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I (sort of) recently got a new violin and as the tailpiece does not match my earlier rental I now have a mismatched ball end E string from my extra set. Looking at the string it definitely seems like I could carefully remove the ball without a huge amount of effort, despite it not being advertised as removable. It doesn't look especially tightly wound around the ball. Is it safe to remove the ball and use the string on with my new tailpiece?

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I tried this once in a similar predicament and was not left with a tidy loop of wire but with an unraveled mess. However, you can use an adapter like this one to use the ball-end string with a loop-end fine tuner.

Counterpoint: I've seen some E strings ship with a loop end in which a ball has been placed, so they could accommodate either need. In that case, you can absolutely simply pop the ball out of the loop.

So give it a shot! A pair of tweezers or needle-nose pliers could help. If it seems like the wire is too tightly integrated, you could go the adapter route.

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Consider removing the fine tuner instead. On many violins the tailpiece has identical holes and slots for all strings, and the fine tuners are installed in the holes. Without the fine tuner in the way the ball end should work as intended.

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    True, though counter-point—then you wouldn't have a fine tuner. See this thread; it's a real hassle to do without it, especially on the E, and especially for inexperienced players. Nov 7, 2022 at 13:57
  • Yup. I assumed that if the OP was already using those ball end strings they would be used to tuning those without fine tuner.
    – ojs
    Nov 7, 2022 at 20:56
  • I'll say I'm used to it though I don't know that I'm enough used to it to remove my E fine tuner, though that might make sense for someone with more experience and (much) nicer strings than I've got
    – qfwfq
    Nov 9, 2022 at 21:31
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It should very well be possible to remove the ball on some strings, so if you do not have another use for a ball end e string, then just try it! As long as the string is not damaged or bend during this process this should be safe enough.

But considering the price of a string you might simply give your new violin a new string. I would advice against getting an adapter as Andy suggested as such an adapter will cost not much less or even more than most e strings and will most likely affect the sound. The only reason I see for using such an adapter is if you want to use a very specific string that is only sold with ball end. But even in this case you could simply chance the fine tuner.

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  • Since the adaptor is past the bridge, on the part of the string which doesn't vibrate I can't see how it will affect the sound.
    – Tim
    Nov 7, 2022 at 10:55
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    @Tim In fact the part of the string behind the bridge does vibrate, as it needs to balance the vibration of the bridge. Anyhow, it is generally accepted that the tailpiece affects tone by aspects such as weight and dampening, although the reason for this is not yet fully understood. This is for example the reason why professional violinists like to use finetuners only on the top string (which is harder to tune by peg). In this case the adapter would potentially affect tone because: 1) It increases the mass of the E string 2) It adds more dampening 3) it changes the ratio of string length.
    – Lazy
    Nov 7, 2022 at 11:16
  • I agree with both y'all. The OP just switched from renting to owning, which suggests an intermediate player. The "stuff that goes on behind the bridge"—length of string to tailpiece, mass of the tailpiece, width and material of the tailgut, etc—does have an impact on tone, because it does vibrate. However, it's a minute impact; the brand of string chosen would affect it more. Personally, even as a professional, I often use the adapter because I like a certain wound E string brand that only comes in ball, and I like (and am too lazy to change) my hook-style fine tuner. Nov 7, 2022 at 13:50
  • I don't get any adverse impact from the adapter—or rather, I get much more impact from the fact that the E is wound. If I won a concerto competition tomorrow I'd probably switch to an unwound gold E with a loop, but in the meantime I enjoy eliminating the "squeal" that you sometimes get when crossing to E, at the expense of some brilliance. Nov 7, 2022 at 13:52
  • Wanted to at least follow up and say I think the recommendation to just get a new string is correct for my personal use case. I messed with it a bit and quickly decided the five-ish bucks I spent on the string isn't worth the trouble.
    – qfwfq
    Nov 9, 2022 at 21:29

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