October 19, 2015
Violin Care & Maintenance: Tips & Advice
Due to its small size, the violin is a fragile instrument that requires careful attention and proper maintenance to remain in peak playing condition. Those who skip cleanings or otherwise don’t maintain their violin can expect a degradation in sound and costly repairs down the line. Whether you’re brand new to the instrument or simply need a refresher, here are some general tips for taking care of your violin. Have questions? Need to pick up a cleaning accessory? Head into your local Music & Arts store and we’ll be more than happy to help.
Know How to Handle Your Violin
If your violin teacher hasn’t shown you how to properly handle your instrument, here’s a crash course: don’t bump it into anything, always keep it in a hard case when not in use, and if you notice anything out of the ordinary take it into a professional repair shop as soon as possible. Many students (and parents of students) end up damaging their violin even more by trying to fix the problem themselves. When transporting your violin from place to place make sure its snug in its case and that accessories and its bow aren’t flying around in the case. Most violin cases have a separate storage area for bows and accessories–if yours doesn’t you can always purchase a separate carrying case for your accessories.
Prepare for Changes in Temperature & Humidity
Since violins are manufactured from wood and other organic materials, protecting them from changes in temperature and humidity is essential. Fortunately, with the right set of tools, this is easier than it seems. Humidifiers are designed to fit into your case and will protect your violin from excessive dryness. Here’s how it works: a soft rubber sleeve encloses a special sponge, which releases moisture into your case (and onto your violin) as need be. If you hear an unusual buzzing come from your instrument, it may already be too late. This sound is usually related to an open seam, which is caused by chilly temperatures. To prevent such damage, always keep your violin in a temperature controlled environment–never leave it in the trunk of your car or in an especially cold or hot area of your home.
Learn How to Clean It
Cleaning your violin is another area where you should be seeking guidance from your teacher. Not only will they demonstrate the right way to clean your violin, but they’ll go through the process a few times until you get it down right. In the meantime, here are some general cleaning tips for your violin. First, wipe it down after EVERY use–even if you only played for ten minutes. Why? The oils on your hands and fingers can eat away at the varnish. Next, make sure you dust your violin off at least once a week. To do so, use a damp, lint-free cloth and some water. Although you can purchase wipes that are soaked in a special cleaning liquid, water will suffice. Finally, clean your strings once a month and make sure you’re taking your violin into the repair shop for regularly scheduled professional maintenance.
Make Sure You’re Storing it Properly
As mentioned above, proper storage is essential to protecting your violin from bumps and falls. Make sure to invest in a hardshell case (here’s an article that’ll help guide you through the buying process), and never leave your violin in the trunk or backseat of your car. Not only does this increase its chances of being stolen, but it exposes your violin to the elements. Even the best case won’t protect your violin from too hot or freezing temperatures. Even with proper storage and maintenance, your violin should still be inspected by a luthier from time to time. They’ll inspect your violin for open seams, inspect the sound post, and visually evaluate the overall condition of your instrument. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Don’t Forget About the Bow
Some think of the bow as a pretty accessory, but it’s actually an extension of your instrument. Just think about it: without your bow you wouldn’t be able to play your violin and without your violin you wouldn’t be able to use your bow. To increase the life of your violin bow, always loosen the hair on your bow after each use. Even if you only play for 20 minutes, this lessens the chance that it’ll warp. Additionally, the bow should be rosined regularly and excess rosin should be wiped off of the bow after each use. For more more information about rosin, check out this article. Finally, never touch the horsehair on your bow with your bare hands.
Even with the best care, at some point you’ll need to take your violin in to a repair technician. Here’s some advice on how to find one in your area.