Violin Care Basics – 17 Tips for Keeping Your Violin in Superb Condition

A well-kept violin will not only last longer, but it will also sound better. Keeping it in proper condition helps to maintain its:

  • Tone
  • Stability
  • Market Value

Violins can last a long time too. Compared to other instruments, they often don’t reach their stride until after 25 to 50 years of regular use. Aged violins are prized possessions. However, they don’t all make it to old age.

If you want yours 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 it in perfect condition, follow these violin care tips. We’ll show you the most crucial things you can do to care for your instrument.

1. Keep Your Hands Clean (and Nails Properly Trimmed)

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.

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.

2. 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 with sweaty hands, especially during and after a playing session. Touching the varnish can strip away the material.

Top tip: pick up the violin from the chinrest and neck to avoid harm.

3. 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 string and the bow.

Some rosin may come off the violin 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.

4. Keep the Violin in a Case When Not in Use

Violin in case
Instrument care basics, keep your violin in a case – image source: depositphotos.com

A high-quality violin case will be 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.

As a rule of thumb, you’re always better off storing your instrument in its case when you’re not playing to keep it safe. Otherwise, the instrument can be knocked over or stepped on easily.

5. Use a Humidifier to Avoid Changes in Temperature

Changes in temperature and humidity levels matter when it comes to instrument care, particularly if you live in a cold or dry climate. The instrument is made from wood, which can dry out, become brittle, and even form cracks.

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 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).

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. Change Strings Regularly

Adjusting a violin
Regular changing of strings is another important aspect of instrument care – Image source: depositphotos.com

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 of them at once or the bridge and sound post might fall.

9. Clean and Wind Violin 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. Always Check the Sound Post

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.

14. 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.

15. Don’t Use Alcohol or Solvents During Cleaning

Never attempt to clean your instrument 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 it. Wood polish made for violins may also help. Make sure to always use a separate cloth for cleaning a polishing, however.

16. Avoid Glue

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.

17. Visit a Luthier for the Ultimate in Instrument Care

Finally, sometimes you just need the help of an expert. In this case, hunt down a Luthier who can help with setting up the violin properly, and can perform a range of cleaning and maintenance tasks. 

This won’t be the cheapest option, but if you want to preserve the lifespan of your violin, you’ll need to take it in every once in a while for a proper service.

Best of luck!

Ged Richardson

Ged is editor-in-chief and founder of Zing Instruments. He's a multi-instrumentalist and loves researching, writing, and geeking out about music. He's also got an unhealthy obsession with vintage VW Campervans.

shares