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Taking Care of Your Violin

Updated on March 21, 2019
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Tong Keat has an M.A. in Violin Perf. from MTSU, TN. He is currently a member of the Selangor Symphony Orchestra and Strettosphere Quartet.

Disclaimer: This is a stock photo from the internet. No violin was harmed in the process of writing this article.
Disclaimer: This is a stock photo from the internet. No violin was harmed in the process of writing this article.

Storing and Carrying the Violin

The violin is a fragile instrument made of multiple wooden parts glued together. It is very sensitive to the changes of temperature and humidity. When storing the violin, avoid leaving it under extreme temperature. Never leave it exposed outdoor in the winter or under the hot sun. If the temperature is too cold/hot for you, it is the same for your instrument. If you live in a place where humidity level is low, consider getting a humidifier for your instrument.

Keep the violin in the violin case when it is not in use. Make sure that the case is properly closed or zipped before you carry the case. Avoid leaving the violin at vulnerable places where someone may accidently damage it.

Invest in a good violin case that offers sturdy protection. The cheaper violin cases in the market are made of foam and they do not offer good protection for your instrument. The better cases are made of wood or synthetic material such as carbon fiber.

If you are travelling by air, make sure to hand carry your violin with you and store it in the overhead baggage compartment. It is extremely risky to check-in your violin with other baggages. If you are travelling by bus or train, it is also advisable for you to carry it with you to your seat.

Should you leave your violin like this?
Should you leave your violin like this?

Checking the Set-Up Regularly

When you are tuning the strings, make sure that the pegs are easy to move. If they are too tight or keep slipping off, it means that the pegs do not fit the peg holes well enough. You can bring it to a luthier to have a set of new pegs properly fitted. If it is not too serious, there are peg compounds in the market that you can apply on the pegs. There are different compounds for pegs that are too tight and too slippery.

Check the bridge regularly to make sure that it is upright. As we tune the strings with the pegs, the strings tend to pull the bridge towards the fingerboard. If left unchecked, the bridge may warped, or had one side of the feet coming off from contact with the body of the violin. It is therefore very important to re-adjust the bridge from time to time. Get someone with experience to do it if you do not know how.

The chin rest may get loose and move away from its original position. It will affect the sound if it comes into contact with the tailpiece. Use an appropriate tool to unscrew the chin rest, set it back into position, and tighten it. Make sure there are enough cork under the chin rest and the metal clamp to protect the surface of the violin.

Keeping the Violin in Good Condition

The grease and the sweat from the hands are not good for the varnished parts of the violin. Therefore, it is important to wash your hands before playing the violin. Avoid holding the body of the violin (i.e. the varnished parts) with sweaty palms. Use only appropriate commercial cleaner/polish to clean your instrument. Do not use water or any other substance that may damage the violin.

After every playing session, remember to wipe off the rosin dust on your violin and bow stick with a dry and soft cloth. Rosin dust left on the violin for too long will become very hard to be removed.

The bow needs to be loosen when not in use. If you keep the bow hair tightened over a long period of time, the bow stick will slowly lose its camber. It will also reduce the life span of the bow hair. Avoid tightening the bow too much when playing, the bow stick should remain concave. Also, remember to keep the bow hair clean by not touching it with your hands and fingers.

The true mission of the violin is to imitate the accents of the human voice, a noble mission that has earned for the violin the glory of being called the king of instruments.

— Charles Auguste De Beriot

© 2019 Goh Tong Keat

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