Whether you play the cello, the violin, the viola, or the double bass, high-quality orchestral string accessories are the most important purchase besides the instrument itself. From stands and bows to cleaning supplies, there are tons of accessories on the market that can improve the sound, longevity, and your overall enjoyment of your string instrument. In this buyer’s guide we’ll talk about some of the most essential accessories for your orchestral string instrument and provide some tips on purchasing and using them.
String Accessory #1: Strings
If the strings of your orchestral string instrument are visibly dirty, have difficulty holding pitch, or its been more than a few months since your last string change, it’s probably time to replace them. Strings usually come in three choices: steel core, synthetic core, and gut core, each with their own pros and cons. If you’re purchasing strings for the very first time, it’s important to experiment with different brands and gauges. Eventually you’ll come across one type you really like, which will probably become your go-to strings. Your music instructor should be able to give you some tips on which brands or types to try first.
String Accessory #2: Bows
As you advance from a beginner to an intermediate level, you’ll probably want to upgrade your bow. The superior craftsmanship of a higher-quality bow will provide you with the tools you need to improve your playing technique and tone, but the high cost of a bow can frighten some first time buyers. Fortunately, if you take care of your bow, you won’t need to purchase a new one very often. Here are some tips for extending the life of your bow, whether you’re using a student bow or a professional quality one:
- Use rosin
- Clean it properly
- Rehair as needed
- Pay attention to humidity
- Adjust tension
A bow with a few loose hairs is completely normal, but once the bow is noticeably bald in places it’s time to stop using the bow and purchase another one. Here are more tips on getting the most out of your bow.
String Accessory #3: Stands
Whether your mind jumps to music stands or instrument stands, both are important accessories for an orchestral string musician to own. Music stands will keep your music in place while you play, and instrument stands will keep your instrument safe when it’s not in use, although we recommend keeping your instrument in a case as much as possible. When it comes to instrument stands, make sure its strong enough to support the weight of your instrument (which is a more difficult task for cellos and double basses), and if you own more than one instrument opt for one with multiple pegs. When it comes to buying a music stand, we put this helpful guide together for you. Check it out!
String Accessory #4: Humidifiers
Since orchestral string instruments are manufactured from wood and other organic materials, they’re susceptible to damage if exposed to changes in temperature and humidity. Fortunately, with the right set of tools, this is easier than it may sound. Humidifiers will protect your instrument from excessive dryness, and they’re designed to fit into your case. To prevent damage, like open seams, always keep your string instrument in a temperature controlled environment–whether it’s a studio in your home or snugly in its case. Never leave it in the trunk of your car or in an especially hot or cold area of your home. Humidifiers are your best friend, and once you know how to use one it does all the work for you.
String Accessory #5: Cases
The rest of the items on this list are useless if you don’t have an instrument in good shape. Not only do cases make it easy for you to transfer your instrument from place to place, but they protect your instrument from damage. From carbon cases to lightweight cases with room for multiple instruments, shopping for a case can be confusing, especially for new musicians. Fortunately, we put together handy case shopping guides for the cello, violin, and viola.
String Accessory #6: Cleaning Supplies
Keeping your instrument clean and well maintained does wonders for how it looks, but it can also prevent more severe damage from occurring. Since the cleaning process can be quite involved and may involve a variety of different cleaning supplies, we recommend seeking help from your teacher, who will be able to go through the process with you a few times until you get it down right. In the meantime, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Wipe it down your instrument EVERY time you use it
- Dust your instrument at least once a week
- Clean your strings once a month
- Take your instrument into the repair shop for regularly scheduled maintenance
You may need to clean/replace your strings more or less often depending on use, but the above are general guidelines for students who may just be starting out. Even with the best care, at some point you’ll need to take your instrument in to a professional technician. Here’s some advice on how to find one in your area.
String Accessories #7-9: Shoulder Rests, Tailpieces & Bridges
Last but not least are the accessories that, along with bows, are very specific to orchestral string instruments. You’ll learn more about these as you progress in your lessons, but here are the basics. The tailpiece anchors the strings, the bridge transmits the vibration of the strings to another structural component of the instrument, and rests and pads attach to the back of the instrument to make play more comfortable.
No matter which accessory you’re in the market for, Music & Arts has you covered. With over 160 stores throughout the country, and over 130,000 products on our website, we have the gear and the knowledge you need to become the best musician you can be.