Changing a string is not just changing a string.

This may or not become a series. But here’s part of being a public school orchestra teacher.

‘Mr.T., my string broke.” “No problem.”

Sometimes this will happen during rehearsal.
If they don’t have their instrument with them or it’s in their case I’ll ask, “What string? ” About half of the time they don’t know what string broke.
“Ok. Go get your instrument.”

I know better than to ask what size their instrument is. They rarely know and really I can’t expect them to.

Most students rent their instrument from local music stores which is great since the stores will provide replacement strings. But you have to keep the string package to give to the store representative that comes once a week. That way they rep knows which string to replenish your supply of strings with.

So. You go to your spare string bin with strings for rentals from that instrument. Not strings for rentals from the other store. And definitely not the bin with spare strings for your school owned instruments. Yep you have multiple string bins. All labeled, naturally. You may or not have time to organize the strings in your bins. I don’t.

Ok I’ve got the correct string bin in hand. The small bins are actually repurposed baby wipe containers. Or at least one of them is. I thumb through the strings to find the right string and the right size.

Hrm. Where are my scissors?, I think to myself. Since the cello strings are in sealed plastic packaging I need something to cut them open. I walk – really I weave throughout the chairs and stairs scattered around – across my large clasroom room to grab my scissors. I already have multiple pairs of scissors around my classroom but apparently did not think of every scissor emergency need.

Alright I’ve got the string package open. Ugh, I have to discard the plastic part of the packaging now. And the old string. The peg on the cello makes a funny noise when I take off the old string. The students laugh. I smile.

Remember you have to keep the paper portion of the string package for the store sales rep to bring a replacement string. I have a magnetic clip on the side of desk where I keep them, ready to be picked up.

I almost stopped the story there only to realize I haven’t even put the new string on! I ask the student to throw away the old string. Because, “No. You cannot keep it.” The art of actually putting on a string is a topic for another day. But I can do it very quickly. 20 years of teaching x strings 50 per year = lots of repetitive practice.

“I’ll have to retune your instrument often today. New strings go out of tune for a few days.” So today during class I retune that cello 3.8 times.

That was just one accidental string break. Sometimes an instrument needs all four replaced. Or several students have string issues.
Zen and the Art of String Maintenance.

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