Basic Care of String Instruments by Russell Hopper - Violin Maker
Post date: Mar 9, 2017 6:30:16 PM
Basic Care of String Instruments
Keep the instrument in the case when not using it and latch it. One of the more horrifying events for a violinist is to pick up a case by the handle and see the violin fall to the floor when the lid flies open! If the case is not nearby, the instrument may be placed on a towel or case blanket on a flat surface for short durations. Never set the instrument on its side (except cellos and basses). It may easily fall over or damage the delicate edge.
Hold the instrument by the neck or if using two hands, horizontally by the neck heel and the bottom end by the end-button. Hold the instrument in front of your body, especially when passing through doorways.
The best way to keep the instrument clean is by wiping with a soft cloth after every use. Accumulated rosin dust will eventually eat away at the varnish, especially when combined with sweat and air-borne moisture. Sweat also eats at varnish and dislodges glue joints. Cleaning solutions and polishes are best avoided. Never use any commercial household cleaners on the instrument.
Clean the rosin off the strings with a separate soft cloth. Some people use alcohol to clean the strings, but it exposes the varnish to unnecessary risk from drops of alcohol. A cloth is good enough.
Never remove all the strings at once. The sound-post may fall. If it does fall, take the instrument to a violin shop for the violin maker to re-set. This is a very inexpensive procedure.
NEVER leave the instrument in a car or trunk of the car. Hide glue gels at 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the varnish will bubble at those temperatures within an hour.
Store the instrument in a controlled temperature area if possible, ideally between 60-75 degrees and 45-65% humidity. This will prevent the fragile top from cracking due to expansion and contraction of the wood. A good rule of thumb is if you are comfortable, so is your instrument. Do not store the instrument case near a AC vent or radiator. Most cracks occur due to sudden changes in humidity. A humidifier is especially important for musicians that travel. The average relative humidity in varies widely from city to city.
Do not attempt any repairs by yourself. Home repairs only make the problem more difficult and more expensive to repair by a professional.
If the instrument is damaged, don't fuss with it. Place it the case and take it to a reputable shop as soon as possible. A clean crack is easiest to repair.
For more information from Russell on caring for your violin, viola, cello, bass or bow, please check out his white paper below.
Also check out Russell's instrument care tips on our Youtube channel.