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9 Steps on How to Change Violin Strings
I wanted to break this down enough for a complete beginner to be able to follow it. This means it looks like a lot of steps, but don’t worry, it isn’t as hard as it seems.
When you start this process, you should already have a new set of strings. If you need advice on buying them, check out our store for superb violin strings
Changing violin strings consists of two parts. Removing the old strings – one string at a time – and replacing them with new ones. NEVER remove all the strings at once. After you changed one string, you can repeat the process for the other ones.
The reason for this is that the bridge is only held in place by the strings. If you remove all the strings at once, there will be nothing holding the bridge and so it will collapse. And unless you know what you are doing, you won’t be able to put it back. On rare occasions, even the soundpost can become loose, which is definitely something you cannot fix yourself.
If you are not in a hurry to have all the strings replaced, you might consider changing one string only and waiting for a day or two until the string stops settling and going out of tune. Unless you break them in, new strings keep stretching over the days after fitting, and if you’ve replaced all 4 then the bridge can slip as the strings stretch. So if you do change them all, make sure the feet of the bridge lie flat against the wood of the violin.
Step 1. Remove the Old String
If you’re replacing all four of them, slightly loosen each string before completely removing one string only. Slowly turn the peg to release the tension, while holding the string with the other hand. Be careful it doesn’t snap back at you.
Once the peg is loose, pull the string out of it and then remove the other end – ball or loop. Save the old string in an envelope, coiled up, with a date of when you removed it. It can come in handy as a replacement if you break a string and don’t have a new one yet.
Step 2. Lubricate Tuning Peg With Peg Paste
Check whether the peg is clean, wipe it off if necessary. Then rub some peg paste onto it. This can sometimes be called by other names, such as peg soap, peg wax, or peg compound. Peg paste comes in a small tube just like lipstick. Rub it all around the peg before inserting it into the hole. This will help you turn the peg when tuning the violin.
Step 3. Lubricate the Bridge and the Nut (optional)
There is no special product for this and it isn’t always necessary, but you can rub the lead of a pencil into the groove on the bridge and into the groove on the violin nut. The nut is the slightly raised edge between the fingerboard and the pegbox, it has grooves in it to hold each string in place.
Sometimes the E-string comes with a bridge protector – a small plastic tube that’s already on the string. If it is present, you can skip this step, as the tube will protect and also allow for motion at the bridge. You can still lubricate the nut.
Step 4. Find the Right Replacement String
Ensure that you have the correct string, the same pitch as the one you just removed, e.g. an A for an A, etc. This may seem obvious, but it is all too easy to lose track of things when trying to do something new. Also make sure you’re using brand new strings, as strings go off even if they have never been used and were kept in their packaging. They usually have a shelf life of three months or so.
Step 5. Thread String Through Peg
Insert the peg into the hole from the outside, until the small hole in the peg is visible on the inside of the pegbox.
Poke the end of the string through the small hole in the peg. Allow a small amount to stick out on the other side, maybe just under an inch (2cm) or a bit more. The length of the string coming through will determine the angle of the peg once the string is tuned. If later on you want to adjust this angle, you can unwind the string and change how much of it sticks out. For now, what matters is that there is enough for the string to not slip out of the peg.
Turn the peg in the direction of the back of the violin.
As you do this, let the newly wound string go over the bit you left sticking out, so it holds it down. Continue to wind the string in such a way that the later bits go between the first loop and the wood of the pegbox. This will create tension that will keep the peg from unwinding and pulling out of the pegbox.
Step 6. Insert the Ball End Into the Tailpiece
Once you have wound enough of the string around the peg so it is secure, but not too much, insert the ball end of the string into the tailpiece.
Strings can also come with a hook end, which has its own adjuster, but for most users, it’s easier and cheaper to use strings with a ball end.
If you are using fine tuners, the ball hooks in between the two prongs of the fine tuner. Otherwise, it slides into the hole in the tailpiece. You may need to use something like the tip of a pencil to push the end of the string into the hole.
Step 7. Reduce the Slack
At this point, you should have a string that is attached at both ends but still hangs relatively loose on the body of the violin.
Holding the loose string with one finger, so it’s tight, which will ensure the ball end stays in its place, as you gently wind the string further to take off the slack. Do this slowly, so you can guide the string into the relevant groove on each end.
If this is the E-string and your string has a bridge protector, now you need to make sure this tube lands on the groove in the bridge. Tighten the string further, just until the slack is removed, and the string is secure.
Tune the string to roughly the right pitch. You can either check this using a tuner app, online tuner, electric tuner, or by playing the right note on a piano or tuner fork.
If you need help in tuning, read my two posts about this topic:
if you don’t have fine tuners
Whatever you do, perform this step slowly, so as not to break a string from over-tightening it.
Step 8. Check if the Bridge is Straight
When the string is more or less in tune, we need to check if the bridge is still straight. No matter how carefully we fit the new strings, the bridge can still go out of alignment. Make sure it is sitting firmly and flatly on the wood, and it goes across the body between the f-hole notches, not diagonally.
Step 9. Final Tuning
Now you can tune the string to its proper pitch, finishing with the fine tuners if you have them. Strings will take anything from 3 to 7 days to settle fully. During this time they will sound strange and go out of tune quite often. Readjust the tuning when needed.