How to change a String

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by Peter Zaret

Maybe you’ve broken a string or your strings are frayed or old and dull. The first step is to remove your old string/s. Some people will tell you to NEVER release the tension on all of the strings at once because doing that could unset your sound post or worse, snap the instrument in half. Actually, this last thing never happens. This simplest and easiest is to change only one string at a time.


A tailpiece with four fine tuners

Many student violins will have four fine tuners on the tailpiece. Many higher-end student and conservatory instruments will have only one fine tuner on the high-E string. A lot of violins will also have no fine tuners whatsoever. Each of these configurations works best with different types of strings.

Next, determine what type of strings you have. It may be better to start with a fresh, complete set to avoid having one or two odd strings that could make your tone unbalanced. If you have all four fine tuning mechanisms, you could use steel strings. If you have one tuning mechanism, you could use synthetic/gut strings with a steel E string. If you’re using high-end gut strings, you will only need one fine tuner.

You can buy individual strings or sets of strings, and they range in cost from $5 a set to over $100. Be informed about what strings you’re buying.

A Pegbox

The actual re-stringing is not that hard. Just copy the way the old string was put on. Place the ball or loop of the string into its appropriate place and run the other end of the string through the hole in the appropriate tuning peg. If you replace one string at a time, you already know which string goes with which peg, assuming the instrument was strung properly when you got it. Make sure the windings of the string are nice and neat. (Note: while the old string is off the peg, now would be a good time to fix it if it sticks or slips.)

If the peg won’t hold tune, just gently push it inward a little. It doesn’t take much.

How to fix a slipping peg or a stuck peg

Tune the string to pitch! If you left tension on the other strings, this shouldn’t take too long. First tune at the peg, then use the fine tuner (if applicable). You’re done! Enjoy your newly strung violin! If your pegs are slipping or are too tight to securely adjust the strings, you may want to purchase peg compound (also called “peg dope”), an inexpensive commercial product.

For a temporary quick fix for slipping or tight pegs, you may want to try this: pull the peg partially out, and rub pencil graphite on the sticking part of the peg. For loose pegs, pull the peg partially out, and rub birthday candle wax on the peg to help it stick (some people recommend chalk to help pegs stick, but it’s abrasive).