Replacing Cello Strings
When we practice frequently, our sound can get dull over time, and we can mistake a lackluster tone for bad technique or a poorly built instrument (both of which are valid reasons for a dull sound). One of the biggest ways to improve sound is simply by replacing old, worn out cello strings.
Some obvious signs of worn out strings include: unraveling metal, rust, an exposed core of the string, discoloration (the string turns green or black), or the string has completely snapped in two. Some less obvious signs include: less resonance, inability for open strings to stay in tune, notes that fall flat after being played, and an overly stretchy, rubbery feel to the string. It’s also time to replace cello strings when it’s been over a year since the last string change or the student doesn’t remember when the strings were replaced. While the physical signs of a worn-out string are obvious to all students, some of the less obvious signs can be glanced over by young cellists. By studying with a cello teacher, students not only learn how to practice and perform, but also learn how to take care of their instruments and replace strings in a timely manner.
It is important to replace strings because worn out parts can cause a great deal of frustration and resentment when students must use too much effort to get a good sound. Frayed cello strings can also poke fingers and lead to physical discomfort for the young musician. Sometimes, strings won’t show physical signs of aging, so the student must listen to their open string sound and tune carefully on a daily basis. It’s a good idea not to wait until strings show physical signs of decay, but instead to replace them on a regular schedule. Make a plan to check on your strings regularly with your teacher during your cello lessons.
Old strings that are still intact should be kept as an extra set and stored in a compartment inside the cello case or music bag. Strings are not stable and can break easily, so it’s important to be prepared with an extra set in case this happens. A cello teacher can help young cellists determine when is a good time for a new set of strings. Since beginner cellists practice in shorter increments of time, the strings will wear out less frequently. I recommend that beginner and intermediate students replace strings every 10-12 months or before the strings show signs of physical decay. Advanced student cellists who are practicing daily should consider replacing their strings every 8-12 months depending on how many hours they practice and perform.
Check out Choosing the Right Cello Strings and Choosing Strings for Your Instrument on the Johnson String website for more information on cello strings.