In this article, we will go through some general information on bass strings, how to care for them, and how to install them properly.
Custom vs. Universal Bass Strings
The below information will be especially helpful for you if you have not yet made a decision on which type of bass string would be best for your piano.
A custom bass string is one that is ordered specifically for your piano and is a copy of the one you are replacing. There are four measurements on a custom bass string: the length of the winding, the diameter of the winding, the diameter of the core wire, and the length from the hitch pin to the start of the winding. A custom string will match each of these measurements exactly. This ensures that the restringing process is much easier. Custom bass strings are available as a full set, partial set, or single string, and are bought based on what type of piano you have.
A universal bass string however, is not customized to your piano and will not exactly match your old strings. It is designed to work with any piano. This is a more economical option, but you will have to do more work to string it onto your piano. Whereas the custom bass string matches all four of the measurements previously mentioned, the universal bass string only matches the diameter of the winding. This means you will have to remove some of the winding on each end of the string in order to match it to the length and position of the original string. Universal bass strings can be purchased as a set of 37 sizes or a single string. The set isn't designed to replace all of the strings on a piano as the sizes in a specific piano won't match the exact sizes in the set.
As you are handling piano wire or strings, always wear gloves. The oils and acids in our skin can cause rust and corrosion on strings. Piano wire can rust if not properly taken care of. For example, if you add a treatment other than the Dampp Chaser Humidifier Pad Treatment to your humidifier, the strings could start to corrode. This is because there are acids in other water treatments that are hard on the metal components of a piano. If you make sure that you use the proper supplies for your piano and keep it in a controlled environment, your strings should last longer.
Measuring for Custom Bass Strings
Stretch a long piece of paper or sheets of paper towel out long enough to fit the length of your bass string on. Hold the string down of the paper and make marks at the end of the hitch pin loop, where the winding starts (the copper colored section of the string), and where the winding ends. Make sure you stretch the string as straight as you can. From here, you will measure the length of the marks on your paper instead of the actual string to make the process easier.
Your first measurement on the paper will be from the end of the hitch pin loop to the start of the winding. Next, measure the length of the winding (from the starting mark to the end mark).
To measure the diameter of the core wire you will need your string and a micrometer. The core wire is the section of wire between the hitch pin loop and the start of the winding. Then, you will need to measure the diameter of the winding. If you’re not sure how to use a micrometer, you can learn more about that in this video: https://youtu.be/8C5rb8RRLks?si=3x4ZN-6BHhGUXYVE
Installing Bass Strings (If Not Replacing the Tuning Pin)
Using a Piano Ratchet Star Head or tuning hammer, turn the tuning pin out of the pin block enough that you have room to wind the string onto the pin. You will want to turn it about three or three and a half times since you want to start out with three coils on the pin before tuning. Make sure that you end with the tuning pin hole in line with the string to make installation easier.
Remember as mentioned above that you should ALWAYS wear gloves while handling the string so as to not damage it. Hook the hitch pin loop of the string over the hitch pin, guide the string through the bridge pins, and insert the end of the string under the pressure bar. To make this process easier, you can use the Piano Stringing Hook to help pull the string out from under it (sometimes needle nose pliers are also needed).
Hold the length of the remaining string firmly next to the pin it will be going on. Cut the wire so that there is 3" of excess past the tuning pin. Then, insert the string into tuning pin hole, with the end just barely sticking through the other side of the pin.
Use your ratchet star head or tuning hammer to turn the pin clockwise while holding the string in place. Use a Coil Lifter and String Spacer to maker sure the string stays in the right position. Make about two and a half coils. After this, squeeze the tip of the wire sticking through the pin with parallel pliers to create a bend in the becket (the section of string sticking through the pin).
Twist string until tight and tune the string. You will need to tune the string several times after installing until it finishes stretching. Or, to speed up the process, you can stretch the string with a Piano String Stretching Tool.
To see a more detailed demonstration of this process, watch this video: https://youtu.be/cPFBHlfwlRA?si=frPtIXHF0vNkIciU
Installing Bass Strings (If Replacing the Tuning Pin)
If you are placing the tuning pin and the string at the same time, you will want to make sure you get the correct size of tuning pin. If the pin you are replacing is not loose, simply go up one size. If the pin is loose, you will need to go up two sizes. To determine the size of the tuning pin you have, take the pin out and measure it with a micrometer.
Remember as mentioned above that you should ALWAYS wear gloves while handling the string so as to not damage it. You will start the installation process by cutting the proper length of wire. Hook the hitch pin loop of the string over the hitch pin, guide the string through the bridge pins, and insert the end of the string under the pressure bar. To make this process easier, you can use the Piano Stringing Hook to help pull the string out from under it (sometimes needle nose pliers are also needed).
Hold the length of the remaining string firmly next to the old pin in the pin block or the pin hole. Cut the wire so that there is 3" of excess past the tuning pin.
Next, remove the string. Insert your new tuning pin into the Piano Tuning Pin Coil Maker, insert the freshly cut wire end into the tuning pin hole, and set the wire against the set screw. Make sure the wire only sticks out of the tuning pin hole a slight amount. Then, using a Piano Stringing Crank (Tuning Pin Crank), turn the pin about two and a half turns. Hold the wire onto the pin as you pull the pin out of the coil maker.
Using a Tuning Pin Punch, pound the tuning pin (with the string still wound around it) into the hole in your piano’s pin block. Don’t pound it all the way in. You want to have some room left between your coil and the pin block so that you can turn the pin and have room for the wire to coil more.
Once the tuning pin is in the pin block, guide it through the proper bridge pins and hook the hitch pin loop onto the hitch pin. After this, tighten and tune the string and you will have successfully installed the bass string. You will need to tune the string several times after installing until it finishes stretching. Or, to speed up the process, you can stretch the string with a Piano String Stretching Tool.
To see a more detailed demonstration of this process, watch this video: https://youtu.be/FunRnxreKs4?si=JmH5f08KlwgX-Ite
All underlined tools and parts in these instructions are available at: HowardPianoIndustries.com.