Uncoiled A string
My daughter is in Suzuki book 5 (for reference concerning the amount of shifting). Her A strings normally only last two to three months before they become unraveled at third position. The string had never broke, just becomes unraveled. She practices a little over an hour a day and has short fingernails, and has a full-size violin. She uses Dominant or Vision strings. I believe it must have to do with the way she is shifting. Any ideas? Thanks
Are you buying your strings from a reputable supplier? I ask because there ARE counterfeit strings out there, especially for the most famous brands like Dominant.
I would guess that it starts at the spot for 1st finger in third position- D. That is common. Beginners tend to bear down when they start shifting, starting with the 1st finger. Later they will learn to release the pressure or switch fingers while shifting. Aluminum is a soft metal, wears and breaks easily, starting with the A string. Possible temporary fix, if you can stand the sound; - all steel A string.
Another reason might be that your daughter’s sweat is very acidic. Most A strings including the dominant and vision a strings are wound with aluminum. Aluminum wound strings are really susceptible to sweat and can wear down prematurely due to acidic sweat. People who sweat a lot or have acidic sweat (different people have different levels of acidity in their sweat) often use either steel core A strings or Synthetic A strings wound in chrome.
My sweat rusts through carriage bolts and I don't think I've ever had a synthetic string come apart in the middle. That is, without significant abuse—repeated detuning and retuning, restringing on different violins, knicking the windings with something sharp, etc. Plenty have come apart at the nut, though. Aluminium windings are the most likely to break, especially on thin strings.
All of the suggestions above are logical. Also, might there be a low spot on the fingerboard near there, I don't mean an obvious one that can be felt but an imperfection in the fingerboard scoop.
I go through an A-string about every two months, and that's just practicing an hour or two each day.
Thanks to all! What wonderful information! Thank you all for taking the time to reply. We live in Cambodia and my daughter eats a lot of spicy food, too. And sweats a lot because of the heat and humidity ??. Glad to know she is not the only one with these problems.
Eating spicy food won't change the composition of perspiration.
Just meant that the spicy food makes you sweat more:-)
It's only 8 AM here but a steaming bowl of spicy Cambodian food sounds great right now.
I'm not sure how old your daughter is, but around age 12 my son started having a ton more acid in his sweat...to the point that his violin maker ends up adding varnish to where his left hand hits the violin body every single year. I've been told this is typical of kids going through puberty. It very well could be as simple as acidic sweat! We haven't had the same issue with strings, but my son plays about 4 hours a day and so his strings wear out around every 3 months no matter what.
Susan Agrawal - she’s 13 and this is a recent problem, so makes sense that it could be as you suggested.
As a chemist (admittedly one with "less than zero" knowledge of biology and biochemistry), I'd like to suggest that the chemical composition of "acidic sweat" might vary tremendously between individuals because of the number of different species that are present in a bodily fluid. The tendency of a metal to dissolve (or corrode) in contact with an "acidic" solution depends not only on the "acidity" (pH) of the solution but often on the presence of other components that tend to stabilize and sequester the metal ions formed in the corrosion process. So this is definitely a situation where multiple viewpoints and a diversity of experiences could be quite helpful.
Acidity of perspiration does not vary much. Neither does tonicity. It's hypotonic to plasma. So the issue might be not wiping off the strings where the fingers lie and only wiping off the rosin.
Stop using dominants.
Marty, I happen to think that Dominants are pretty darned good strings. While not the ultimate ideal for each and every instrument, they are pretty darned good for most.
I have noticed that Dominant Al windings are soft enough that I get Al deposits on the fingertips. But they don't appear if I first wash my hands before playing. And when my hands really begin to perspire I stop and rinse them and dry them.
Ann, might you and I be kin-folk? I wash my hands every time I return from the liquor store, and also when I return from "the house of ill repute". ;-)
Oh David, you are too funny (as they say around here, to me there's no such thing as too funny). I've had people wash their hands after touching me, a normal precaution.
I just wouldn’t repeatedly purchase strings if there a long history of unwinding. I’ve used plenty of good, inexpensive strings that don’t unwind.
With COVID around I have been washing my hands whenever I have touched anything outside the house (except MY steering wheel). And we have hand sanitizer in the car (and I carry a tiny one in my pocket).
There's always going to be one string that goes first, and on most violin sets it is the A because as the pitch goes up the wrap gets thinner. The last string with a wrap, thus the thinnest wrap, is the A. If you can live with the sound of strings with steel wraps, then they will last longer, but most of the higher quality strings have aluminum wrap on the A. Probably some brand has titanium wraps, but I don't know which.
I think D'Addario makes a titanium violin A
I know Thomastik has a couple steel A options like in their Rondo and dominant pro sets although I've never tried them. I think Perpetual by Pirastro has a steel A option too.
What about plain gut strings? My continued experience over the years of plain gut A and D, together with a wound gut G, is that they last, and last, and last, while still retaining their tone and stability. Can't say that for the plain gut E, unfortunately. In the case of the gut E, we're probably looking at a practical playing life of 8-10 weeks before fraying becomes too much of an irritation - but I must say I've never had one break when playing or tuning. For general orchestral playing, I now use a plain steel E such as Goldbrokat - inexpensive but good.
Whether this is caused by sweat I have no idea, but many guitarists use rubbing alcohol like Isocol (here in Australia) to clean their hands before playing. Seems to help preserve strings.
I suspect that treating your hands with alcohol before playing has a drying effect in addition to extracting some oils from the surface of your skin. Perhaps this allows more freedom of movement of the hand along the neck of the guitar.