Saturday, April 23, 2011

Instrument Maintenance

 Written by Amy Tobin, violinist and manager of Fein Violins:

Ah, spring time is finally upon us. The weather is getting warmer, the flowers are blooming, and the spring time rains are beginning. Is there a more glorious time of year than spring?

With all of these signs of growth and new beginnings, the idea of instrument maintenance comes to mind. 'Why on earth would spring make you think of that?' I hear you ask. Well, once the winter is over and the weather stabilizes a bit (humidity levels increase and inside and outside temperatures become more even), it is the perfect time to make sure that your instrument is in perfect playing condition.

If you live anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line (and, indeed, in some places south of that!), I'm sure you will agree that this winter was an extremely brutal one. The weather was cold, very cold, and extremely dry as well. Combine that with the sheer length of this past winter, as well as the couple of false starts to spring, and you have the makings of some difficult times for string instruments. This year we had many people come in with open seams, cracks, and bows that wouldn't loosen!

These kinds of things can happen when the weather gets extremely cold and dry. In fact, there was one night when I was at an orchestra rehearsal this winter, and the temperature went down to -40 degrees with the windchill! It is no exaggeration for me to tell you that my bow hair shortened so much during the span of that 2 1/2 hour rehearsal that, by the end of it, I couldn't loosen it at all! One of my colleagues also had a seam open on her violin during the rehearsal! Yes, it was a tough winter for sure.

Well, even if you were lucky enough to have escaped any of the problems that can arise from this kind of weather, now is a good time to bring your instrument in to your trusted luthier (violin maker) and have it checked out. There can be many things that can start to happen on an instrument that you wouldn't necessarily notice but could cause problems along the way. The luthier will check to make sure that your bridge isn't warping, that the soundpost is still in the right place, and that all of the seams are still holding tight. Also, if you think the basic sound of your instrument has changed, now is the time to make the adjustments for that.

Springtime is lovely, and making sure that your instrument is in tip-top shape will ensure that the music you make will be lovely as well!

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