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It’s Thanksgiving break right now and I have a Christmas concert next Saturday December 4th, so I brought it over to my Abuela’s house to practice.

However, my grandparents keep the house hot, so my room is humid and I forgot to put my violin in a room temperature area. I then went to practice and, of course, it was out of tune. I rarely tune with the pegs, but I’m ok with it, but my G string broke. No school means no teacher to fix it for me, so I went to my dad. But he couldn't do it, and we both realized it needed to be replaced anyway since the wiring where the peg is was basically frayed and damaged. Most Christmas songs use the other three strings anyway so I felt a little ok, but now I’m confused. My A string is stuck on C and the D is on G flat the E is in tune though.

My pegs are prone to slipping. Do I keep turning the pegs up to get back in tune (this is stupid but since C is higher than A would I turn it down instead? It’s been so long since I’ve tuned with the pegs I forgot), and I don’t know if they’ll go back in tune because there’s no G string. If anyone could help that’d be great I’m desperate

Update: I got the other three strings in tune, but since it’s a holiday my dad doesn’t think any stores will be open, so that means no new G string till Monday. I put pressure on the pegs and got them in tune, but still a little worried to practice on them.

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    Nov 26, 2021 at 15:51

3 Answers 3

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You have eleven days until the concert. Even if you don't have a local music store, that's plenty of time to order a string online.

In case you can't get hold of a replacement:
The strings are all under tension, so when the G-strings breaks it increases the tension on the other strings, so they go sharp. You will need to tune the other strings down to pitch. Since the tension of each string affects all the others, it might take a couple of iterations until the tuning has settled down.

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This boils down to knowing how to tune your violin—which is not a simple skill for someone who hasn't worked with a string instrument before, but a good thing to learn. I think I will create a separate question-and-answer about the whole process and link to it here once I'm done, but let me just highlight one point.

Forgive me if this is something you already know, but: It's important not just to find out the "name" of the pitch that the string is at (A, B, C) but the octave, so that you know whether to go up or down. Yes, it's quite possible that your D and A strings went up in pitch when the G broke, but this is about the only time that strings go up in pitch by themselves, and the distance seems unusually large (I would have expected more like one step higher). I'm guessing that you're identifying their current pitches as Gb and C because a chromatic tuner reports them as that, but before you start tightening them, make sure that they're not actually the C below A or the Gb below D. If you can hear two pitches and tell which one is higher, than the easiest way to do this is to have something reliable (like an in-tune piano, a keyboard, or a tuner or metronome that can play a pitch) play the pitch you're looking for, and tune up or down toward it.


Things not to be surprised at:

  • That it went out of tune at all. An instrument that is well set up, and that has strings that aren't too new, will often stay pretty much in tune from day to day, but it almost always needs a little adjustment (like an amount you could do with fine tuners) every time you open the case. And often, when climate changes significantly, it can go way out of tune (often you open the case and the string isn't broken, but the peg has lost its grip and the string is completely loose). People sometimes joke about the instrument being "tuned at the factory," but it really is a joke. Any time you open the case and it's perfectly in tune, you can be glad that your instrument is well set-up and stable, and that you're having a lucky day.
  • That a string broke. Strings do break; it happens. Often they break all by themselves, while the instrument is in the case. However, the thing that breaks strings the most often is when people who are still learning the skill of tuning over-tighten them. It's near impossible to tune with the pegs without accidentally going about a half-step or so over the pitch you want, and then coming back down and trying again, but make sure you're never going more than a step or so above the pitch. This means it's not okay to, say, pluck the string, then turn the peg, then pluck the string to check the new pitch. You have to keep making sound while you turn the peg. Eventually you can learn to tune with the violin under your chin, using one hand to turn the peg and the other to bow. At first, though, you can hold the violin in your lap and turn the peg with one hand while plucking repeatedly with the other.
  • As mentioned, it's not surprising that the strings beside a broken string go up in pitch by themselves (though I'm a bit surprised they went up by that much).
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    Note: If you don't have and can't afford an electric tuner, there's phone apps for that, some of which are even free. Probably not as precise as a quality dedicated tuning device, but should be good enough if you're in a pinch. Nov 24, 2021 at 14:45
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Please keep the violin horizontal for the time being to minimize the risk that the sound post falls out of position (inside the instrument). If it does fall, you must not bring the strings up to their normal pitch until someone has re-positioned it -- you must leave them all a bit loose. (Unless the sound post has fallen, it's important to keep the strings to their normal tightness, and approximately in tune, to prevent the sound post from falling.)

I suggest you visit a music store Wednesday, Friday or Saturday and ask them to get the violin set up for you. The sooner the better because new strings lose their tuning quickly while they're stretching out.

Many music stores will only be closed on Thursday. They generally want to make as many sales as possible when people are off work.

The old-fashioned way of dealing with slippery or sticky pegs is to use chalk (like to write on a chalkboard) and soap. The new-fashioned way is to use a tiny bottle of a special liquid called Peg Dope. Peg Dope is a bit easier to work with but I really think that at this stage your best bet is to hand off this whole project to a music shop. I would call first because not all music shop employees are comfortable with string instruments.

It would be good to humidify the whole house and try to get the various rooms to have a similar humidity. You can buy a simple hygrometer for about $10, I think, at something like Lowes or Home Depot or an old-fashioned hardware store. You can humidify by running hot water through the shower into the stopped-up bath tub, and/or boiling water on the stove. (Work out your plan with your family before you embark on this, for family harmony.)

Later on you could buy a "dampit," which is a long sponge with a protective, porous covering. You would keep this moistened, inserted in an F-hole, with the case closed, during the dry months, but even when using a dampit it is good to keep the humidity in the house between 30 and 40%.

With dry air you might get some separation where some parts are glued together, because of glue drying out. If this happens we say the violin has an open spot, and you can get some rattling vibrations. It is often possible to repair this at home but it's a bit tricky if you've never done it before. I wouldn't want you to have to pay for a repair.

Re chalk and soap -- basically, chalk makes it slip less, and soap makes the peg stick less. It is possible to have a peg that both slips and sticks. They can really drive you nuts.

Sometimes a slipping peg can be dealt with by just pushing it firmly toward the center while tightening it. It takes experience, though, to know how firm is just right and how firm is too firm.

Do you have metal tuners on some (all) of your strings? If so, keep them pretty well extended in general, and don't try to use them until you've gotten the strings mostly in tune with peg adjustments.

The first thing I generally do with a beginner's instrument is loosen the tuners quite a bit, and then ask the beginner if s/he knows whether the pegs move easily, and whether they tend to slip or stick.

Everything in my answer goes for other string instruments as well.

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