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String Teacher Workshops

Care For Your Instrument

by James N. McKean

James N. McKean, luthier

James N. McKean, violin make

String instruments are designed to be very sturdy, but remember they are made of very thin wood and delicate varnish.  One can never forget that they must be treated with care.  Observing the following points will help insure a long and healthy life for you instrument

Always leave your instrument in the case when not in use, and remember to latch the case. Cello cases are best left resting on their sides, for when leaving them upright the chances of them falling over and causing damage to the instrument is much greater.

Wooden instruments are susceptible to weather changes (i.e. extreme temperature and humidity fluctuations). To avoid trouble, never put a case in a car trunk. In summer heat, the trunk temperature can run quite high – hot enough to melt varnish, loosen glue, and cause cracks. It is also best to avoid placing a case on a car’s back window ledge where the direct sunlight can be intense. In winter, one must guard against the extreme cold and dryness.  The wood can become very brittle and possibly crack.

Lack of humidity can also cause cracks in your instruments. Having a humidifier in your home is important as well as using Dampits (these can be found at music stores) in your instruments.

In addition to maintaining moderate temperatures, keeping an instrument clean helps insure its well being. Good string instruments varnish is quite delicate and soft, so it is wise to leave the “proper” cleaning to your violin repair person.  The use of a wrong cleaner can cause polish build-up and/or actually harm the varnish. Your task is to prevent dirt and rosin build-up. Wipe rosin off strings, fingerboard, and body of instrument after each practice session. The doth should be clean and dry. A soft cotton cloth (old cloth diaper, etc.) gives best results.

Remember also to wipe off the bow stick. And always loosen the hair when storing. This gives the stick a chance to relax. If not properly loosened, a bow may warp. By following these few guidelines, you will keep your instrument healthy, in tip top shape and sounding great.

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