Keeping your instrument and bow in good shape is essential. Wear and tear will occur in varying degrees depending on how often you play, where the items are stored, and what steps you take to preserve good playing condition. Read on for some general tips!
It’s best to keep your instrument stored in its case or bag whilst not in use, out of the way of foot traffic, and definitely not in the sun or damp. Never leave your instrument in the car, as the increased heat can have dire consequences.
When packing away your instrument:
- Unwind the bow
- Dust off rosin
- Remove shoulder rest or sponge
- Put bow in last (for cellos stored in a bag)
- Remove any padding underneath a violin/viola
- Minimise padding on TOP of a violin (to much cloth can press down on the bridge when case is closed)
- Close the case, secure the latches/zips and put in a safe place
Keeping abridge of bridge changes….
The bridge is the heart of your instrument. A well-fitted bridge of quality hardened wood should last decades if taken care of. Many things will contribute to a bridge warping, falling over, or moving. Firstly, it’s good to establish if the wood and fit of the bridge is the best it could be. Secondly, a number of external factors can cause warping and destabilisation:
- Ill-fitting cases or bags pressing or dragging the bridge (this can be worsened by adding lots of cloths/padding in a case)
- String grooves that have been worn down, thus causing the strings to grip the bridge
- Fluctuations in weather (heat, humidity, dry, etc)
If you see any warping or movement in the bridge (or notice gaps under the feet), please bring the instrument in for a check-up.
Your instrument’s varnish will be affected by rosin, sweat, and general dust/grime. Cleaning is an important part of maintenance, but the varnish of an instrument must not be damaged through cleaning. Do not use any alcohols or furniture polish! There are products available to polish violins, but they don’t work for all varnishes, and more often than not, you will be working in dirt and sweat, polishing it and not cleaning it off! Therefore we recommend keeping rosin and dirt off your instrument with a silk or microfibre cloth (do this each time you finish playing) and then coming in for a professional clean about once a year.
Tuning quickly and accurately is an essential part of playing, and the last thing you need to stress about is slipping pegs and clunky tuning. Pegs are subject to a lot of friction, and will wear in time, causing them to slip or get stuck. You’ll end up with unstable tuning, broken strings and possibly even a pegbox crack if you leave an poorly fitted peg for too long.
A good fitting peg enables fast, stable tuning with a high level of accuracy. Like all things it takes practice, but it is easily done in time.
Having a wooden tailpiece with no cumbersome tuners on it allows the following:
- Optimum string length
- Minimises risk for strings breaking
- Opens the sound
But perhaps you aren’t ready to tune with your pegs? To achieve the above benefits AND have fine tuners, we recommend installing a tailpiece with fine tuners built in. This sort of tailpiece is VERY different from those with metal tuners attached. Separate tuners applied to each string:
- Shorten string lengths
- Can damage strings, due the metal cutting the ball end
- Add unnecessary weight, which can close off sound
We can install Wittner tailpieces while you wait if you ring ahead of time. Alternatively you can throw away the fine tuners and get your pegs fitted perfectly by our workshop staff (though you’ll have to leave it with us to get that done…)
Untightening the bow:
After playing, always loosen the bowhair. If not, the bow stick will become warped.
Keeping fresh hair on your bow ensures you get the best sound and playability. If you lose hair, always cut loose strands with scissors, don’t pull them! There’s a chance you’ll loosen more hair from the top knot if you tug.
It’s good to get a rehair about once a year, sometimes every few months if you play a lot, and depending on your playing style.
Indications you may need a rehair are:
- You find you have to rosin more often in order to get sound from the violin
- When your bow is loosened off, it hangs in low in an arc – the hair has stretched
- You have lost a lot of hair
- The hair is dirty
Lappings are made in various ways – and often combine a wire, whalebone or plastic winding, and a leather, vinyl or synthetic thumb grip. Both are susceptible to wear, due to being in contact with the thumb and fingers during playing. Lappings are regularly restored or replaced, so if you any unwinding or wear, bring it in and we can assess it for you.