Violins and violas are beautiful, fragile works of art. Cared for properly, they can last for generations. Abuse them, and they can be damaged in short order. Some things you shouldn’t do are obvious: dropping it, taking it in the tub with you or using it as a baseball bat. Other things are not so obvious, but no less damaging to your instrument. Here are seven tips to avoid damaging your violin, viola or bow.
1. Avoid extreme heat
Instruments hate to be hot. Leaving yours in a hot car, or worse, in direct sun, can permanently damage it. Varnish can melt in extreme heat, and rising temperatures can dehydrate the wood and cause the body to crack.
2. Clean off sweat
Instrument varnish is not impervious to its environment. Even getting sweat on your instrument can damage the finish. If you tend to sweat while playing, drape a cloth over the end of your instrument to protect it from sweat. When you’re not playing, don’t tuck the instrument under your arm in such a way that the finish touches your skin.
3. Clean rosin residue
As you play, rosin falls off your bow and builds up on the strings, fingerboard and top of your instrument. The strings and fingerboard aren’t hurt by rosin buildup, but rosin left sitting on the top of the instrument will fuse with the varnish. If this happens, the only way to remove it is to take the instrument to a luthier for professional cleaning. This problem is easy to prevent: just take a soft cloth and dust your instrument before the rosin has a chance to build up.
4. Fix a fallen soundpost
The soundpost serves two vital functions in an instrument: it transmits vibrations from the top of the instrument to the back, and it supports the top. The strings push down on the bridge of your violin or viola with 20 pounds of pressure. The soundpost helps keep the top from flexing or collapsing under this pressure. If the soundpost falls out of place (you’ll hear it rolling around inside), there is a chance the top of your instrument could collapse or crack over time. Bad news.
5. Keep cleaning simple
With the wrong substance, polishing your instrument can ruin the finish. Polish shines your instrument in one of two ways: with an abrasive that removes a thin layer of varnish, or with a wax-like substance that sits on top of the varnish. An abrasive polish can completely remove your instrument’s finish over time, and a waxy polish can build up and ruin the varnish. All you should do to clean your instrument yourself is to wipe it down with a dry, soft cloth. For deep cleaning, take it to a luthier.
6. Let your bow relax
Your bow stick needs time to relax. Leaving it too tight for too long can cause the stick to lose its camber (curve), which will spell the end of its springiness. Unless you want to play nothing but pizzicato, give your bow some rest.
7. Ignore bow hair loss
If your bow needs to be rehaired, don’t play with it! Typically, you’ll lose more hair on one side of the bow than the other, which creates an uneven pull on the stick when the bow is tightened. Too much of this uneven pull will warp the bow stick. You’ll know your bow needs a rehair if it has less than half the amount of hair it had when new.
You Might Also Like…