Your Violin, Viola or Cello is made up of over 50 pieces of wood held together with hide glue. With proper attention you can be assured that your instrument will last a very long time. There are instruments that are being played today that were built almost four centuries ago. Since a well-made instrument only sounds better as it gets older, following these basic steps will help it sound its best for years to come
You should avoid putting your case in the trunk of your car. In the summer it can get very hot very fast- hot enough to melt the varnish, crack the top and loosen the glue that holds your instrument together. Most cracks are do to dryness. Therefore, use your humidifier as soon as you turn on the heat in your house or when the humidity falls below 40%. Keep your instrument away from radiators and heat vents.
Keep in mind that your instrument was designed to be remarkably sturdy; but it is; after all made from very thin wood. Don't ever take it for granted. And when it is in its case, make sure you secure the latches and zipper the cover. Many an instrument has tumbled out of a case that someone forgot to close and latch.
Aside from keeping your instrument away from extremes of temperature and humidity and keeping it well protected, little else is required from you in the way of maintenance- except keeping it clean. Wipe off the rosin dust from the instrument and bow before returning it to the case. An old cotton handkerchief works well. Just be sure it is dry and clean. Be sure not to touch the hairs of the bow, this can leave oils on the bow hair and make it harder to play your instrument.
The case helps protect the instrument from physical damage, and it also serves as a very effective barrier to sudden changes in temperature and humidity.
Check the tilt of the bridge periodically; it should be vertical or leaning back slightly. The feet of the bridge should be positioned opposite the inside notches of the "f" holes. Make sure the sound post is up and ion the correct position. These are the heart and soul of the instrument. Their proper placement is critical for both sound and health; no other single part can affect sound as much. A well-cut bridge can last for years by keeping it from warping.
Pegs should work smoothly, but even well fit pegs sometimes slip or get too tight. This is very easy to correct but you may not to do it yourself. From time to time check your strings for fraying or unraveling. Your string choice will have an influence on the sound you will produce. Check with your teacher or instrument- maker, they may have some recommendations for you. You can experiment yourself with strings, just remember to only change one string at a time.
Hair may shrink as much as 1/2" in dry weather; thus a bow left even slightly taut after use may become much tighter in the case, putting unnecessary stress on the stick and even causing breakage in extreme cases.
This will ensure that strings, bow hair and varnished surfaces remain clean, free from fingerprints and help to keep rosin (which can badly damage varnish) from adhering to these surfaces.
You are in possession of a very fine instrument, the varnish of which is a key component in producing the sound that you have selected. Rosin left on the instrument can react with the varnish and cause it to break down. We do not recommend the use of polishes, since improper use and the chemicals in some polishes may harm the varnish; cleaning and polishing is best left to a professional violin maker.
Please note that most better instruments have no varnish at all on the neck but that the neck has been sanded down to a satin smooth bare wood finish. When handling the bow, please do not touch the bow hair.
We have had serveral instruments come in to our workshop for repair or adjustment, and at least one for trade against another instrument which had decorative stickers or tapes indicating good bow position applied directly to the varnished body of the instrument. This should never occur if you wish to preserve the value of your instrument. While these stickers may come off without harm to the instrument, many times they will not and great harm can be done to the value of the instrument this way. If your teacher has suggested this please bring this article to his or her attention.
Excess heat and humidity can cause varnish to melt, even in the winter. Extremely cold temperatures can cause wood to shrink, and the accompanying dryness may possibly cause cracks to develop.
To keep your instrument in good condition all you really have to do is to be careful. Violins, Violas and Cellos are remarkably durable and respond to good care. If treated well and with a reasonable amount of caution and prevention, your instrument should last many, many years to come.