Why Do Violin Strings Break? 6 Ways To Prevent It

Whether you are a beginner or professional violinist, chances are you have experienced a few broken violin strings before. Though not uncommon, violin strings should not break. If they do, there is likely a reason behind it. Understanding why violin strings break can help you prevent this from occurring in the first place.

Why do violin strings break? Violin strings can break for various reasons such as over-tightening, using old strings and even issues with the violin body. You can take measures to prevent strings from breaking by frequently changing your strings, learning how to tune correctly and investing in higher-quality strings.

In this article, we will look at a few reasons why violin strings may break, things you can do to prevent them from breaking, and the three different types of violin strings.

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Why Violin Strings Break

There are various reasons why your violin strings may break. Knowing why this happens is a great way to prevent it in the future.

Over Tightening The Strings

When putting on new strings or tuning a violin, a common mistake is over-tightening the strings too high. This creates too much tension that will inevitably snap the strings. Violin strings are meant to be adjusted to their correct pitch. Going beyond that pitch can lead to your strings breaking.

Strings Are Past Their Lifespan

All violin strings have a lifespan. Based on the amount of time played and the type of strings, violin strings may need to be changed more often to avoid breaking. Along with snapping, playing with old strings will also alter sound quality. So, if you find your violin is starting to sound off or the strings begin to feel thinner, it may be time to change them.

The Bridge Or Top Nut Are Too Narrow

If you find your strings are breaking around the bridge or nut, it could be due to the area being too narrow for the strings. If this is the case, the strings will not be able to slide through when tuning, and instead, it will pinch the strings. To resolve this issue, see a luthier to either repair or replace the bridge and/or nut.

Rough Grooves

Another reason your strings might be fraying or breaking around the bridge or nut of your violin could be due to rough grooves. If you are experiencing breaks around these areas, examine your violin for any sharp or rough spots. While some people file down these areas themselves, it is best to have a luthier look at your violin and repair where needed.

Sharp Fine Tuners

Sharp fine tuners are a common cause of breaking strings, especially for the E string and looped strings. To fix this, take your violin to a luthier to have the edges smoothed out.

Environmental Factors

Violins are made from organic materials, making them susceptible to environmental factors such as humidity and rapid temperature changes. These changes can cause a violin to expand and contact, shifting the mechanisms in your violin and potentially causing your strings to snap. Properly storing your violin helps to keep it damaged-free from external factors, such as the environment and accidents.

6 Ways To Prevent Violin Strings From Breaking

Even with the best maintenance and upkeep, violin strings can still snap. However, there are a few ways to prevent the likeness of your strings from breaking.

1. Change Strings Frequently

Frequently changing your violin strings will help not only help keep your violin sounding and feeling great but also decreases the likeliness of your strings breaking from being worn out. Depending on the type of strings used and the number of hours played, you may have to change your strings every couple of months. For example, gut string tends to have the shortest lifespan, whereas synthetic and steel tend to last longer.

2. Learn How To Properly Tune And Change Strings

Since one of the top reasons violin strings break is due to over tuning, learning to properly tune a violin will help prevent the strings from breaking. When adjusting (or changing strings), go slowly and ensure you are using the right string in the correct spot.

To better learn how to tune and change strings on a violin, try watching online video tutorials, asking someone at your local music store or a violin instructor, and using a tuner to ensure you are at the right pitch for each string.

3. Proper Violin Storage

Proper storage for your violin is not only important to keep your violin damage-free but also to protect it from environmental factors that can change the tone and cause strings to break. Violins that are exposed to rapidly changing temperatures and humidity levels can cause the strings to become brittle, and with the violin expanding and contracting, the strings are bound to snap.

Avoid putting your violin anywhere near a fireplace and colder areas such as an uninsulated mudroom. In addition, investing in a hard case and humidity control accessories such as the D'Addario Humidipak (link to check the price on Amazon) are excellent ways to help ensure ideal storage conditions for your violin.

4. Watch Out For Sharp Edges & Improperly Placed Parts

Frequently check your violin for any sharp edges or parts that look out of place, especially around the fingerboard, nut, pegs and bridge. This can help you to spot problem areas before they break your strings. If you find that the body of your violin is causing your strings to snap, bring your violin to a luthier to get problem areas repaired or replaced.

5. Cut Your Fingernails

Having long nails on your left hand not only impacts the way you play the violin by reducing the tone quality and your ability to play vibrato, but they can also break your strings. To play the violin, you press the tips of your fingers onto the strings, which is nearly impossible to do with long nails without causing damage to the strings, your nails and, over time, the fingerboard.

6. Clean Violin Strings

Like most things, violin strings are susceptible to build up from the oils on your fingers, rosin dust, and dirt. It is important to clean your violin strings after playing to prevent build-up. To do this, use a dry cloth (microfibre cloths work best) and gently wipe down your strings and fingerboard before storing your violin.

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Types Of Violin Strings

There are three main types of violin strings to choose from that will slightly alter the tone and playability of your violin. Depending on the type of strings you choose, the maintenance requirements will differ.

Steel Core

Before synthetic strings were invented, steel was the only alternative to gut core. Steel strings provide a stable and precise tone but lack complexity and depth.

Lasting the longest of the three, steel strings can generally last around 9-12 months before needing to be replaced. They are also the most affordable type of strings.

Gut Core

Gut strings are considered one of the highest quality strings on the market as they are made from sheep intestines. These strings go back centuries and are most known for their rich sound, complex overtones and lower tension.

Since gut strings are made from natural materials, they are susceptible to environmental and temperature changes. Rapidly changing temperatures and humidity levels will require more frequent tuning and potentially wear the strings out quicker.

Although high quality, gut strings tend to be more maintenance, less durable and expensive in comparison to steel and synthetic. Gut strings should be changed after 120 to 150 hours of playing to avoid breaking and ensure the best quality sound.

Synthetic Core

Synthetic core is a newer type of string that is becoming increasingly popular over the years with string instrument players. They are made from various types of materials, including nylon and composite and provide a quality sound at an affordable price.

Synthetic strings have a warmer and richer tone than steel while being more stable in pitch than gut. Therefore, you will not need to tune them as frequently. Despite having fewer complex tones than gut, synthetic strings come close to delivering a “gut” like tone while being as stable as steel strings.

On average, synthetic strings can last around 3-6 months before needing to be changed.

This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.


Arthur is the owner of Fox Media Tech and the author of My New Microphone. He's an audio engineer by trade and works on contract in his home country of Canada. When not blogging on MNM, he's likely hiking outdoors and blogging at Hikers' Movement (hikersmovement.com) or producing music. For more info, please check out his YouTube channel and his music.

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