Violin care

September 6, 2014 at 03:06 PM · Besides trying to keep the area at an acceptable humidity level, are there any other issues that can happen if a violin is kept outside of the case throughout the day and in the case during the night? Temp and humidity in the room vary but it's not a rapid variation, no smoke, no pets.

My 8 year old has just taken up the violin. Started well and was excited to play, but the excitement seems to have faded a bit because she seems to be nervous about doing something that will damage the violin. Throughout the day she surely has time to practice at a couple of times if she had the violin more readily available. The teacher has said to open the case for 10 minutes or so for the violin to get used to the room's temp and humidity before playing. She checks the hygrometer before taking it out to play. I think this has put her off a bit and turned practice time into a hassle and also the fear of something bad happening to the violin. I bought her a stand to see if that made a difference but she's afraid to keep it there for more than a couple of minutes.

Any advice on how to deal with this?


Replies (22)

September 6, 2014 at 05:31 PM ·

September 6, 2014 at 05:46 PM · I'd keep the violin in the case, with the lid latched, in a convenient place, and not worry about giving the violin 10 minutes in the open case to acclimate before playing.

September 6, 2014 at 07:45 PM · Since she's only 8 I wouldn't worry about it until she grows into a full size violin. Her teacher probably told her to do that so it gets her into the habit for when she is all grown up with a seriously expensive violin. At her age it's more important to get her actually practicing than to overly worry about damaging an instrument that she will only just grow out of.

September 6, 2014 at 07:52 PM · I add my vote for keeping the instrument in its case, lid latched, when not in use.

I grew up in the winters of metro Chicago and Michigan's Lower Peninsula. As a kid in school, I sometimes had to walk 20 minutes at a stretch in the cold. Back then, I occasionally had to open the case to let the instrument adjust to room temp and humidity before playing -- e.g., with outdoor temp well below 32 F. / 0 C. and a strong wind. But most times, this wasn't necessary.

I see you're in AZ. No personal experience with winter there, although I know the hot summer firsthand; so no idea if your daughter will ever have to do there what I seldom had to do in the Upper Midwest.

September 6, 2014 at 08:30 PM · I vote with Liz and Chantelle. I have more than two dozen fiddles sitting on shelves and the floor for many years with no damage yet. (Two cats but no dogs.) I don't have room to stack that many cases. The only ones in cases are the ones that get transported.

September 6, 2014 at 10:06 PM · I love my cats, but they are NEVER allowed in my shop, where instruments can be sitting around in various stages of construction, and often not in a state where they can be put into a case.

It's OK if they break other stuff around the house (and they have), but I draw the line with the instruments. :-)

September 6, 2014 at 10:27 PM ·

September 6, 2014 at 10:28 PM ·

September 6, 2014 at 11:05 PM · Buy a wall hanger for the violin (safer than a stand over all - albeit less mobile). Install it in a safe and convenient place (where your daughter practices)...and tell her not to worry about damaging the violin. It is tool. It is supposed to be used. All you need is ordinary care.

If humidity changes are a legitimate worry...try a room humidifier. ..or an aquarium...

And should there ever be an accident...worry about it then...

September 6, 2014 at 11:06 PM · Get a stand for her violin. Kids are much more likely to pick up their violin if it is out in the open, ready to go.

Unless, she happens to be playing on a $1,000+ instrument

September 7, 2014 at 12:19 AM · When my granddaughter was 8 she was up to a 3/4 size violin and we rented one that sold for over $1,000. Taking proper care of it was just part of the job of learning to play it.

When I was 8 I had already been playing violin for 4 years and had learned that taking care of the instrument (and loosening the bow hair every time you put it down) was part of what you learn. The way I learned to handle my own violins while I was growing up gave me the confidence to be able to handle a valuable Stradivarius when the opportunity arrived, and realize that I did not have to do anything different than I did every day with my own instrument.

I don't see a real problem in having the instrument handy to pick up and play, but since I always considered practice a serious part of the day, it was not something that you did for a couple of minutes and then quit.

I just feel you do the child a greater disservice than you would do the instrument.

BUT - if you have a table that the violin case can be kept on (unlatched) I would consider it OK to have the instrument and bow that accessible. (But realize that I live in earthquake country.)

And, to be perfectly honest, I keep my cellos standing in wooden cello stands with the bows standing beside them, except when very hot weather is imminent, or when they will not be played for a week or so.


September 7, 2014 at 05:27 PM · This is crazy

Violins are there to be used. My dog only objects to the sound. In the old, old days, people smoked fags and cigars over fiddles as they played.

We are getiing fiddles confused with toilets where peopel put disinfectant down every two minutes.

Violins sound best when they get a bit of mistreatment. They have to live in the real world of polution, dog s**t and the rest.

September 8, 2014 at 03:25 AM · >Kids are much more likely to pick up their violin if it is out in the open, ready to go.

And adult beginners, too!

I am soooo much more inclined to pick up my violin and play it, if it's out and available. That I keep it in an open case, and not on a stand is probably not the best idea, as the lid could shut on the violin, but in 9 years, that has never happened once, and it brings me pleasure to see the violin in there, ready to use. (I cover it with its little velveteen "blanket" when not in use, tho.)

September 8, 2014 at 05:45 AM · This seems a bit silly and overly cautious. I live in the tropics and we have some really extreme humidity here. My violin is always out of its case...fitted with the shoulder rest and ready to go. You just have to find a safe place to put it. Violins are meant to be played, not stored.

September 8, 2014 at 06:00 AM · I dunno. I agree that if the violin is out and ready then a child would be more inclined to practice. It's ready and visually there as a reminder to "PLAY ME." =P It can be a chore unpacking the violin, getting the shoulder rest on, making sure everything adjusted just so, so on and so forth that even after 30 years of playing I'll be more inclined to just continue walking towards the TV or out the door then getting my practice in.

Personally, I always keep my Cappa in the case. It's such a sensitive old wheezer, that if left out without being played starts to whine. One day I'll get a nice, friendly modern violin that I get along with and will happily stay out all the time, but until I win the lottery that ain't happening. =P

September 10, 2014 at 06:19 PM · "Kids are much more likely to pick up their violin if it is out in the open, ready to go."

I haven't done any surveys on this, although I'm sure it's true of some kids. But not all. When I was a kid, I always packed my instrument when I was done with a playing session. This aspect of violin care is part of what I was taught.

It undoubtedly helped that violin lessons were my idea and that I was a practice geek -- I still am -- strongly self-motivated, eager to pick up the instrument for the next session. Didn't need a visual reminder. "Out of sight, out of mind" didn't apply in my case.

September 13, 2014 at 04:22 AM · Well, count me in the "keep it in the case" camp... I can't imagine that the 10 seconds required to open the case would be a deterrent to practicing. Maybe I'll know differently when my daughter is 8! :)

If there's a worry about humidity, temperature, etc. then there should be more worry about what happens to a violin when it's out of its case unattended. I think my dog knows to stay away but I'm not willing to count on it!

September 15, 2014 at 11:14 PM · Yes, I think the upgrade to a new violin had its drawbacks. She feels like she has to take even more care of the new one. Told her the worse thing for it is to not use it regularly and just have it there in its case. She checks the hygrometers and humidity levels are consistent. Hope she gets over this phase and goes back to practicing more.

September 23, 2014 at 04:13 AM · That Chrome extension is nice. Switched my home screen to use it. Thanks.

September 23, 2014 at 08:20 AM · Regarding the Chrome extension:

Bear in mind that weather stations report outside conditions. Conditions indoors, such as relative humidity, can be very different. They can even vary quite a bit by the location in the house. For example, the humidity in my basement is typically 10-20% higher than in the rest of the house.

Another example is that in the winter here (Michigan), the outdoor humidity may be 80%, while the indoor humidity is 15% or less. Why? Because when that outside air is brought inside and heated, its capacity to absorb moisture increases, resulting in a much lower "relative" humidity level.

Best to use an accurate hygrometer, kept in the same location as your instrument.

By the way, my recommendation to keep instruments in a latched case comes from many years of instrument repair experience, and hearing how the damage happened. There are many embarrassing stories which musicians need to share with the person doing the repair, but are reluctant to share with their friends and colleagues.

September 23, 2014 at 03:17 PM · Aha, the confessional!

September 23, 2014 at 05:07 PM · Looking forward to stories! Anonymous of course.

I think we need to do an experiment to see if children will be motivated to practice more if the instrument is safely locked in its case when not in use versus one that is hanging and easily picked up...but also in a secure corner/space...

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