Replacing a String on a Cello




Introduction: Replacing a String on a Cello

This tutorial is about how to replace a string on a cello. The process is rather simple, and I included a trick that I use to keep the string from slipping off the peg. Replacing one string takes just a few minutes, but replacing all the strings could take 10 or 15 minutes. You should never remove all the strings from the cello at once, and you should use care when removing worn out strings because sometimes they snap. Similarly, you should use caution when tightening new strings because overtightened strings may also snap.

The strings of cellos need to be replaced every year or when they start to wear down. Strings can last longer than a year, but if you play regularly, they do need to be changed once a year. Violins and Violas require more frequent string changes, and this replacement tutorial can also be used to remove and install strings on those instruments.

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Step 1: Loosen Pegs

Loosen the pegs by turning them to reduce the tension on the strings. This allows the strings to be removed. There are four pegs on a cello, two for the higher strings and two for the lower strings. In this tutorial, I am replacing a lower string. In the picture, the lower strings are on the left and the higher strings are on the right. The lower strings are also thicker than the higher strings.

Loosen the lower pegs by turning them clockwise or loosen the higher pegs by turning them counter-clockwise. This should cause the string to relax.

Step 2: Disconnect String From Peg

Pull gently on the string to cause it to uncoil from around the peg. You may also turn the peg while pulling the string to make this easier.

Step 3: Disconnect String From Fine Tuner

Pull out of the slot of the fine tuner. The best way to do this is by pulling the string upwards or backwards away from the pegs. If the instrument does not have fine tuners, this should still work.

Step 4: Connect New String to Fine Tuner

Place the metal ball on the end of the string in the slot on the fine tuner. Run the string through the slot by pulling it downward and toward the pegs. If this step is done right, the end with the ball should be firmly anchored in the slot on the fine tuner. Looking at the other fine tuners can be helpful if you cannot figure it out.

Some instruments do not have fine tuners. These instruments will have a simple slot where you may anchor the string in a similar manner.

Optional: At this point, you may want to partially loosen the fine tuner by turning it counter clockwise. This will aid in the tuning process later on.

Step 5: Insert New String Into Peg

Insert the thread-like end of the string through the hole in the center of the peg. The end of the string should always be extending out of the hole a little bit.

Step 6: Turn Peg 1/2 Turn

Keeping the string through the hole, slowly turn the peg 1/2 turn, clockwise for higher strings and counter clockwise for lower strings. Keep the string on the side of the hole away from the knob of the peg.

Step 7: Turn Peg a Full Turn

Turn the peg a full turn, this time feeding the string along the other side of the whole. Make the coils of the string as tight as possible to keep the string from slipping out of the hole.

The string should now be wrapped around both sides of the end of the string that is protruding out of the hole. 

Step 8: Tighten String

Continue to turn the peg clockwise for higher strings and counter clockwise for lower strings. Coil the string as tightly as possible. It will probably do this naturally after a few turns. However, you do want the string to be able to align naturally with the nut, so you may need to coil tight at first, then let it coil naturally after that.

Leave some slack. Do not coil all of the string yet.

Step 9: Align String to Bridge

Adjust the string so that it passes over the bridge. Slide the string into its designated slot in the bridge.

The picture shows the string being installed right next to its slot with all the other strings already in their slots.

Step 10: Align String to Nut

Find the groove just below the peg box. Adjust the string so that it passes through this groove when it leaves the peg box.

It is important for the strings to be in place in both the nut and the bridge before you move on to the next step. Failure to do this will cause uneven spacing in the strings and will also result in the string not being anchored. If the string is not anchored, it will likely slide around, causing problems with tightening and tuning, which renders the cello unplayable.

Step 11: Finish Tightening the String

Turn the peg to tighten the string until it is tight enough to pluck. Pluck the string to check the pitch. Continue to tighten the string until plucking the string shows the string is close to the desired pitch.

Do not over tighten the string! This could cause the string to snap, which could cause injury!

If the peg does not stay in place, push the peg inward while tightening the string. This is a common problem and a common solution to it. If this solution does not work, consult a knowledgeable musician or instrument repairer for more alternatives.

Step 12: Tune

Finish by tuning your instrument. If a brand new string was installed, you will have to tune regularly while the string adjusts to your instrument, which will take a couple days.

Turning the pegs to increase or decrease tension macro-adjusts pitch. Turning fine tuners micro-adjusts pitch. Some instruments have only pegs and not fine tuners. This is more common with violins than with cellos.

Tuning Mini Tutorial:

Tuning involves routinely checking a strings pitch by playing the string then adjusting the tension of the string with the pegs or fine tuners until the correct pitch is reached. If the pitch is higher than desired, it is said to be "sharp." If the pitch is lower than desired, it is said to be "flat." When the string reaches the correct pitch, it is said to be "in tune."

If the string's pitch is flat (too low), turn the fine tuner clockwise.

If the string's pitch is sharp (too high), turn the fine tuner counter clockwise.

If the string's pitch is very flat, tighten the peg slightly (like step 8)

If the string's pitch is very sharp, loosen the peg slightly (like step 1)

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    8 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Thanks for the tutorial. Clearly explained & well illustrated. I was able to make the necessary repairs without issue. No longer will broken cello strings be an excuse for skipping practice. My kids are thrilled, of course.


    3 years ago

    Do I have to loosen all the strings to replace one? or will the pressure on the bridge be fine ?


    4 years ago

    Good simple clear and unpretentious. Everything of importance explained, nothing missed. Put in a way for any sensible kid even ... not perhaps a toddler but any school aged kid, with perhaps minimal adult supervision - so long as they do exactly as advised here - they could not go far wrong . Good that the importance of careful and gradual slackening off (and not all the stings at a time - for one thing the bridge will topple over!) is stressed for removing old string. Good too that the proper use of the 'fine tuners' (I call them 'height adjusters' - which you should have on most modern good quality 'cellos): this is explained well here too.

    Only thing missing, really, is a little appropriate concluding sentence or so ... something like: 'Now you know what to do (and what NOT to do), have pleasure and enjoy playing your instrument. Good luck!'


    JEFF, musician and teacher.


    4 years ago

    Thank you, this helped me a lot!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    thank you man!!! ive broken 3 strings already on my cello!! this should really help me out


    9 years ago on Introduction

    When I replace my strings, I always take a #2 pencil and rub it thoroughly in the grooves on both the nut and the bridge. It helps the string slide more smoothly and makes for a more consistent tuning experience as the adjustment is more likely to be continuous instead of small jumps if the string gets slightly stuck on the nut or bridge. Pencil graphite is also good for a sticky peg (and rosin dust for a loose peg).


    9 years ago on Step 12

    Great job but just another word of advise, you should get a little pencil led on the nut and a little bit less on the bridge so that when you are turning the peg, it goes a bit easier and help prevent fraying from the constant tuning.