Wondering how to take care of your violin? I know I do since I have never played or owned one. I thought it might be time to address these types of instruments. The following tips provide guidelines for the proper care and maintenance of your violin.
- Tighten your violin bow before playing by gently turning the tension screw. Avoid making the bow hairs too taut…the separation between the bow stick and hair should be about the width of a pencil.
- Whenever you handle your violin bow, try not to touch the bow hairs with your fingers or hand. The natural oils on your skin will impact the ability of the bow to grip the string.
- Put a small amount of rosin on your bow before playing. Hold the rosin in your left hand, place the bow hairs flat on the rosin and slowly move the bow back and forth on the rosin. Rosin provides the bow hair with friction in order to produce a sound when the bow is pulled across the violin strings.
- If you do not have enough rosin on your bow, your bow will slide across the strings and produce very little or no sound. Too much rosin can produce a raspy, scratching sound, and can result in rosin caking the strings.
- After playing the violin, gently clean it with a soft, clean, lint-free cloth to remove rosin build-up on the strings and any dust, oil or sweat on your instrument, including the chinrest.
- Polish is rarely needed, and when necessary, only a commercial violin polish should be used. Cleaning the violin with furniture polish or water could damage the varnish and acoustics of the violin (water could also cause the violin seams to open).
- When you are not using your violin and bow, always place them in your case. They can easily fall and become damaged if you leave them on a chair or another surface, even temporarily.
- If you use a shoulder rest or shoulder pad, always remove it from your violin before putting your violin back in its case.
- Loosen the hair on your bow before putting it back in the case.
- Make sure you have securely closed your instrument case with any zippers and latches before picking up your instrument case.
- Do not store your violin in extreme hot or cold locations, and never leave your instrument in direct sunlight or in the trunk of your car on a warm day (the heat could melt the varnish).
- If you live in a dry climate, you may want to consider using a humidifier made for violins (excessive dryness can cause cracking or the seams of your violin to open).
- If your violin ever has cracks or the seams begin to open, take it to a music store, violin maker or luthier to be professionally repaired. Never use commercial glue to repair cracks on your violin. Instrument makers use a special glue for violin seams and repairs.
- If your violin bridge ever needs to be adjusted, it is important to note that the violin bridge is held in place by pressure and proper placement, not glue (tension from the violin strings holds it in place).
Sticking or Loose Violin Pegs
- Humidity or temperature changes can sometimes cause wood pegs to stick or to have difficulty turning. If you experience this, you may want to try an inexpensive product called peg compound (also called “peg dope”). Peg compound will not only lubricate the peg, but it will also provide enough friction so the peg will not slip. When using peg compound or any other product to help with sticking or loose pegs, use it sparingly because a residue can build up over time (some violinists avoid these products).
- To apply peg compound, remove the string from the peg, and slide the peg out of the pegbox. Apply a small amount of peg compound to the part of the peg that contacts the pegbox and reinsert the peg. Turn the peg a few times to make sure it turns smoothly. Wipe off any excess peg compound before restringing the peg.
- If your pegs are too loose and keep slipping, try pushing the peg in securely while turning the peg firmly. If this doesn’t work, some violinists use either peg compound or another product called peg drops to stop pegs from slipping (peg drops, also known as peg grip are used solely for slipping pegs).
- To apply peg drops, remove the string from the peg, slide the peg out of the pegbox, and apply one or two drops to the part of the peg that contacts the pegbox. Reinsert the peg and try turning it to make sure the peg sticks before restringing the peg.
- If you need a temporary quick fix for slipping or tight pegs, some violin teachers use these tips: for sticking pegs, pull the peg partially out, and rub pencil graphite on the sticking part of the peg. For loose pegs, pull the peg partially out, and rub birthday candle wax on the peg to help it stick (some teachers recommend chalk or rosin to help pegs stick, but these substances can be abrasive).
- Using too much force with stuck or swollen pegs can cause the pegs or peg box to crack. If you’re still having problems with your pegs, you may need to take your violin to a violin maker or instrument repair person to reshape or replace the pegs.
- Has it been a while since you’ve played your violin? If you open your violin case and notice that many of your violin bow hairs are falling off and look like they have been cut, you might have bow bugs.
- Bow bugs, also known as bow mites or museum beetles, come from the Dermestidae family of beetles. They thrive in dark, dry places such as closed violin cases, and feed on substances such as bow hair.
- If you think you have bow bugs, remove your violin and bow from the violin case, thoroughly vacuum the case (especially the cracks and crevices), and leave the case open in indirect sunlight for a few days (leave your violin and bow out of the case during this process). Some individuals have found it helpful to put a small bag of moth balls or a cotton ball with rosemary oil or camphor oil in their violin case compartment to help eradicate the bow bugs.
- If your bow hairs are heavily damaged, you should have your bow rehaired, and if your case seems heavily infested, you may need to buy a new violin case.
- The easiest way to avoid bow bugs, is to play your violin often. If you know you won’t be playing your violin for an extended period of time, another way to avoid bow bugs is to periodically open your violin case and expose your violin bow and case to indirect sunlight for brief periods of time (never leave your violin in direct sunlight or extreme heat or the varnish could melt).
Some of these supplies are available at Ant Hill Music. With these tips you can maintain your instrument for years to come. Think of the possibilities..till next time!