The Complete Guide to Looking After Your Viola.
The Complete Guide to Looking After Your Viola
High quality classical instruments are built to last for hundreds of years: it’s no exaggeration to say that many instruments played on stage today are over a century old.
Of course, they were the ones that got looked after.
If you want your viola to last (really last), keep reading: this is our guide on how best to keep everything in brand, spanking new condition.
First things first – cleaning.
The best way to clean your instrument is with a soft, lint free cloth: this will usually be enough to help remove any of the excess dust, as well as any rosin build-up. (Removing rosin isn’t just a physical issue, remember: it can dull the sound of the instrument).
Important: steer well clear of normal ‘polish’! Again, a cloth should be more than enough to clear any build-up.
Keeping your instrument safe.
Typically, it’s usually best to keep your instrument in its case when it’s not being used. Violas are small enough to accidentally get sat on… If you’re not playing the instrument, back in the case it goes. As well as avoiding it getting squished, the top wood can chip quite easily: not good if you’re the sort of person who tends to drop things.
Keep an eye on the humidity and temperature.
Wood responds to changes in temperature, shrinking when very cold and expanding when warm. What does this mean in instrument terms? It means that you could end up with a ruined viola!
You should keep your instrument in whichever room in the house is the most even, both in terms of temperature and humidity. It’s quite rare for residential houses and flats to be too humid, so consider purchasing a humidifier.
(Of course, your instrument case is an effective de-humidifier too.)
Above all, keep your viola away from extreme changes in temperature. No locking it in the car boot overnight and no leaning it on the heater!
Look after the bridge.
The bridge of the instrument is usually cut and shaped so that it perfectly fits the top, and allows the strings to be the correct height above the fingerboard. Because it’s not glued down, it will often start to pull towards the fingerboard over time.
This isn’t actually something to worry about: all you need to do is loosen the strings slightly, and then slide the bridge back into position.
(Note: if you’re completely not sure where it should be, take your instrument to a luthier to have it fixed.)
Look after the bow.
Don’t forget about this! Ensure that you always loosen the hair of the bow when it’s not being used, whilst at the same time avoid tightening it too much.
Typically, you’ll need to re-hair the bow every 6 months or so. This is erring on the cautious side, but an old hair will loosen, meaning that you end up having to over-tighten it just to get it playable. The result is usually an unplayable bow.
As with the viola itself, don’t leave the bow anywhere near a heat source. And, as ever, keep it in the case when you’re not using it.