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Kallie

Violin A-String always unravelling at the same place

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Hi,

 

I'm wondering if there is any specific reason why the A-String always seems to be the first string that wears out. I always have the problem that it unravels on the 3rd finger in 1st position (The note D). Ive had this problem with literally all the strings I've used. Evah Pirazzi Gold, Evah Pirazzi, Thomastik Dominant, Warchal, etc. The ones which have lasted the longest was the Warchal Brilliant, and the Evah Pirazzi Gold. The one which lasted the shortest, was the Dominant. All the other strings (G, D and E) are fine even after the same amount of use, as I always replace the whole set rather than individual strings.

 

The case I use doesn't require a strap to keep the violin secure. So it can be ruled out that the strap (which fastens around the same place) is what's damaging the string.

 

Also it's worth noting that I'm not the only person with this problem. Most if not all of the violinists I've spoken to about this issue also have the same problem specifically on the A String.

 

Obviously I don't expect strings to last forever, but it is certainly curious as to why the A string usually causes problems first, while the other strings are perfectly fine still.

 

(Photo below is of my current set, the Evah Pirazzi Gold strings).

 

Looking forward to hearing some responses. :)

Thanks.

20190908_152447.jpg

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The same thing happens to me, except that the A string wears out at the C note position.  And my customers always wear out their A strings first, too.  I think that the explanation is simply that the A string receives the most use.

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13 minutes ago, Brad Dorsey said:

The same thing happens to me, except that the A string wears out at the C note position.  And my customers always wear out their A strings first, too.  I think that the explanation is simply that the A string receives the most use.

Fair enough.

 

Although interestingly,  now that you mention it being the most used, I've had the same problem on my viola, again on the A String even though the A string on a viola receives less use than D or G would.

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There is a mechanical explanation too...

In order to get the right frequency, the A string wrapping has to be thinner and/or the core has to be more highly stressed (i.e. will stretch more)... compared to the G and D strings.  If there is going to be any trouble with wear or breakage, it will happen far more often on the A because of these issues.  

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It makes sense the thinnest wrapped string would be the most fragile.  Make sure you keep your nails trimmed so that they never touch the winding.  And you might be using too much pressure.  You don't really have to even push the string all the way to the fingerboard.

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Material is generally aluminum. Wears out faster. The aluminum powder might be visibly embedded into the fingerboard for those who play quite a bit.

The 3rd finger "d' position, on the a- string, wears the fastest for those who shifts to 3rd position often and quickly. Vibratos and the angle with which the edge of the finger and fingernail stretch the windings accelerate the breakdown of the wrapping material.

One might notice that for strings like Evahs and Dominant a-strings, the windings of metal wrap is not very tight. On slightly aggressively filed ( angles at the ) nuts - ones that do not round smoothly towards the a- string peg and/ or too high a string height at the fingerboard - can cause the windings to start spreading apart and deteriorate more quickly ( at the edge of the nut, fingerboard side. )  Burnishing the groove helps, as well as pencils with higher quantity of binder in their graphite core ( some cheaper pencils, Ticonderoga, and some mechanical pencil cores like pentel. )  A gentler arc and an ever so tiny bevel or round on the a- string side helps on my instrument. I think it keeps the wrapped material from binding at that edge. Really just a tiny tug of a new file at an aggressive angle releases a splinter of ebony. Purists do not need to consider this step, as it might compromise the sound of an open a- string. Some use a knife to scrape off that edge but the argument against this is concrete as many work to create a clean, almost aggressive perpendicular at the edge of the nut. Is there a thread on how individuals stylize the nut? 

Lowering the string height, at the user's discretion, can reduce the string wear at the nut. Too low on a bad fingerboard and there will be buzz. If a player finds a noticeable increase in pressure when playing the Bb note ( 1/2 position, 1st finger ) one might look for the distortion of the windings at the nut. Too many student instruments do not have the string heights adjusted at the nut.  

A less than flat fingerboard, with grooves under the strings will also accelerate the damage and the distortion to the windings. Get the fingerboard planed and it the instrument should sound better and your strings will be happier.

In the most extreme cases, an adjustment in technique can also reduce wear. If the thumb and the side of index finger pinch the neck ( when playing in 1st position ) with considerable force, the angle at which the finger tips strike and vibrato might increase the wear. One might see the 1st finger form a very tight loop back down to the string. Of course, not being able to see anyone's hands and how they play, as there can be great variations to this, i am just suggesting an example of what might progress wear.   

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5 hours ago, GoPractice said:

Material is generally aluminum. Wears out faster.

Yes, there's that too.  G and D are frequently silver wrapped, much more durable.

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23 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

It makes sense the thinnest wrapped string would be the most fragile.  Make sure you keep your nails trimmed so that they never touch the winding.  And you might be using too much pressure.  You don't really have to even push the string all the way to the fingerboard.

Ditto to that! Fingernails were my first thought.

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My fingernails are always as short as they can possibly be without bleeding :P So definitely not that. 

 

Thanks for all the explanations and suggestions though. Don Noon's explanation on the mechanical side sums it up well.

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One of my children needs his A string replacing more frequently than the other children.  I wonder if it is due to corrosion produced by his sweat acting on the aluminium.  Apparently the corrosivity of sweat depends on the amount of sweat as well as the chloride content.  I wonder if the aluminium is more susceptible than the other materials on the strings.

https://oem.bmj.com/content/oemed/14/3/191.full.pdf

"Results Corrosion by Different Individuals.-Eight male subjects selected at random for preliminary experiments were asked to wear a rubber glove into each of which was inserted a small cylinder of degreased, polished mild steel. After one and a half hours, four of the subjects were found to have corroded the metal heavily and in addition had rust-stained hands, two produced slight tarnishing and two had a negligible effect. It appears that some individuals may handle degreased metal without having any effect while others produce heavy accumulations of rust."

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That's the spot you probably often shift from (3rd finger in 1st position), and shift to (1st finger in 3rd position), on the most used string. Most likely it is mechanical wear. I wonder if you are applying a bit too much pressure as you prepare to shift (don't ease up early enough) or when you land in 3rd position. Or perhaps in shifting down - the 3rd finger hits hard. 

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1 hour ago, pjham said:

One of my children needs his A string replacing more frequently than the other children.  ( ... )

Does he wipe down the strings after practice? How much does he practice and how strong are his hands?

Next time the string is replaced, do a check on the string. Take a photo. Magnify the photo.

A fix? i am not so sure, but do we need one? Maybe a better job of wiping down and behind the strings. Use a different cloth than one used for wiping off the rosin.

If your son's sweat is more corrosive than the usual person, the e- string is also likely wearing out faster. Take a look at the e- string the next time you change his a- string.

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7 hours ago, GoPractice said:

Does he wipe down the strings after practice? How much does he practice and how strong are his hands?

Next time the string is replaced, do a check on the string. Take a photo. Magnify the photo.

A fix? i am not so sure, but do we need one? Maybe a better job of wiping down and behind the strings. Use a different cloth than one used for wiping off the rosin.

If your son's sweat is more corrosive than the usual person, the e- string is also likely wearing out faster. Take a look at the e- string the next time you change his a- string.

All of his strings wear quicker but especially the A.

Sadly, none of my children wipe their strings. :(

However, better to have to replace strings than have long string life due to lack of practise.

The example was not meant as a problem, more to make the point that (as Don said), the A string may be less durable, but also that the chemical characteristics of the player may also be a contributing factor.

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17 minutes ago, pjham said:

All of his strings wear quicker but especially the A.

Sadly, none of my children wipe their strings. :(

However, better to have to replace strings than have long string life due to lack of practise.

The example was not meant as a problem, more to make the point that (as Don said), the A string may be less durable, but also that the chemical characteristics of the player may also be a contributing factor.

Understood. You might look further into the future. If the strings are wearing, check the bow stick, the frog and the thumb grip. Also the hardware around the chinrest. 

I absolutely agree that practice is worth the price of admission. Strings are one thing. Wearing the facets off a stick can get rather expensive or melty upper bout. You might already know these things.

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On ‎9‎/‎9‎/‎2019 at 9:05 AM, GoPractice said:

Material is generally aluminum. Wears out faster. The aluminum powder might be visibly embedded into the fingerboard for those who play quite a bit.

The 3rd finger "d' position, on the a- string, wears the fastest for those who shifts to 3rd position often and quickly. Vibratos and the angle with which the edge of the finger and fingernail stretch the windings accelerate the breakdown of the wrapping material.

One might notice that for strings like Evahs and Dominant a-strings, the windings of metal wrap is not very tight. On slightly aggressively filed ( angles at the ) nuts - ones that do not round smoothly towards the a- string peg and/ or too high a string height at the fingerboard - can cause the windings to start spreading apart and deteriorate more quickly ( at the edge of the nut, fingerboard side. )  Burnishing the groove helps, as well as pencils with higher quantity of binder in their graphite core ( some cheaper pencils, Ticonderoga, and some mechanical pencil cores like pentel. )  A gentler arc and an ever so tiny bevel or round on the a- string side helps on my instrument. I think it keeps the wrapped material from binding at that edge. Really just a tiny tug of a new file at an aggressive angle releases a splinter of ebony. Purists do not need to consider this step, as it might compromise the sound of an open a- string. Some use a knife to scrape off that edge but the argument against this is concrete as many work to create a clean, almost aggressive perpendicular at the edge of the nut. Is there a thread on how individuals stylize the nut? 

Lowering the string height, at the user's discretion, can reduce the string wear at the nut. Too low on a bad fingerboard and there will be buzz. If a player finds a noticeable increase in pressure when playing the Bb note ( 1/2 position, 1st finger ) one might look for the distortion of the windings at the nut. Too many student instruments do not have the string heights adjusted at the nut.  

A less than flat fingerboard, with grooves under the strings will also accelerate the damage and the distortion to the windings. Get the fingerboard planed and it the instrument should sound better and your strings will be happier.

In the most extreme cases, an adjustment in technique can also reduce wear. If the thumb and the side of index finger pinch the neck ( when playing in 1st position ) with considerable force, the angle at which the finger tips strike and vibrato might increase the wear. One might see the 1st finger form a very tight loop back down to the string. Of course, not being able to see anyone's hands and how they play, as there can be great variations to this, i am just suggesting an example of what might progress wear.   

I agree about the nut groove needing to be carefully worked to reduce the stress on the A.

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String life is highly variable, from things like the perspiration composition of the player, to abrasives used in the latest finishing of the fingerboard.

It's just one more of those things where the best that we can do, without a lot more information, and with no desire to deceive, is to say that "it depends".

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