadvantage of having gear pegs. But also it takes me a long time because I really enjoy doing it super carefully. Kind of a Zen-like experience (except for the fact that I am usually watching some kind of rubbish on TV at the same time and possibly swilling down a couple of beers as well). The "slipping" affair that I described has only happened to me one time, and it was when my luthier put the strings on (onto my viola), not me. He was not willing to spend nearly as long putting on my strings but I was perfectly happy to do it over because I enjoy it.

Edited: June 3, 2019, 10:36 PM · Make sure you leave a little bit of the string poking out of the peg, and watch that the other end goes securely into the tailpiece - can use a pencil for this.

If you're a beginner I'd start by changing one string per day (so 4 days total) as things tend to get a little hectic with the tuning otherwise.

Edited: June 4, 2019, 6:53 AM · I do two windings away from the head of the peg, then reverse direction and run the string over the two windings and close towards the pegbox wall, you need to run the string over a couple windings to stop the string from unraveling, just winding without going over the top the strings will pull loose under tension, especially if the peg slips a bit.
June 5, 2019, 2:21 PM · I'm with everyone above. Careful that your bridge is kept standing upright. I apply peg dope (hill) and also lube the nut and bridge (4 B pencil) and clean the fingerboard.
June 5, 2019, 3:11 PM · I'll add one piece of equipment to the process: needle nose tweezers to get the string through the hole in the peg. My old fingers and getting a short part of the string into the hole is made a whole lot easier. Also, as I tune, and often do field repairs on student's fractional instruments, the tweezers are essential.
June 5, 2019, 3:44 PM · I use a "surgical clamp" ("hemostat") instead of tweezers to pull the string through the hole in the peg (easier than with tweezers). I try to pull about one centimeter of string through the hole and leave that poking through. Then I wind about 2 turns of string on the opposite side of the "poker" from the peg head. Then I wind string over the "poker" so it lies flat and I make as smooth a spiral of the string as I can up to the pegbox wall.

I remove 2 old strings at a time to make it easier to install. I generally install new strings in this order: 1-2-4-3 (E-A-G-D on violin) so that I do not have to wind any string under another. I follow the same order on viola and cello.

As I loosen the A and E string I simultaneously check the soundpost to be sure it does not loosen. If it were to loosen I would pull it toward the edge of the fiddle a bit. But I have owned my instruments for 20 to 65 years, so I know them pretty well. But with "climate change" you never can be too sure!

June 5, 2019, 8:42 PM · Having done only one winding on the "opposite side" forever, I will note that last time I considered doing the two windings (as Lyndon suggests) and next time I think I'll try that. Usually I'm getting pretty close to the pegbox wall anyway so having another winding on the "other side" will help with that. I think that could be because of the narrower shaft of the gear peg -- not sure on this point but if so then one needs more windings to take up the same length of string.


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