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Violin

How do I set up my violin bridge?

The bridge is not in a fixed position.  It is held in place with the tension of the strings over the top edge.  If your bridge is not set you will need to set it by following the simple instructions below:

  • Loosen strings if necessary.  You will need some tension of the strings in order to keep the bridge in place.
  • Position the bridge so that higher side of the bridge is under the low strings (G string side).
  • Align the feet of the bridge with the two notches on the inside of the "F" holes and evenly with the fingerboard.
  • Tilt the bridge up under the strings toward the tailpiece and set at a 90 degree angle.  If you cannot tilt the bridge up because the strings are too tight, loosen them slowly and tighten just enough, so you can hold the bridge in place.
  • Align the strings so they are evenly spaced on the bridge prior to tightening the string too much.
  • Tighten pegs by turning clockwise and pushing in towards the peg box in order to hold the bridge in place.

If the bridge begins to tilt forward, you can very carefully pull it back with both hands while resting the lower bout of the violin on your stomach.

How do I tune my violin?

If you are new to the violin, we suggest you have your instructor assist you with tuning. The strings are delicate and if they are over tightened, it may snap and cause damage to your new instrument.

As you are tightening the strings to correct pitch keep pulling the top of the bridge back toward the tailpiece. It will tend to lean toward the fingerboard as you tighten the strings. If you let it lean too far, it will SLAM down and could result in damage to your instrument.  Use the pegs for general tuning and the fine tuners for further adjusting.  Follow these directions to get started:

  • The violin notes are G-D-A-E from low to high
  • Use a pitch pipe or and electronic tuner for reference
  • Start by tuning the G-string first.  The G-string is the lowest pitch and the first string from the left as you are looking at the violin.
  • If you are using a pitch pipe blow into it to produce a G note
  • Pluck the string and adjust the tension of the string with the peg to get relatively close to the pitch. You will need to push the pegs in toward the peg box
  • You will need to continue to pluck or play the string, all the while keeping the G pitch in your ear or blowing into the pitch pipe in order to get the pitches to match.  Once you are close you can use the fine turner that is located on the tailpiece to get an exact match of pitches.
  • Repeat the steps above to tune the remaining strings in the following order D, A, and E.
  • Once you have completed the tuning of each string, be sure to double-check the accuracy of the intonation by playing each consecutive pair of strings together, G-D, D-A, A-E.  Make any adjustments that may be necessary with the fine tuners
  • You are finished

My pegs always come loose, what do I do?

If pegs start to slip push the peg in towards the peg box to get a better grip.  Use peg compound to help lock the pegs in place.  You can also apply chalk onto the pegs where it is inserted into the peg box.

If the pegs are slipping, you can do the following:

  • Be sure to push the pegs in as you tune the strings up to pitch.  This ensures that the pegs hold tighter as the tension of the string goes up.
  • Use peg compound to help lock the pegs in place.  You can also apply chalk onto the pegs where it is inserted into the peg box.  You should apply peg compound every couple of months

Over time, all pegs and the peg box become worn.  When this happens, it is time to bring the instrument to a professional repairperson for refitting.

The hair on my bow is slack and not tight and it won't make any sound on my violin, what is wrong?

The bow must be tightened and rosined in order to produce a sound with it.  To prepare your bow follow the steps below:

  • Use the screw to tighten the frog so that the hair has tautness.
  • Be careful not to over tighten your bow.  The hair should have a slight bounce to it without touching the stick after placing it on the strings.  Usually about 1/4 of an inch distance from the low point of the curve to the hair is ideal.  For some it is more and some it is less depending on how the player plays.
  • A new rosin cake will be too slick to apply to the hair.  To correct this take a small pocketknife and cut three or four parallel lines in the rosin so that there will be some texture to the cake.  You can also roughen the surface of the rosin cake with some sandpaper.
  • Slowly draw the hair over the rosin cake from the frog to the tip of the bow.  Be careful not to draw the bow too quickly, which would cause some friction.
  • On a new bow, you may have to repeat this process approximately 5-10 minutes...test the bow to determine if the rosin is adhering to the hair.
  • If it is, you'll start to hear a clear pitch emitted as the bow is drawn over the strings.
  • If there is no tone of volume emitting from the stings, the bow is not grabbing the strings enough to generate a tone, try applying more rosin. 
  • Follow this process repeatedly until the bow no longer slides on the strings, and you're getting a clear tone.

The bow should not be used on anything or for anything other tan the strings of a stringed instrument.

Never touch the horsehair on your bow.  The oils from your skin will damage the hair and take away its ability to grab the strings.

When do I apply rosin to the bow?

Rosin the bow regularly. For students it is probably sufficient to rosin the bow once a week. Too much rosin will produce a harsh tone and cause an excessive build-up of the white rosin powder on the instrument.

What do I do with the bow when I'm not playing?

When your practice session is over, loosen the screw so that the hair is no longer taut and return you bow to its case.  This will help you prolong the life of your bow.  You should loosen the hair completely then bring it back with just a single turn of the screw.  The goal is to "keep the hair even but allow the box to relax."

Do I have to clean the bow?

A bow stick around should be wiped clean after every use.  A soft, non-abrasive, clean cloth (lint free) no oils or chemicals should be used. There are special untreated cloths marketed for the cleaning of instruments and bows; there are also many types of cleansers and polishes for stringed instruments that can be used on bows.  If the bow is wiped properly after every use, cleansers and polishes are pretty much unnecessary.  (If you feel the need to polish your bow stick, first use a drop on a small area of the stick to make sure it won't damage or discolor your finish).  Never use any kind of commercial cleanser on a bow (or stringed instrument) and keep all chemicals, cleansers, etc. away from the hair.

How long does the bow hair last? Do I need to change the hair?

Bows must be periodically re-haired by a professional repair technician.  Re-hair the bow is done when too many of the hairs are broken, or the hair is dirty, or has lost its friction.  Sometimes changing the whole bow can be easier and cheaper than to re-hair the old bow, especially with small fractional sized bows.

My bow is not curved anymore! What do I do?

Bows sometimes lose their correct camber and need to be re-cambered using the same heating method as is used in the original manufacture, this should be performed by professional repair technicians.

Why don't I get any sound from my violin?

The sound post may be dislodged from its position! The sound post is vital to producing any sound from the violin.  It serves as the conduit between the bridge, strings, and body of the instrument and is located in the inside of the body visible through the "F" holes.  The sound post is set in the correct position prior to shipping.  It is not in a fixed position and is held in place by being wedged between the top and bottom of the body. During shipping it is possible for the sound post to dislodge itself and may need to be reset.  Should this be the case you may take the violin to your local repair shop to properly re-set the sound post in place!

How do I put my shoulder rest on?

To attach the shoulder rest:

  • Adjust the feet so that the shoulder rest will clamp on the edges of the lower bout
  • Gently spread the feet to fit over the edge and snap in.

How do I clean my violin?

Always clean your violin after playing.  Keep a lint-free cloth inside your case and wipe off all the rosin dust and dirt from your instrument after each time you play.  Pay particular attention to the fingerboard and the top of the instrument.  If rosin dust accumulates and is not wiped off it will fuse with the varnish, and become impossible to remove without damage.

Be careful not to knock the bridge out of place while cleaning.

Never use furniture polish or alcohol to clean your instrument!

Do I ever need to clean the stings on my violin?

Always clean your violin stings after playing.  Keep a lint-free cloth inside your case and wipe off all the dust and dirt from your stings after each time you play.  This will make a striking difference to the sound.

How long do strings last?  And how do I change them?

Strings will slowly deteriorate.  Usually, within six months they start to lose much of their tone quality and begin to sound dull and dead.  This occurs even if the violin is not being played.

Old strings are lifeless and dull sounding.  They should be replaced with new strings.  The finest instruments will not sound good with poor strings.  The strings should be replaced one at a time.

When you need to change an entire set of strings, do not remove all of the old stings at one time.  This will cause you to lose the correct bridge placement and the lack of tension can cause the sound post to fall over.

To change your strings follow the steps below:

  • Adjust the fine tuner so that it is in the middle of its range
  • Insert the ball end of string around the hooks of fine tuner and lightly pull
  • Insert the other end of the string through the hole in the peg and wind it by turning the peg clockwise.  Align the string on the bridge by running it through the groove that was made from the old string
  • Wind up the string evenly from the center of the peg to just before the edge of the peg box
  • Tighten the string until you get close to the desired pitch
  • Use the fine tuner to lock the string into pitch
  • Check the bridge's adjustment, guarding against the edge being pulled toward the fingerboard excessively while bring the new strings up to pitch gradually

Why do my strings break all the time?

  • New strings may break after installation.  If this happens be sure to take note of where the string broke.  This can be caused by a variety of reasons:
    • A violin can develop a rough spot at the peg, the nut, or the fine turner if the winding of the string is too close to the wall of the peg box.
    • It may be under too much tension and stress, causing it to snap.
  • If you are suffering from either slipping or tight pegs please see above for details of how to remedy the problem.
  • Remember that after you have put them on, strings will slowly deteriorate.  Usually, within six months they start to lose much of their tone quality and begin to sound dull and dead. This occurs even if the violin is not being played. Even unused strings in their packages loose their quality after a while.
  • Often, trying different strings can make a significant contribution to improving the sound of your instrument.
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