Suggestions for intense humidity?

April 12, 2008 at 12:49 AM · In a couple weeks I will be traveling from the midwest to Senegal to Prague with my violin. Senegal's humidity is about 70%. I will be in Senegal for three months and then Prague. I'm worried about the intense humidity in Senegal. Are there any suggestions for me to help cope with the equatorial humidity?

Replies (23)

April 12, 2008 at 12:58 AM · Here humidity is arount that, sometimes higher. I imagine your hotel room will have an air condioning, keep it turned on, it helps.

I do this sometimes: I take the instrument out of the case and take off the humidity from the case with a hairdrier, when the case is cook again I put the violin back inside it.

Old instruments will suffer more than modern intruments. A good idea is taking two violins in a double case, if you have a problem with one of them you will have the other. Instruments may react differently with humidity changes. Uto Ughi and many other soloists travel with two violins. There are some double cases today that are quite small and good.

April 12, 2008 at 03:31 AM · If you can, keep the air conditioning on and set the temperature around 25 degrees C or so. Be careful with your shoulder rest as it can make indentations and marks in the varnish if you try to re-adjust it alot in higher temps & humidity.

Do NOT, I repeat NOT, leave your instrument in the car without the air conditioning running even for a few minutes. Your violin will almost literally melt on you. Always take your violin with you when you park your car. Don't leave it in the car - ever.

April 12, 2008 at 11:29 AM · whereas having an air-conditioned violin case may be a fantasy, i do question how tightly fitting when a violin case is closed. to make the seal air-tight may help lessen the humidity/temp fluctuation.

April 12, 2008 at 11:56 AM · Heat will soften your varnish, so do not leave in the sun. Pretty obvious.

The topic is humidty. The problem is not going into a humid zone, it is coming out of it. In a humid zone, the wood will absorb water moisture - there is nothing you can do about this. No problem while you are in the zone, except your tone may change. You will not likely see any structural changes to the violin. This is because all parts are absorbing humidty, and the joints stay very tight. Too tight actually.

But, what happens is this: all woods start to swell. This causes the wood to crush at the joints. No problem if you stay humid. But when come back to a dry climate, the wood will lose moisture, and each piece will shrink, disproportionately. This shrinking will likely cause the formerly crushed wood at the joints to separate at the joints. You can try to re-glue, but the former crushing causes the wood to weaken, so very likely the seam does not hold. A polymer-based filler-based type glue can help with this, but not always. Also, the plates can crack too, so filler is needed. So, the sound may change.

Overall, going from dry to humid to dry for long periods is not a good thing for any wooden instrument, especially a violin. You take your chances.

April 12, 2008 at 12:11 PM · in faber's book on strads, he described a lady violinist travelling in the tropics on a tour and the strad reacted poorly to the climate change and more or less fell apart. in extreme heat with humidity, may be the hide glue joint may give?

April 12, 2008 at 12:23 PM · Hi there, we have extreme humidity for 4 months of the year. I keep my violin in a glass case and line my violincase with a towel.which absorbs a bit of the humidity. you can also buy silicone at the pharmacy and put it in the case with your violin. My violin does sound different for those humid months though. And with the difference in tempersture you will have to tune it daily, good luck

April 12, 2008 at 05:28 PM · The violin was created in higly humid places... Cremona can be terribly damp and Venice is quite damp too.

April 12, 2008 at 06:23 PM · does it matter if the violin was born in the summer or winter month? do winter babies perform better in the colder months when they grow up, and i mean, old?

April 12, 2008 at 09:11 PM · It would be helpful to know the value of your violin. If it's inexpensive, don't worry about it.

On the other hand, if you are the custodian of a valuable instrument, or the cost of a repair like resetting the neck would be a hardship for you, precautions are in order.

The biggest danger with high humidity is that the wood bends more easily. This can result in permanent distortion, requiring major work. The only reason the old Cremonese instruments are still usable is that most have undergone numerous repairs and restorations.

70% humidity isn't a horrible level, but I'll assume that's an average, and humidity may be much higher during rainy periods. Most kinds of air conditioning dehumidify, so keep the violin in that environment as much as possible. If you don't have air conditioning, it might be worth buying a dehumidifier when you get there.

Take a good quality hygrometer with you so you know what you're actually dealing with.

April 13, 2008 at 03:52 PM · I would not take an instrument I was fond of into tropical conditions, unless it was a Luis and Clark carbon-fiber one.

If absolutely necessary to travel with it, as opposed to having it shipped to Prague, I'd look for a well-sealed case and use silica gel to absorb excess humidity, but the danger is that it would get too dry, or that the variations in humidity would wreak havoc on the instrument.

Again, a lot depends on the quality of the violin and your attachment to it. Figure about even odds that you won't have a playable instrument at the end of the journey, and make your decision accordingly.

My assumptions are based on the idea that such things a 24 hr electricity and air conditioning will not be available. If you are to be in a controllable environment, that should take care of the situation. Some exposure over the short term while traveling to and fro shouldn't be a problem, assuming you take reasonable precautions.

April 13, 2008 at 04:46 PM · I thought a violin is glued with hide glue,and if the humidity is too much(I have seen the case where humidity is too much that the floor is wet),the glue will melt.So why do you think a Luis and Clark can endure that,may be they didn't use hide glue?

April 13, 2008 at 05:20 PM · Juda, the humidity is more a problem for the wood, less so for the glue. The wood soaks up the water and expands, that can then lead to tension which can lead to damage. Carbon fiber doesn't have this problem. On their website, Luis & Clark tell the story of one of their cellos which was under muddy water for weeks in New Orleans after hurricane Catrina. It needed cleaning, new strings and a new bridge, but other than that it was unharmed.

April 13, 2008 at 06:11 PM · From Juda S;

"I thought a violin is glued with hide glue,and if the humidity is too much(I have seen the case where humidity is too much that the floor is wet),the glue will melt.So why do you think a Luis and Clark can endure that,may be they didn't use hide glue?"


There are many kinds of hide glue. The common type which is sold as a liquid in a bottle doesn't hold up to moisture well. I've seen violins glued with this which had pulled apart in humid climates.

Another type is supplied as hard granules which are melted in hot water shortly before use. This kind holds up to almost anything short of direct water contact.

I'm pretty sure the Luis and Clark use some kind of synthetic glue. Hide glue produces very strong bonds on wood, but doesn't work very well on epoxy and polyester resins.

April 13, 2008 at 10:00 PM · The main thing is, I need a good violin for Prague, because that's where my violin camp is. Senegal is a study term with my school. So, I needed to take my good violin which is about 6,000 to Prague. My fiance has a 500 violin that he said I could take with me to use in Senegal. There is no ac in Senegal, and I thought that I would maybe keep my good violin in my leader's house, for safety reasons. (we are staying in host homes) Would it be better to take my good violin along or have it shipped? Is shipping an instrument a good idea? is it really expensive? or would it be better to endure the heat? Thank you for all your responses!

April 14, 2008 at 02:56 AM · Your violin, your risk.

Me, I'd leave the good violin home and have it shipped, next day air, insured, to Prague, at the appropriate time. Should run around $200 or so, but I'm guessing. See that it's packed by someone who knows about violins and common carriers.

As far as the $500 fiddle is concerned, so long as all parties are aware of, and comfortable with, the possiblilty that it may return as a case full of violin parts in need of reassembly, why not take it along. Add a carbon fiber bow if you have one. Be aware that the humidity will do strange things to the length of the bow hair, in all likelihood.

April 14, 2008 at 03:36 AM · "Senegal's humidity is about 70%...I'm worried about the intense humidity in Senegal."

The humidity in Chicago and Nashville will be roughly the same. Just make sure you have all your shots, and you'll be fine. You'll probably need shots for Senegal too.

April 14, 2008 at 04:32 AM · I'm sorry, I typed 70% and I meant to say 79%. that is kind of key. :)

April 14, 2008 at 04:54 AM · Here in Japan during spring and summer we often have humidity levels at 70% and even higher. It also depends on where you measure. Near the window, our hygrometer often shows levels well above 70% sometimes 80% and higher, but in the violin case which I keep away from the windows the levels are always much lower. I can't remember it going above 70% in the violin case even when it was well above 80% near the window and the wallpaper started to show ripples from the high humidity.

Also humidity levels seem to be higher towards the floor, so I keep the case well above floor level. Note, this may be different where you are, so check first ;-)

If you are caught in a situation where you have no other means to control the humidity, you can try to find a place in the room which shows the lowest humidity levels and keep your case there.

Ventilation may also be helpful. Even if there is no A/C, there may be an electric fan you can borrow. Of course there are many places in Africa where electricity is coming and going throughout the day and you may not be able to operate the fan just when you need it most.

I'd say "better safe than sorry", avoid taking a violin you value to places which may cause damage to it.

April 14, 2008 at 01:06 PM · I just bought a violin valued around $1500 to travel with. It is not so pricey that having it fall apart would break my heart or wallet, but the sound is pleasing enough that I won't be kicking myself for taking something nasty on the road, the way I did last year. I'm off to play fiddle in Louisiana next week, and sometimes play (outside) over on the Hudson in summer. Possibility of notoriously awful humidity in both places. Sue

April 14, 2008 at 01:29 PM · Well, I'm living in Sao Paulo, Brazil, it's quite quite humid here, today it may be by 90% or more... We receive many many soloists here and they bring their Strads, Del Gesùs, Guadagninis, Montagnanas, Guarneris etc. They keep their instruments in the hotel (with air conditioning) and the concert room has also an air conditioning, no problem at all.

When they have a problem with their instruments in general it's a problem that would occur in other places too, that is, it's not linked with the humidity directly.

But some instruments are particularly sensitive to high humidity, and in general the player knows that in advance.

April 14, 2008 at 05:31 PM · Leslee states there's no air conditioning in Senegal; I presume she means that there is none available to her. Three months in the tropics trumps a trip to Louisiana. You couldn't pay me enough to spend a day in that sort of tropical armpit. There's diseases there that haven't been discovered yet, to say nothing of the general run of the politics on that continent.

I keep trying to avoid the BBC world news, but memories linger. It's possible my vision might be skewed, but I'd rasther find out second hand.

April 14, 2008 at 06:00 PM · Even with the best prep and arrangements, travel can be a disaster. And theft is always a risk, especially in very poor countries. I'd have your violin sent on to Prague, as Bob suggested and take a beater to Senegal. You could donate it there and have less weight to carry out. Is your fiance fond of his violin? Save it and get an Ebay VSO to take adventuring. No worrys, little money and no love lost.

Have a great trip:>)

April 15, 2008 at 12:02 AM · It is true that where I am staying there is not much air conditioning, however, there is air cond. in some places in Senegal My leader just informed me that there is a coastal breeze where he is staying and I could probably keep my violin there. I'm looking forward to experiencing Senegalese life and the culture of the Senegalese. I have heard it is a wonderful country. Thanks for all of your responses.

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