One reason that parents often encourage their children to learn to play an instrument is that it provides a great opportunity to learn about responsibility. Owning a violin is a big responsibility, especially for children who are just starting to learn to play. There’s a lot to know about the proper care and maintenance of a violin, a topic we’ve recently discussed.
Certainly, knowing how to handle, store, and clean your violin are all crucial aspects of keeping the instrument in the best shape possible. On top of all of this, if you want to ensure that your violin can produce the best sound, you also have to change the strings. Changing violin strings can be challenging for parents and students who have never done it before, which is why we thought it’d be helpful to put together this guide.
If you’ve never attempted to change the strings on a violin before, the first thing you should do is to consult with your child’s music teacher or other professional. An added benefit to starting the process with a professional is that they’ll be able to highlight any potential problems with your violin. If you’ve purchased a new violin, it’s unlikely that there will be many structural problems. If, on the other hand, your child is renting a violin or owns a used violin, it’s helpful to know if there are any structural issues which can affect the instrument’s sound.
When Should I Change My Violin’s Strings?
The first question that many people ask when they’re thinking about changing a violin’s strings is “when should I change the strings?” This is a good question. Obviously, you should always replace a string when it breaks. Broken strings are common, especially for those who are new to an instrument. The other time you should definitely change your strings is when the instrument doesn’t sound right, regardless of how carefully you tune it. Finally, if you’re going to be performing with your instrument, you should be sure to change your strings ahead of time.
By this, we don’t mean right before the performance. Because new strings tend to stretch, it’s good to change the strings and play them a little before the performance. It may not be necessary to change the strings every time you perform, especially if you start to perform often, but the risk of an old string breaking during a performance should always be taken into consideration. Because it’s difficult for those new to the violin to detect when the sound is “off,” it’s good to consult with a music teacher who can tell you for sure if it’s time.
How Should I Change My Violin’s Strings?
The second question, naturally, is “how do I change my violin strings?” Here are several steps you can follow:
- Remove the old string – It’s good to remove and replace the old strings one at a time. If you take all the strings off at once, you risk having the soundpost or fingerboard collapse. Twist the tuning peg on the old string to loosen it. Then, pull the string out of the hole in the tuning peg. Unhook the other end of the string, and remove it.
- Lubricate the tuning peg, nut, and bridge – To lubricate the tuning peg, you can use a special compound or simply a layer of blackboard chalk followed by a layer of unscented bar soap. To lubricate the nut and bridge, use a sharp pencil on the bridge and nut where the string makes contact. Lubricating the bridge allows the string to pass over the nut and bridge as it is tuned.
- Install the new string – You’ll want to take the ball-less end of the string and insert it into the hole in the tuning peg, pushing it all the way through. You want to make sure about 2 centimeters stick out the other side. Bend this end back so that the string is secure in the hole. After, place the ball end into the hole in the tailpiece of the fine tuner.
- Ensure that the string is in the right place – The new string should fit into the proper notches in the bridge and the nut before tightening with the tuning peg.
- Don’t overtighten – overtightening the strings could damage the bridge of the instrument. Make sure pull the bridge toward the tailpiece when it leans towards the fingerboard. Because you don’t want to put too much stress on the bridge, you should wait a while before changing more strings.
- Tune the new strings – Once you have the new strings installed, you’ll want to tune them.
- Stretch the new strings – Once all the new strings are tuned, you should stretch them. After, you’ll have to retune them. Continue to repeat this process until the strings will not stretch anymore. The reason to stretch the strings is that they will go out of tune much more quickly as they naturally expand over time.
- Test the new strings – The final step is to play the instrument with the new strings. If you replaced them because they’d simply gotten old, you should notice a drastic improvement in sound. If you just replaced a broken string, your instrument will be back in working order and ready for play.
What if My Violin is in Bad Shape?
If the above process is proving difficult for you, something may be wrong with the instrument. Warped pegs, warped peg boxes, incorrectly sized peg holes (either too big or too small), or peg holes in the wrong place can all make the process of replacing strings too difficult. If you run into this problem, you should take the instrument into a qualified repair technician right away. Do not attempt to repair these kinds of problems on your own, as it’s very easy to damage a violin beyond a professional’s ability to repair it.
As you can see, changing the strings on a violin is a relatively straightforward process. Still, it’s important to approach the task with a high level of care. Violins are delicate instruments, and any repairs or replacements made on them risk causing expensive damage. If your child is learning to play, depending on her or his age, it’s good to gradually teach them to perform this task rather than to expect them to be able to do it right away. For all your violin questions, be sure to head over to Music & Arts.