Orchestral string instruments are exquisitely crafted, and it is important that they are regularly maintained to retain their looks and most importantly, their beautiful sound. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced musician, there are some simple steps that should be taken to ensure your instrument is properly cared for.
String instruments become far dirtier than you might expect. Firstly, our skin gets oily and sweaty, which is easily transferred to your instrument, and as we use rosin on our bows, the dust from playing will stick to the body of your instrument. That layer of white dust will get everywhere, and you’ll notice it on your strings, bow, and especially between the bridge and the fingerboard.
Remove rosin to preserve the finish of your instrument.
After each session, you should always carefully wipe down your instrument. Start with the strings first as rosin can build up easily which could affect your sound. Use a soft microfibre cloth to gently clean the strings. (Do not forget underneath the strings too). If there is a build-up of old rosin on the strings you may wish to consider investing in a special string cleaner to remove this. After you have cleaned the strings wipe the fingerboard, then continue with the face of the instrument around the bridge where the most rosin dust will be found. Take extra care around the bridge & the f-holes as these are delicate parts of the instrument.
Rosin can absorb moisture and become sticky in warm weather causing it to adhere to the varnish of your instrument, so removing rosin dust after use is good practice which will preserve the finish of your instrument. Ideally, use a different cloth to wipe down the rest of the instrument as rosin dust will, and does, get everywhere. Do not forget to clean your bow too. Carefully wipe the entire length of the bow until it is rosin and grease free. And of course, loosen the bow hair before you place it back in the case. Your bow may become warped overtime otherwise.
Once a month or so you may wish to polish your instrument, but never, ever use domestic furniture or off-the-shelf wood polish that you may find in a supermarket or hardware store. Hidersine Hidersol Violin Cleaner is an inexpensive staple in violin workshops and is the perfect varnish cleaner for traditional string instruments. Polish should be applied sparingly and only use a dry cloth as string instruments do not react well to water.
Clean your case too! Most people forget that rosin dust, spare strings, broken pencils, and other odds and ends do end up floating around instrument cases. It is also simple to vacuum the interior of your case or simply use sticky tape to pick up excess debris or fluff.
Always store your precious instrument in a good case.
Regarding cases – the best way of looking after your instrument is to always keep it in the case when you are not playing. For violins & violas, once you have finished playing you should take off the shoulder rest then place your instrument into the case, securing it with either ties or Velcro straps around the neck of the instrument. An instrument safely stored away in a case minimises the likelihood of any accidents happening that could damage it.
One of the most important factors in owning a string instrument is where to store it when it is not in use. Wooden instruments are rather sensitive to hot & cold weather conditions, so choose somewhere indoors that is not close to a fire or radiator. Equally, an unheated room or cold conservatory is not a great idea. Consistently high or low temperatures can cause the wood to dry out and shrink, this may even lead to cracks appearing in your instrument.
Keeping humidity levels in check for your instrument.
Equally important is to control humidity & moisture levels. All wooden instruments can and will absorb moisture from the environment. Most orchestral string instruments are constructed using water-soluble glue. If there’s too much moisture (especially if combined with heat) the glue can soften and the seams of the instrument may open affecting the overall structure of the instrument. Whilst you may not notice it straight away, the tone of your instrument could be affected. The swelling (or contraction) can cause your instrument to sound a little different from what you have come to expect.
*In certain environments and dry countries, we would recommend the use of a humidifier to keep your instrument in perfect condition. This should be checked regularly, and ideally carefully monitored with a case mounted hygrometer.
And a final note. Your instrument is most at risk from careless actions and accidents can happen. If it’s not being played, please don’t leave it resting on a chair, leaning up against a wall, or on the floor (cellos & double basses are ok, but leave them in a safe area so the neck & end pin/spikes are out of harm’s way.)
Remember, a good quality case is the best place for an instrument when you are not using it, because if you leave it out unattended, someone else could unintentionally damage it. However, the very best place for an orchestral string instrument is on stage, in a performance with a captive audience. making beautiful music!
Recommended String Instrument Care Products
|Hidersine Hidersol Instrument Cleaner||Hidersine Hiderpaste||Hidersine Instrument & Bow Cases||W. E. Hill & Sons Conservation Wax|