Throughout your career as a violinist, you will find yourself changing the strings on your violin often. As I have mentioned before, it is useful to always keep an extra set of strings in your violin case, just to be precautionary. Here are some useful tips for changing strings on your violin:
- When replacing all of the strings, violinists generally replace one string at a time. Do not remove all of the strings on a violin at the same time, or the fingerboard could collapse.
- Although the order you replace strings isn’t critical, many violinists start with the G-string, and work their way up to the E-string.
- If the string you are installing has a fine tuner, insert the ball or loop end of the string over the tuner cartridge in the tailpiece, and pull the string toward the bridge.
- If the string does not have a fine tuner, insert the ball or knotted end of the string through the tailpiece string hole, tug firmly to make sure the knot or ball is securely in the slot and pull the string toward the bridge. You may need to hold the ball or knot in place with your finger while increasing the tension of the string as you turn the peg.
- Slightly pull out the peg the string will go in until the peg hole is just inside of the pegbox. Thread the end of the string through the peg hole (let the string slightly protrude), and evenly begin winding it.
- Push the peg in as you’re turning the string to keep the peg from slipping.
- Generally, fine tuners are used only on the E-string, but beginning violinists often find it useful to have tuners for each string.
- When replacing all of the strings, violinists often tune all of the strings to an approximate correct pitch, then do the fine tuning to get each pitch precisely in tune.
- Be aware that when you put on all new strings, it will take more adjusting than usual to tune the violin.
- If your pegs are slipping or are too tight to securely adjust the strings, you may want to purchase a peg compound.
- If you don’t have peg compound and need a temporary quick fix for slipping or tight pegs, you may want to try these options:
For sticking pegs, 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 candle wax on the peg to help it stick.
Common Violin Damages
You should not worry too much if your violin suffers from one of these common violin damages:
- An unglued fingerboard
- Snapping/collpase of the bridge
- The snapping of the bow
How to care for your violin
- Avoid extreme climate temperatures – Do not store a violin in or near areas that are subjec to extreme changes in temperature, such as a basement or attic. When violins are continually exposed to extreme temperature changes, they eventually break and fall apart over time.
- Proper storage – When not playing the violin, store it in its case at all times to ensure protection.
- Too much rosin – In light of my last post on violin rosin, avoid putting too much rosin onto the violin bow. If too much is applied, the rosin will drip onto the violin and cause straining.
- Quality strings – Cheap strings, like the ones that usually come with a beginner’s violin, will bring tension on the violin and cause cracks and warping on the instrument.
If you ever feel that there is something wrong with your violin, even minorly wrong, it is important to get it checked out by a luthier, an experienced professional in repairing stringed instruments. Most little damages will eventually become bigger problems in the future.
Knowing how to properly hold a violin bow is essential to produce a beautiful sound from your violin that is in tune. When placed on and across the strings, the bow is directs the type of sound through speed and varying degrees of pressure on the strings. In order to achieve the desired sound, a relaxed bow hold is important to keep in mind.
Practice violin bow hold without the bow
This may seem strange at first, but practicing your violin bow hold without the actual bow will help mold your fingers.
- Hold your right hand sideways. Your thumb will face left.
- Curl your fingers and thumb toward each other so that the tip of your thumb meets the tips of your two middle fingers. Allow your index finger and pinkie to follow the natural curve of your hand.
- Turn your hand and wrist 90 degrees to the left without disrupting the curved position of your fingers. Keep the wrist flat.
Practice violin bow hold with the bow
- With your right hand, hold the bow horizontally with the tip pointing to the right and the bottom, or frog, pointing toward the left.
- Place your left thumb in the frog, between the hairs and the stick. The tip of your thumb should be on the stick.
- Curve your two middle fingers on the stick, close to the first joints of both fingers. Let your middle fingers curve over the stick toward the thumb, almost touching.
- Place your index finger on the stick, curved slightly. Place a curved pinkie finger on the wood of the stick so that only the tip of your pinkie touches the stick.
Violin bow: getting a feel
- Move your arm from the elbow only and “airbow” by drawing the bow across the front of your body as if you were playing an invisible violin. Keep the wrist flat and fingers curved with each bow stroke up and down. When you are completely comfortable with this movement, it should merely feel like an extension of your arm.
This is an excellent video by violinist Pete Cooper, demonstrating how to hold a violin bow:
The violin has four strings representing the four musical notes G, D, A and E.
Learning the basics on how to tune a violin will train your musical ear and help you be more in-tune with your own instrument!
Advice for violin tuning
- I would recommend an electronic tuner for a beginner violinist. An electronic tuner will give an accurate reference for the pitch(es) you are trying to achieve. By giving an accurate reference of what musical notes sound like, you will develop a musical ear to determine pitch variances on your own.
- First, make sure that the bridge is not leaning forward and is properly placed between the two small notches in the F-Holes on either side of the fingerboard.
- Reference the wooden pegs at the top of the instrument to begin tuning for a general pitch.
- After tuning the wooden pegs, reference the fine tuners located on the tailpiece next to the bridge. The fine tuners adjust the general pitch achieved from the wooden pegs to a finer, more accurate pitch. (Note: Some violins only have one fine tuner on the “E” string. This neither impairs nor benefits a violin in regards to tuning. A violin can be accurately tuned just by the wooden pegs. However, fine tuners are helpful to beginners to achieve the right pitch.)
- It does not matter which string you begin tuning first, although most violinists start with the “G” string, following with D, A and E.
- Turn the fine tuner clockwise to go up in pitch and counterclockwise to go down in pitch. Follow this procedure with each string. If the fine tuner will not go up or down any further, relocate the fine tuner to the center position and tune again with the wooden peg.
Keeping a new violin in tune:
Here are a few common issues with keeping a new violin in tune. Over time, the violin will adjust itself.
- Slippage of the wooden pegs: Sometimes after tuning and achieving that perfect pitch the pegs will slip out of tune.
- New strings: New strings adjusting to being stretched out across the fingerboard can sometimes make vary the pitch at different times.
- String windings around the pegs need to be settled in and adjusted.