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String Teacher Workshops

Care For Your Instrument: Strings

by Darcy Drexler

There are several ways to tell when an instrument needs new strings. Of course, the most obvious is when a string breaks.  However, new strings are required when the string’s wrapping starts unraveling or it becomes “false.”  A “false” string is old, will not hold tuning well and changes pitch while being bowed. In the past, string materials ranged from all metal to gut.  Today we are fortunate to have wrapped synthetic strings available. Tone and durability are two important factors in deciding on what type of strings are best for your instrument.  The synthetic strings (Dominants by Thomastik, for example), are very favorable as they are durable, strong, and also sound good on most instruments.

"Dominant" label strings are an excellent choice for the violin.

"Dominant" label strings are an excellent choice for the violin.

When dealing with finer instruments, one should experiment with several kinds of strings to determine which sound best.  Much of this decision depends on personal taste in tone production. It is usually best to avoid all metal strings on the violin (except for the E string).  Although these are usually the most in expensive, their tone is definitely Inferior to other kinds and they are uncomfortable under the fingers.

REMEMBER– always keep an extra set of strings in your case, and check that you are purchasing the correct length string for your size Instrument.


  1. Change one string at a time.  Never take all strings off at once. This will result in the bridge and tailpiece falling AND possibly, the sound post inside the instrument.  If this happens, a trip to the violin shop is necessary.
  2. After removing the string, clean the fingerboard with a dry, clean cloth to remove rosin and dirt buildup.  (This can be done with rubbing alcohol, BUT, be careful not to touch the varnish.)
  3. Fine tuners:  Before removing string, observe how it is attached to the fine tuner to make sure it is reattached correctly.
  4. Tips for avoiding aggravating peg problems:  Leave a bit of string sticking out of the peg hole after threading.  This guards against string slippage when turning.  Make sure that the string winds from the middle of the peg towards the end of the peg box closest to the peg knob.
  5. As you tune up the string, push in slightly towards peg box as you turn the peg until desired pitch is found. This way the peg will stick.
  6. If you have questions, ask your teacher to show you the first time. Then remember, as with all things, practice makes perfect.

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