Violin maintenance plays a significant role in your instrument’s beauty and sound quality. Proper care is a crucial part of your experience with the violin and will help strengthen your bond with your instrument.
After all, the violin is a delicate piece of artisan craftsmanship, one that should be a joy to play. With that in mind, we’ve put together this guide with everything you need to know about cleaning, storage, and care for your violin.
How to Clean Violin
Your violin has been carefully crafted from organic materials that interact with its surroundings. The moisture contained in the wood has a direct impact on the sound quality of the instrument. Liquids and small particles can be absorbed by the instrument, causing damage over time. As such, your violin needs to be cleaned frequently.
Always Wipe After Playing!
No matter how short or long the playing session, you should always wipe your violin down after playing. This practice is crucial and should never be neglected. Moisture from the environment and oils from your fingers can damage the finish on your instrument, affecting its sound quality.
The tone of your violin can also suffer if the strings become thick with rosin, and the fingerboard can be damaged by sweat from your fingers. To clean these parts, always wipe with a dry cloth after you’re done playing.
You should use a cloth designed explicitly for violin care or a chamois, although clothes used for cleaning camera lenses and glasses are acceptable. One cloth should be used for the strings and fingerboard, and another for the rest of the instrument. This process should remove rosin dust and body oils.
A Note On Violin Polishes
If you clean your violin regularly and always wipe it down with a dry cloth after each use, you’ll rarely need to employ violin polish. Nevertheless, you may wish to clean your violin more thoroughly from time to time. When you do, ensure that you are using a polish formulated explicitly for violin maintenance.
Never use furniture polish, wood cleaner, or water on your violin! These substances can damage your instrument, weaken the glue, and ruin the acoustics of your violin. If you need to polish your violin, you can purchase a specially formulated violin polish, although you shouldn’t need it very often with proper maintenance.
How to Clean Violin Strings
During play, rosin can become stuck to your strings, weighing them down and changing the sound of your instrument. After playing your violin, always wipe the strings thoroughly with a dry cloth. It’s best to do this with a cloth dedicated to wiping the strings and then use a different cloth for cleaning the rest of the instrument.
You’ll also need to replace your violin strings regularly as they will gradually begin to wear. Even in storage, the strings on your violin can lose their brilliance over time. In general, it’s a good idea to replace your strings once a year, although you may prefer to do so every six months if you’re actively playing your violin.
Replacing the strings on your violin ensures optimum sound and performance. When winding a new string, ensure it fits gently against the wall of the pegbox to prevent pegs from slipping and strings from unwinding. Also, keep in mind that most strings require a short period to break them in before they settle, stay in tune, and sound their best.
How to Clean a Violin Bow
In addition to the violin itself, caring for your bow is another essential part of violin maintenance. When doing so, there are four parts you’ll need to check regularly to ensure optimum performance.
Over time, the stick on your violin bow can begin to warp. Any changes in shape and playability will have a direct impact on the sound of your instrument. In addition to the violin itself, your bow should be wiped clean with a dry cloth after every use.
With your bow, it’s also crucial to loosen the hair when you’re done playing. If you leave your bow in a constant state of tension, it is likely to begin warping, and you could lose camber (the stick’s precise vertical curve).
Whether it’s made from silver, ivory, or high-grade plastic, the tip of your bow is far more important than simple ornamentation. The tip is designed to ensure the integrity of your bow during play. What’s more, it protects your stick during the rehairing process.
That said, if the face of the tip on your bow ever begins to develop cracks, it’s vital to have it replaced as soon as possible. In most cases, this should be done by a qualified professional.
For the richest sound, your bow should be strung with high-quality horsehair. However, unlike other parts of your instrument, you should avoid touching the hair as much as possible. Oils from your fingers can soil the hairs, making them ineffective.
Your bow will also need to be rehaired on a regular basis. If you play your violin frequently, you may need to do this every three to six months. You may also need to rehair your bow due to environmental factors, as in dry conditions, the hairs shrink, and in humidity, they lengthen.
The last part of your bow to keep in mind is the small metal part inside the frog of your bow called the eyelet. Over time, the eyelet threads can wear out. If the screw no longer tightens like it once did have it replaced by a professional.
How to Store a Violin
Immediately after cleaning your violin, it’s crucial to put it away in its case and store it properly. Like we mentioned earlier, your violin is a carefully crafted instrument made from organic materials. The environment directly impacts these materials.
For instance, temperature variations can cause your violin to expand and contract, leading to cracks and seam separations. This kind of damage can cause your violin to make whistling and buzzing sounds.
When your violin is not in use, store it in a hard case designed specifically for your instrument. Remove the shoulder rest or pad before storing your violin, and always check that every latch and zipper is secure before you lift the case.
A Note On Temperature and Humidity
The golden rule to violin storage is to treat your instrument as if it were a beloved pet. This means never leaving it in a hot car or storing it in a garage where temperatures could plummet below freezing during the night. In other words, if you wouldn’t like to be trapped in a hot car or left outside to freeze during the night, neither does your violin.
Temperature and humidity can both wreak havoc on your violin. To avoid damage and the need for costly repairs, keep the following guidelines in mind:
- The proper violin storage temperature is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. With this in mind, do not subject your instrument to extreme temperatures. Also, never leave it in the car.
- Try to keep a constant level of humidity throughout the year. The perfect humidity for violins is in the 30-40% range. During dry seasons, use a steam humidifier, cool mist, or evaporative humidifier to maintain the proper levels.
- During the summer months, the A/C is often enough to drop humidity levels within the acceptable range. However, in some climates, you may need to consider further dehumidification.
- When humidity levels drop too much, get a humidifier for your violin case.
Final Words of Advice
With proper violin maintenance, your instrument could last for your lifetime and beyond. Remember to wipe your violin after every use and to always treat your instrument as if it were a living thing, because, in many ways, it is!
Be sure to keep several dry clothes as part of your violin care kit, as well as a quality hard case and anything else needed to maintain the temperature and humidity levels in which your instrument will thrive.
Have a question? Please feel free to reach out in the comments section below!