Violins can last a long time. Compared to other instruments that you break-in after a couple of years, violins don’t reach their stride until after 25 to 50 years of regular use. Aged violins are prized possessions. However, not all violins make it to old age.
If you want your violin to grow with you over time, you must perform maintenance and keep the instrument clean. A well-kept violin may last hundreds of years. To keep your violin in perfect condition, follow our three main tips. We’ll show you the most crucial things you can do to care for your instrument.
Table of Contents
- 1. General Hygiene
- 2. Storage Between Sessions
- 3. Instrument Maintenance
- Change Strings Regularly
- Clean and Wound Strings Properly
- Keep Pegs Properly Fitted at All Times
- Support the Neck When Adjusting the Pegs
- Check Your Bridge’s Alignment
- Always Check the Soundpost
- Re-Hair Your Bow
- Don’t Use Alcohol or Solvents During Cleaning
- Avoid Glue to Mend Your Violin
- Visit a Luthier for a Professional Setup
- An Instrument is a Responsibility
1. General Hygiene
The first and easiest way to help your violin live a long and productive life is to keep your hands clean. General hygiene is vital to maintaining a clean instrument.
Keep Your Hands Clean (and Nails Properly Trimmed)
If you have ever seen dirt accumulating at the hair of the bow near the frog, your hands are dirty. Playing the violin with dirty hands transfers the particles to your instrument. The natural oils your skin secretes can cause the rosin to become less grippy. Most players avoid touching the bow hair entirely for this reason. Over time, the build-up causes irreversible harm to your instrument.
Don’t Touch the Varnish with Sweaty Hands
The natural oils in your skin also have a negative effect on the varnish sections of your violin. You should avoid touching the instrument, especially with sweaty hands. Touching the varnish can strip away the material. Pick up the violin from the chinrest and neck to avoid harm.
Avoid Too Much Rosin on the Bow Hair
Rosin dust is the white substance on your violin after you play. Less is more when it comes to rosin on the bow hair of your violin.Too much can create a harsh, scratchy sound due to the friction between the violin string and the bow.
Some rosin may come off the strings as you play, but the substance can cause the violin to feel sticky. The result is more cleaning for you and a shorter lifespan for your violin’s bow hairs, which can quickly become a costly expense.
2. Storage Between Sessions
Another basic to care for your violin is to protect it between sessions. When the instrument is in storage, use the following tips.
Keep the Violin in a Case When Not in Use
A high-quality violin case is durable and made using the strongest materials on the market. They will include a strap to house the violin by the neck, locking it in a secure position for travel. The case should also offer plenty of padding to cushion the instrument and avoid scratches. A tight fit may cause the padding to rub the varnish too aggressive, so make sure you get the right case for your size of violin.
You’re always better off storing your violin in its case when you’re not playing to keep it safe. Otherwise, the instrument can be knocked over or stepped on easily.
Use a Humidifier If You Store Your Violin in a Place with Fluctuating Temperatures
Fluctuating temperatures and humidity levels matter when it comes to caring for your violin too, particularly if you live in a cold or dry climate. The instrument is made from wood, which can dry out, become brittle, and form cracks.
Store your violin in ideal conditions for the best results. Make sure the case offers special features to handle extreme temperatures. Never leave the instrument outside in the winter, and use a humidifier if your home feels dry. Top-quality violin cases even offer built-in humidifiers (if you’re looking for some ideas, check out these guitar case humidifiers that can be used in violin cases too).
Always Loosen the Bow When Not in Use
When the instrument isn’t in use, make sure to loosen the tension on the bow hair. Forgetting to do so after each practice can cause the bow to lose camber. This means that over time, the tension causes the stick to warp and lose its arch-shape.
Clean Rosin Off the String After Every Use
Leaving rosin on the strings or the body of your violin can cause the instrument to feel sticky, which later ruins the finish. Without proper cleaning, you’ll need to have the instrument re-varnished later.
Clean the rosin off each string and the entire instrument body after each use. Use a soft, lint-free cloth to wipe away the rosin dust. You can find an inexpensive cloth or violin care kit for cleaning your instrument at your local violin store.
3. Instrument Maintenance
Regular maintenance is the best way to keep your violin in proper playing condition. It ensures your instrument will reach the length of its lifespan and helps you spot small issues before they come with full-blown consequences.
Change Strings Regularly
Violin strings are expensive, so only change the strings when necessary. Failure to change the string regularly can cause several serious issues and result in broken strings.
Change the strings when they appear frayed. Focus on each string one at a time as you change them out to keep tension from the bridge. Never remove all the strings at once or the bridge and soundpost might fall.
Clean and Wound Strings Properly
Changing the strings once in a while isn’t enough, you also must clean the strings and keep them properly wound. Installation or winding takes great care.
Use a soft cloth to wide the excess rosin from the strings, loosening them slightly. Then, learn how to add violin strings properly or take your instrument to a professional. The wrong move can cause the pegbox to crack.
Keep Pegs Properly Fitted at All Times
Violins are meant to use a set of well-fitting tuning pegs to function properly. Without the right pegs, you can’t tune the instrument.
Sometimes the pegs can stick or become hard to shift. Try applying a little peg dope to the area to help get things moving. The substance allows the pegs to move freely.
On the other hand, pegs that slip when you attempt to tune the violin may need the help of a professional. A luthier can fit your pegs correctly.
Support the Neck When Adjusting the Pegs
Sometimes you’ll have to tune the instrument. Always support the neck of your violin when adjusting the pegs. Your hand decreases the risk of snapping the neck accidentally.
Check Your Bridge’s Alignment
When the strings aren’t tight, the bridge of your violin may lean forward. However, a fallen bridge can cause the soundpost to fall as well. Then, you have a huge issue on your hands.
You can fix the problem by adjusting the bridge carefully, making sure to keep the feet flat against the violin. Slightly loosen the strings before moving the bridge for the best results.
Always Check the Soundpost
Make sure your violin’s soundpost remains in the correct, upright position. If the soundpost falls, head straight to your nearest luthier. A professional can reset the post in the correct position.
Re-Hair Your Bow
How often you re-hair the bow depends on how much you play. Most violinists play for around two to four hours per day and re-hair the violin twice per year.
If you find you’re using more bow hair, consider having a professional shop re-hair the bow for you to prevent warping.
Don’t Use Alcohol or Solvents During Cleaning
Never attempt to clean your violin with alcohol or any other type of liquid solvent. They strip away the varnish. Hot water can even harm the instrument.
Stick to using a dry, soft cloth to regularly clean the violin. Wood polish made for violins may also help. Make sure to always use a separate cloth for cleaning a polishing, however.
Avoid Glue to Mend Your Violin
If your violin breaks, never attempt to fix it yourself using store-bought glue. Violins are created with a unique animal hide glue. It allows the instrument to breathe in varying weather conditions. The best course of action is to head to your local luthier for repairs.
Visit a Luthier for a Professional Setup
Luthiers, as you may already know, are the person who keeps a violin in ultimate shape. They perform cleaning and maintenance tasks. Sometimes luthiers work with other stringed instruments as well, such as basses, cellos, mandolins, or guitars.
When a piece on your instrument breaks, head to a luthier. Avoid fixing the issue yourself. Luthiers are experts who can avoid further damage.
You’ll also use them for regular instrument maintenance and check-ups as well. Ask them any further questions you may have on caring for your violin.
An Instrument is a Responsibility
As a violinist, you have a responsibility to take care of your instrument. A well-kept instrument won’t only last longer, it will sound better. Keeping your violin in proper condition helps to maintain its:
- Market Value
Cleaning and performing maintenance also boosts your performance in front of crowds as a result. Don’t you want to perform your best?