People often call Kennedy Violins and ask about how to take care of their violin.
My response is usually to tell them that there is not a lot they have to do, other than
wiping off the excess rosin after every practice session, so it doesn’t have a chance
to build up. However, where a person lives can have a substantial impact on not
only the sound quality and playability of their instrument but also whether the parts
of the violin stay glued together or not.
Excessive humidity can cause your violin pieces to warp and come unglued but
the majority of people have to concern themselves with excessively dry air damaging
their violin more than the opposite. The larger your instrument, the more it is affected
by changing humidity conditions, so if you are a cellist, you have to pay particular
attention to the water content in the air more than the average violist or violinist.
However, not living in a dry area will not get you off the hook. If you live in an area
that gets cold in the winter time, you should pay attention to the air quality your
stringed instrument is subjected to. Often people in colder climates will keep their
home furnaces on 24/7 and the result is very dry air. This can be the death of your
instrument, especially if it’s a cello or bass. When wood does not have enough water
in it, it shrinks and if it contracts enough, it can crack.
At some point in a violin’s life, its ribs will start to separate from the top and bottom plates of the instrument because of changing humidity conditions. This is caused by the constant expansion and contraction of the violin parts. Initially, the hair line seams that develop between the ribs and plates are not noticeable to the naked eye, but the sound quality and
responsiveness of the violin will be noticeably hindered to the trained ear.
Gluing the plates back to the ribs is a simple repair and isn’t terribly expensive. However, if left unchecked, stringed instruments like basses and cellos can develop cracks on their tops and backs and not only are these repairs expensive but often times will render the instrument unrepairable when considering the cost to correct the problem.
The good news is, it is very easy and inexpensive to control the humidity conditions
that your stringed instrument is subjected to. A simple device like the “Dampit” brand
humidifier can be placed in the
F-hole of your stringed instrument
when it is not in use and it will
release a small amount of humidity
into your violin, viola, cello or bass
that will keep it from getting too dry.
You have to re-wet them every day
or every other day, depending on
humidity conditions and they will
last a long time. These devices
even come with a handy paper
humidity gauge, to give you an idea
of what the water content of the air
is. However, the easiest thing to do,
is to just purchase a violin case with
a built in hygrometer gauge.
Every once in a while, simply
have a look at the gauge to
check the humidity content
in the air. The ideal humidity
is probably around 35%-50%.
As long as you keep your
instrument in this range,
you are probably fine.
Rapidly changing humidity
conditions can be quite bad
for your stringed instrument
as well, so using a product like
the Dampit can even out the
humidity swings when you have
to use your instrument in
different venues and are unable
to control the conditions to which
your stringed instrument is
Simply paying attention to the air quality around your stringed instrument and using inexpensive devices like humidifier tubes, will ensure that your instrument will sound good, stay in tune, play well and will not need repair for many years!