It?s hot. It?s sticky. It?s Summer in Raleigh. Summer can be a challenge for string instruments like violins and violas. So, lets talk about how you can insure your instrument is well cared for as temperatures rise.
A violin or viola, when properly cared for, can last for lifetimes. Even in less than ideal circumstances, it can survive without incident. In fact, because any string instrument?s wood expands and contracts according to weather temperature and humidity, your instrument has a wonderful resilience in any weather. So, even when you take no actions to protect your violin or viola (or other string instrument) from the effects of weather, most often your instrument will be fine.
However, why leave the condition of your instrument to chance when a few simple actions can probably help avoid major repair bills or irreparable damage?
What you can do:
- Keep your violin out of direct sun. That means indoors too. In fact, your glass window acts like a magnifying lens. So, sunlight beaming through windowpanes can cause temperatures to rise quickly. And, guess what? Varnish and violin glue melt! So, no sun for your violin. Zip. Zilch.
- When you?re not practicing, keep your instrument protected in its case or leave it on a flat surface out of the sun. When playing outdoors, always play in shade or don?t play at all.
- Don?t leave your instrument in a hot car. Your violin won?t tolerate extreme temperatures without being damaged. Treat your violin with the care you would give a living thing. If you wouldn?t leave Grandma in the car, don?t leave your violin.
- Keep your instrument in its case when moving from a climate-controlled space to an outdoor venue. Your violin prefers predictability. Sudden temperatures may cause it to become undone, literally. Because your violin?s glue is water based, too much moisture in the air may cause the glue to fail and seams to open. Or, the tuning may be dramatically affected.
- Keep a hygrometer in your home and your case so that you can monitor for ideal humidity levels with an eye to using a humidifier or de-humidifier to keep optimal humidity in your case and your home.
- In hot weather, avoid touching your skin to the body of your instrument. Your violin?s varnish can be damaged by sweat. This challenge can be avoided if we remember that the only ?safe? places to touch a violin are its neck and its button.
How do I notice if there is a problem?
As previously touched upon, violin glue and varnish become softer when they get warm. If a part of your violin consequently becomes unglued, say, the seam between a rib and the back of your instrument, you?ll know because you will notice that your instrument sounds ?different.? Maybe it will have a funny buzzing undertone when you play or you will hear a rattle or that your sound isn?t as clean. If that happens, I recommend that you take your instrument to a reputable repairer to have it checked out. I highly recommend Triangle Strings in Raleigh, NC.
Happy Summer and Happy practicing!!