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String Teacher Workshops

Violin Maintenance

Taking proper care of your violin is important in preserving the value and continuing your enjoyment of the sound and appearance.

Everyday Care
After playing your violin, take the time to clean off the rosin from the strings and the top of your instrument.  A clean, cotton cloth will do the job!  Also, the wood of the bow should also be wiped clean.  Rosin build up can make the strings respond improperly and too much rosin on the bow will produce a “grainy” sound.  Your fingers contain oils, and sweat from your hands can over time damage the varnish.  When handling your violin try to avoid touching the varnished areas.  The proper way is by the neck and chin rest area only.

New Strings
Replace your strings to make sure your violin always sounds its best!  Strings gradually lose their vitality and “center pitch”.  The term most often used is the string sounds “false”, you will hear several distorted pitches when plucking or bowing the open string.  You also end up having to put your fingers slightly higher to play the note in tune, which is developing a habit that you should avoid.  When changing the strings, remember to replace them one at a time. Begin by placing the violin on your lap, loosen and remove the string from the peg, remove the peg from the pegbox, wipe the peg clean with a soft cloth, apply sparingly a commercial “peg dope” to help the peg turn smoothly, place the peg in the hole of the pegbox, turn a few times, now you are ready to place the end of the string which has a “loop” or metal “ball” into the tailpiece slot, then place the other end of the string into the small hole of the peg, overlap the string once before you continue to wrap it around the peg.  Make sure to wind the string close to the wall of the pegbox.  This will help the pegs from slipping.  It is now time to check your bridge.  Your bridge position should be flush with the top of the instrument and form a right angle.  The bridge holds the strings at the correct height and distance from each other and sends the sound from the strings to the hallow wooden body of the instrument.

New Hair for the Bow
The “barbs” on each hair of the bow eventually wear out and then the string does not vibrate to its full potential, which lessens the sound.  The bow hair may feel slick and become more difficult to produce a clear articulation, more rosin won’t help.  Bows need rehairing with good quality, unbleached horse hair.  A bow maker uses between 150 and 200 hairs from the tail of a horse for a violin bow.  Make sure the new bow hair is not too long, when this happens, one cannot tighten the bow properly and there will be too much space between the frog and thumb wrap.  The end of your thumb wants to touch the edge of the frog, the wood and the leather wrap.  Touching the leather wrap prevents slipping and squeezing with your thumb!  Please remember to loosen your bow hair before returning it to your case.  This will help maintain its “camber” or bend.  Try not to touch the horsehair with your fingers.

Open Seams
Wood changes seasonally, in dry weather it shrinks and in humid warm weather it swells.  When a seam is open, you may hear a buzz sound when playing.  Tapping gently on the back or top of the violin with your finger knuckle will give you a different sound than a closed seam.  Sometimes you can even see the open seam.  A luthier will use a melted hide glue to close the open seam, clamp it overnight and it will be as good as new!  Hide glue is a strong, water soluble matter that also allows the luthier to take apart and put back together an instrument when necessary.  Having open seams glued on your violin is a standard part of violin maintenance.

The Fingerboard
Your fingerboard will eventually develop “grooves” or “ripples” from the thousands of times your fingers made the string rub against the fingerboard.  A “dressing” or planing of the fingerboard is needed, making the surface of the fingerboard smooth again.  A luthier is needed for this.

Easy Humidifier
Use a small zip-lock bag.  Cut a sponge into a 1 inch by 2 inch piece.  Wet it, then squeeze out any excess moisture.  Put the moistened sponge in the  zip-lock bag and seal almost shut (leave an inch open).  Place in your violin case and it will help against the dry heated air.

Yearly Care
Take your violin to a luthier at least once a year.  It’s probably time for that 15,000 note checkup!  The luthier will carefully examine and recommend what needs to be done to keep your violin in excellent condition.  Proper daily and yearly maintenance of your violin will give you many years of pleasure and ensure the life of your violin for hundreds of years to come!

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