Wound Gut "D" and Steel "A"

Guide to Strings

The gut string terminates in a loop,
and the steel string terminates
in a metal "ball."

There are several questions about strings that are important to beginning cellists: 1. Changing strings 2. Choosing strings 3. Cleaning strings

gut or steel installed differentlyChanging Strings -- The cello you have probably came with strings on it already. But eventually a string will break. Or you may want to try a different variety of string. Then you must install a new string. Changing strings is quite an easy task, but there are a few things to think about. First, gut strings and steel strings are installed differently on the tailpiece. In the illustration on the left you can see that the A and D strings are steel, and are attached to fine tuners which have been added to the tailpiece. The steel "ball" on the end of the steel string fits behind the "fork" on the end of the fine tuner. But a gut strings will break if its loop is put on a fine tuner. So, as you can see, the G and C strings in the illustration are attached directly to the tailpiece. Do this by passing the end of the gut string up through its tailpiece hole, and then through the loop on the other end of the string, and pulling it snug.

peg box with string windingsThe strings must then be wound on pegs in the peg box. Push the end of the string through the hole in the proper peg, and wind it on. The A and D pegs turn "clockwise" and the G and C pegs turn "counter-clockwise." The string should be wound from "inside to outside" as illustrated. Tighten up the string slowly in order not to break it by sudden tension. If you are replacing more than one string at a time, partially tighten each in turn, thus spreading out the tension evenly across all the strings. Don't tighten just one string to it's proper pitch all at once.

A string with The illustration to the left shows an A string with a sleeve on it. Many manufacturers include these sleeves with A strings. The sleeve fits in the groove of the bridge. It does two good things: First, it enables the A string to slide more easily in the groove, thus making it easier to tune, and not pulling the bridge forward and backward. Second, it prevents the thin A string from deepening the groove in the bridge. If the A string digs a deeper groove it will become too close to the fingerboard, and you will need to get a new bridge, or have your old bridge built up on the A string side. If your A groove gets too deep, you can make a temporary repair by placing a small piece of paper or card stock in the groove.

gut and steel strings installedTo the right is another good illustration of steel strings installed on fine tuners, and wound gut strings installed directly on the tailpiece.

Choosing Strings -- Inexpensive cellos often come with inexpensive strings, but that is not always the case. Good strings usually cost more than not-so-good strings, but sometimes inexpensive strings are OK. It just depends on your cello, and the particular string involved. Strings come in many varieties: gut, steel, gut wound with metal, and nylon wound with metal. They all sound a little bit different. Not only that, but a particular brand name string will sound different from the same sort of string made by a different manufacturer. The same goes for cellos, they all sound different. Ideally, the cellist could try all kinds of strings, and then choose what sounds good on his/her cello. Unfortunately, that would be very expensive. A set of strings may easily cost $80.00, and sellers won't take back used strings, even if you have only tried them out. Get advice from your teacher, and from other cellists. Remember also that the sound of your cello depends on other factors besides your choice of strings, for example, bridge thickness. A thick bridge will effectively mute your cello's sound, whereas a thin bridge will increase the clarity or piercing quality of the sound. So there are many factors to be considered. Personally, I prefer a steel A string (almost any brand will do), and Thomastik Dominants (metal wound nylon) on the other three strings.

Cleaning Strings -- Strings will eventually become caked with rosin. They may be easily cleaned by rubbing with an alcohol-moistened cloth. Be very careful not to spill alcohol drops on your cello, because the alcohol may quickly damage the varnish.


Informative Links about Cello Strings

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