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Strings and String tension
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Honorary advisor

February 15, 2012 - 2:52 pm
Member Since: January 18, 2012
Forum Posts: 347
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When i first began learning the violin in Grade school a violin teacher told me that when I am not playing and the violin is in its case to keep the violin strings tight and tuned.  But yet another teacher told me to loosen the strings when I am not playing. Still yet a third teacher told me to keep the strings tuned and tight even when i am not playing however, to loosen the strings if and when I am storing the violin for a prolonged period (say a few weeks) without playing.  Over the years I have heard all sorts of conflicting advice.


From my own experience I have found that storing with the strings tight and tuned has never caused any problems. On the other hand frequent loosening and tightening of the strings seems to cause much more frequent string breakage.   So, out of my own experience I tend to keep my strings tight and tuned, even when the violin is stored for a week or more..


Is there any official consensus on this among violin players ? Should I be loosening the strings if I plan to store thhe violin without playing for some time ?

February 15, 2012 - 3:19 pm
Member Since: February 28, 2011
Forum Posts: 2439
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I don't think I have ever loosened my strings ( 2 violins ) for storage.

Fact is that they usually go loose by themselves.

(PS There is no such thing as "official consensus" regarding anything about violins.)


When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

Dee Major
Regular advisor

February 15, 2012 - 6:03 pm
Member Since: January 21, 2012
Forum Posts: 158
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Oliver said

(PS There is no such thing as "official consensus" regarding anything about violins.)

Yes, that seems to be the case. The more I learn, the more fascinating it is. No wonder we are all hooked.wink

Fort Lauderdale
February 15, 2012 - 8:50 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 13281

I never loosen my strings for anything except to adjust the sound-post when I go crazy. Even when I know that I will have a long vacation I still don't even consider doing it.

I used to own a string stretcher that I used to keep my reserve strings stretched and tuned in case a string would break at a crucial moment. I suppose that strings would last a little longer if you had them looser for storage purposes.


"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

Honorary advisor

February 15, 2012 - 11:07 pm
Member Since: January 28, 2012
Forum Posts: 228
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I am confident storing my instrument tuned for two reasons:


1.) She was stored with tension on the strings for over six years between when my sister put her down and I picked her up.  The strings were horribly out of tune when I started but overall have been performing nicely since then.  (Except the E-string which I broke last fall and had to replace.  The other three are old though.) 


2.) Since they're synthetic core strings, and so can be modelled roughly as a viscoelastic material, I know that the stress on the strings will decrease over time when exposed to a constant strain (such as being stored while tuned).  Hence, the need to retune on occasion.


The real question is whether the creep that happens as a result of the constant strain of being stored while tuned would result in failure before the fatigue caused by cyclic loading, e.g. if the strings were slacked and tightened repeatedly, all else being equal.  Practically, I would say that it doesn't matter because you'll never get to that point.*  If you increase strain too quickly then the string's molecular structure is not able to rearrange itself fast enough in order to accomodate the extra energy so "pop" it goes.  The more times you relax and tighten the string, the more chances you have at over-tightening it or tightening it too quickly. 


So my vote is only mess with the strings when necessary and let them do their thing otherwise.  If you do have to mess with them then tighten gradually and steadily rather than sharply.  You want to avoid increasing strain too fast or overshooting and putting more stress on the string than the material can handle.   (Which is probably why the rule of thumb is to "tune up" to a note rather than overshoot and try to work backwards.)


Well, there you have it.  I think this is the first time anyone has ever managed to study for a materials engineering exam while procrastinating.  Any engineers out there who want to weigh in?


*general "you"

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