How to Restring a Violin

There are many reasons why you might need or want to change the strings on your violin. They could be broken, dull-sounding or “false” (hard to tune), or maybe you just want to change up the feel and tone of your instrument. We’re here to help!

How to Choose Your Strings

There are many different types of strings you can choose from, and each has its own unique sound and playability factors. Choosing the right set may seem complicated, but once you understand how violin strings are made it’s much easier to choose the type that fits your particular playing style.

Violin (and viola, cello, and bass) strings consist of a “core” that is wrapped with metal winding. There are three main types of violin strings: gut core, steel core and synthetic core. Each has its own unique tone and feel.

Gut Core

Gut strings have been around since the very first stringed instruments were made, thousands of years ago. They were originally called “catgut” strings, but no cats were ever harmed! Instead, they are made from the intestines of sheep, and modern versions will have metal windings around the core. These type of strings have a rich, warm, tone with complex overtones. Mostly used by professionals, more sophisticated, nuanced bowing is needed to command the slower response of gut strings.

Examples: Eudoxa, Oliv, Passione.

Steel Core

Steel core strings have either a solid or stranded steel core. They have a brilliant, clear, and crisp sound with a very stable pitch. Their fast response makes them a popular choice for beginning players.

Examples: Helicore, Zyex, Spirocore.

Synthetic Core

These type of violin strings were first introduced in the 1970s and utilize a core of nylon or other synthetic polymers. Think of them as a cross between gut core and steel core; they are more stable in pitch than gut strings, with fewer overtones, but are warmer and smoother in tone than steel core strings. Their versatility makes them popular with all types of players, from beginners to professionals.

Examples: Dominant, Evah Pirazzi, Infeld.

Helpful Tips and Tricks

Here are a few things to keep in mind each time you change your strings.

  • Make sure you purchase the correct size strings for your instrument. If you play on a 3/4 violin, you’ll need 3/4 size strings.
  • Be careful not to overtighten your strings. If it’s your first time changing a string on your own, it’s best to do so with a teacher or stringed instrument expert such as a luthier standing nearby to help if needed. Violin strings can be a bit pricey, so it’s always a good idea to err on the side of caution!
  • Change strings one at a time — do not remove them all at once, because that can cause your bridge or soundpost to fall. If this happens, immediately loosen all strings and consult a string expert as soon as possible. A fallen soundpost (you’ll see or hear a little dowel rolling around inside of your instrument) can cause numerous problems, including top or back cracks, which can be very complicated (and often very expensive) to repair.
  • Wipe down your strings after every use with a clean untreated microfiber polishing cloth. Gently removing the oils and rosin this way will help prolong the life of your strings and ensure good tone and playability.
  • If you notice that your strings are pushing against the side of the peg box or if the instrument is difficult to tune using the pegs, it’s a good idea to take the instrument to a string expert. They may need to rework the pegs to provide optimal smoothness while turning. You should never need to force a peg into the pegbox to tune your violin — all that should be required is just a bit of gentle pressure. The pegs are fit with such precision they are not glued in place, but over time (and depending on storage and humidity conditions) they will need regular maintenance to keep them in peak condition.
  • If the strings you are replacing are not broken, save them! It never hurts to have an extra string or two on hand in case you break one during a performance and need a quick fix.
  • All strings have a “secret code” to tell you what they are. The colors of the top and bottom of the strings (called silking) are different for each string and will tell you the manufacturer, brand, and string itself (E, A, D or G for violin). There are many websites with this information, so utilize those resources!

Check Out the Video

If you’re a beginner, changing your own strings might seem intimidating, but the video below demonstrates how easy it can be. As you can see, all you’ll need is a set of new strings, a digital tuner or tuning fork, a wire cutter and a clean, untreated microfiber cloth to remove the fingerprints and rosin when you’re done. Happy playing!

 

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