How to Prevent Slipping Violin Pegs

YouTube Preview ImageI was originally going to entitle this blog “how to install violin strings”. However, after a brief perusal of the Internet, I found a disturbing amount of misinformation about the problem of slipping violin pegs and I decided to write about that instead, since this is a pressing problem that we hear about everyday at Kennedy Violins. Unfortunately, the vast array of videos and articles available to the unsuspecting public, will ensure that slipping violin pegs will continue to plague violinists for years into the future. Since slipping violin pegs are mostly caused by improperly installed strings, addressing the problem of slipping violin pegs will have the added benefit of demonstrating how to properly install violin strings as well.

Violin pegs slip for two basic reasons: Unfavorable humidity conditions and improperly installed strings. Properly installed violin strings will compensate for most normal fluctuations in humidity and will enable your violin pegs to not slip. I am a professional violist and my pegs may begin to to slip about once or twice a year at most. My viola is rarely out of tune and when it is, it is usually just a little bit flat because of constantly stretching strings. I have observed many professional players in the groups I perform with, struggle with slipping violin pegs, so this problem is not specific to amateur players. There are many very good professional players, instructors and even violin makers, who never learned how to properly install strings and have struggled with their violins for many years as a result. Most of the information you will see and hear, will tell you to use “peg dope” or “peg drops”. Using these products is like taking Tylenol for a headache that is caused by you banging your head against a brick wall. The Tylenol may offer a temporary fix for your headache (slipping pegs), but the best course of action, is to deal with the root of the problem and stop banging your head against the wall! In other words, install your strings correctly, and you will rarely have to deal with slipping pegs.

There are two forces at work that prevent pegs from slipping. The most commonly known, is the friction that is caused by pushing your pegs into the peg holes while you turn the pegs. Since violin pegs are smaller at one end and bigger on the other, a “wedge effect” is created by pushing the pegs further in the hole and this creates a friction that will assist in preventing peg slippage. The second and most important force, is created by winding your violin strings against the sides of the scroll box and this creates an additional wedge effect. When done properly, this will make your pegs as tight as you want them. You can make your pegs so tight that the pegs will not want to turn unless a tremendous force is applied. Of course this is not ideal, but I mention it to demonstrate the power of this second force when applied effectively. If you rely solely on the method of pushing your pegs in while you turn them, you will assuredly diminish the life of your violin, because you will eventually enlarge the peg holes and will have to have them filled and re-drilled, or you’ll have to purchase over sized pegs and have them custom fitted to your violin. You can avoid all of these circumstances by simply following the 4 steps below.

1. Insert the ball end of the string in the fine tuner or hole in the tailpiece and insert the other end in the peg string hole.

2. While keeping a small amount of tension on the string with one hand (to prevent the ball from coming out of it’s place on the tailpiece) turn the peg with the other hand to wind the string.

3. This is the most important step. The hand that is keeping tension on the string, should also gently pull the string over towards the peg, so you are directing the string to wind against the side of the scroll box.

4. As the string winds on the peg, it will begin to squeeze against the sides of the scroll box. The more you turn the peg, the more the string is squeezed. Because the string is being squeezed, it pushes against the side of the scroll box and make the peg very tight. If you gently push the peg in while you turn it, you can control the tightness of the peg in the hole. The more you push the peg in, the tighter the peg gets and it will not push back out of the hole because the squeezed string is preventing the peg from moving.

Eventually, the portion of the string that is squeezed in between where it’s inserted in the peg and the side of the scroll box will begin to relax and the peg may begin to slip. If this occurs, all you have to do is rewind the offending string and your problem is solved. Generally, your peg should remain tight for quite some time. However, if humidity conditions change for the worse, you may have to rewind your string, but it only takes about 20 seconds to do so and this is a much better alternative than the continued struggle with chemicals and other various magic potions that have been devised over the years.

The reason why dry humidity conditions effect violin pegs so much, is because when the air gets dryer, the pegs will contract and the holes they fit into, will expand. This problem primarily occurs in the winter season in areas that get especially cold. People usually keep their home furnaces on almost all of the time in the winter and this dries the air out. Once the air gets overly dry, violin pegs begin to slip. The easiest and least expensive way to compensate for the dry air, is to use a humidifier tube . This simple device is basically an elongated sponge. You can soak it water every 1 or 2 days and insert it in your violins f-hole. The sponge releases small amounts of water in the air and this is generally enough to compensate for just about any dry area that you would normally subject a violin to.

At Kennedy Violins, we string up thousands of violins every year for our customers and because they live in a variety of differing climates, some customers pegs will be very tight when they receive their instruments and some may even be a little looser than is ideal. However, any string can be rewound in a matter of seconds, so it doesn’t matter where a person lives, anyone can experience the joys of a violin that is peg slip free!

Nurturing music in your kids

Baby with headphones

Music is everywhere. It’s part of our lives every day, whether we realize it or not. Who doesn’t listen to music?

That said, even though everyone listens, not everyone is a musician. What if you love music but can’t carry a tune in a bucket? And what if your child, or your niece or nephew or stepchild loves music? Not just loves music, but is moved by music, is transfixed by music, or is fascinated with a particular instrument, and who gravitates to music with that kind of instrument in it? What then? Do you let that child stumble toward self-realization, or do you nurture that interest and see if they have the talent and drive to be a musician?

I hope most parents would want to try to nurture it. But, how?

Although musicians can certainly provide some unique and valuable experiences for children, a musically rich environment can be provided by anyone. That’s the first step. This can begin very early in their lives – even in the crib. Or even before, if you subscribe to the teachings of Zoltan Kodaly, noted Hungarian music educator and composer. When he was asked, “When does music education begin?” he originally answered, “Nine months before birth.” He later amended that to “nine months before birth. . . of the mother.”

His point is that music is inborn and influenced by the mother.  This article is an intriguing exploration of that  assertion, and one that makes you wonder if we’re doing a disservice to our kids by not exploring that fundamental inclination in us all.

One of the first forms of music humans experience is a parent singing to them – but there’s that “can’t carry a tune in a bucket” problem. No worries, there are plenty of lullaby CDs available.

Young children can be musical in a wide variety of ways, including rhythmic chanting; bouncing their bodies; trying exploratory vocalizing; singing spontaneous songs of their own making (with and without words or exact pitches); using simple percussion instruments that rattle, shake, hit, or scrape; singing along to songs for children and moving to recorded music; and joining in on a family sing-along on car trips.

This kid is probably gonna rock:

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Taking kids to live concerts, festivals, or anywhere age-appropriate music is offered, should be included in your explorations. And even though you might not fancy a certain style, your child just might, so expose them to as many types of music as possible. Classical music may not be your cup of tea, but finding opportunities for your child to hear it may just awaken something magical.

As you expose them to a variety of music, you’ll likely begin to see their preferences for certain types of music are starting to take shape.

Let’s say, violins or cellos are particularly attractive to your child. There are many programs and teachers who teach very young students, often in a class setting rather than privately, such as the Suzuki method. This method and many others utilize smaller instruments, or fractional sizes, to fit smaller bodies and hands.

Fractional violinsViolins are available from 1/16th size for the very youngest students through 1/10th, 1/8th, ¼, ½, ¾ and full size (or 4/4). Cellos come in fractional sizes as well.

Once a method or class or program is found, an instrument will be needed. There are several ways to go about getting an instrument. If you’re not certain about whether your child really wants to play, maybe renting one is the answer. It’s a low-cost alternative to buying one and is a great way to get acquainted with the instrument without spending too much right away. Full size and fractional cello

Kennedy Violins is a great place for parents and others to go for everything the beginning string player needs to start exploring their musical inclinations. Besides offering for sale or rent violins, violas, and cellos, they offer a full line of fractional sizes, and provide a size chart for determining which size to choose, as well as excellent advice and customer service. A hallmark of Kennedy Violins is that it is owned and operated by violinists who play or teach every day. Expert advice is just a phone call away.

Whatever your taste, music is a part of all our lives, a primal calling in some. Once you establish it in your family’s life, it will become the soundtrack for your life.

Accessories for Every New (Violin) Outfit

Purchasing an instrument seems like a daunting task, and the most difficult part is over once you decide which instrument you want to get. Right? Perhaps…

There are many accessories available for anyone who has purchased a violin from Kennedy Violins – from the earliest beginning student to the advanced or professional performer. At Kennedy Violins, all violin outfits include a variety of the following, depending on which instrument you purchase: bow, case, strings and rosin. But, beyond the basics that come with every instrument, there are more options available.

What many people don’t realize is that they can improve the tonal quality of their instrument by making a small upgrade to a higher quality set of strings. For customers who order upgraded strings at the same time as their instrument, we can install the strings for you and provide the default strings as a back-up set. Our highest recommended strings are Helicore by D’Addario. While they have a steel core, they still produce a warm, clear sound. The steel core means that the strings will stay in tune and maintain a high level of performance for a longer period of time.

Shoulder rests are required by most teachers. Shoulder rests not only help fill the gap between the shoulder and the instrument, but they also promote proper posture. Good posture prevents aches, pains, and even injuries to the neck and back. The options for shoulder rests are vast. Younger students can get away with something simple like a shaped sponge held on with rubber bands. More advanced shoulder rests consist of a padded, curved bar that clamps around the lower bouts of the instrument. We recommend the Portland Acoustical Shoulder Rest. Not only does the curved wooden bar make it more visually appealing, but the maple also helps the sound carry while it resonates around the instrument.

Most people who are new to stringed instruments and live in drier climates do not realize that it is important to keep the instrument well humidified. Areas that get extremely cold and dry in the winter tend to be even drier, due to forced air heating systems. When the humidity level dips below the 40-50% range, instruments can suffer from going out of tune easily or having the back or belly panels separate from the sides. Damage to an instrument from low humidity levels can be easily prevented by using a humidifier, such as the Damp-It system. If your case didn’t come with a dial hygrometer, there is no need to worry. The Damp-It system comes with a simple color changing indicator and chart that will help you decide when the air is too dry.

Every teacher will be pleased with a student who owns a metronome to help them keep a steady beat while they practice. When you’re choosing a metronome, you should consider including a tuner as well. A good example of a metronome/tuner combination is Music Doctor TM-100D.

And, finally, a folding music stand is a great option for any musician.

Also, cellists – don’t forget an end pin anchor! As a teacher, I find that many beginning cello students who don’t have an end pin anchor continuously struggle unnecessarily.

As with any new venture, it is easier with the proper tools. Keep an eye out for upcoming blogs that will cover these accessories with more detail.

Learning the Violin: Beautiful Brainpower

The nimble fingers of the violinist appear to dance as they fly over the fingerboard, and the violin itself seems to sing. The musician and instrument almost become one, as the beautiful music lifts your spirits and carries you away. As you watch and listen, an interest in playing the violin yourself is sparked. Or, perhaps, you think of your child, and want to give the gift of music to them. Mastering the violin is a most satisfying and rewarding endeavor, but did you know that there are numerous other benefits to learning the instrument?

Learning to play the violin, especially at a young age, helps to promote neuron and brain cell connection, and assists in the development of creative cognitive skills and abstract thinking. Children who are taught to play the violin learn important skills at an early age, such as concentration, mental focus, discipline, and patience. Studies suggest that musical training helps the development of the areas of the brain that have to do with language and reasoning, and enhances and stimulates creativity. In some of these studies, students of the arts were more successful on standardized test scores. Since much of the music we study today was written many years ago, students who learn to play major musical masterpieces are connected to past historical events in ways they otherwise might not be. Ensemble playing teaches musicians teamwork and discipline. For violin students of any age, learning the instrument keeps the pupil mentally fit.

Children playing the violin
Children playing the violin

Some of the capabilities enhanced and acquired when learning the violin include the development of fine motor skills, dexterity, and control. The mind and body are encouraged to develop coordination at a high level. Specifically, playing the violin is excellent in aiding the connection between the right and left sides of the brain, since both sides of the body are used.

Mastering the violin provides the musician with a very important opportunity: the means to express themselves. Confidence and self-esteem are developed, as well as a love and appreciation for music. Playing for fun promotes relaxation and releases mental tension. As well as being both satisfying and challenging, playing the violin can be a refreshing pastime for anyone of any age who loves the instrument. Adults who decide to start learning the violin make an excellent choice, as there are few experiences more valuable than becoming a beginner again.

Encouraging an interest to play the violin in your child, or deciding to pick up the instrument yourself is a wonderful way to bring the joy of music to your life and the lives of others. Kennedy Violins offers an extensive variety of affordable student violin outfits for any price range. Stop by and view our selection of instruments today.

How to Rosin a New Bow

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How to rosin a new bow.

I get asked fairly often by customers or students about how to rosin a bow and in particular, how often rosin should be re-applied to the bow. As with most aspects of the violin, there is no easy answer to this question and the solution is somewhat subjective. How much rosin you apply is primarily a matter of personal preference and after you’ve played a while, you will not only develop a “feel” for if the bow needs rosin or not, but you’ll develop a preference for if you like the bow to be more responsive (more rosin) or less responsive but easier to produce a warm sound (less rosin). The preferences that you develop as a player, will determine the kind of rosin that you like and will direct your purchasing decisions in that regard for years to come.

When a bow is new, the bow hair does not have any rosin on it. A bow without rosin will not produce a sound and the bow will aimlessly glide around on the strings while you attempt to play. It’s generally considered a bit of a pain to apply rosin to a brand new bow and it’s even worse if you’re trying to apply new rosin to a new bow. If you purchase a violin from Kennedy Violins, your bow will be pre-rosined but your rosin cake will be new, so although you won’t have to worry about the difficulty of applying rosin to new hair, you’ll still have to deal with the aspect of rosining with a new cake of rosin.

A new cake of rosin is smooth like glass on the surface and if you go back and forth enough times on the hairs of the bow, it will eventually turn the shiny sheen of the rosin to a dull finish. The duller it is, the more likely that the rosin will apply quicker. However there is an old trick that you can use that will speed up this process quite a bit. Simply take any sharp instrument, like a knife or a fork and gently scratch the surface of the rosin cake. You don’t have to push very hard, and you should carefully scratch the entire surface of the rosin cake, so that there are very few shiny areas left. Once you have done this, the rosin will apply to your bow significantly faster than it would’ve otherwise because you’ve created tiny raised ridges on the surface of the rosin cake.

Bow hair that has been previously rosined, will already be “sticky” and therefore the rosin that is already on the hair, will tend to attract the rosin on the rosin cake that you are applying. This makes applying rosin to an already rosined bow quite easy. However, hair that does not have rosin on it, will resist your initial attempts at applying rosin and you’ll have to go back and forth with the rosin cake many times in order to get the bow to accept it’s first amounts of rosin. A bow that already has rosin on it, may only need 3 or 4 passes of the rosin cake to get the correct amount of rosin applied to the hair, but a bow without any rosin on it, may take 30-50 passes, depending on how sticky the rosin is and the kind of hair that is on the bow. In general, the whiter the hair, the easier it accepts rosin and the more yellow the hair, the more difficult it will be for it to accept the rosin. Often times, lower quality bows will tend to have hair that has a yellow tinge to it. Any hair that is dirty will not easily accept rosin as well and this is why it is important, to never touch the hairs of the bow with your fingers, because the oils from your hand, will prevent rosin from adhering efficiently.

After you’ve applied rosin to the bow for the first time, a lot of rosin dust will probably go all over your violin when you first start to play. Don’t be alarmed by this. You can simply wipe it off with a soft cotton cloth after you’re done with the initial rosining of your new bow. The next step, is to play the violin for a little while to work the rosin into the new bow hair. Once you’ve done this, reapply a little bit of rosin to the bow (perhaps 3-6 passes) and play the violin some more. If you do it right, you’ll have a new bow that plays without creating excessive rosin dust (that goes all over your violin) but the bow will still function very well. As mentioned before, there will be rosin dust all over the violin and bow. Take a soft cotton cloth and wipe down the violin top and fingerboard, as well as the stick of the bow. If you are habitual about wiping down your bow and violin every time you play, your violin will stay looking new for a very long time.

When your bow gets to the point where you have to put more force on it than you like to create the amount of sound you want, it is time to apply more rosin. You’ll probably only have to go up and down the bow 3 or 4 times to get the correct amount of rosin on the bow. In most situations, you’ll only have to rosin the bow per 3-5 hours of play time. People with stringed instruments that have thicker gauge strings like basses, cellos and even violas, will probably end up rosining their bows a little more frequently than violinists. It is not uncommon for a violinist to apply rosin every 6 hours or so of playing, but it really depends on personal preference. If you apply too much rosin, your sound will tend to be to “gritty” and “scratchy” but the caveat is, it will be easier for you to create a big sound, so the decision you make regarding the amount of rosin applied, will always involve a certain amount of compromise. How much rosin you apply also has a lot to do with the amount of notes you play in a particular piece. Violinists do not need as much rosin on their bows because of their thinner gauge strings, but they typically play more notes than the other stringed instruments in the orchestra as well.

A couple points of caution. If you move the rosin up and down the bow too fast, the increased friction will heat the rosin up and harden it. If you do this, the rosin will not want to adhere to the bow at all. You have to maintain a speed of about one length of the bow every 1.5 seconds. Any faster and you risk heating the rosin up. This is why so many people have such a difficult time getting rosin to stick to the tip and frog of their bow. Often you will see players moving the bow quite vigorously at the ends of the bow (because the ends need more rosin). However, this habit is self defeating. The more they speed up the rosin, the more it will not apply. The more the rosin refuses to apply, the faster and more vigorously they try to apply the rosin. It’s a vicious cycle. When your bow is new, just rosin the entire bow with equal amounts of rosin and speed and you will never run into any problems for the life of the bow.

We’re bloggin’ now!

Hello and welcome to the Kennedy Violins Blog! We’re just getting started, but feel free to come back and check in with us. We’ll be posting some really helpful information, videos and audio, all relating to all things strings.

We also invite comments and questions as the whole reason for this blog is to exchange ideas and information!

We hope to have new and interesting stuff for you each week, so check back often!

Kennedy Violins