Weekend vote: Is your violin affected by the weather?

October 17, 2021, 7:13 PM · I was tuning my violin several days ago when the A string gave out completely - suddenly it sounded like a sick cow mooing! As I fixed the A, my D string followed suit - the peg slipped completely. So frustrating! I had to set my fiddle on my lap and use my full powers of tuning concentration to push the pegs in and get them to stay.

warm and cold violin

What happened? I checked the humidity and found my answer - it was down to 14 percent and had been extremely low for days. Sure enough, going to orchestra a few days later, several other violinists had peg-slipping incidents.

Violins are made of wood and they function largely on 300-year-old technology - this can make them susceptible to the whims of weather - high or low humidity, heat, cold, and especially, rapid changes in any of those factors.

Peg slippage is a common problem brought on by weather, but there are others: a change in tone quality, changes in what it takes to create certain articulations, intonation problems caused by the strings expanding or contrasting, etc.

Of course, not all violins are equally vulnerable to the affects of weather.

Is your violin or other stringed instrument noticeably affected by the weather? Is is something you have to monitor constantly, or does it just get affected now and then? Or do you have a violin that stays steady through most changes of environment? And a related question - do you travel to places with different climates, and does that seem to affect your violin?

Please participate in the vote and then tell us in the comments about your experience with how the weather does or does not affect your instrument.

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Replies

October 18, 2021 at 04:16 AM · OMGOSH! I live in a high desert environment and we use swamp coolers i the summer, thus high humidity ?? I am constantly using drying packets in my case. The pegs swell and so dies the tension screw on my bow making it difficult to turn. Then, in the winter, it is so dry I use humidity packets , Stratta, and am constantly monitoring the humidity level. It is a constant battle.

October 18, 2021 at 05:36 AM · My violin doesn't seem to be bothered by weather changes. Occasionally the strings slip but that literally only happens 2-3 times a year.

October 18, 2021 at 08:05 AM · Since I use gut strings on my cellos and gambas, I keep an eye on the hygrometer. The unwound guts are fine, but when the humidity plunges I have to make sure the humidifiers are in the cases, lest the gut cores shrink and the windings rattle.

October 18, 2021 at 09:37 AM · After playing a 2 hour trad session outdoors, I opened my case the next day and the g string had completely unwound. It continued to do this for a few days but eventually settled. Scottish weather is either extremely humid mostly or extremely dry in the winter. I put orange peels in my case in the winter, and put a dampit in the case, but not in the instrument itself, to increase the humidity.

October 18, 2021 at 03:21 PM · In the UK, violins/violas seem to sound better in lower humidity situations. Some years ago the New Scientist suggested that this was due to pectins within the wood absorbing moisture when the humidity is higher. When pectin had been leached out of the wood e.g., by brine during the sea journey of the wood from Turkey to Italy, the sound of the instruments became less vulnerable to humidity.

Dieter told me that the wood used in making Thomastik stringed instruments was routinely, before final carving, soaked in water at human body temperature for 48 hours. Sadly the benefits gained from this were dwarfed by the flaw in the basic design of those instruments.

October 18, 2021 at 03:22 PM · I would say my right arm is more affected by weather than my violin is, so most of the tonal change is due to the operator.

October 18, 2021 at 06:20 PM · For outside, or any other hazardous environment, I use inexpensive violins with steel strings (Helicore)

October 18, 2021 at 07:46 PM · Neither of my two instruments (violin and viola) is affected by the weather, but the changes around where I live are perhaps not very severe, and I keep my violin in my basement where conditions are fairly constant throughout the year because I dehumidify in the summer and humidify in the wintertime.

My pegs never slip because they are gear pegs (PegHeds on my violin and Wittner Finetune pegs on my viola).

October 19, 2021 at 11:24 AM · I travel frequently between Texas (High Humidity) and Utah (Low Humidity) and used to take my wood violin with me. Several times I woke up in Utah to find all my wood violin strings unwound. I ended up purchasing a carbon composite violin to take with me when traveling.

October 19, 2021 at 07:28 PM · My violin and viola are pretty stable regardless of weather, although the top string (E on the violin, A on the viola) tends to go flat in hot weather and sharp when it's cold. Where I see the most difference is in my bow - when it's humid outside I have to tighten it constantly (and remember to loosen it a lot when I put it away).

October 24, 2021 at 12:51 AM · Almost never. I play on three old hand-made fiddles, dividing daily practice time about equally among them. This is in north-central Alabama, USA, where the hot, humid summers start early and the heat and humidity can hang on well into autumn some years.

We get all four seasons, but it's typically warm enough 8 months of the year here to play in the garage, which has the acoustics I like. When it's really hot and steamy, I use a compact floor fan. The circulating air prevents perspiration from building up on the hands and fingers, so the strings don't go flat easily.

Once I finish a session and go back indoors, there's not much difference. The lowest I will set the air conditioning is 82 F. I don't need it most days. Open windows, floor fans, and ceiling fans usually do the job. So not a lot of temperature and humidity changes.

FWIW, I play on steel E + composite-core A-D-G. Once they're settled in, they hold their pitch very well -- even in hot weather. If I take a week off, I sometimes notice tuning issues when I re-start -- at first; but when I play consistently, day after day, the pitch is very stable.

As drier weather sets in, the bow hairs will tighten. So I have to loosen them more often -- not a major problem. Very rarely have any peg slippage. No travel to places with other climates -- summer is the only season I travel.

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