Musical Instrument String Breakage and Tuning

April 7, 2018

 

MUSICAL INSTRUMENT STRINGS ARE NOT GUARANTEED BY ANY MANUFACTURER ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, because of the delicate nature of the materials and because they have no control over how it is handled and tuned by the user. Once a guitar or orchestral string is purchased, the buyer becomes the warranty provider for that string. Handle and tune your strings carefully.

 

Guitar strings are relatively inexpensive, whereas Orchestra strings are far more costly per string.

 

String manufacturing techniques and quality control are such that it is highly unusual for a string to be defective, or to break prematurely due to a defect. String breakage is almost always due to over-tuning or normal wear.

 

Guitar, violin and orchestral strings are made of fragile materials and can break, sometimes with no apparent reason. A new string can break just as an older string can. Handle and care for your strings properly as they can be expensive to replace. Some of the causes are as follows:

 

1. The most common reason for a sting to break is from over-turning, over-tuning or over-tightening. The most common sign that a string has been over-tuned is unraveling, shearing, and/or splitting, usually near the tuning peg, or at the attachment point on the bridge or tailpiece. 

 

2. Another common cause of string breakage is a rough surface or sharp edge on the tuning peg, fine tuner, bridge, nut, or tailpiece, where the string is attached to and/or rests upon the instrument. Rough or sharp edges or surfaces can fracture the string winding and cut into the core causing it to break prematurely before its expected useful life. If you have a string that breaks too often at a particular spot on the guitar or violin, have a qualified luthier (service craftsman) inspect and correct the problem.

 

3. A String can be damaged by dropping something on it, or hitting it with a sharp or blunt object, such as your instrument case lid, or bumping it against a music stand, chair, or other object. Be careful when handling your violin/guitar.

 

4. Normal wear and tear. A string deteriorates with age and use. As it is played and tuned, the materials weaken at the contact points, and eventually it will fray, unravel,  or break.

 

SAFE TUNING PROCEDURES

 

1.Turn string tuning pegs slowly and carefully. Turning them a little at a time is important to help prevent over-tuning and resultant breakage. While tuning, pluck or bow the string often to hear the pitch, and make sure to match it to the correct pitch on a tuning device,  a piano, or another tuned instrument. An orchestral/fretted string is scientifically made to withstand a specific amount of tension, which is determined by its tuned pitch, and if it is pulled tighter than this tension, it will break. Always double check to make sure you are turning the same peg you are plucking or bowing.

 

2. Make sure the string is properly attached to the conatct areas and that touch-contact points are free of rough or sharp edges.

 

NEW SYNTHETIC CORE VIOLIN STRING TIPS

Your strings, once installed, will take some time to "break in." Synthetic strings are very flexible and need more time to stretch into place. They will settle within the first week or so of playing, depending on how much you play. Playing at least one hour a day during this first week is considered helpful to the break-in process.  The tone of the strings will improve as the strings break in.

You'll notice that the strings keep going out of tune during this break in period, but don't worry; this is normal and there is nothing wrong with your strings. And whatever you do, don't over-tune your strings! Tuning them too high and too fast is a sure way to break a new string.

 

With a little patience and a regular amount of playing, your new strings will stabilize and sound great as they break in, usually in the first few days.  If you have a concert, recording session, or performance, and you want new strings, be sure to install them several days before your event so they have time to break in and remain in stable tuning position.  

 

Advise for re-stringing your violin:

• Make sure you do not remove all the old strings from your violin at the same time. Doing so may cause your sound-post to collapse. Instead, remove and replace one string at a time.

• Check to make sure your bridge is straight and the grooves are not too deep. Deep groves will hinder vibrations and may even cut and break your string.

• Lubricate the bridge and nut (where the strings sit) with a graphite pencil before installing a new string. The lead works as a protective layer and creates a smooth surface.

• Thread the string through the peg until a ¼" or so sticks out the other side.

• Wind the string by turning the peg forward (if the violin is facing you), capturing the ¼" of the string under the string winding on the peg as it winds. Doing so will seal the string 

   under itself, locking it to the peg and minimizing slippage.

• Make sure you wind evenly, coiling the string around the peg so that it's moving outward toward the wall of the pegbox.

• Tune them to pitch slowly, careful not to over-tune and break the string.

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