A stringed instrument requires an extraordinary amount of care and attention. It is composed of materials that are constantly changing, is subject to forces of many pounds per square inch by the pressure of the strings, and spends much of its life in perpetual vibration. Over the several hundred year life of an instrument in normal use some structural changes will inevitably happen. Here are several things you can do to ease your instrument's life with you.
I - TEMPERATURE AND HUMIDITY:
Changes in temperature and humidity wreak havoc on a stringed instrument. Avoid any sudden change. Keep the instrument away from direct sunlight. If the case is cold, wait at least 15 minutes before opening it. In general, avoid any and all extremes in temperature and humidity.
(1) Always use a Dampit whenever the heater is on in your home, or when it is in a dry region. Take the dampit out every day: during this time, soak the dampit in water for 20 seconds, squeeze out the excess water in a towel, and put the dampit back in the instrument. Do this twice a day if the temperature outside is below zero. If you do not do this you are increasing the likelihood of cracks and openings.
(2) Do not store the instrument near radiators or heat vents. If you have a room that is humidified, that would be the best room to store it in.
(3) NEVER, NEVER, NEVER transport or leave your instrument in a car trunk-- in cold weather the instrument will get cold very quickly; in warm weather the instrument may get very hot causing the glue joints to come apart and varnish to soften and stick to your case.
(4) For the same reasons as above, NEVER leave an instrument in an unattended car. Most insurance companies do not cover theft or damage to an instrument in an unattended car. ALSO-- IT SEEMS THAT 95% OF ALL INSTRUMENT THEFTS ARE INSTRUMENTS TAKEN FROM A CAR OR CAR TRUNK....BE NICE TO YOUR INSTRUMENT, TAKE IT WITH YOU
II - VARNISH:
Although the varnish looks hard and impermeable, it is not! Avoid touching the varnish at all. Fingerprints could leave permanent marks. Do not leave the instrument on a hard surface, hard surfaces and sharp corners will scratch and chip the varnish.
III - POLISHING:
(1) Use only "W.E. Hill and Sons Varnish Cleaner" to clean and polish fine instruments. For recently made instruments,'Knilling Classic Violin Polish will work as well. Other polishes or cleaners may damage your instruments varnish. Use polish sparingly, but clean and polish the instrument at least once a month.
(2) Never let rosin build up on top or underneath the strings. Clean the rosin off before you put the instrument away.
IV CRACKS AND OPENINGS:
Despite your best efforts, cracks sometimes develop and/or the top or back pull away from the ribs. Bring your instrument in for repair as soon as possible. Neglecting cracks and openings can lead to far more serious problems.
V - BRIDGES
(1) Your instrument might need a summer bridge and a winter bridge. Alternatively, let us set your string heights in the spring or fall. This will probably keep your string heights within a reasonable range. Instruments swell and shrink depending on temperature and humidity. To maintain proper string height a shorter bridge is required in summer than is required in the winter. Please bring your instrument in during these seasons so we can check the string height for you.
(2) CHECK YOUR BRIDGE AND STRAIGHTEN IT OFTEN! The side of the bridge facing the tailpiece should be perpendicular to the tangent. (the top of the instrument is curved, the tangent is a straight line that intersects only one point (where the bridge rests) on that curve). Tuning the strings generally pulls the bridge towards the fingerboard. If the bridge moves off the perpendicular it will warp, and shortly there after it will break. Check to make sure the bridge is perpendicular to the tangent of the arch at that point at least twice per week. Have your teacher check it also if you are taking lessons. If we have not shown you, or if you would like further instruction on this maneuver, please ask us!
(3) Lubricate the string grooves in the bridge by rubbing a soft pencil in the grooves, as this will decrease the amount of friction, and therefore minimize bridge displacement.
VI - SOUND-POST:
The sound-post is the small dowel of wood inside the violin near the treble foot of the bridge. The sound-post controls most of your instruments sound quality, balance, and projection. If your instrument is having trouble in these areas, it is probable that we can help it with a sound-post adjustment. Also, the same swelling and shrinking that necessitates a summer and winter bridge also necessitates a summer and winter sound-post. We will check the sound-post whenever we check the bridge.
VII - FINGERBOARD AND NUT:
Lubricate the nut grooves in the same way as the bridge is lubricated. Fingerboards develop bumps and grooves from string and finger wear. These can be smoothed out in our shop. If the strings wear far into the nut, the open strings will buzz, at which point we will replace the nut.
VIII - STRINGS:
Change the strings at least once per year. Strings break, and usually at the most inconvenient time. It is a good idea to have a spare set with you at a concert or a recital. We recommend all the strings that we sell.
IX - PEGS:
Warm humid weather will make pegs sticky. Lubricate the pegs with "Hill Peg Compound". Dry, cold weather will make pegs slip. Use blackboard chalk to make the pegs hold firmer.
NEVER LEAVE AN INSTRUMENT WHERE IT CAN BE STEPPED ON, SAT UPON, OR KNOCKED TO THE FLOOR!
X - More Good Advice:
Please insure your instrument, to cover fire, theft, and/or damage anywhere the instrument goes. Make sure the policy extends outside your home for school, concerts, and travel.
PLEASE CALL US WHENEVER YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS CONCERNING YOUR INSTRUMENT, WE WOULD LIKE TO HELP YOU SOUND GREAT FOR MANY YEARS!