Humidity - Violin arching and soundpost change
My violin was born and raised :-) in Madrid, which is a fairly dry city. When I came to Saigon (RH>70%) one of the things I started to notice the first months was the loosening of the soundpost. From being a normal -snug but easily movable- fitting without the strings, it came to the point of falling just by changing the E string. As this has happened so much I have become by time, sweat and tears really good at putting it back.
At the beginning I was not so concerned. I prefer a slightly loose soundpost rather than too tight. However with this process I noticed a decrease in playability in high positions, 5th and above, in the GDA. I realized that in order to make it "stay" I was more and more moving the soundpost towards the trebble f-hole. We all know that such position is supposed to brighten the violin, but it should also be said that it makes the higher positions less responsive in the strings closer to the bass.
I just cut a new soundpost for the height of the spot that I know works better in the violin and, voila, I got back the balance I remembered and the playability in high positions.
But now I am concerned that this soundpost works for an extreme humidity environment such as Vietnam but if I travel to a drier place, like back to Madrid, I fear that it would be too tall and it might damage the violin. But how long would that take? Should I change soundposts to the "Spain friendly" one for a one week trip or that is not long enough to shrink back the plates and reduce the arching?
Has anyone any experience about the speed that the violin arching takes to react noticeably to extreme humidity changes?
This is a question for David Burgess...
I think it depends on too many factors to answer. The amount of arching, the thickness, age, and other characteristics of the wood. Sure you can go back and forth between sound posts for short trips, but it seems excessive to me. Even if you are in Saigon, where are you staying and/playing? Outside? In air-conditioned hotels or venues? I don't see professional soloists switching sound posts that often. They just deal with what the fiddle does in different locales.
Carlos, that's a tough one to answer with precision. As Scott Cole says, soloists travel all over the world, many without taking special precautions. However, when their instruments undergo repairs or restorations (and they do), people outside the restoration trade are unlikely to ever hear about it, or know it ever happened. It's not like there aren't problems.
Carlos, If your "Madrid violin" is anything like mine (Fernando Solar, 1971, #157) it has a bit of a highish arch, and the sound is VERY sensitive to the placement of the soundpost - I can understand your problem. Fortunately the only places I have had that violin are fairly dry; the California desert (where I lived for the first 21 years I have owned the fiddle) and a mostly dry region 15 miles north of San Francisco, California for the next 23 - so the maker's original sound post is still working just fine.
Sorry for late gratitude. I was travelling and V.com is not always available outside the cities.
If you want to keep the longer soundpost in, set it up a bit loose before leaving Vietnam. Then use a Dampit humidifier. One should never take a long flight without some kind of humidification system inside the violin case. Once in Spain, refill your Dampit as necessary, and only remove it from your violin when you play. That's what I would do for a trip of one or two weeks.
The snake-style humidifiers are my least favorite type.
Carlos, If you really want to preserve your Madrid violin, consider having a backup violin in Vietnam where weather conditions are extreme. CF violin seems like a good choice for such a climate. I just read a book about Heifetz... his Strad allegedly fell apart from humidity in Indonesia and he performed on a borrowed fiddle - nobody noticed a difference!
@David, among the things that I always have in the case, there are two neatly folded garbage bags... Because one never knows... When I travel, the violin is in its silk pajamas, and then inside 2 bags with the openings in opposite sides... It works very well.
For those who aren't already aware of this, the garbage bags can be really handy for slipping over a case if you need to be out in the rain. Highly recommended.