Temperature and humidity levels vary dramatically from summer to winter and there is nothing you can do about it.
What you can do, however, is control the subsets of your environment such as your house, office etc. according to your convenience and comfort.
You do that? Good!
One more question…
What about the comfort zone of your musical instruments?
Yes, you heard me. As inanimate as they might look, they have a hard time dealing with changes in humidity and temperature more than you realize.
Here there are a few ideas that will illustrate what you need to do in order as basic maintenance of violin or viola to keep them safe and sound.
1 – Humidity’s burden
The damages of humidity fluctuations
Stringed instruments, such as violins and violas, are made out of wood, an elegant, gracious material, but a sensitive one nonetheless. Wood reacts to peaks of humidity and dryness that cause it to expand and contract. And, if this wasn’t enough, the different types of wood that compose the different parts of the violin, have different contraction and expansion rates. In extreme cases it will be in need of expensive repairs; sometimes the damages will be of such an extent as to render your instrument virtually irreparable.
In our daily life humidity can vary from 10-40% in an air-conditioned environment to 50-70% in the trunk of your car. And, no, the case by itself is not enough to protect the violin from humidity fluctuations. Most instrument owners are less than certain about how to prevent damage caused by changes in humidity.
Let’s change that!
Humidity control system is the key. In the ideal environment for a stringed instrument, humidity needs to vary around 50%, plus or minus 10%.
So, unless you are willing to move to a region with this constant conditions (wherever in the world that might be), you need to find another way to keep the humidity within the right parameters.
This is when you would like a solution as functional, easy and inexpensive as possible. If Music Sorb could ride a white horse, this is when it would come in like a savior.
Music Sorb protects your violin and viola by maintaining the correct relative humidity range, and Music Sorb lasts a year without your thinking about it.
If this sounds too good to be true, learn more about this innovative product and the science behind it. Obviously you’ll still have to be careful about certain things such as extremely high temperatures, known for wreaking havoc on the violin bridges, frets and neck, or direct sunlight that can end up damaging the finish, throwing literally everything out of tune.
2 – Protect your instrument in all its components
If your violin or viola has a humidity problem, one of the first signs you’ll be able to intercept is the stiffness or the looseness of the pegs. Assuming the pegs fit properly in the first place, acute humidity change can cause them to shrink, in drier conditions, or swell, when the humidity rises. In case of slipping pegs, often, all that is required, is to rewind the strings, if the pegs are too stiff though, peg lubricant will, most likely, do the job. Either way a qualified technician will know what to do and how to do it.
The bridge is another delicate component that will not help itself. Even with regular tuning and normal use, the string tension will eventually warp the
bridge. If the damage isn’t severe it can be straighten, otherwise it will have to be replaced.
Replacing parts of the violin is a common reality, if you want to ensure your instruments stays vibrant.
In the case of the strings, replacing them is an obvious obligation, but precious practice guarantees the sound will maintain warmth and brilliance. Depending on how active you are and your level, you’ll have to replace the strings after a period of six months to a year.
It is of major importance to always loosen the hair on your bow after each and every use, avoiding the risk of it warping and losing camber. Also, you’ll need to regularly re-hair your bow with good quality, unbleached horse hair to maintain the best sound quality possible.
You’ll need to perform this task once every three to six months, if you are an active violinist, while student bows may be re-haired less frequently. Finally let’s talk about the bow tip. It is the most fragile part of a bow, which is why it is protected by an ivory or silver tip face that is everything but merely ornamental. Its task is to protect the tip during normal use and during the re-hair process. If you notice any tiny cracks on the tip face, it should be replaced by a qualified bow maker or restorer.
3 – Clean it right
One of the most obvious, yet important, tips you can possibly want to schedule on your calendar is to CLEAN YOUR VIOLIN!
Regularly wiping excess rosin debris away from the body and strings of your violin will keep the rosin from sticking to the varnish and making the strings sound poor.
Clean your instrument as often as possible with a dry cloth and you’ll have performed the first step for proper maintenance of your violin.
To sum up…
Violins and violas are extremely fragile, so you need to always be ready to intervene. Humidity issues can be kept in check by an humidity control system such as MusicSorb that prevents humidity-related damages without your even needing to think about it.
Be sure your keep an eye on each and every component of your instrument so you’ll be able to save it in time.
Clean it often and carefully. But mostly, enjoy playing it and play as much as you can, or all this work will have been in vain.