Can my violin survive -20F

August 27, 2015 at 07:59 PM · I have a work assignment at Barrow, Alaska for the whole month of February. The average temperature there is around -20F. I want to take my violin with me for practice and entertainment. Some nights I have to sleep in a tent with no heat. I have a Gliga violin made in 2000. Will the freezing temperature ruin my instrument? Any suggestions?

Replies (21)

August 27, 2015 at 08:22 PM · I may not be an expert, but from experience working up north(North West Territories and Norway), if it isn't the temperature, it'll be lack of humidity that will get your skin and your instrument.

I'd bring a cheaper electric violin(I carry mine in my hands even when it rains).

August 27, 2015 at 10:47 PM · As Steven said, the temperature won't be much of a trouble (although strings are known to go out of tune fast due to temperature changes), humidity, or lack thereof, is what's likely going to get it.

I would advise taking a cheap instrument that's good enough that you can live with if you're gonna be staying in a tent in the middle of nowhere. :)

August 27, 2015 at 10:57 PM · Ditto the others; under no circumstances would I take an instrument that I cared about into a situation like that. Get yourself a $300 beater.

August 28, 2015 at 01:15 AM · Or get a carbon fibre violin.

August 28, 2015 at 02:42 AM · I would only take a carbon fiber violin if it could be secured in your absence...those things are expensive.

August 28, 2015 at 02:55 PM · I agree with the others.. take a "beater" violin.

Staying outdoors part of the time, and indoors part the time, the violin will be exposed to extreme changes in humidity, and hence in the moisture content of the wood. Which translates to extreme dimensional changes.

My other concern is that at very low temperatures, most varnishes will get very brittle, so they are no longer flexible enough to move as the wood changes dimension. An outcome of this can be microcracks in the varnish, or sort of a "crazing" appearance when viewed under certain types of light.

Plus, a bear might get it. ;-)

August 28, 2015 at 03:23 PM · I just have to ask...if the violin will be exposed to -20, you plan to practice at that temperature in your tent?! thats courageous man, think on your fingers :o :)

August 28, 2015 at 03:42 PM · Thank all you good people with your suggestions.

I looked into Carbon Fiber violin and it is around $5,500! A bit too expensive for me. I am going to buy a beater violin and leave my good one at home as you mostly suggested.

August 28, 2015 at 05:49 PM · Perhaps the time has come to invent a metal violin with the internal source of heating? Any volunteers?

August 28, 2015 at 06:22 PM · The short answer that I see everyone else has given is yes, it will ruin your instrument. Time to get a bar fiddle!

August 28, 2015 at 06:29 PM · It has already been posted above but it is worth emphasizing, if you play the violin with metal strings at -20F you may seriously damage your fingers.

August 28, 2015 at 07:02 PM · And don't put your tongue anywhere near.. Sorry.


August 28, 2015 at 09:14 PM · Some people like that.

August 28, 2015 at 09:42 PM · Last I knew, Rob Edney gets about $2000 for his CF violins, but that may still be out of your range.

August 28, 2015 at 10:39 PM · I know a recorder and a violin are very different instruments, but consider the following.

About three decades ago it reached -17°F here in Austin. My recorder teacher lived in a two story apartment and decided to save a little and only have heat in the upstairs bedroom area.

In the middle of the night they heard what sounded like a shotgun. One of the recorders had frozen and exploded, well it split with a load noise. Do not freeze wood.

I doubt it reached -17°F in the apartment.

August 29, 2015 at 07:00 PM · Rocky, I believe the violin John Bunyan made is metal (he was a tinker by trade) and people who've tried it say it sounds pretty good considering. However, I don't think it's ever had an internal source of heating.

August 29, 2015 at 07:50 PM · John,

as always, I am late to invent!


Here is an alternative, but still vulnerable to extreme conditions:

Travel Violin & Viola

For $495.00, seems worth considering.


August 29, 2015 at 08:46 PM · Just rent a violin for a month. Put it in a good case, keep it in a violin bag, and wrap the case up in blankets and insulation of its own when the environment is unheated.

September 30, 2015 at 12:30 PM · Sudden huge change will certainly affect it. Its not the temperature which harms it but lack of moisture/ humidity. Heater will not help you. Winter is harmful because the climate is absolutely dry.

You can feel your lips and skin getting dry and needs moisture. Same way your voilin too needs water. If you keep small water pot/ bottle/ inside your violin case; that will work as humidifier. Make sure the water doesnt leak, nor does the container is totally sealed. You can keep the lid of the water case a bit open inside the violin case. It may save ur instrument.

September 30, 2015 at 02:17 PM · In sub-zero environment, lotions and humidifiers are in fact discouraged because moisture freezes and causes more damage.

September 30, 2015 at 02:26 PM · I've heard that when violins are taken to countries with extreme cold, it's advisable to de-table the instrument to let the top shrink all it likes and then glue it back on.

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