If you follow these few simple steps you can keep your Instrument in good condition and end up saving you hundreds of dollars in unnecessary repair bills.. I have included a couple of instructional videos that should help a lot. Some of the tips will be a bit basic for advanced players, but I just wanted to make sure that I cover everything.
- Before you play you need to tighten your bow and check that you have enough rosin. Usually you will need rosin after every 2-5 hours of playing depending on how hard you play. Sometimes people put too much rosin on the bow and it will end up sounding really scratchy. How tight do you tighten your bow hair? there should be a space of between .9 cm and 1.2 cm between the hair and the bow stick in the middle. It is about listening to the sound that you make… tighten it a bit more and have a try and feel the bounce, then tighten it a bit less and do the same. There is a sweet spot that lets you produce a really nice rich tone. Just never over tighten your bow!! A bow should still have a hollow in it and never be straight or god forbid bowed the opposite way. If you can’t get a nice sound out of your bow, it could be because it needs a rehair, or you have too much or too little rosin. If you can’t find the solution, it is worth bringing the bow in to see if there are any other problems.
- When you finish playing, make sure you unwind your bow.
- Wipe the instrument down every time after you play. You always get a small build up of rosin which if left, will cause a caking effect on the top plate. this will effect the varnish and the sound of the instrument. Use a soft flannel cleaning cloth, and first wipe under the bridge, the top of the fingerboard, the strings and then wipe the entire instrument down. Commercial violin cleaners and polishes should only be used on cheaper instruments, and never on master instruments or antiques. if an instrument has had a crack, the polishes, which contain oil can open the crack and make it difficult to restore again.
- Put your instrument away properly. Never leave the shoulder rest on. It is a good idea to put a cover over the instrument
- Be aware what the Humidity is doing. If it is exptremely Humid, you may need to put a silicone satchel or a freshly ironed piece of cloth into your case before you close it. If it is extremely dry, you may need to humidify your case.
- Check your pegs. do they stick or slip? if they creak or stick, you will have to apply peg paste. If they slip, you will have to wind the strings on again. The trick is to wind them on neatly and close to the peg box on the side of the peg grip. That actually pulls the peg in and stops if from slipping.
- Check your fine-tuners: Usually when you are tuning the instrument, you only wind them in further. So every now and then you have to wind them out again. when you do that, it may make the bridge lean, because the strings are pulling the top of the bridge over.
- Make absolutely sure that you check your Bridge weekly. As you are tuning the instrument the bridge will start leaning towards whichever part of the instrument you use to tune (ie. the pegs or the fine-tunes). If the bridge is leaning towards the scroll or tailpiece, you will have to straighten it. If you keep your bridge straight, it will last between 10 and 15 years. if you don’t it can be bent after 3 month!
- Check the strings: are they corroded, or slightly frayed? You can prolong the life of you strings by putting graphite (Pencil) in the grooves at the nut, or on the bridge. Try to do this carefully not to get pencil lines all over the rest of the bridge or instrument.
- Make sure the instrument does not have any more bumps or bruises. If it does, you may be able to find out if it is the way you are handling the instrument that is causing the marks. Sometimes something hard in the case causes scratches, or the bow marking the instrument.
Changing a String and looking after the pegs video:
- Check Pegs. Are they moving smoothly? if not you may need to apply peg-paste. If they are slipping, you will need to wind the strings on properly, so that they are close to the peg-box on the peg grip side. (See video above for more info)
- Thoroughly clean your violin with a dry cloth, or if your violin-maker has checked the varnish and given you the OK, you could use a very slightly damp cloth. I do not recommend violin cleaner on antique or better quality instruments, because it can damage the varnish. It should be OK for most student instruments though. If you really want your instrument to look great, get the instrument professionally cleaned and polished.
- Check Bridge and Nut. Is the Bridge straight, and are the strings moving smoothly over the bridge and nut? if not you may need to use a pencil and carefully put graphite on the groves. be careful not to draw on the rest of the bridge. If the bridge is leaning, make sure to straighten it like I described in the video above.
- Thoroughly clean bow using a dry or slightly damp cloth.
- Check strings for wear and clean strings. be careful not to use solvent to get the rosin off. Replace strings if they are fraying or corroded. Although some players may recommend it, using perfume or alcohol can be a danger to the varnish.
- Clean your case by emptying it and vacuuming it out. This stops dust, dirt and rosin from getting stuck on the instrument, as well as inhibiting dust mites that could eat your bow hair.
- Have the instrument checked over by violin maker
- Professional clean and polish (May need to be done). This can be done by a reputable violin maker. This would be a proper professional clean and a french polish mostly using the original varnish and a small quantity of other varnish to make sure that the instrument is fully sealed and polished so the instrument does not get effected by the elements.
- Having hand patch checked. This is the part of the varnish on the upper bout that comes in contact with your skin. The perspiration from your skin can wear the varnish off and leave the instrument open to the elements. also the perspiration can start soaking into the timber, leaving it oily and having an effect on the glue that can become irreversible.
- Planing Fingerboard if needed. Your fingerboard wears as you play. Firstly the strings wear a rut into the fingerboard lengthwise over time, and secondly your fingers wear dips into the fingerboard across each note. After a while the fingerboard becomes wavy with groves, which can cause a buzzing noise or just take away the clarity of the tone.
- Have the string groves checked on the bridge and nut
- Have instrument checked for open joins or cracks. These can happen if there longer periods of humidity or sudden changes in weather. Open joins are fairly easy to glue and relatively inexpensive. However a crack in the plates or side of the instrument usually means that the top plate will have to come off the instrument, which is a much more involved repair. If your instrument has a crack, it is important that it is reapaired imidiately. If it is left too long, it can get dirt in it and will be visible after the repair. Usually a well repaired crack is nearly invisible.
- Check for optimal sound set up. Things can change over time… the bridge and soundpost can move, the bridge can bend or collapse. The tailpiece can play up and string heights can change. It is good to have all these checked once a year to make sure that your instrument is working at its best.
- Change strings if needed. Worn strings really have a negative effect on the tone. It is worth getting them checked over and changed if needed.
- Have pegs serviced. It is amazing how easily well serviced pegs can turn. If you have your pegs serviced regularly , it will be easy to tune your instrument.
- Bow rehair. Your bow hair has tiny bristles on it which pluck the string over and over as you play. After a while these bristles wear and get blunt… The sound you end up producing is grainy because you need to put on heaps of rosin to compensate. That’s when you will need a new bow rehair.The easiest way is to look along the bow hair with the light reflecting over it. If the hair is shiny or has a slightly fatty apearance, it’s time for a rehair. You can also come in and let us check over it.
- Bow leather if needed. Leather wears after a while, and it can wear right down to the wood… after that the wood will start to wear. That’s why it is important to replace the leather as soon as it is worn through.
It is easy to come in and have your instrument checked over professionally. It is free of charge, and you can rest assured that your instrument is working at its best. I work by appointment, so you get the time and attention that you deserve.