The first time you change your violin strings can be daunting. The best thing to do if you’re an absolute beginner is to consult a professional or ask your music teacher. Later on when you feel confident enough to try it out for yourself, our guide can help you restring the violin while keeping the instrument safe in good condition.
If you have a violin that is in good shape then changing the strings will be a breeze. However, there are problems like warped pegs and peg boxes that can cause problems when it comes to changing the strings. If you run into any problems make sure to consult a professional to get some help.
Changing Your Strings
Before you begin it’s important to know that you have to change one string at a time. Removing all of them at the same time will cause your soundpost to drop. This will make it nearly impossible to set your bridge back in the right place. Let’s get started.
Remove the Old String
Loosen the tuning peg at the top of the violin string and remove the string itself. You will then need to remove it from the tailpiece or fine-tuner. You must make sure that you don’t scratch the varnish of the violin with the ends of the strings which can be very sharp.
Lubricate Your Tuning Peg
Now you can remove the peg from your peg box. You will notice there are some shiny rings on the peg where it would normally touch the peg box. This surface needs to be lubricated either with a peg compound or you can use blackboard chalk and a layer of regular soap. Peg drops should be avoided as much as possible because they cause the wood to swell and you could end up with a stuck peg or even crack your peg box.
Replace the peg an turn it back and forth a few times to make sure it’s fully lubricated. It’s important not to mix up your pegs because their not interchangeable. If your instrument has geared pegs then you won’t need to lubricate it.
Lubricating the Nut and Bridge
Take a super sharp pencil and use it to lubricate the nut and bridge where the string would normally make contact. The goal here is to get the string to pass easily over the bridge and nut as you begin tuning your instrument. If you are using e strings with a bridge protector in place then you won’t need to lubricate under that string.
Thread the String
Find the hole that has been drilled into the peg. You need to make sure you have the correct peg for each hole. Each string will need to be placed in the correct position in relation to the other strings on the violin. Depending on where the hole in the peg is you may want to loosen up the peg and move it out ever so slightly. This will make it easier to line the hole up in the right place before you insert your strings. If you don’t do this you could end up with strings that cross over each other in the peg box, which means that your violin won’t work. Thread the end of each string through the peg hole, leaving a 1-2mm bit sticking out on the other side of the peg.
Wind the String Up
Now that you have the string threaded into the peg you can begin winding it up. The left pegs consisting of your G and D should be wound up counter clockwise. The right pegs which are the A and E should be wound up clockwise. Take the first loop of the string and begin winding it towards the sharper end of the peg. Then you will need to cross over this first loop, winding the rest of the new strings towards the opposite end of the peg. Doing this will lock your strings onto each peg and stop them from slipping when you play.
You will know you have done the job properly because once this step is finished, the string should come right up to the edge of the peg box. If you see that it is crushed against the edge you will need to unwing the new strings and try it again. This is important because if you leave the string to rub against the peg box, each time you turn that peg it will become loose and you will find it difficult to keep the instrument in tune. The friction may also cause the new strings to break completely.
Attach Strings to the Tailpiece
Take your string and run it between you thumb and index finger so that any twists are removed before you attach it to the tailpiece. You need to attach the ball end to the tailipiece or fine tuner. Some people may think they need to pre-stretch the strings before putting them into place but we would recommend that you let the strings stretch out on their own and settle more naturally.
Remove Any Slack
Each string will need to be placed in its correct slot in the nut and bridge of the violin. The string should run directly from the nut and peg to the bridge and then on to the tailpiece. It shouldn’t be twisted with another string or wrapped around anything on its journey. You can wind the peg to increase the tension of the violin string and this will also remove any slack. If you have a violin protector then you can slide this into place as well. A lot of violins will have a protector on the E string and if you forget to replace it the string will begin to buzz when it is played.
Check the Bridge
The bridge of your violin should be straight. The back of the bridge which is the part that faces the tailpiece should be completely perpendicular to the wooden surface of the instrument. The feet of the bridge should also be flush against the violin too. If you notice that the feet of the bridge lie flat but the bridge appears to be warped, you will need this changed by a professional.
Setting the Pitch
Loosen all of the fine tuners which you will find in the tailpiece and keep going until they are really loose but not detached entirely. Take your tuner and check the pitch of each of the violin strings. If it doesn’t sound right then tighten the string up with the tuning peg slowly until you get the right pitch.
This will also be the perfect time to loosen your fine tuners so that when the strings stretch there is still enough room for any tightening needed.
Adjust the Peg Angles
You should be able to slip your fingers easily between the pegs so you can grip them. If you can’t do this then you may need to adjust the angle of the peg head. You can do this by unwinding and loosening the peg, adjust it and then wind it back up. Remember to let that little bit of string protude through the peg hole before you wind it back up.
Changing your strings can be difficult and you may come across a few problems if this is your first time changing the violin strings. Below are some troubleshooting tips you can use if you experience any problems.
- The string keeps popping out of the peg hole when I wind it up – In this case your peg hole could be too big and you will need to take it to a professional to have a smaller one drilled in. Another cause of this is that the string may not be crossing over itself before you start winging it up. You also may not be pushing the string properly all the way through the hole.
- The string doesn’t stay in the tailpiece when the peg is tightened – The ball end of the violin string has to go through the round hole located in the tailpiece. You will then need to wedge it into the small slot that sits above the hole. If that string isn’t in that slot then it won’t stay in the tailpiece. If the string won’t go into this slot, for example if you’ve changed strins, then you must either have the hole widened or get a brand new tailpiece.
- The pegs don’t stay tight and keep slipping – You need to make sure the pegs are properly lubricated before you begin changing the violin string. The peg should be properly pushed into the correct hole as you begin turning it. If you have an older instrument then the pegs can become smooth with use. If the lubricant hasn’t worked then you need to make the surface rough again using a piece of sandpaper. You only need one or two turns of the paper so be careful not to oversand. If you’ve tried all of the steps above then your instrument will need to be looked at by a professional violin repairer.
- When I tightened the string it broke – A new string should never break unless there’s a great reason for it. The most common reason that a new string would break is that you’ve put too much tension on it and have over-tightened the string. As you start to tighten them up you should also pluck them and then stop when you hit the right pitch. Another reason your string could have broken is that the nut grooves are too deep, too narrow or have sharp edge. If the problem persists get your instrument checked by a pro.
There we have it, a quick guide on changing your strings. We would only recommend you try to change your own strings if you have watched a professional do it or have consulted someone with knowledge on the subject. Happy plucking!