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I changed the A string on my violin exactly 24 hours ago.

The violin nor the string has gone out of tune, the bridge is fine as far as I can see.

But now when I play with my usual finger placement on the A string, the notes are all wrong I get a higher pitch than what I used to.

Has anyone else encountered this problem, and how did you fix it?

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  • 1
    Does the new string have the same mass as the previous one? If not, it is under different tension. Whether that would make a difference to the pitch of a tone stopped at a given point, I do not know, much less whether the difference would be perceptible.
    – phoog
    May 14 at 21:08
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    @phoog (An academic point relative to this question, but I think it wouldn't affect the fingering placement. I use scordatura sometimes, altering a string by as much as a fourth, and the tension difference is radical but the scale of the string is unaltered.) May 14 at 21:35
  • How many cents wrong? Have you checked its placement on the nut and on the bridge? Have you checked that the bridge is aligned with the f-hole lines? Have you checked that the side towards the fingerboard of the bridge is 90 degrees? Have you checked that your stringholder has not become offset? Have you tried tuning so the placement is correct? My violin's nut is wrong so the string "slides around" in it, so plucking it open gives false notes but stopping is okay.
    – Emil
    May 14 at 22:38
  • @Emil I have checked all the above, it's still at least 40 cents off, if I tune it so that the fingering is right then I can't play open string. I don't think there's a problem with the nut, it's been fine up until now and the string fits into the ridges fine
    – AGM
    May 15 at 0:12
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    Maybe the thickness is too different. Perhaps you need that little tube thingee on it moved up to the bridge so it doesn't dig into the bridge. You sure it is the A string and not some other string (did you check the color guide on the package).
    – Emil
    May 15 at 5:31

2 Answers 2

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I would stop at this point and take the instrument to a professional because something doesn't add up. Either something is not the way you're perceiving it to be, or something is wrong that you haven't noticed.

I changed the A string on my violin exactly 24 hours ago. The violin nor the string has gone out of tune...

It's impossible to change a string without affecting the pitch of the other strings, and a new string stretches over several days. For the first few hours it will change by several steps in a matter of minutes, but as you keep retuning it, that will slow until it drops only a half step or so over several hours. If what you mean is "Even after retuning it carefully, during the short time that it's accurate, the fingering seems off," then that's something to examine. The placement of each finger is just a mathematical measurement, so the only thing that would change the scale would be a change in the length of the string, or in the "action" (how high the string is off the fingerboard). These could happen if the bridge has been moved, but it would have to be a significant distance to make much perceptible difference. Is the string seated in the notch as it was before?

Here is a checklist of things you can confirm:

  • Are you sure the string is now tuned to exactly A 440? Are the other strings in tune? Are you sure there's no user error with regard to tuning—accidentally tuning to A#, or accidentally recalibrating the tuner, or etc?
  • Are you saying that the finger placements must now be different for A than for other strings? I.e., a 1st finger that gives you a good E note on D string does not give you a good B on A string? If so, and other causes are ruled out, perhaps you have a faulty string. Does it sound weird when plucked on its own?
  • Did the bridge move at all during the string change? Looking at it from above, is it perfectly perpendicular to the strings, lined up with the "slashes" on the f-holes? Looking at it from the side, is the back face of it perfectly vertical? Is it straight and not warped?
  • Are you sure you used a string that's made for your size of instrument, not e.g. a child's size? And it is an A string?
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  • Hi thanks for the detailed answer, Im sure the string is tuned correctly and it sound fine when plucked on its own. Yes a good first finger on d string does not give a good B on A, and the difference is more exaggerated higher up. The bridge is aligned with the slashes and perpendicular. I'm confident the string is the correct one. Might have to take it to a professional I guess.
    – AGM
    May 14 at 22:08
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    @AGM can you tell us what string you've put on the instrument (brand, material, gauge, any other physical parameters, etc.) and what string was there before?
    – phoog
    May 15 at 11:17
  • @phoog The old string was the PIRASTRO - Evah Pirazzi and this was also the new string i put on. Unfortunately that's about all the information i have as well as its a medium gauge.
    – AGM
    2 days ago
  • @AGM Oh my goodness! There goes the "$5 off-brand Chinese string with no quality control" theory. If it does turn out to be the string's fault, Pirastro will replace it. 2 days ago
  • @AndyBonner Oh thank you for the link i will look into it.
    – AGM
    yesterday
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According to physics, this will happen if the new string is stiffer than the previous string.

After all, when placing a finger you’re not only shortening the vibrating part of the string, you are also increasing its tension by pushing it down. How much the tension increases depends on the material and structure. With a stiffer material, tension will increase more and therefor the pitch will be slightly higher.

Practice by ear, muscle memory should adapt quickly.

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  • Mmm.  Perhaps another effect of a stiffer string might be to push the effective end of the vibrating string further from the finger, which would also raise the pitch.  Though I wonder whether any violin string is likely to be so much stiffer in practice as to make either of these effects on pitch so obvious.
    – gidds
    May 15 at 9:45
  • @gidds As an instrumentmaker, I agree about the unlikelihood of normal violin strings making an audible difference in scale. If you replaced a normal wound A string with a pure gut or wire string, there would be a noticeable change, but not with normal modern store bought strings. May 15 at 10:22
  • Interesting! Could the old string have lost some of its stiffness over time (eg. Very worn) May 15 at 10:51
  • In the comments, AGM mentions that the pitch discrepancy is "at least 40 cents" which seems rather more than "slightly higher."
    – phoog
    May 15 at 11:15
  • @phoog Indeed. I think there's something else going on here. May 15 at 11:56

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