Orchestral string instruments require a good amount of care and maintenance. If you’re interested in playing the violin, viola, cello, or bass in an orchestra, it’s incredibly important that you take proper care of your instrument. Knowing how and when it’s time to replace your strings can be difficult, especially for beginners. However, if you pay attention and take the proper care, you should be able to get many, many years from your instrument. Whether you’re brand new to the instrument or simply haven’t picked it up in years, this guide is designed to help you know when (and how) to replace your orchestral strings.
Proper Care and Maintenance
Taking proper care of your instrument is one of the first things every musical student learns. To avoid having to replace your strings more often than is necessary, there are a few important things you can do. The most effective ways of preventing unnecessary wear-and-tear on a stringed instrument is to avoid over-tuning and being sure to gently clean of the instrument before putting it away in its case. Although these practices will help to maintain your instrument, it will still be necessary to replace your strings.
If you want to take the best possible care of your instrument and avoid having to pay for costly repairs out of pocket, there are certain things you must take care to avoid. The first thing you should avoid is extreme temperatures. Make sure never to expose your instrument to temperatures that are either too hot or too cold. Stringed instruments are especially sensitive to temperature and humidity, and exposure to these conditions can cause a great deal of damage that can be expensive to repair. If you want to avoid surface damage, severe cracks, or warping, be sure never to leave your instrument in extreme temperature conditions such as a hot car or an exceptionally dry room. If you live in an exceptionally dry climate, there are plenty of humidifiers available for orchestral strings.
The second thing you should avoid as an orchestral string instrument player is the incidental damage that can occur by leaving your instrument unprotected. Always be sure to keep your instrument in its case, safely out of the reach of potential damage. These instruments are sensitive in nature, and the last thing you need is somebody accidentally bumping it or stepping on your bow. Keeping your instrument in its case is a simple but important way to make sure it’s protected. Extreme temperatures and incidental damage will cause you to need to replace your strings or even need to get costly repairs more often, so an awareness of these factors not only protects the instrument, it’ll save you time and money.
Replacing Your Orchestral Strings
If you wait until your strings break to replace them, you’re waiting too long. Over time, all strings lose tone quality and lively response. It may happen so gradually that you don’t even notice, but it’s definitely happening. Experts recommend keeping a regular schedule of replacing your strings to ensure a consistent sound quality. If you use your instrument a lot, music teachers recommend that you try to replace the strings at least twice a year.
To ensure an evenness of response and tone, it’s good to replace all of your strings at once instead of mixing new ones in with the strings that you think might be losing quality. It’s a good idea to keep a couple sets of strings just in case of an accident or emergency. If you don’t want to keep a couple new sets of strings for these situations, at least hold on to the old strings, as they might come in handy in a pinch. It’s important to note that the time between string changes is different depending on which instrument you play, which style, and the type of string used. To determine the time interval for string changes specific to the instrument you play, it’s always best to consult with your music teacher or an instrument specialist at a music store.
If you have a performance coming up, you should consider replacing the strings at least a week in advance. You don’t want to replace your strings right before you perform because the strings will need time to stretch, making them less likely to break right in the middle of the show.
When to Consult a Repair Technician
It isn’t necessary to consult with a professional repair technician simply for string replacement. Since this is a common part of a musician’s life, learning to do it is an important aspect of playing the instrument. There are some situations, however, that will require you to visit an instrument repair technician. These situations include stripped endpins, open seams, instrument cracks, sound post adjustment, or an adjustment to the string height. Additionally, if your instrument has any serious structural damage, you should take it to a repair technician right away.
After you’ve been playing the instrument for a few years, it’s generally a good idea to take the instrument in simply to have it checked out and, if necessary, readjusted. Bringing your instrument in for a “checkup” can help you to prevent emergencies. No musician wants to have their instrument give out just before or during an important performance.
There may be a lot to know when it comes to the proper care and maintenance of an orchestral stringed instrument. It’s incredibly important to be aware of which conditions you should avoid, and how to tell when your strings need to be replaced or your instrument needs to be taken to a professional repair technician. As time goes on, your ability to determine what your instruments needs will naturally improve. Until then, follow these steps and make sure to get plenty of practice; and for all of your orchestral string needs, be sure to go to Music & Arts!
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