In order to keep your bridge in the same place and not risk dropping the sound post, it’s best to change the strings one at a time.
Start with the G string. Take it off, pull the peg out, clean the peg with alcohol, then swipe it with #400 wet dry sandpaper (the gray stuff) and wipe it off. Put some peg dope or peg soap on the peg if it is spring ready to turn into summer or if your pegs fit really well and don’t slip. If it’s autumn ready to turn into winter or your pegs tend to slip dust them with Magic Powder*. Run a sharpened pencil tip over the groove in the nut and on the bridge to lubricate them. Put the ball end through the fine tuner (or hole in the tailpiece - whichever you have on your fiddle) and put the other end through the hole so that it pokes through about ¼”. Start turning the peg so that all the winding goes toward the cheek of the peg box (see illustration) Neatness counts. Tighten it just enough to give it some tension.
Now replace the D string the same way.
Now loosen the A string so that it’s still on, but you can push it over the side.
Now replace the E string the same way as you did the G and the D strings. Now replace the A string the same way as you did all the others.
Turn all your fine tuners up to their highest point. You’ll need these after the strings become more stable which they won’t be for anywhere from a day to a week depending on what type of strings you have.
Tune your fiddle using the pegs then put it away for a couple hours. Don’t worry about having it exactly in pitch just yet. Always turn the pegs away from you. Tune it again. Play it some. Put it away for a couple hours or overnight. Tune it again. Once the strings stay in pitch with the pegs you can go ahead a tweak it using the fine tuners.
Check the bridge to see if it is still set right. It should be tilted just slightly toward the tailpiece.
*Magic Powder is a recipe an old timer gave me. Crush a full stick of blackboard chalk with about a cubic ¼” of rosin. Mix well. Store in an old film canister if you can find one. This is enough to last you the rest of your life.
The fiddler who fiddles with this blog
- Beverley Conrad
- Selinsgrove, PA, United States
- Beverley Conrad is a writer, musician, and artist who lives in central Pennsylvania. She's played the fiddle most of her life and has published books and once went on a book tour with her dog. She's currently working on a series of one hundred works of art of a dead fly to see where it goes, how it progresses.