Changing Strings

Edited: November 10, 2020, 6:34 PM · I read online in multiple places that you should change strings after a few months. I went to my local music shop and the luthier there said that strings don't need to be changed for two years or more and refused to change them. I've had my violin for about ten months and I practice every day for multiple hours. I don't know how to change strings and I would like a professional to show me how. What should I do?

Replies (15)

Edited: November 10, 2020, 7:53 PM · A few months seems too short a time for a string change but two years is probably letting it go a bit. What brand of strings are on the violin now ? There are numerous youtube videos on how to change strings but I will give one piece of advice : only change one string at a time to avoid the sound post falling over.
November 10, 2020, 8:40 PM · It depends on how much you play. For most brands, expect to change your strings after about 150 hours of playing time.

In general, don't take advice from music stores -- even if there are luthiers in house, they are usually guitar luthiers who may occasionally work on a violin. Go to a specialized violin shop if possible.

Edited: November 13, 2020, 8:44 AM · I usually do not change strings until I grow dissatisfied with the ones on the instrument I am playing. This may actually be a short time after I have installed the strings if I made a bad choice on my last purchase - or they may remain on for a very long time if I am still satisfied. I have 4 violins so I can inter-compare them to decide if the one I am playing most is loosing its "ranking" compared to another one.

I think this SHAR video about installing strings is a pretty good one to follow:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AM0p1LNmIUU

It is brief and wastes no time on the BS that so many non-professional ones do.

Personally I prefer to replace the strings one at a time (so as not to loosen the soundpost) in this order E-A-G-D. The reason for this order is to minimize blocking of the pegs closest to the nut by overriding new strings. I have also found I can actually loosen the A string at the same time as the E string and the D at the same time as the G without the soundpost falling - but you have to be careful in case your soundpost is too loose and being held in place by the pressure of the bridge.

With COVID I do not play with groups of people 6 to 8 times a month as I once did, but I do try to practice daily - just don't practice as much as previously (I'm old!).

November 10, 2020, 9:31 PM · You need to visit a violin shop or luthier who is properly trained in violin work. The term “luthier” is a bit of an umbrella term. Music stores have begun using the term more in order to make their staff seem more proficient.

If you play about an hour a day, change strings about every six months. If you play a lot and/or with a heavy arm, you’ll need to change strings sooner; if you play lightly or less often, you may get more life out of your strings. If you can’t decide whether to change strings yet, an experienced violin repairer will be able to tell you if you should at a glance.

November 11, 2020, 6:24 AM · I had a set of Dominants that started unravelling at 13 months.
I've made a mental note to replace strings after 12 months even if they look perfect. That mental note will change when I get more orchestral play next year. 10 months isn't so bad. 2 years seems insane.
November 11, 2020, 8:28 AM · Kids around here learn to change a string from their teachers.
November 11, 2020, 8:53 AM · I would argue that after 3 months of very regular use, strings tend to go relatively "bad"/non responsive. With good rosin you can extend it, but they obviously do not sound as good. 3-4 months at minimum for synthetics, as far as I am concerned (6 months maximum... I really tend to change them whenever they start sounding a bit off.)

Gut strings are an exception, as they retain their wonderful sound for *quite a bit* longer. The windings are likely to fail before the core itself does (which means wound gut Gs do last for a very long time). Unwound gut also lasts for a long while, save plain gut Es.

(Ideally, for heavily used synthetic strings, one would do well to change them monthly or so, but that is not a practical solution for most of us. Would be nice, but definitely not essential, and too expensive.)

November 11, 2020, 1:05 PM · Depends on how much you like the sound of new strings, what repertoire you're playing and how much disposable income you have, but a luthier refusing to change strings sounds pretty suspect.

10 months isn't a completely unreasonable amount of time to have strings installed, but if you have a decent violin and $50 I think you would see a pleasant change in the sound by installing a set of Dominants and your choice of E string.

Overtension strings such a Evah Pirazzi and Thomastik PI will not last as long and become hard to play after just a few months.
Provided you take proper care of them and aren't a particularly sweaty player, gut strings will have the most flexibility and best feel, but are probably not worth the hassle for a beginner.

November 11, 2020, 1:28 PM · Evahs would be dead or on the downhill side after 3 months, probably not the case with Dominants. 2 years is excessive unless you care nothing about tone or are so poor that you can not afford strings.

Change the strings now and notice the difference in tone and volume. If it is a great difference, then you needed strings. If it sounds the same or not much of a change, to your ear, then you could have waited longer.

Don't neglect the bow. 2 years between rehairs...

November 11, 2020, 2:19 PM · To provide a different perspective, IMO you do not need to change strings unless you are dissatisfied with the sound of the older strings. This could mean not changing strings for 2 years for some, and that's ok.

As you do not know how to change stings I assume you are relatively new to the violin? If that's the case, you may not be able to notice much difference between an older set of strings and a brand new set. A brand new set of strings does improve the sound, but it might not be worth the expense if you barely notice the difference.

Ultimately it depends on your personal sound requirements and your finances. I don't think you should feel any pressure to change strings frequently because others do it that way. Professionals change strings every three months because they absolutely need to sound their best and are willing to pay the expense.

Edited: November 12, 2020, 3:27 PM · Some tips -

1. Always carry a pair of tweezers in your violin case. Invaluable for inserting an A string into a string hole in a black peg in the remote and almost inaccessible dark recesses of the peg box, especially if your fingers are thick, as mine are (a lifetime of playing the cello!).

2. Make sure you have good lighting when you're doing a string change - more relaxing.

3. Always inspect a steel string first. If it has a kink in it, which is possible for example if it's a used E that hasn't been stored carefully, don't use it! Bin it! Such a kink is a major structural weakness which will likely propagate and break the string when under tension.

November 12, 2020, 11:08 PM · If you're practicing several hours a day, you need to rehair the bow every six months and change strings every three months or so, in order to get good quality out of your violin. Modern strings usually deteriorate gradually so you might not realize how much the strings have worn out since they'll still function for quite a while.
Edited: November 13, 2020, 4:55 AM · As to how to change strings, Sophie, there's always plenty on Youtube.
Nothing wrong with Fiddlerman: -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZybayew6VI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_JzljNrJbQ

(the long video is a bit chaotic, but at least you can see how he manhandles the instrument, and it contains some info lacking in the short video)

I always use a 4B pencil on the bridge and the nut to lubricate them. Also, I usually tune all strings a semitone flat then leave them for a day to stabilise before tuning them up to pitch. That's out of fear, lol! Clearly Pierre doesn't have any. Also, I can't afford to have a string snap when I'm installing it.

November 13, 2020, 8:05 AM · 2 years? practicing every day?
No way...

Professional violinists normally change strings between 2-5 times a year. There's no rule here, it all depends on the usage you give them. Some strings might break after a few months, others will after a year or even way more. The point here is to change them when you feel they have got considerably worse, like rusty or vibrating sometimes weird. Nevertheless, since there's no fretboard here, just plain dense wood, you will not damage your violin at all if you keep using the strings forever. So... really, this is one thing you can totally do on your own: keep 'em 3 months, 6 months, a year, a year and a half... as long a you are satisfied with them, there's no reason to change them at all.

November 13, 2020, 8:05 AM · 2 years? practicing every day?
No way...

Professional violinists normally change strings between 2-5 times a year. There's no rule here, it all depends on the usage you give them. Some strings might break after a few months, others will after a year or even way more. The point here is to change them when you feel they have got considerably worse, like rusty or vibrating sometimes weird. Nevertheless, since there's no fretboard here, just plain dense wood, you will not damage your violin at all if you keep using the strings forever. So... really, this is one thing you can totally do on your own: keep 'em 3 months, 6 months, a year, a year and a half... as long a you are satisfied with them, there's no reason to change them at all.


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