We already wrote an article on what we think are the best strings for violins out there, so we thought it would be a great idea to also share some tips on how to change your strings with ease. It is advisable to ask your teacher or a professional to guide you through the process of how to change the strings, but if you can’t do that, we’ve got some advice for you.
Before you begin, check your instrument and see if it is in good shape. If that is the case, changing the strings should be easy. However, you might have issues in changing the strings if your violin is damaged. Things to look for include checking if the pegs or peg boxes are warped, looking at the peg holes and seeing if they are too small, too big or positioned incorrectly.
These issues are hard to fix and you should really go to an expert for them. After you make sure your instrument is in pristine form, put some emphasis on the string selection process. Each set is different, and you should especially look for small differences when you are changing from a string type to another.
If you change a set of steel strings for one of gut or synthetic, look at the grooves in the nut, where the strings sit and see if the new strings fit well. Generally, steel strings have a smaller gauge and they are stronger. If the grooves are too small, you will damage the winding on the new set of strings and they will sound terrible.
When changing the strings you should also pay attention to any changes in the tensions of the strings and their gauge. Because the new set may apply more pressure on the violin, certain adjustments may need to be made to the soundpost. For that, you might need professional help.
In the process of selecting the strings, pay more attention to the E string as it needs to be compatible with your fine tuner. Some E string fine tuners are only made to accept loop ends and not ball-ended strings.
Changing the strings
Start with unwinding the tuning peg and then removing the respective string. Only after that remove the string from the fine tuner, or the tailpiece, if the string doesn’t have a tuner. Because the string ends are sharp, try to keep them as far away as possible so they don’t ruin the varnish on the violin.
After you finished removing one of the strings, continue with getting its peg out. You should use special compounds to lubricate the surface of the peg, but if you don’t have that at your disposal, you might as well apply some blackboard chalk on that area, and then cover that with a layer of bar soap.
In certain situations, you will find that the pegs are too small and loose and you need to use some peg drops. But that should only be done in the most extreme situations, as the peg drops swell the pegs and may make them too big. Put the pegs back in and with small movements, move them back and forth to spread the lubricant.
Next, using a sharp pencil, lubricate the bridge and the nut, where the string sits. This is a necessary step to allow the string to pass easily over those contact points when the string is tuned higher in pitch.
Once you finish all that, you can start putting in the new strings. Get the end of the string through the peg hole and let just a tiny length of string get to the other side of the peg. You can proceed to wind the string, keeping in mind that the G and D strings should be turned counter-clockwise and the A and E clockwise.
Wind the first loop toward the pointy end of the peg and the ones after that in the opposite direction. This ensures that you tie the string to the peg. Keep winding until the string reaches just to the edge of the pegbox. Then, holding the string between your thumb and index you should attach the ball-end to the tailpiece or the fine-tuner, removing any twists in the string.
After changing the strings
Although you fixed the string on both ends of the violin, you aren’t finished yet. You should make sure that you placed the string in the corresponding slot on the bridge and nut. The string should run smoothly, without interfering with another string.
Wind the peg so you increase the tension and remove the slack. Place the bridge protector over the bridge, if the string comes with that. Also, make sure that the bridge is straight and its back is perpendicular with the violin’s body, while its feet lay flat on the instrument. If the bridge is warped, you need to replace it.
You then need to bring the strings into tune and to do that you first need to loosen the fine tuners almost to the maximum. Use the tuning pegs, gradually increasing the tension in the strings, until you are close to the tone that you want. While you do that, make sure the bridge doesn’t bend from too much tension. After that, using the fine tuners, get the strings tuned to the precise notes.
A common mistake that beginners make is removing more than one string at a time. The violin should always have at least 3 strings on it in order to keep the bridge and the sound post in the same positions. If one of these two falls, you will have a very hard time putting them back and you will need the help of an expert to do that.
After you remove the old strings, don’t throw them away. They serve as a great backup just in case one of your new string breaks and they are already stretched out. If you need to replace one broken string during a performance, an old string will do fine. Put them in their envelopes and keep them safely stored for such occasions.