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Master Hand Violin Shop

  • 546 S Main W Street
  • Broadway, VA 22815
  • 630/ 292-2641

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    Store Hours

  • By Appointment Only
  • Owner

    Elizabeth Ecklund

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    Instrument Maintenance: How to Care for Your Violin at Home

    by Diane Bruce

    You've just brought home your new stringed instrument; what are you going to do next?? Disney World? No! You're going to need to figure out how to keep your instrument in tip top condition! Fortunately for you, taking care of your instrument is surprisingly easy if you just focus on the maintenance of a couple key areas.

    *String Maintenance -- In addition to when they break, you will need to periodically change your instrument's strings. If you practice the violin or viola an hour a day, you will need to change Dominant strings every 3 - 6 months (depending on how picky you are). Higher end synthetic strings can go 6 to 12 months (depending on pickiness), and steel strings should be changed every year. If you practice the cello an hour a day, most strings should be changed after a year. Bass players usually only change strings every 3 years or so. Gut strings (for everyone) will need to be changed every 3 months or so regardless of how much you practice.

    *Bow Maintenance -- There are two things you need to do to maintain a bow. First of all, you need to make sure to loosen the hair on your bow; this will take the tension off the stick and prevent the bow from warping. Secondly, you need to get your bow rehaired because the hair wears out and loses its grip as it is played. If you practice an hour a day, you will need to get your bow rehaired every 6 months.

    *Cleaning -- The most important thing to know about cleaning your instrument is that deep cleaning your instrument is mostly unneccessary. DO NOT use wood cleaner or furniture polish on it; you will ruin your instrument. What you should do is to daily wipe any rosin off the wood with a soft rag when you are done playing. This will prevent your rosin from slowly melting into the varnish of your instrument and becoming a permanent addition to your violin. If you really really want to polish your instrument, you should buy special instrument polish to use occasionally.

    *Bridge Maintenance -- You should daily check to make sure your strings have not slanted your bridge from its proper position perpendicular to the violin. If it has moved, you should move it back. This way, you prevent bridge warping and a trip to our shop to have it straightened out.

    *Humidity Maintenance -- During the winter you need to make sure that your violin stays at ~40% humidity. If you let your instrument get too dry, all these bad things might happen. And if you let your violin get too humid, watch out for bow bugs and woodworms.

    *Checks with the Doctor (er... shop) -- How often your bring your violin in for a check-up largely depends on the history of your instrument. If you have a new instrument and if you are checking your instrument regularily yourself, then you can probably wait 3-5 years to come in and have an expert look for problems such as seam openings, cracks, and fingerboard wear. If your instrument is older and has a history of cracks and seam openings, you should come in annually (preferably in the fall) to have your instrument checked for any openings. This way your instrument will be freshly secured as necessary for the dry winter.

    Maintaining your new instrument is really quite easy; a couple of daily checks + string and bow hair replacements as necessary and your instrument should be good for a long time. But don't neglect the professional once-over. We have seen instruments where most of the top detached!

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