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The Basics of String Installation and Tuning, Bowed Playing Lengths and String Sizes

String Installation and Tuning: Violin, Viola, Cello

Preparation

  1. Get ready with your replacement strings, tuner and a fresh pencil.
  2. In order to keep the bridge in place, only loosen one string at a time to replace it.

Remove the Old String

  1. Place the instrument face-up.
  2. Relax tension on the string by turning its tuning peg toward you.
  3. Carefully unwind the string from the peg by hand, then extract the ball-end from the tailpiece.

Install the New String

  1. Darken the emptied string grooves of the bridge and nut with the pencil to apply a layer of graphite inside.
  2. Seat the new string's ball-end in position in the tailpiece or fine-tuner.
  3. Thread the free end of the string through the corresponding hole in the center of its tuning peg.
  4. Carefully rotate the top of the peg away from you in order to wind the string around its spindle.
  5. Ensure that the string spools closely on the peg, wrapping toward the handle.
  6. Taking care that the string is set in the correct nut and bridge grooves, tighten it enough to alleviate any slack.

Pitch & Tune

  1. Check your tuner for the proper note as you twist the peg top away from you. Gently pluck the string at close intervals to test the sound until the correct pitch is reached. If the peg does not seem to want to hold without slipping, try pressing it carefully into the peg box.
  2. If the string you are tuning has a fine-tuner, get it into the ballpark with the tuning peg and then use the fine-tuner to make your precision adjustments.
  3. Double-check the bridge to ensure that it has remained upright and is not leaning.
  4. To avoid breaking your strings, take care not to tune them too high.

Repeat these steps for each of your strings.

String Installation and Tuning: Double Bass

Preparation

  1. Get ready with your replacement strings, tuner and a fresh pencil.
  2. In order to keep the sound post in place, only loosen one string at a time to replace it.

Remove the Old String

  1. Gently lay down the instrument face-up.
  2. Relax tension on the string by turning its tuner handle clockwise. To make this step easier, a string winder can help.
  3. Withdraw the tip of the string from its roller hole, then extract the ball-end from the tailpiece.

Install the New String

  1. Darken the emptied string grooves of the bridge and nut with the pencil to apply a layer of graphite inside.
  2. Thread the new string up through the tailpiece, ensuring that the ball-end properly seats in its slot.
  3. Extend the free end of the string through its roller so that approximately 3" protrudes from the other side. Pull that extra length back and twist it once around the string on the opposite side of the roller.
  4. Rotate the roller handle counter-clockwise to tighten, using a string winder if available. Let the string cross over itself—this will make it more secure. Take care not to pinch the string against the wall of the peg box.
  5. Tension the new string to full pitch before moving on to the next one.

Tuning Tools

  • Electronic tuner: This device is very helpful for beginners since it works for each string individually.
  • A440 tuning fork: Ideal for advanced musicians, this will allow you to tune the A string and then match harmonics to tune the remainder.

General Notes about Bass Tuning

  • Typically, bass strings are tuned in fourths—from lowest to highest: E, A, D, G.
  • During the process of tuning with the machine handle, take your time rising to the proper note. Listen closely to the change in pitch as you pluck the string.
  • Take care not to excessively tighten your strings. Going beyond the intended pitch can potentially damage them.
  • Once you have played the bass for a few minutes, take a break and re-adjust the tuning.
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