Changing strings

October 13, 2021, 4:47 AM · I'm going to go get some strings soon because one of my strings gave up the ghost, and I figured I might as well replace the others too.

With the exception of the E string, which has a habit of snapping ever so often, I actually haven't changed strings for a long time. And I've never changed more than one at a time.

I'm pretty sure it's not a good idea to change them all in one go, but I'm not entirely sure how long the waiting period should be.

Should it be a day, two days, or... a week? Or should it be however long it takes for the previous string to get 'nice and comfortable'?

By 'nice and comfortable', what I mean is that the string will no longer go out of tune so easily.

If you could cure the ignorance of this amateur violinist, he would be very grateful (and less ignorant).

Replies (25)

Edited: October 13, 2021, 7:06 AM · Change them all in one go every 6 months is probably, albeit simplistic and crude, a rule of thumb that won't lead an amateur far astray.

I haven't broken an E string yet in 3 years. How often do yours break? I'm hoping less often than every 6 months. Otherwise buy a few spare Es and replace them when they break.

When I say "all in one go", I don't mean strip the entire violin of strings: change them in series in order to keep the bridge and soundpost in place.

Watch Youtube videos on how to do it.

October 13, 2021, 6:44 AM · We usually do two one one day, wait a few days, and then do the other two. The only reason for this is so you don't have to be constantly retuning ALL of them at once. But it is a matter of convenience, so if you need to you can change all four the same day. As Gordon said above, only take off one at a time.
Edited: October 13, 2021, 6:59 AM · I change all my strings in one session (unless one breaks unexpectedly) ; one after the other as explained above. The new strings do seem to take a few days to get 'nice and comfortable' but that is not too much of a problem because I have Wittner geared pegs on all my violins.

It does raise the question : How do professionals get on when they have to change a broken string just before performing ? Wouldn't the new string be constantly going out of tune ?

Edited: October 13, 2021, 7:13 AM · Get a 4B pencil or softer, or some artists' graphite, and coat the nut grooves and bridge grooves - the graphite is a dry lubricant.

"How do professionals get on when they have to change a broken string just before performing?"

29:38
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_yxtaeFuEQ

October 13, 2021, 7:25 AM · Thanks for curing my ignorance. I don't know why, but I sort of imagined there would be...unspeakable consequences if the strings were changed in one sitting.

If the only problem is the constant tuning, I guess it's fine, though I personally prefer the method suggested by Susan.

I know I keep saying I'm ignorant, but even I know better than to take off all the strings at once. :(

...

Gordon, there have been about three cases of my E string breaking. And this is over a period of 5 years.

So if I just change all my strings twice a year, I'll be fine.

Thanks for all the helpful advice. :)

Edited: October 13, 2021, 7:40 AM · The last time I changed strings (Dominants), it took a couple of weeks and a change of rosin from dark to light to get them settled. I'd like that settling process to start asap, not after a few days of staggered swapping.

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

Edited: October 13, 2021, 7:48 PM · I change all the strings on a violin at the same time, when I install a new set. If a string breaks I replace it and leave the others alone. However I had gone almost 10 years without having a string break until 2 A strings broke earlier this year (on different violins).

When replacing all my strings I first want to be sure my soundpost is secure. It is safest to replace the strings one at a time, however with a secure soundpost I am able to safely replace the strings on one side of the instrument and then the other side - so I usually loosen the A and E first and install the E before the A, then I loosen the D and G and replace the G before the D.

EDIT: Finally: I should add that I always check my bridge a couple of time while adding new strings to be certain that it remains properly vertical.

I always carry replacement strings in my case and a tweezers to help insert the string in the peg and pull it through. However at home I prefer to use a "Kelly forceps" (or "clamp") - they are cheap at Amazon.

Another tool I have - in my case - to test a soundpost for security before changing more than one string is a scissors-type soundpost tool which I use to try to gently pull the soundpost toward the f-hole to keep it from falling if I want to loosen the 2 strings on each side: a lesson learned from having decades of a loosely-fitted soundpost. (I also have a S-shape soundpost setter - just in case the post falls.)

Edited: October 13, 2021, 8:10 AM · I tend to prefer G then E then D then A, to reduce torsional stress on the top. That's because I'm used to a resonator ukulele, where unbalanced string replacement can fritz the aluminium cone. Not that uke players replace their strings more than once a decade if they can help it, lol!
October 13, 2021, 9:15 AM · Kennedy I think it’s alright to change the strings all at once. Many people do it. You just should make sure to keep the bridge straight. Also be sure to put pencil graphite on the grooves of the bridge and nut. This helps the strings stretch and prevents them from breaking in those areas.
Edited: October 13, 2021, 9:39 AM · I think when these folks say they change the strings "all at once," they mean ONE AT A TIME, on the same day. Taking strings off ALL at the same time risks movement of the bridge and of the soundpost, which you want to avoid...
Edited: October 13, 2021, 10:05 AM · One at a time all within about half an hour or less.
October 13, 2021, 10:35 AM · Right!
Edited: October 13, 2021, 12:34 PM · I change strings one at a time, but not on the same day. They don't wear out at the same rate. My Goldbrokat E rusts rather quickly. The gut- core silver wrapped G lasts a long time. The aluminum wrapping on the A or D can wear or separate early. Any string can break or wear wherever there is a sharp edge; the peg-hole, the nut, the bridge, tailpiece hole or the metal fine- tuner. The E can also break if you attack a high position note with the bow-hair too far from the bridge. I had a stand partner that did that a lot. I also have a set of half- used strings in the case for emergency use. They don't need to stretch out or break-in.
Edited: October 13, 2021, 12:42 PM · Yes to clarify, Erin is right. Take the strings off one at a time - unless you’re Mr. Paganini or Mr. Fodor and want to play the Moses Variations. :) I can change a set of strings in about 10-20 minutes, by putting on and taking off strings one at a time.
October 13, 2021, 2:14 PM · Kennedy, high-level professionals almost never have a string break during a performance, unless this is purposefully done to add drama.

Strings tend to deteriorate in sound properties well before they break, so that's why most high-level professionals replace them well before they break.

Ideally, I would suggest changing one string at a time, leaving at least 24 hours between changing each string. That way, the bridge won't pull forward as much as when they are changed all at once.

Edited: October 13, 2021, 6:48 PM · For me the changing of the strings is a zen-like experience because I like to get the windings just so on my pegs. It's a bit silly but it's just something I enjoy. So I turn on the TV (not very zen-like, I know) and I take my time, working with my pencil and my Kelly clamp (seconding Andy Victor), one by one, until they are done. And of course one of the downsides of having gear pegs (as Andy also has) is that changing strings does take a little longer.
October 14, 2021, 6:53 AM · My teacher (geared pegs on her viola) had never seen a guitar string winder until I bought her one.
October 14, 2021, 8:13 AM · I remember at one stage I'd had the same strings on my violin for about two years, and was given a telling off by my teacher as they were no longer true and had gone dull. All strings go "dull" (I think that's the best description) after a period. I change the whole set - one at a time as others have said - at the same time. Currently using Warchal Amber with a Russian 'A' because they seem to suit my violin.
Professionally, the only string I've ever seen break suddenly is an 'E'. I always carry one in my pocket. Luckily, I've never needed to use it.
October 14, 2021, 10:53 AM · You might like some of the tips in this video by Olaf the violin maker about how to put tension properly on strings.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPY0JWR_f0Q&t=191s

October 14, 2021, 12:42 PM · When changing all strings in one sitting there is one thing to keep attention on: New strings need to be tuned up, never down for the first few days. This will make the bridge lean towards the fingerboard. Make sure you upright it as needed.

BTW there are a number of tricks professionals can use to avoid having to perform on an brand new string. The most effective is to have a second instrument ready to "take over". Most professionals own more than one violin.

I remember a concert where the violinst's E string broke early on in the scherzo of Mendelssohn's d-minor trio. He played the rest of the movement on three strings (near perfectly I must add). Then he went back stage and returned immediately with a 4-stringed violin for the last movement.

October 14, 2021, 4:59 PM · If you have a two violins in a double case, one can get stolen during a rehearsal or concert.
October 14, 2021, 5:06 PM · David,
quick question for you. When I change a string , after there is a slight tension on it I use my fingers to slightly raise both bridge sides of the string so that when I turn the peg the tension seems to distribute more evenly rather than dragging the string directly on the bridge to the correct tension. Is this useful or just a waste of time I picked up somewhere?
Cheers,
Buri
October 14, 2021, 6:53 PM · I honestly change A D G E in quick succession-not as a sort of hard and fast rule; just what *I* am used to-with proper measures taken (graphite, watching bridge angle, etc.) My bridge moves a bit over time, but not really much. Even with gut (or especially considering gut) they will likely not adjust in a day, so may as well have them all lose their tune simultaneously than having to wait for each to fully stabilize. If you practice normally, it won't take long for most strings to stabilize regardless, and with properly working pegs, it is fine (just retune!) I isially eager ro get a quick taste of the fresh set/string combination being used-waiting would ruin the mood.

But whatever works for you all, to be honest. The only obvious no-no is taking all of them off, as stated above several times.

October 14, 2021, 9:42 PM · Gordon, the Wittner Finetune pegs have an available winder. I have one but I don't really need it at home. It's probably good to have in your case if you snap a string during a performance.
October 15, 2021, 4:53 AM · I have a Wittner grinder too.
I believe i've used it no more than 2 times.......


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