V.com weekend vote: Have you ever had a string break?

November 7, 2021, 11:13 AM ·

broken string

This week violinist Ray Chen made the news when his E string broke mid-way through the first movement of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, which he was playing with the Seattle Symphony. They even got it on video!

Following protocol, concertmaster Noah Geller gave Chen his instrument, and various violins were passed back and forth until Chen's fiddle landed with violinist Mae Lin, sitting fourth chair. During the tutti that followed, Chen produced a spare E string that he was carrying in his pocket, and Lin commenced changing the string, right there on stage. Meanwhile, as he played the cadenza on the concertmaster's violin, Chen nodded in approval at the newly borrowed instrument. Well-played! Chen had his fiddle back, with a new E, by the beginning of the second movement.

So the question is, does this happen to us mere mortal violinists? The answer is, yes it does. But not always on a stage, in front of a live audience!

Has it happened to you? I thought it might be fun this week to share our "broken string" stories. Please participate in the vote, then tell your own story (or stories!), or you can tell us about a broken-string incident you witnessed from your chair in the orchestra or in the audience.

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Replies

November 7, 2021 at 08:58 PM · Not as a soloist but as orchestral violinist in a performance of Carmina Burana. Some intense music there and my E-string broke. We were not yet halfway in the program, so, with a nod from the conductor, I left backstage and replaced the string in record time, rejoined the orchestra. Got a lot of compliments later how fast I was back!

November 7, 2021 at 09:46 PM · I didn't break a string, but my bridge fell over with a loud crack! I removed my mute too quickly and it was still attached to the bridge as I pulled it back. Since I was on the outside at the edge of the stage, my stand partner gave me his violin. There was only about a page of music left, so not enough time to fix a bridge. Although it wasn't caught on tape, a music critic was there and made a big deal about it in his review. How embarrassing!

November 8, 2021 at 12:08 AM · I broke my first string tuning up when I thought I was tuning down. A real rookie mistake.

November 8, 2021 at 12:20 AM · I was excited to try a Gold Label E string, put as I tuned it up, it snapped like my will when doing a Calculus BC test.

November 8, 2021 at 12:49 AM · I've only broken one string while practising - my E string, which broke near the peg box. It flew up and scratched my cheek, narrowly missing my eye, which was lucky!

I do remember on a tour to Australia, Mischa Maisky was playing the Prokofiev cello concerto on three occasions, and broke his A string during two of those performances, once during the performance I saw, and it was within 2 minutes of the end of the piece. He simply tapped the conductor on the shoulder with his bow, and they paused while he replaced his string and they began again from halfway through the final movement.

November 8, 2021 at 01:37 AM · I witnessed a string break while an audience member. Emanuel Ax was playing the Beethoven Fourth Piano Concerto with the Chicago Symphony. Part way into the development section of the first movement a sound was heard much like something metallic hitting a music stand. I did notice the sound of the piano was not quite right thereafter. At the end of the movement, Maestro Ax stood up, leaned in under the raised lid of the piano, and pulled out the broken piece of string which had got caught up in the action. After doing so, he took his seat once again, smiled to the audience, shrugged his shoulders and signaled he was ready to proceed with the slow movement.

November 8, 2021 at 07:03 AM · My best break was on the platform of the Royal Albert Hall while tuning up for Mahler 8. I scooted off and got to make a second entrance just before the soloists and conductor

November 8, 2021 at 12:27 PM · YES! Both in Orchestra, violin, and performing with my electric bass. I can understand the "E" string on my violin. But I use to break my .75-.80 "A" string on my Rickenbacker 4003. Long story short neither I or a Luthier could figure it out. He replaced the bridge and it never happened again.

November 9, 2021 at 04:44 PM · No string breaks while playing, that I can remember. I had a stand partner that was constantly breaking E strings. The cause, in my opinion, was attacking a low position E string note too hard, And, too far from the bridge.

November 10, 2021 at 05:46 PM · So Emanuel axed a broken string - Well done!

November 11, 2021 at 09:38 AM · Not yet on my violin, though some other instruments have not been so fortunate ... I have had a bridge teeter on the edge of breaking while I had my violin in storage for a few years - I should've detuned it more, I think.

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