That Brittle Time Of Year – Tips On Caring For Your String Instrument During Winter

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Winter is approaching with its cold, snow, and low humidity. This scares the bejabbers out of any self-respecting stringed instrument. Can’t you just see or hear wood shrinking, pegs loosening, cracks splitting a top rib in two … These are sights and sounds that one might think would bring a smile to a repairman’s face. Winter time does create special problems for the violin family instruments, but good common sense care will reduce the number of unnecessary repairs.

In most circumstances, instruments kept from sudden extreme changes in humidity and temperature stand an excellent chance of not cracking or coming unglued at the seams. Now, take the same violin in the same well-balanced conditions. If you bang it on a wall, floor, a friend’s head, etc., that violin (not to mention your friend’s head) will come apart somewhere.

An instrument taken from one environment to another, i. e. from a warm room to a much colder outdoors, will also suddenly be subjected to less humidity in addition to lower temperatures that can stress the instrument to the breaking point. Keep the instrument closed in the case for a more gradual exposure to the change.

Cold weather makes wood, plastics, leather, and metal more brittle. Avoid blows to the case, bag, or any accessories.

Peg compound used sparingly can be a good thing. Using too much will cause well-fitting pegs to slip.

Dirt on a violin, viola, etc., is unsightly and detracts from the sound. Keep it wiped off. A soft rag used appropriately is enough to keep rosin, perspiration, or fingerprints from accumulating on an already clean instrument.

Sometimes accidents are unavoidable. Paige’s repair shop is here to help whether general maintenance or major repair is needed.

It is a fairly sure bet that everyone has heard the joke about the difference between the violin and the viola. The punch line is, of course, the viola burns longer. It is an old joke but serves to illustrate that violin family instruments are made of mostly wood. Instruments made of wood can and will wear or even break, but they will, with good care, last for many years of enjoyment.

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