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My violin's strings have been breaking every 3 to 4 weeks. I only practice about 10 hours a week.

It is not normal for strings to be breaking constantly and though the problem could be an incorrect setup I've read that something that could be useful in determining the cause is noticing where the string is breaking. I've read people mentioning the bridge, the pegs, the fine tuners, etc. My teacher said the same.

My strings are breaking in the fingerboard area. The only theory to explain this I found online is something related to sweat and the skin being to acidic, therefore breaking down the metal and eventually causing the string to break. This seems to be supported by the fact that my fingertips get black lines in them (presumably from the strings) after practicing for a while.

Is there any truth to this acidic skin claim or is it just a myth? Has this happened to you or at least have you heard of it? What can be done about it? Is there a type of string I can get that will diminish the issue (because of the material used)? Or one I should avoid? Could it be something else?

UPDATE 1:

  • Maybe breaking is not the appropriate term. The string's metallic cover is coming undone (they are "unwinding" or something). The metallic cover is coming loose (don't know if I"m explaining this correctly), but the string doesn't really break in two pieces. The internal core filament is there, but the string is useless without the metal cover.
  • I'm using D'Addario Helicore strings.
  • The ones that are breaking the most are G and D. I have some Dominant strings (haven't tried with those), but don't know if that will make any difference.
  • I've kept reading and another theory I found has to do with too much pressure. I think I may use more pressure than necessary, but never thought it would cause this. It's worth looking at though.
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What kind of strings is it you're playing? Which one of them usually breaks first? –  leftaroundabout Sep 21 '11 at 19:52
    
Anecdotally, this thread supports the idea that sweat/oil has something to do with faster string breakdown. It seems that 30-40 hours is much less than anyone else is reporting before their strings break, though, so I would suspect something physically wrong with the violin or the strings. Have you tried a different brand? –  Matthew Read Sep 21 '11 at 21:53
    
I've updated the question with more information instead of here since I thought it would be easier to follow. Thanks! –  Lilitu88 Sep 22 '11 at 1:11
    
@Lilitu88: it's useful to adress comments to users so they are notified, like this. – If you haven't tried any other string brand, that's the first thing to do. I personally was never happy with any strings by d'Addario when I tried them, but for reasons of sounds rather than longevity; and I'm not a violinist, so this is not really significant here. Still, try it! — I really doubt it has to do with too much playing-pressure, unless you have steel hands... it's more likely to have to do with your violin. –  leftaroundabout Sep 24 '11 at 20:16
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6 Answers

I play guitar, and there's great anecdotal evidence of killer sweat for guitar strings, but there, the strings go dark and sound dead. Your sweat should not break strings.

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Violin strings are pretty different, though -- they're often not even completely metal. –  Matthew Read Sep 21 '11 at 21:47
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I don't know about guitar strings, but violin strings are made of a filament that can be synthetic and then covered (wound) in some metal. –  Lilitu88 Sep 22 '11 at 1:15
    
With the addition of the "strings unwinding", I have an unrelated answer to my previous answer. I used to play acoustic in an otherwise electric band, and I would play hard so I could hear myself, and I would play with a brass pick to sound brighter, so I could hear myself. I got to the point of getting an unwound G string for my acoustic, just so the windings wouldn't break and split. That is very unusual. It only happened with me when I was playing hard with what amounted to a small brass knife. There is something, and I have no idea what, that's going on with your strings. –  VarLogRant Sep 22 '11 at 15:04
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There are only three possible reasons for this to be occuring,

  1. The fingerboard on your violin has been worn out (or it is quite uneven) and this means that when the strings come in contact with the fingerboard on an uneven surface the string gets caught and is slightly damaged each time. Take your violin to a professional luthier and ask him to polish the fingerboard and even it out.

  2. Your nails are simply too long and you're damaging the winding by scratching them constantly when you play.

  3. Check if anything inside of your case is coming in contact with the strings when you close your case as this may also be scratching your strings.

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As well as the things stated above, there's actually a few more things I can think of (although admittedly much rarer) that could be causing the issue:

  1. Cheap strings. Seriously - I once used a knock off no brand string because I'd run out of dominants, and had that lying around somewhere. It lasted all of a week before giving in.

  2. The fingerboard is too long. Again, seriously, and I had this issue too. My violin used to belong to my great grandad, and during the last 100 or so years the fingerboard, which was already a tad long to start with, had actually swollen slightly. Obviously if this is the case, it's time to have it looked at by a qualified professional.

  3. Others have mentioned nails as a causal factor, but this is especially exacerbated if you're shifting positions with your nails in contact with the strings. Not an issue I've had myself, but have seen others who this has been a problem for.

  4. Where do you store your violin? If you're storing it next to a radiator, then shoving it in the car in winter for a cold journey to orchestra practice, then warming it up practicing, then it's in the car for the cold journey back, then put in another warm place for a while - this constant expansion and contraction can really weaken the strings, especially the outer windings.

  5. The strings could be sitting too high over the fingerboard, meaning they come under more stress when you put your finger down. Again, if this is the issue then time to take it to a repair shop.

Due to the fact they're breaking so quickly, I actually wonder whether it's a combination of what's been mentioned already - you'd struggle to break them that quickly with just one thing wrong, unless it really is extreme.

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My violin has exactly the same problem. I use Dominant strings and I noticed that the small wires were unwinding from the core of the string and as I tried to play it it sounded terrible.

I think that there is no way of preventing this but perhaps you should try different brands of strings and different types of strings to see which strings are more durable and, most importantly, which sound best. Although Dominant strings are a very popular choice of string, the have a tendency to unwind like yours are. If you have tried different types of strings and different brands you should take your violin to a violin shop and ask for a new string(s). You will need to buy new ones every time this occurs.

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Strings made by Thomastik have this problem. I've not seen it with other strings. Next time try Larsens. They are more expensive, but a set will last a year or more.

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I use Dominant strings, get very black fingers and strings unravel in some 6-8 weeks, especially "e" and "a".

I'm going to try wiping the strings and going for a less acidic diet, drinking more water...don't laugh, its expensive !!

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