If you were to browse forums that attract beginner violinists from all over the globe, you’d notice something fairly interesting. Their questions mostly revolve around the tightness of the strings (or their sharpness, if we’re looking at guitar forums). In other words: they’re very curious about the proper tuning methods. That’s why today we’ve chosen to answer one question that always seems to spark some interest: do violin strings need to be tight? 

Okay, so why’s this so important? Well… Needless to say, playing out of tune is completely out of the question. Also, one can assume no one would recommend you to play with loose strings. In the article you’re about to read, we’ll show you just how tight violin strings need to be. Stay tuned, or, at least, learn how to do so!

Yup, violin strings do need to be tight in order for you to play the instrument without feeling like you’re playing out of tune. Just so you get the best sound out of your violin, make sure that the strings aren’t loose, or that they haven’t loosened during the storage period. 

As you’re used to seeing on this blog, we’ll emphasize that reading just the preview’s also out of the question.

An introduction to why your violin strings need to be tight

Okay, so we’ve pretty much answered the question proposed by the tile, but that can hardly satisfy anyone. Even the laziest of folks will want to know more. Anyway, before we delve deeper into our main story for today, let’s see why playing with loose violin strings is to be avoided at all costs. Well, playing with out-of-tune strings will result in you (and your audience, of course) feeling dissatisfied with the way the instrument sounds. That can, sometimes, cause a person to abandon the whole process of learning to play the violin. Needless to say, you’ll wanna avoid reaching that phase.

What can cause loose strings?

It can be a number of things. For instance, loose violin strings might mean you’ve simply tuned the instrument in the incorrect manner. That is, of course, easily solvable. However, if you’re experiencing something you’d call “chronic” loose-strings issues, resolving the issue is a totally different story. You’ll know you’re having these so-called chronic issues once you’re quite used to tightening loose strings over and over during a single session. This usually means there’s a problem that needs to be taken care of by a professional.

To conclude: taking care of this issue as soon as you notice something’s wrong will save you a lot of money you’ll otherwise spend on the repair of your trusty instrument.

Should you loosen violin strings when not playing?

It all depends on the conditions in which you’ll store your instrument. For instance, let’s say you’re storing your violin in a place that won’t go through a large temperature change or experience humidity. If that’s the case, it’s perfectly fine to store your violin with tight strings. On the other hand, if you’re certain the place of storage will experience the issues we’ve mentioned above, it’s recommended that you loosen the strings before storage. Also, try not to hang your violin on a wall.

Additionally, if you’re looking for more tips on the subject of what-to-do-with-strings-while-you’re-not-playing, we’ve published an article about it already.

Now that we’ve gone through the introductory section, let’s consider the main question of this article: do violin strings need to be tight? (Although we’ve already answered it).

The tightened strings of a violin.

Do violin strings need to be tight?

Should we answer this or just keep moving? Okay, okay. Violin strings DO need to be tight so you can play without any issues affecting the way your instrument sounds. Earlier on, we’ve mentioned some of the reasons why your violing stings might end up being loose. Here we’ll elaborate more on that issue. Oh, and if you’re wondering why they’re so expensive… Simply follow the highlighted-in-blue anchor.

Issues with loose violin strings and how to resolve them

Here are examples of reasons why your violin strings might go from tight to loose, and what exactly can you do about it.

Example #1: Pegs slip

Now, let’s imagine that your pegs slip and your violin strings venture into the out-of-tune modus operandi. Most of the time when this happens, it means they couldn’t keep your strings in place because the peg that’s causing the issue is old and worn down, and, of course, won’t grip correctly in the hole. Okay, so what can you do about it?

  • First of all, you’ll want to remove the peg. Use some fine-grit sandpaper to softly rough up the surface with maximum care. We’ll emphasize that last bit since most of the time, one gentle brush will get the job done. If you overdo it, you’ll just enlarge the problem, instead of resolving it. 

Also, pegs can slip if you were to fail in softly applying the pressure once tuning your instrument. Taking care of this issue doesn’t require you to do much, you’ll only need to practice tuning your four-string instrument with the pegs.

Example #2: Condition change (humidity and temperature)

We’ve already mentioned this above, but the materials your instrument is made from will react to the changes in the environment it’s being kept. That’s because the material the instrument’s made from is what we call organic, meaning they’re to be found in nature (no chemicals involved). Therefore, the aforementioned changes will result in the following: some of the pieces of your violin might expand or contract, affecting, of course, the way your strings will react once you hit them. Now that we know that, where’s that solution we’ve promised?

  • Okay, so let’s say you’ve moved someplace dry (Australia, anyone?). There’s a good chance you’ll have to tighten your violin strings each time before practice. You can resolve this problem by storing your instrument inside the violin case when you’re not using it. Also, you might want to think about investing some funds in a so-called case humidifier. Trust us, it’s a wise investment that will save you a good amount of nerves. 

Example #3: Bridge shifts

The thing is: if you constantly have to tight the stings of your violin, that will most probably “modify” the vertical placement of your bridge. The back of your bridge should form a ninety-degree and with the top plate of your violin, once you’re looking at it from the side. If you notice that the bridge is leaning in the direction of the pegbox, that undoubtedly incorrect position will alter the way your strings sound by loosening them. How do you solve this one?

  • Just make sure that the notches in your violin’s bridge are lubricated enough by utilizing an ordinary graphite pencil. 

Example #4: Incorrect winding

Let’s say your violin strings aren’t properly wound on the peg. That will most likely cause your strings to become loose and end up in out-of-tune land. How do you properly would your strings on the peg and resolve this issue?

  • You’ll want to tighten the G and D violin strings by turning the screw in the counterclockwise motion. What about A and E strings? You’ll need to do the same, just in the clockwise motion (make sure that strings reach out from the top of the peg and in the direction of the nut). Also, you’ll want to keep your strings from slipping by winding the first loop on the peg in the direction of its pointed end. Once you’ve done that, gradually and with care, wind each successive loop in the direction of the pegbox’s end. 

That’s about it when it comes to the most common reasons why your strings go loose. Now, let’s see if there’s anything else worth mentioning that will enhance your violing tuning!

Additional violin tuning tips

We’ll reward your patience with a bonus set of tips on tuning your violin strings. We hope that you’ll find them pretty useful. Here they are:

  • Okay, so think about buying a peg lubricant (you’ll find folks also calling it “paste” or “compound”). That way, you’ll ensure that the peg will turn freely,  without any issues, but still maintain the correct amount of good old friction. It’s not that expensive either; a little tube that will last you for years costs about $15, which is, you’ll agree, pretty darn cheap (for an item you’ll use so much). 
  • Another thing: you’ll want to make sure that, as you’re turning the peg, the string itself coils around it. If you were to notice that the string crisscrosses itself, there’s no other way around it than to re-tighten it over and over again.
  • If you notice that the whole issue traces back to improper winding or old pegs that need to be reshaped, or peg holes that need some repairs, don’t hesitate to take your instrument to the local shop and get it fixed by a professional. 

Parting thoughts

Okay, so that’s that, dear music-loving folks. That was a bit of an in-depth answer to the question: do violin strings need to be tight? We’ve surely expanded our little talk and we hope that it hasn’t bothered you that much! For more tips on playing the violin or caring for your favorite instrument, feel free to follow this link.