When you own a delicate musical instrument, such as cellos and upright basses, proper maintenance is mandatory, and sometimes the instructions to perform said maintenance are not as clear and as easy as you would like them to be.
Sit back as we travel through 4 easy-to-follow tips that will help you keep your instrument in a healthy condition while keeping your wallet as pristine as possible.
1. Fight Humidity Extremes
Cellos and upright basses, like every other wooden instrument, are extremely sensitive to humidity fluctuations and can react badly.
The ideal relative humidity for these instruments is between 45 and 55%; if they are stored in an environment that allows humidity to drop below 40% cracking and warping of the wood and open seams can occur.
On the other hand, an over humidified environment can cause the wood to swell up, a loss in volume and even more cracks. The question, now, pops up:
How can we manage to maintain a constant relative humidity throughout the whole year?
That’s when a humidity control system like MusicSorb arises to save the day (and your cello). The advanced technology of MusicSorb allows you to solve this problem with little effort and money.
Simply drop MusicSorb Cello Pack into your cello case, then try to keep the case closed as much as is practical. You won’t have to worry about humidity damaging your instrument for a whole year!
So, now that we have dealt with the humidity issue, what other threats do we need to tackle?
Well, how about extreme temperatures, impacts and direct sunlight?
2. Storing and Carrying: Do it Right!
Properly storing your cello or upright bass in a hard case is beneficial in every possible way.
Not only does a good case make it easier to transport your instrument, it also helps protecting it from temperature variations, although it does not perform miracles. Avoid leaving your cello in environments such as the trunk of your car during summer.
Damages from direct sunlight and bumps, as well, can be avoided this way.
Hard cases are expensive, but, if it is not included with the cello or upright bass you bought, I strongly suggest you buy one right away.
It is better to be safe than sorry and this investment will certainly pay off, considering how expensive repairs on this kind of instruments are.
If, however, you end up finding cracks on your instrument, a good luthier will, hopefully, be able to repair it.
To conclude this section, if you decide to buy a hard case, be sure to get one with wheels as they can be pretty heavy once filled with your instrument.
3. Keep Each and Every Component of your Instrument Alive
Different components raise different issues and solutions vary as well.
Let’s deal with them one by one.
The bridge needs regular attention. To be more precise, you should check it once a week.
Over time, mostly because of the tension of the strings, it tends to warp, when, instead, the bridge should be perpendicular to the belly of your cello.
If you notice that the bridge is not in the right inclination, loosen the strings slightly and move the bridge back into position using both hands.
The Pegs and Fine Tuners
There is no grey area: pegs should fit perfectly. If they do not, or they simply are not used frequently enough, they will slip or stick. If this is the case, a luthier should be able to help.
First things first, clean the strings about once a month.
To do that, use a cloth, better with a little alcohol on it. Just remember to be extremely careful not to get any alcohol on your instrument as it could seriously damage it, corroding the varnish.
Replacing your strings once a year will do the trick. Also, while changing them, it is a good idea to do one string at a time, avoiding loosening the other three.
Keep in mind that the strings should be about 3/8 of an inch above the fingerboard or playing your cello properly will be more difficult than it should be.
Make sure it is not in the path of other people, or you will be sorry.
In addition, you could sharpen the endpin so that it sticks in the wooden floor. But better yet, to cover all situations, use an endpin holder; it is an easy and inexpensive solution that works no matter the surface.
Like the cello or your upright bass itself, keep the bow in a safe place and handle it with care. It is prone to breaking, mostly at the tip.
Remember to loosen the bow every time you are done playing, or you risk damaging the stick.
Last, but not least, do not touch the bow hair with your bare hands to avoid sweat and oil build up.
4. Properly Clean your Cello
No matter which instrument you play, cleaning it is a crucial step to its maintenance.
For the everyday cleaning of your cello or upright bass, use a microfiber cloth trying to wipe off all the rosin, sweat (blood and tears, too), and dust build up. It is better if you perform this task every time you are finished playing, but doing it once a week will be ok as well.
Periodically, you should clean the varnished parts with specially designed products, and, in case you own valuable instrument, this task is best left to a luthier.
1. Humidity fluctuations can be a burden; using a humidity control system like MusicSorb is an easy and straightforward solution
2. Keeping your instrument in the right location is fundamental. Protecting your cello or upright bass with a hard case is an investment you won’t regret
3. Every component has its own problems and solutions, so be sure to keep an eye on each and every one of them
4. It can be boring, but it is necessary. Like brushing your teeth, clean your instrument frequently and in the right way
In conclusion, dedication to practicing and maintenance is important, but having fun playing is what being a passionate musician is all about.