Busted E string

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  • #89224
    Great Scott
    Moderator

    So, I took my violin out of its case yesterday and found the E string flopping around. All four strings (Zyex) are about four years old and very little use), and the G, D and A strings have never been problematic. The only thing that seems to affect the strings as far as putting them out of tune is the warmer weather. In colder weather the strings hold their tuning really well and for a long time. The recently busted E string was a hardly-used replacement for the previous E string that busted around 18 months ago. I decided to use the used E string as a replacement because no music store where I was at the time sold Zyex strings, and the starting price for the strings that they did have in store was around $104 to $120 plus. (I buy my strings from Fiddlershop in Florida for around $44.) all the current strings on my violin G,D, and A, and the busted E have not had a lot of use, so I’m just wondering why it is the E string that busts for no good reason.

    Yesterday, after finding the busted string, I decided to loosen the other three strings off a little and keep them lose in future when the violin in no being played and in its case, and then to tune them up when I want to play (which is rare these days).

    So, I’m just wondering: What makes the E string so vulnerable to breakage when not in use and having not been played very much? Does anyone else here at BGD loosen off their strings when their fiddle is not being played / when in the case?

    Handy hints on what to do or not to do are most welcome.  Thanks.

     

    #89226
    Brandon F
    Participant

    Hello great Scott,

    So I’ve done a large number of minor to moderate repairs on violins over the last 5 years and this has been a problem I’ve ran across a number of times. First if you’ve had strings on for more than a year with tension applied then your doing pretty good. I find that the E and D strings tend to be problematic due to the E string being so thin and the D string being on the high arch of the bridge. Do you have the little piece of rubber (normally comes on E string) set on the bridge? If not then the bridge could be cutting the string. Also it’s possible you bridge may be too sharp or not at the correct height causing the E string to have too much tension. Those are the most common culprits I find.

    #89227
    Great Scott
    Moderator

    Thanks for your quick reply, Brandon. When I first began learning the fiddle I used that little plastic tube that comes with the E string, but after only a couple months I noticed that the E string was cutting through the tube. This happened on two sets of strings on my Stentor fiddle. So I cut a tiny piece of leather off an old garden glove and placed it under the E string, and whenever I replaced the strings I would remove that piece of leather and position it under the new E string. It never affected the sound and the E strings would play really sweetly. The leather was about the same thickness as the plastic / rubber tube. When I transitioned from the Stentor to my old German fiddle I used the same piece of leather to great success.

    My bridge appears to be a little low IMO (not much space between the strings and the fingerboard). On my Stentor fiddle the bridge appears to be higher (larger space between strings and fingerboard) and so string crossings are easier, but on my current old German fiddle the bridge and string height differences make string crossings sloppy (for me at least). The old German fiddle is the one I am traveling with and the one that the E strings bust on.  While the fiddle is in its case I place a cleaning cloth over the strings before I strap down the fingerboard. This helps prevent the velcro strap from chafing the strings. The bridge appears to be regular without being too sharp, though the bridge is a LOT thinner than the bridge on my Stentor fiddle which is a little chunky. What you say about having the strings tensioned for more than a year while the fiddle is in its case makes sense. That’s why I’ve now loosened off the other three strings, and when I get a new set of strings I will loosen them all of a little when the fiddle is not being used.

    #89228
    cricket
    Participant

    I’m no expert, but I find that weather conditions of any type…in other words, every day…is rough on fiddles. I don’t play mine much, no time for it, but I do check the tuning of them every day if I can, or at least every two or three days…I find that any weather changes affect the tuning…so I retune and make sure their holding their pitch.  No idea if this would lengthen the life of the strings, but seems to me it’s at least good for the bridge, sound post, etc.  I’ve never had any string break except for my A string…oddly enough…if I have one break, it’s gonna be the A…seems like.  But I think it’s better for the instrument to keep them tuned…lack of proper tension can mess up the sound post and start some kind of warping process that can mess everything up…I don’t know that for a fact, but I think that can happen…someone correct me if I’m wrong about that.

    #89229
    Great Scott
    Moderator

    Thanks for your reply, Cricket. I once watched a YT video from a classical violinist and string maker (Daniel Olsen-Chen) and I recall him saying that it is better for the strings and the over all instrument to loosen the strings when violin is not in use as this will lessen the tension on the strings, the bridge, the sound post etc. He didn’t mean to loosen all the strings right off so that they are all floppy, he just meant to loosen them just enough to to take the over all pressure and tension off the strings and the body of the violin. Now I have to go looking around for a new set of strings. I will replace all four of them.

    #89230
    Frederick
    Participant

    This will sound unbelievable: I haven’t had to tune my 1834 fiddle in over a year! The Helicore mediums on it are two years old. When I had the fiddle rebuilt, I had the pegholes rebushed and since I’ve played it every day I am amazed that it has stayed in tune perfectly. I take this fiddle in a hot car, turn on the air conditioner, get to where I’m going and no problem – still in tune. I’ve played out at different places several nights per week and three places on the weekends and still no tuning necessary.

    The luthier that set the neck on the rebuild takes credit for it saying that the glue he used when setting the neck is the reason but I have no idea why. But, I am delighted!

    It’s so funny as I get to the jam sessions and just sit there patiently waiting for all the other musicians to tune their instruments not having to adjust mine at all. This is the only fiddle I’ve ever owned that’s like this. Wow!

    #89235
    Great Scott
    Moderator

    Fred, that sounds like one great fiddle. You are very lucky to have scored such a wonderful violin. Mine is around 80 years younger than yours: nice violin — warm, bright, sweet-sounding, loud, very good condition all over. I use a mute all the time ’cause it is so loud under my ear. I guess I shouldn’t expect too much from mine. at the same time I bought mine, I passed over a fantastic German violin which was a little older than mine because it had had a small repair to the sound hole. That fiddle sang like Maria Callas. I have kicked myself ever since for not buying it.

    #89240
    Frederick
    Participant

    Yes, Scott. It’s a wonderful fiddle and a family heirloom.

    I think it’s wonderful that you have a warm, bright sweet-sounding fiddle. I use a mute a lot when practicing with my 1834, too. When I play out, of course I take the mute back away from the bridge.

    I’ll bet that old German fiddle you passed up on is sounding real nice nowadays and that old sound hole isn’t bothering a thing, heh? lol. I know just how you feel. I’ve passed up so many fiddles before because of blemishes, etc.

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