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  1. We compiled the following guide on how to change the strings and would love to hear your thoughts on it! How to Change Violin Strings Table of Contents Get the Tools Ready Prepare the New Strings Inspect the String for Damage The Synthetic Sleeve Ball versus Loop Ends Clean the String with Isopropyl Alcohol Remove the Old String Remove the String From the Peg Remove the String From the Tailpiece Process the Old String Lubricate and Clean Lubricate the Peg Lubricate the Grooves Lubricate the Finetuner Clean the Fingerboard Install the New String Get the Tuner Ready Install the String on the Peg Install the String on the Tailpiece Do a Final Cleaning Get the Tools Ready You are going to need: a table with a soft blanket over it; a chair; a pencil with a sharp tip—to lubricate the grooves; a pencil with a regular tip—to lubricate the finetuner; peg compound (sometimes called peg dope); a microfiber cloth—to clean the strings and the violin; 99.9% isopropyl alcohol—to clean the new strings; paper towel—to clean any excess peg compound; a tuner—to prevent overstretching the new strings1; a pair of tweezers (optional). Prepare the New Strings It is important to get all the strings ready for a prompt and swift installation before starting the changing process. This avoids leaving the violin too much time without the usual tension it relies upon structurally. Inspect the String for Damage Open the envelope with the new string, taking special care when it is sealed, to prevent causing any damage to it. Carefully give a close look to the entire string, inspecting it for any problems, like kinks, warpings or distortions; unravelings or frayings; dark or rust spots. If you suspect the string has any problems, contact the seller and/or manufacturer before installing it. The Synthetic Sleeve Some manufacturers provide a synthetic sleeve in the form of a plastic tube together with the string—usually the E string. Its main purpose is to help reducing the whistling—sometimes called wolf tone—of the string, also giving a warmer sound. It can also help protecting the bridge from the string cutting into it over time. Ball versus Loop Ends Finetuners have either a single tip or a double tip on its little arm. If the finetuner has a single tip, the string must have a loop end; otherwise, the string must have a ball end. Check to see if you have the proper string–finetuner combination before installing it. If you need a string with a loop end, but you have one with a ball end, double check its envelope—some strings come with a removable ball end. If the envelope explicitly2 says that the string has a removable ball end, follow these steps to remove it: support the ball end on the table; insert the tip of a pen into its hole—do not use any of your pencils, to avoid damaging their tips; slowly and carefully lift the string up until the string is completely released from the ball. Clean the String with Isopropyl Alcohol Apply a small amount of isopropyl alcohol to the microfiber cloth—only enough to get it slightly wet. Then holding the ball or loop end of the string with one hand, use the other to clean it with the cloth. Clean the entire string three or four times. It is possible that the cloth may get very dark stains on it. This is a good sign that the cleaning process is being effective. After cleaning the string, put it back inside its individual evelope—this will help its quick, easy, and proper identification during the installation. Remove the Old String Remove the String From the Peg Sit down with the violin standing up on your lap, using one of your hands to hold it by the neck, while keeping a gentle sideways pressure on the string with the thumb. Slowly3 loosen the string by half a turn of the peg. Join your first finger to the thumb that is currently pressing the string, and use both to hold it. Turn the peg all the way to completely release the string from it. Gently push the peg into the pegbox to keep it in place. Remove the String From the Tailpiece While gently holding the string with one hand, use the other to remove it from the tailpiece. If the string has a finetuner, gently push it backwards, then lift it; if it is installed directly into the tailpiece, slowly4 push it inwards, then backwards, and finally pull it up. With the old string completely removed, put the violin over the soft blanket on the table. You should never remove more than one string at a time. The bridge and sound post rely on pressure from the strings to be kept in place. Removing more than one string at a time may release too much pressure and cause them to fall down. If this happens, your violin may suffer a severe loss in sound, until they are properly re-positioned. Process the Old String If you want to save the old string, for instance as an already broken-in spare, to get used to its sound and when to change again, or to donate it, it is a good idea to identify it. Put it inside its original envelope—if you still have it—or inside the envelope of its replacement, and write down the date on it. Lubricate and Clean Lubricate the Peg Completely remove the peg from the peg box and apply peg compound to the two shiny rings on it—these are the regions where the peg touches the pegbox. Then insert the peg back into the pegbox and give it three complete turns in each direction. Remove the peg again, and use the paper towel to carefully clean any excess peg compound outside the shiny areas. Finally, insert the peg back into the pegbox. Lubricate the Grooves If you are installing an E string with a plastic tube, apply graphite only on the upper nut, not on the bridge, to prevent it from slipping5. Use the pencil with a sharp tip to lubricate each groove. Be generous while applying the graphite. Apply it to the entire groove, paying special attention to the walls and extremities. This is a very important step. Applying graphite to the string grooves on the upper nut and on the bridge reduces the friction with the strings. This may give several benefits, including: the strings can slide more freely, potentially reducing wear down and bridge tilting while tuning; the strings can vibrate more freely, potentially helping the tone production with a richer set of overtones. Lubricate the Finetuner (Skip this step if the string doesn't have a finetuner.) Turn the finetuner's screw all the way out, to completely remove it from its socket. Use the pencil with a regular tip to lubricate the threads of the screw. Insert the screw back into its socket, and turn it all the way in, then back out again—do this to properly spread the graphite. Finally, turn it back in, until its little arm starts moving—you may gently hold it with your finger to help perceiving it. Clean the Fingerboard Use the microfiber cloth to clean the fingerboard under the string. If there's some residue that's too much difficult to remove, you may apply a drop of water on the cloth—do not apply water directly on the fingerboard. Install the New String Get the Tuner Ready Now it is a good time to the get the tuner ready: if you're using a phone app, open it and position the screen in such a way that you don't have to use your hands to see it—you're going to need both to install the new string. The tone of the new string depends a lot on its elasticity. In order to preserve it, it is important to avoid overstretching it. To this end, we will use the help of a tuner to guide us while installing the new string. Install the String on the Peg Remove the string that will be installed from its envelope, unroll it, and put it on the table. Sit down with the violin standing up on your lap, holding it by the neck. Grab the peg's head and align its string hole with the string groove on the upper nut—this is an important step to prevent the string from crossing the other ones. Insert the string into the peg—use the tweezers for some additional help, if needed. It should be just flush and not stick out on the other side of the peg6. Grab the peg's head again and give it two complete turns, coiling the string towards the peg's tail7. Then cross the string over these two initial coils, and give the peg one more complete turn, this time coiling the string towards the peg's head—this maneuver is important to keep the string from escaping out of the peg. Finally, give a gentle push on the peg into the pegbox to keep it in place while the string is installed on the tailpiece. Install the String on the Tailpiece While holding the violin's neck, use this same hand to hold the string, keeping a gentle pressure and preventing it from uncoiling out of the peg. Then install the string on the tailpiece. If this string has a finetuner, insert the string's ball or loop end onto it; if not, gently push the string's ball end into the tailpiece's hole. Use this same hand to support the violin, while keeping a gentle pressure underneath the string—with your thumb or first finger—to prevent it from escaping. Then carefully turn the peg to tighten the string, taking care to: direct the string towards its corresponding grooves, and check its pitch against the tuner, to avoid overstretching it. When finally in tune, the string should be near the pegbox's wall, without touching it8—it should be somewhere between the upper nut's groove and the pegbox's wall9. After the string is properly installed and up to pitch, check the bridge for any tilting or crooking—it should be straight and approximately 90° in relation to to the violin. If you need to do any correction on the bridge, first put the violin down on the soft blanket over the table. Then use both hands to slowly and carefully do any corrections to the bridge. If you need to change another string, go back to Remove the Old String. Do a Final Cleaning Use the microfiber cloth to clean all the strings, especially on the bowing region—the region between the bridge and the fingerboard. This step is very important, because all the manipulations done during the changing process may have left oil and moisture on the strings. This can disturb the friction between the strings and the bow hair, affecting the tone production. Finally, clean the entire body of the violin. Footnotes: 1 Tuning the string over its proper pitch may cause it to overstretch, harming its elasticity, potentially negativelly impacting its tone production capabilities. 2 Be extra careful: the envelope must explicitly say that the ball end is removable. If the envelope does not explicitly say that the ball end is removable, do not try to remove it. If the ball end is not removable and you try to force it out, you risk causing permanent damage the string, and losing it. 3 It is important to do it slowly to prevent damage: if the peg is stuck and you exert too much force, the wood may crack—this is especially true for older instruments. 4 It is important to do it slowly to avoid scratching the varnish with the metallic ball end. 5 In this case, do not apply graphite to the groove on the bridge to prevent the tube from slipping and escaping its proper position. 6 This is important to prevent damage on the pegbox by scratching the wood while turning the peg. 7 The peg has, at one end, a head, that we grab to turn it, and, at the opposite end, its tail. 8 If the string touches the wall, there will be friction when turning the peg. This friction may not only make it more difficult to turn the peg while tuning the violin, but it can also do permanent damage to the instrument, when the resulting scraping damage the wall—it may be "eaten away" over time. It may also damage the string's surface, causing it to break. 9 This helps keeping the peg from slipping by making a slight tension to gently push it inside the pegbox.
  2. Thank you all for your answers! It's great to see so much love for the making of fine instruments! We hope the spreadsheet will help you tune your plates by telling you where to remove wood, so you can achieve the frequencies you want your plates to have. In our previous post we cited some references on how to choose those frequencies and how they relate to the category of the instrument you want to make. We'd love to hear about the effectiveness of the recommendations. Please give us any feedback here, on send us a private message!
  3. As we are talking using the company's account here, we will proceed in this somewhat more professional approach from now on. This choice is made to clarify our motivations an positioning towards our goal here to share a tool with the Luthier community. First, we would like to thank you all for the quality feedback! Our mission is to serve the community, and your feedback is our greatest guide in providing the most practical and efficient tools. First of all, it's important make it upfront clear that we are not Luthiers, nor Scientists, but simply software developers. Our main purpose is to provide tools that facilitate the practical application of research advancements in the construction of fine string instruments. This tool in particular is based research results on plate tuning from the past decades. A good summary of some of the main results was provided in A Retrospective on the History of Stringed Instrument Acoustics and on Plate Tuning Techniques, from the research papers by the Catgut Acoustical Society. As stated before, our aim is to serve the community with scientific-based software tools. Thus, we feel to be important to address some of the issues that were raised. In his article Tap Tones and Weights of Old Italian Violin Tops, Joseph Curtin asserts that He then provides the measured frequencies for modes #2 and #5 of nine Old Italian violins, as can be seen on the image below, extracted from the article. He cites the paper Stradivarius Plate Tests, by Carleen Hutchins, that she motivates with She also points out there that these results are She adds that tests on "the best violins made thus far" suggest that the tap-tone resonance mode #5 should Sie Anton in Comment on the "Double Octaves" Tuned Violins, asserts that "ten finely crafted violins have been made consistently using 'Double Octaves' matching plates tuning", sharing considerations that were He presented there a correlation between the players' preferences and the frequencies of modes #2 and #5, in the form of a table, reproduced below¹. A later article by Carleen Hutchins, Some Notes on Free Plate Tuning for Violins, Violas and Cellos, summarizes this results in the table reproduced below. We would like to finish by citing excerpts from Carleen Hutchins' article "The Acoustics of Violin Plates" (attached hutchins1981plate.pdf), where she establishes parallels between the manual bending and tapping of the plates that has been done for centuries and recent research findings: To conclude, we would like to repeat the words of Carleen Hutchins Our mission as a software company is to do our best to help the community, by making it more practical and straightforward to apply the state-of-the-art research findings in the making of fine instruments. Thank you all for the attention, and please give us all the feedback and criticism! Thanks to @Violadamore for the kind message! Footnotes 1. The author calls the modes #2 and #5 "X" and "O", respectively. This is related to the fact that some authors (see attached carruth1991plate.pdf in the original post) hutchins1981plate.pdf
  4. Greetings, In a recent talk with a Luthier friend, he shared with me that plate tuning could get very tedious, because of the difficulties at each step to know exactly where to carve so as to obtain the desired impact on the final frequency. Reading some papers, I came across a very interesting one, by Alan Carruth, a former student of Carleen Hutchins (attached carruth1991plate.pdf). In this article, the author gives a diagram with the impacts that carving might have on several different regions on the plate. I then compiled this information in a spreadsheet, where you can input the desired final frequencies for the plates, and then feed it with the current ones. Based on this information, the spreadsheet will show diagrams with the regions that could be carved in order to achieve the final desired frequencies. My friend liked it so much, that he encouraged me to share it to the Luthier community, so I'm sharing here with you. Please feel free to post any questions, criticism, and any feedback is appreciated. Thanks for your attention! carruth1991plate.pdf
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