Selection and Care of your Instrument
by Rosemarie Klimasko – August 2009
If you are purchasing a new or used instrument, it is crucial that you seek the advice of your home
studio teacher. Your teacher will be more than willing to help you find an instrument that is competitively priced and suitable for the playing level of your child. NEVER purchase an instrument unless your teacher has seen, played and checked the instrument.
Stringed instruments are acoustic, made of wood, thus you must take care not to expose them to extreme and sudden changes of temperature. Heat is more destructive than cold, so do not leave your violin in a car on hot days. Direct sunlight can soften the wood glues used by luthiers, weakening or destroying the joints in the instrument. In cold weather, simply ensure that the violin has some insulation if it is to be in the cold for any length of time.
Avoid storing instruments in damp areas, which can cause the instrument to warp around the neck area.
Dry conditions, especially in Ottawa, are the worst culprit in creating cracks and as well as opening seams on your instrument. This may result in expensive repair work, especially in older instruments. Keep your instrument beside a humidifier or purchase a Dampit which is inserted into the F hole of your violin.
Slacken the hairs of the bow when not in use (your teacher will show you how to do this) to avoid warping the bow and thereby losing the curve and tension of this delicate piece of wood. Avoid touching the hairs of your bow. Natural oils on your hands will spoil the ability of rosin to adhere to the hairs of the bow. Always purchase a fine quality rosin, even for beginners. It will cost you about eight dollars, and, if handled carefully, will last for several years.
Clean the rosin off your violin and bow with a soft, dry cloth after you practice. Two or three times a year, your violin will need a nice polishing. NEVER use a furniture polish, as this will ruin the varnish. Invest in a high quality cleaning product used specifically for stringed instruments. A small bottle will last you for several years and several drops, with some buffing, will do the job.
If changing strings, never remove or change all at once; as this could cause the soundpost inside the instrument to collapse, obliging you to make an unplanned visit to your local repair shop. Have your teacher show you how to change strings if an emergency should arise. Violin pegs can expand in summer or contract in winter, making them difficult to turn (if they expand) or harder to keep in place (if they contract). This is to be expected and can be rectified by purchasing “peg paste” to create the friction needed to hold the peg in place.
Do not attempt to do any home repairs. Your teacher can direct you to someone who is qualified to do the necessary repair work. And finally, always carry an extra set of strings in your case; they have a tendency to break at the most inopportune times!