When Should I Change My Violin Strings?
All strings have a life span. This is because the acidity of the sweat in our hands begins breaking down the metal soon after we start using them. This break down affects the sound, which is dependent on the physical features of the string and it will also, eventually, lead to unravelling. This process is, on average, 6 months to a year (or more), depending on what type of string you purchase. In another post we talk about a few of the more popular brands that we sell in our store (String Brands). In this post, we will be discussing how you know if you need to change a string.
"This can really vary based on whether the student practices intensely, moderately, occasionally, or never," says KC-based violin teacher and Founder of Metropolitan Strings Academy, Natasha Kwapich. "I constantly push my kids to listen for the 'ring'. If the overtones don't ring anymore, it is definitely time to change strings."
The word "overtones" may be greek to someone without a musical background, but it is part of music training for most intermediate to advanced students. When you hear the note "A", you are really hearing a series of frequencies sounding together. The "A" that you are hearing in that moment happens to be the most prominent frequency. You are also hearing a series of higher frequencies or "rings" (e.g. If you listen closely enough, you can hear two higher "A" rings and a high "E"). Think of it like a food dish. There are unseen ingredients and spices in certain dishes that make the taste and texture what it is in our experience of it. Without practice and training, most cannot pick out these frequencies, but they are what make the sound rich and full.
Technical vocabulary aside, a live string rings and a dead string doesn't. If a student has spent a lot of time practicing at home, they can usually tell. In our experience at KC Strings, there have even been younger students who can pick up on the lack of a "ring".
In all cases, teachers will be able to assist students in discerning this. This is particularly easy when a student takes private lessons, since the teacher can hear the instrument played over the course of an entire lesson.
There is also another way to tell if a string is on its last leg. If the string begins to unravel, then it is only a matter of days (if that) before it will break. This is the easiest way to identify the need for a new string. In any case, this is part of playing a string instrument and having the strings in good working order leads to the most enjoyment that can be had in the practice room and on the stage.