The Complete Guide to Looking After Your Violin.
The Complete Guide to Looking After Your Violin
Violins can be expensive. You probably already know that! It’s important, therefore, to keep yours in top notch condition: this is our guide on the things to look out for in order to keep that beautiful bit of craftsmanship looking as stylish as Don Draper in a classic pinstripe suit.
Keep an eye on humidity and temperature.
Just how much of an eye you need to keep on this will depend on whereabouts in the world you live. Humidity and temperature can have a big impact on wooden instruments, shrinking the wood when it’s cold and warping it when hot. Instrument necks work in such a way that one warp in the wood can render the violin unplayable.
Keep your instrument in a mid-temperature room with a humidity of around 30 to 40 per cent. If needed, pick up a humidifier. It’s rare for there to be too much humidity in a normal home, unless that home’s in Sri Lanka!
As well as keeping humidity levels even, avoid sudden temperature changes: no putting your violin in the car boot overnight. And don’t lean it on a radiator…
Know your pegs.
Probably the most common problem with violins is tuning: pegs tend to be either overly stiff or to slip, usually as a result of humidity (which is why we looked at it first), improperly wound strings (see our re-stringing guide) or a poor peg fit.
Tuning pegs slipping is primarily a winter issue: the temperature change causes the pegs to shrink, giving them extra room as a result. The best way to combat this is usually a simply re-string. However, if the peg continue to cause problems after that, it will probably mean they no longer fit. If this is the case, you’ll need to get the violin fixed by a professional.
This is also usually the solution for stiff pegs, which are primarily caused by expansion as a result of high humidity or a lack of peg lubricant: lubricating the peg is often the solution: re-positioning the peg further from the peg box wall can also help. Either way, take your instrument to a qualified luthier: violins aren't suitable for DIY!
Clean, clean, clean.
Fortunately, violins are fairly easy to keep in good condition. It’s a very good idea to wipe your bow down after every single play. This will present the rosin dust from building up on the strings and the body. This isn’t just a visual problem: if the strings are caked with rosin, they won’t vibrate to their full potential, leaving a dull sound.
Speaking of the strings…
Replace your strings as often as you can.
It's a good idea to replace violin strings fairly regularly, as this will ensure your instrument plays and sounds at its best. Even on instruments that aren't played regularly, strings will gradually lose their natural warmth and start to sound dull.
Most serious violin players switch their strings over as often as every six months, and even if you're not as serious, it's still a good time limit to go by. Remember that most strings have a 'break-in' period of around a few days before they settle in, so if you're going to play to anyone, change the strings a few days ahead of this! (If you’re a beginner, obviously there’s no point worrying about this yet.)
Take it to the bridge.
Bridges are carved to perfectly suit the curve of the instrument. However, because the bridge isn't glued down, it can sometimes move or slip. As a result, you need to check it around once a week.
Most bridges tend to gradually lean forwards in the direction of the strings over time. Fortunately, they're quite easy to adjust: loosen the strings enough to make the bridge moveable, and then ease it into the right position. Again, if you're not sure of the correct position, take the violin to a luthier to have it reset.