Recent How To

How to lubricate pegs

Best opportunity to lubricate pegs is when we change strings. Each peg should be taken from its hole and the lubricant applied to its stem. The lubricant should be generously applied over the whole circumference of the peg as the peg will push out all redundant lubricant which can easily be wiped away later. I recommend the lubricant Hill from U.K.

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How to choose strings for your instrument

You should strive to use strings that complement your bowed instrument or in other words, strings that balance the instrument’s sound. For example, if one has a violin with extremely soft tone, one should choose strings that give the instrument more brilliance (usually you can achieve that by using strings with higher tension).

In general, three sorts of strings are used on bowed string instruments. All three are known as wound strings, meaning that the core of one material (gut, metal or synthetic) is wound in metal (usually aluminum, silver, and chrome steel is used), except for violin’s E string which is usually made of solid steel.

Gut-core strings will give your instrument a soft tone with a lot of character, reminiscing the sound of the musicians from the beginning and the middle of the 20th century. However there is a downside to this: it takes 1-2 weeks of playing to stabilize the gut strings, and even than they will not last for long. They also tend to go out of tune faster when exposed to changes in temperature or humidity, making them more demanding for use outdoors, in churches etc. And last but not least they are the most expensive.

Strings for authentic baroque instruments are also made of gut, however they are wound differently and with other materials than modern varieties. Usually the upper two strings are bare gut.

Metal-core strings are the least expensive, last longest (about 1 year), but produce the least favorable tone. They also tend to be more sensitive to changes in temperature than synthetic-core strings and go out of tune quickly.

I can recommend only one brand of strings with metal core - D'addario. These are the only metal strings (that I know of) that have a somewhat similar tone to those with gut or synthetic core. You get a good tone for decent price, making them a great choice for beginners and amateur players.

On violin, it is common to use first string made of solid steel, or steel wound/coated with precious metals (e.g. gold, platinum).

Synthetic-core strings are most widely used strings as they are most practical and most responsive of the three. They don’t take long to stabilize, stay stable for a good period of time and are less sensitive to temperature and humidity changes.

There is a wide range of synthetic-core strings to choose from, so you should be able to find the best to complement your instrument. There are big differences in characteristics, quality and prices. Some, usually more expensive ones, produce somewhat similar tone to gut strings (e.g. Thomastik ?). But most of them do not produce as noble and as full tone as gut strings do.

All said, you might have to use a combination of different strings to balance the sound of your instrument on all four strings.

Interesting fact: In the middle of the 20th century it was popular to use soft two middle strings with gut core, and hard two external strings with a greater tension. It was believed that a violin with that combination of strings produces more brilliance on the outer two strings. Jascha Heifetz even used the middle two strings made of bare gut (not wound).

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How to clean your instrument

It is best to clean the instrument with dry cloth after playing. The most important part of the instrument to be cleaned is the area below the strings as this is where rosin dust from the bow falls. This type of cleaning is possible only when the instrument had not collected dust mixed with sticky dirt under the strings.

If the dirt can not be removed from the varnish by a dry cloth, this should not be attempted with any cleaning liquid, solvent, or any abrasive means as your instrument's varnish can be damaged beyond full repair. Even experienced violin makers find separating sticky dirt from varnish as painstakingly difficult and tyring job, especially when one tries to avoid damaging the original varnish below. This is exactly the reason why such work, if really done expertly, may become expensive in its own right. It is therefore very important to clean the instrument regularly.
In most cases the main culprit is a low-quality rosin and its dust that falls from the bow during playing. The quality of the rosin can easily be ascertained: if we find it difficult after playing to clean away the dust with the help of a dry cloth, we can be sure that the rosin is of bad quality and should not be used. Low quality and therefore sticky rosin that usually produces a lot of dust also generates noise while playing.
High price does not necessarily guarantee the best rosin.

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When to rehair your bow

Frequency of bow rehairing depends on quantity and style of playing. There are, however, some general guidelines:
  • student at the junior level - once a year
  • student at the higher junior level - at least twice a year
  • student at the conservatory or university level and / or soloist - according to the needs, but at least four times a year
  • professional player in the orchestra - at least twice a year
Do not harbour the illusion that the hair is still good if it is not torn or otherwise damaged. Playing 3 or more hours a day requires rehairing every 3 months. There is an underlying danger that the structure of the hair is gradually becoming worn out and due to this fact we tend to adapt the technique of playing until we reach the point when we are no longer satisfied with the sound produced. When we have to apply rosin to the hair more often that usual, it is time to rehair. If hair is of good quality, the sound produced by the bow is soft and without noise, and the bow will have a firm but soft grip of strings. On the contrary, the worn out hair will have poor grip which can not be compensated by adding more rosin as this will not only result in more friction but will also produce more noise.

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