Do you ever notice that your string instrument goes out of tune more in the winter months?
Ever wonder why that is?
As our instruments are made up of many different types of wood that expand and contract at different rates, the cooler months can affect our
instrument in many ways.
Transitioning from cold environments to heated ones and vice versa can end up in expensive instrument repairs. But, if we are proactive in caring for our instrument, we can hopefully avoid those costly mistakes.
Here are some tips on how to care for your string instrument in the winter season.
1. Pay Attention to the Humidity
Most wood instruments appreciate humidity levels of around 50%. And the good news is, so do we! So maintaining a proper humidity level in your home is good for both you and your instrument.
But how do you know what the level is in your household? You can purchase a hygrometer (humidity level tester). You can find these on Amazon or at your local home improvement store. If you are not sure what to get, start with the The Oasis Digital Hygrometer. The Oasis' advanced humidity sensor maintains exceptional accuracy.
2. Consider Purchasing a Humidifier or Dehumidifier
Now you know how to test the humidity level, but how do you change it if the level is not ideal? Consider purchasing a humidifier or dehumidifier. These appliances are great for getting the desired comfort level for you and your instrument. Better yet, you can even purchase a room humidifier that allows you to program your desired level.
We've been talking a lot about the room you keep your instrument in, but what about the case? Well, thankfully there is a solution for that too. D'Addario Humidipak's are humidity control packs that help maintain a healthy humidity level inside your instrument's case.
3. Do Not Leave Your Instrument in the Car
Even in their cases, wooden instruments can still be affected by the fluctuating temperature and humidity levels. Always take your instruments inside with you. A good rule of thumb is to think, "Would I leave my pet or my child in the car?" Treat your instrument the same way.
4. Leave it in the Case
Your instrument's case is its first line of defense! We automatically think that the case is to prevent damage. And while it certainly does that, the case is also meant to protect your instrument from temperature fluctuations, moisture exposure or even the sun.
5. Keep Away from Direct Heating and Cooling Sources
We have already learned that our wooden instruments love a moderate climate. But they do not love direct heat from a vent or a radiator. To prevent your instrument from becoming brittle and potentially warped, keep it away from heat sources that can speed up the drying out process. Heat also makes metal expand and components such as strings can drop pitch.
6. Avoid Abrupt Environmental Changes
It is a good idea to avoid sudden changes in the environment. Wood does best when it has time to acclimate. What does that mean? Well, imagine walking out the door and leaving the warm indoors for the cold outdoors. Your body feels the change and so will your instrument. Be sure to carry your instrument in a closed case when moving between environments.
7. Get Rid of that Rosin Dust
Your instrument should be wiped down with a microfiber cloth after each use. Be sure to wipe down both the body and the strings to remove any leftover rosin dust. Rosin seems harmless, but if left sitting for too long, the rosin dust could be become moist and adhere to the body, which could compromise the look and sound. Plus, there is nothing worse than a dirty fiddle.
8. Pay Attention to the String Tension
Just like the wooden body of your instrument, the pegs can also experience contracting and expanding. When the pegs fluctuate, it can loosen the strings which in turn can also cause the bridge to collapse by the lack of pressure. On the other hand, pegs fluctuation could cause too much tension and your strings could snap. It's always a good idea to pay attention to your string tension and remember to always carry an extra set of strings.
9. Don't Forget About Your Bow
Bow parts can also contract and expand in the wintertime and should be stored inside a case with your instrument to keep them protected. And always remember to loosen your bow after you are finished playing.
10. Arriving Early
Consider arriving early to your lesson or performance. This will give your instrument plenty of time to get used to the environment so that it is ready to play!
We work hard to take care of our wooden instruments but unfortunately accidents can still happen. If our instrument gets damaged it can be very stressful figuring out where to take it to get repaired. And when you drop it off, you just hope that they will do right.
The good news is, you no longer need to be stressed! Whether you need a repair, restoration, or just need to re-hair your bow, look no further than the Westmoreland String Workshop.
Your instrument will be cared for and the job will not only get done, but the work will be impeccable. To learn more, check out their website at westmorelandstringworkshop.com