Winter is here and that means your string instrument is going through many big changes. Here’s what you need to know and how to protect it.
With cold weather come heaters being turned on and consequently, moisture being removed from the air. For a string instrument used to the Florida climate, this is a major change. The wood of a violin will shrink as the moisture level goes down and grow as it goes up. One of the reasons organic “hide” glue is used on instruments is so that when expansion or contraction takes place, the glue will shatter so as to prevent damage to the wood. This is completely normal and desired. Normally, when this happens, your instrument will develop a hollow sound or a buzz. If you find an open seam, remove all string tension and have it repaired as soon as possible.
Pegs popping loose is another common problem in winter. This happens because the pegs, normally made of ebony, do not shrink at the same rate as the maple scroll does. Since the pegs are conically shaped, the shrinking maple forces them loose. Simply tighten the strings back up, taking care to make sure all is in its proper place. One issue that could arise from this however, is that the soundpost has fallen over because of the drop in tension. If this happens, remove all string tension and have it professionally put back up.
The soundpost is not glued in place, and when winter comes and the top and back of the instrument start to move around, so does the soundpost. It may not move much, but it doesn’t take much for the sound to be thrown off. If your violin starts to sound weaker, hollow, brighter, or uneven, chances are the soundpost has moved. Nothing to worry about; simply bring it to a Luthier and we will be happy to put it back in place.
Cracks will sometimes form in winter, particularly around the side of the neck or the saddle at the base. This is because the ebony saddle and the maple neck do not shrink nearly as much as the spruce top and given enough pressure, a crack will form. This type of crack can be found on nearly all old violins and if properly repaired, does not harm the sound of the instrument in any way.
The best way you can protect your instrument during these cold months is to keep the climate as stable as possible.
If ever you have a question, call your local Luthier and we will help you protect your instrument for the long term.