String Instrument Care
- When you're not using it, the hairs on the bow of your violin should be slackened (the metal end of the bow acts as a screw). This protects the bow from warping.
- Avoid touching the hairs of the bow, the grease from your fingers will spoil it. In order to play, you will need to put rosin on the bow hairs. Most violins come with rosin. Before you use it for the first time, it helps if you roughen the surface of the rosin with sand paper. Rub the rosin against the bow hairs until you feel some friction between the rosin and the bow hairs. Repeat whenever necessary.
- Sometimes the tuning pegs on a violin are loose. This is fairly normal, even on hand made violins. There are two solutions. You can crush some rosin into powder and put this around the part of the peg that goes into the headstock, which will increase the friction. You can also acquire some 'peg paste' (stocked in most music shops), and with this you simply draw a few marks on the peg to create the friction you need.
- Don't Drop it!
Keep the strings up to tension all the time, unless you are leaving it for several months.
Keep it in a case or padded bag if at all possible to avoid minor knocks
Never check it in as luggage on an airline flight. Always carry it with you wherever possible.
- After playing wipe strings, belly, and bow stick with a softer cloth to remove excess rosin.
The only really dangerous element of cold for stringed instruments is sudden temperature change. When going from warm to cold or cold to warm, your instrument needs to be insulated. If you have a padded case, use it. If not, wrap the instrument in blankets or towels. Once you arrive at your destination, keep the instrument cased or wrapped until the outside of the case has been at room temperature for several hours. If your instrument is still icy when you open the case, zip it back up and wait a while longer. If you take your wrapped instrument from your warm house, to the inside of your warm car, to the warm inside of a building, do not worry at all. It is only when the instrument is left in the cold for a long period that you need to go through a warm-up procedure.
Heat joins sudden change as the other serious menace to instruments. Luthiers purposefully use wood glues which soften when heated (to 145F) so that an instrument can be disassembled for service when necessary. Direct sunlight is hot enough to soften the glues in your instrument and weaken or destroy the joints in the piece. Do not display any instrument anywhere that will be exposed to sun as the light moves across your room during the day. Never leave any of your instruments in the car on a hot day. If it is too hot for you to sit in the car, with all the windows closed, in the direct sun, without sweating - it is too hot for your instrument. When you turn off the air-conditioning and leave the car, take the instrument with you if you cannot park in the shade.
Damp & High HumidityNever store your instrument in a damp place, eventually the neck or other parts will warp as they soften up. In extreme cases the glue may be affected too. If you live in a very humid climate, silica gel in the case can help to absorb some of the moisture.
Dry ConditionsThis is the main enemy of most stringed instruments. Wood will shrink in very dry conditions, and cracks may appear in your instrument. Particularly in softwood parts such as the top. In very dry weather always keep your instrument in its case, and in extreme conditions you can keep the case in a cupboard, and a bowl of water next to it to keep up the humidity.