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  • Writer's pictureCorey Gemmell

Stringing You Along

The violin world is a unique one; part scientific and part magic, it is a pursuit that can be expensive as well as confusing. Violinists will seemingly do almost anything to get a better sound. Just look at the crazy prices we pay for instruments. We will pay almost anything we have to get the slightest improvement in tone and quality. Is this always worth it, well, that is really up to the individual. Certainly an argument can be made that if you FEEL better about your own sound you will likely play better. This attitude goes a long way in performance and under high stress situations, where every little bit of confidence counts, it can go a long way to a more successful concert.

But there are a finite number of Strads and del Gesus in the world and unless you have tens of millions of dollars sitting around you need to look to alternatives to giving yourself every advantage in your playing. There will be a Blog on our site about instruments in the future, but for now let's focus on strings. It is almost funny how infrequently violinists, including both professionals and students, change their strings. People will pay hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of dollars even, to get a better sound and then wait until the strings snap before replacing them. I sincerely hope this is not their approach to toothbrushes and oral hygiene! Once a string is on the violin and under full load from the tension of being tuned its days are numbered. Typically they will offer their peak tone, regardless of the brand, at about two weeks and then begin a slow, or rapid, depending on the brand and materials, decline after that. This does not mean you need to change them after two weeks, though I do know of a violinist who does just that. Such a pattern is simply wasteful and foolish and offers no real improvement in sound.

For a professional, putting in hundreds of hours a month, or a student doing the same (way to go by the way!!!) somewhere between 4 and 6 months is about it for your strings. If your practising is somewhat more modest, as it will be in younger or less advanced players, then between 6 months and a year is about all you can ask of the poor strings. Imagine leaving an elastic very taut for 12 months, constantly tightening it as it stretches and becomes slack...12 months and it would be on life support. That doesn't even account for the stress and friction from playing, the pizzicato, the abrasion from the rosin, etc..

Change your strings regularly, whether you think they are old or not. You could even do it every two toothbrush changes. On a high use basis do it by 6 months, if low usage you can go maximum 12 months for they are gone. Then the new ones make your violin sound fabulous and who needs the Strad you were saving up for? $70 to $120 is a whole lot cheaper than an expensive violin any day. You wouldn't buy a Ferrari and then put Canadian Tire brand tires on it, right?

Feel free to email us for opinions on strings, brands and what might work for you and your instrument. We always have an opinion! Your violin and your ears will thank you for changing your strings, your teeth will thank you for changing your strings and toothbrush too...

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