How to change violin strings
First, remove the old strings
Changing a single string is very simple: if the old string is still wound on the peg, loosen it by turning the peg until the end of the string slips out of the small drilled hole, then release the other end at the tailpiece. Please note that you should use your other hand to keep the string from dangling loosely so that it does not scratch the instrument.
Once the string has been loosened, take a critical look at the grooves in the upper nut and bridge. If they have become too deep or have acute angles where the strings lay, please consult with a luthier; the grooves may need to be adjusted. You can make the tuning process easier and offset the tensions that can cause strings to break by rubbing a bit of graphite into the grooves to lubricate them: this lowers resistance and lets the strings move more smoothly. Use the lead of a soft pencil.
Adding the new strings
To put the new string in place, begin by threading the lower end (which has a ball or loop) into the tailpiece or fine tuner. Now keep gentle pressure on the lower end so that it does not slip out of place; use your other hand to thread the upper end into the peg hole, making sure that you have pushed the string all the way few and a few millimetres are visible on the other side of the peg hole. Then wind the string by turning the peg towards the scroll, gently pushing the peg deeper into the peg box as you go. Each string should be wound in such a way that it is tightly and closely wrapped. Criss-crossing the string on the peg can be helpful in keeping the string from slipping out of the peg hole too easily. Otherwise, however, the string should be wound so that it lies flat along the peg, since points of heightened pressure can make a string break more easily. Peg holes that are located too deep in the peg box can also squeeze the string between the peg and peg box, and the result will be another weak point. Strings which are too long can put pressure on the side wall of the peg box, and this too may cause them to tear. If this is the case, unwind the string and use a string trimmerto cut it to the appropriate length.
As soon as most of the string has been wrapped around the peg, care must be taken to ensure that the string is positioned properly. As the tension increases, it has to be on top of and not next to the appropriate groove on the bridge and the nut; otherwise it could damage them. Particularly thin strings (especially the E string on the violin) should have a small protector placed on the spot where they rest on the bridge to prevent them from cutting too deeply into the wood.
When you replace a string, any fine tuners should first be unscrewed as much as possible. Afterwards, once you have brought the string up to pitch at the peg, you will have enough room to manoeuvre the fine tuner.
If multiple strings or the entire set needs to be replaced, it is very important that you proceed one at a time – in other words, do not loosen all of the strings at once, but replace each individually. This keeps the bridge from falling over: the bridge is not mounted onto the body of the instrument, but held in place by the pressure of the strings. When changing multiple strings, you should also make sure that the bridge is still in its correct position and adjust it if necessary (see below). To restring an entire set, please follow the procedure described above for individual strings.
How to choose the right strings?
Just two generations ago, the choice of strings was a simple matter: serious violinists played on gut strings, while steel strings were used on lesser instruments. Today the situation has completely changed. Since the 1920s, the quality of steel strings has continuously improved thanks to better manufacturing techniques. In addition, strings with a synthetic core have become a real alternative to gut strings. The sound produced by so-called “nylon strings” is practically as good as that of gut strings, which mainly find use today in historical performances on authentic period instruments. Synthetic strings also have certain advantages: they fit perfectly on almost any instrument, stay in tune better and are generally stronger and more durable than gut strings.
Contemporary musicians choose strings that best match their musical preferences, their playing technique and especially their instrument. The best way to find the most suitable strings is to seek professional advice, for instance from an instructor or violin maker, and to try out various kinds and brands. Many violinists use a combination of different brands. Strings can be purchased both individually or as a set.