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Do Violin Strings Go Bad?

As you begin playing the violin and gathering all the necessary accessories, you may wonder: do violin strings go bad? Unfortunately, yes, violin strings do expire. So any stories you may have heard about an old violin that was found in a drawer and still played perfectly the moment it was discovered are most likely not true. Regular upkeep – including string replacement – is necessary to maintain a violin in perfect playing order.

There are plenty of answers to the question how long do violin strings last. Individual violinists will go through their strings at different rates; the style a musician performs can impact the rate of string deterioration. The type of string – metal, nylon, or gut – can also play a significant role in the length of time that your instrument will sound its best.

Aging Factors

Other than musical technique and the amount a particular violinist plays their instrument, the temperature of the surrounding environment has a major effect on string longevity. The colder the weather, the more friction that is produced by the bow and along the pegs of your violin, which can lead to contraction and string tightening. On the other hand, warmer weather with greater humidity can cause your violin to expand and the pegs holding the strings in their proper place to loosen. Neither situation is ideal for string life or overall violin health.

Another way to save your strings is by properly clearing your violin after each practice session or performance. An improperly cared for instrument collects dust, and playing on violin strings when they’ve accumulated grit or dirt can result in corrosion that will weaken your strings at a faster pace. It’s often thought that most violinists will be able to play on a quality set of strings for a year to a year and a half, however, due to friction, metal strings often need to be replaced sooner than gut or nylon strings.

It’s Time to Change Your Strings

If you’re unsure of when to change your strings or find that the normal timeline for string replacement doesn’t work for your playing style or string preferences, there are a few signs to watch out for. First and foremost listen to how your strings sound; tuning issues or your violin sounding “off” are sure signs that you need new strings.

Another sign is decolourization, which is when environmental factors begin changing the color of your strings, and it’s a sign of corrosion and dirt accumulation. Discolored strings need to be replaced to preserve the integrity of your violin and keep you playing your best.

Even the best cared for violin is going to experience wear and tear as well as rosin buildup. But some basic maintenance, like changing your strings in a timely fashion, will help keep your violin both playing and looking better.

Additional Resources

Carriage House Violins

Located in Newton, Massachusetts, Carriage House Violins is the instrument sales division of Johnson String Instrument.

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Johnson String Project

A charitable foundation whose goal is to provide high-quality instruments to children who live in under-served communities and who are participating in El-Sistema-inspired programs in Massachusetts.

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