Storing violin in or out of its case?

November 11, 2015 at 03:29 PM · I have both a cello and a violin and I've been reading on the Internet that most people suggest storing a violin in its case rather than on a stand because the case would protect from climate changes the best. However, the area I live in is very dry and I don't have a case humidifier. I did however recently purchase a room humidifier and am wondering if it's better to keep my cello and violin on a stand in the room with a humidifier rather than in their cases (in a drier area). I'd prefer to keep them on a stand since its just more convenient to grab and play but I'd rather not risk any damage to the instruments.

If i did keep them on a stand in a room with the humidifier, is it good or bad to have the humidifier on constantly 24/7? Or is that overkill? Keep in mind again the city I live in very dry. The lady at the store where I purchased my cello and violin told me there should be no problems storing them on a stand but it seems opposite to what most articles on the Internet say. Does anyome know for sure?

Replies (20)

November 11, 2015 at 04:39 PM · I keep my cellos out - in stands - except when the weather threatens, then I case them.

I keep my violins cased all the time.

It is very easy to make a humidifier for your case, but you want to be careful not to let it get too damp in there. Humidifiers for cigar cases function the same way that "case humidifiers" do - and so will any small vessel into which you can poke a few holes and insert a damp rag.

Andy

November 11, 2015 at 04:46 PM · I think you'll find that most repairmen, based on their experience with many damage scenarios, will recommend keeping the instruments in their cases. And the cello case should be kept laid down, not standing up.

I'm not sure I understand why you keep your cases in a separate room though. Instruments inside their cases, inside the humidified room sounds like a good way to go.

How much should you leave your room humidifier on? Hopefully, you have one which turns on and off automatically, to maintain a set level of humidity in the room, so it will take care of that itself. You don't mention where you live, but if it doesn't get really cold, 40% might be a good level to maintain. Higher than that isn't necessarily better.

Also, try to maintain one level. Fluctuations can put more stress on the instrument than a constant level that's outside the ideal range.

November 11, 2015 at 05:24 PM ·

November 11, 2015 at 06:15 PM · I always keep my violin inside its case, lid and zippers closed. Whenever I leave it out, my mind comes up with the strangest scenarios of crashing bookshelves or some other desastrous event. Am I superstitious? Perhaps! On a more rational note, humidity tends to be dangerously low during the winter months (despite humidifier), which is why I prefer the case to keep my violin.

Besides: I really like my case. I like opening it and getting my violin and bow out, and I equally like the whole process up to closing it again, when I'm done. For me this is an integral part of my practicing routine. I can see that this might be a bother if one wants their violin at the ready for multiple small practice Units or imprompru playing, but for me this works better than leaving my violin out unprotected.

November 11, 2015 at 08:33 PM · The sainted David wrote:

"40% might be a good level to maintain".

Yikes - humidity is 89% here as I write, and it isn't even raining. The reality of life in Devon... Guess I should research this. Maybe my poor beast needs a DE-humidifier?

November 11, 2015 at 11:06 PM · Listen to David. He knows.

In my case, the violin is been played, or it's in the case. Nowhere else. My case is a top Musafia model ( Enigma),equipped with a humidifier,among other goodies. If the humidity drops below 44%, the humidifier gets primed and good to go. That's all. I never had a humidity related problem.

November 12, 2015 at 09:58 AM · Quite - a musical instrument is either in your hands, or in its case. There is no other option.

November 12, 2015 at 10:22 AM · A good case will be made of and lined with hygroscopic materials, which absorb moisture when there's too much of it and release it when it's too dry.

Hygroscopic materials for case manufacture include wood for the shell; cotton, viscose, and silk for the interior linings.

This helps maintain a stable microclimate within the case compared to the surroundings, and also reduces the risk that the violin - also made of hygroscopic material - be forced to do the absorbing and the releasing itself, which is very stessful for it.

That said, it is important that the case not be airtight, as this vastly increases relative humidity changes inside if the case is exposed to temperature changes, or exposed to direct sunlight even through a window, due to the "pressure cooker effect".

November 12, 2015 at 10:41 AM · Geoff, I never let my instrument storage area go over 60%. With really inexpensive instruments though, one could argue that it's not worth the trouble and expense.

The main downside of excessive moisture levels is that the wood becomes much less resistant to permanent bending and distortion from string pressure. One of the easiest changes of this type for musicians to notice is that the neck angle changes over time, with the strings increasing in height over the fingerboard. Eventually, some kind of corrective action needs to be taken, like resetting the neck.

Some changes in neck projection are to be expected anyway, but one can vastly increase the time before corrective action (repair) is needed, by keeping the moisture content of the wood from getting too high.

Other parts of the instrument distort too. I just mentioned the changes in neck angle, because that's one of the easiest things for a player to notice.

November 12, 2015 at 11:28 AM ·

November 12, 2015 at 11:30 AM · Normally I keep my violin on its stand - but I have an isolated studio and control the climate with a humidifier with a feedback control. Thus, it is set at 50% - and I have a separate humidistat to monitor the air level.

Humidistats are notoriously unreliable so its a good idea to test multiple ones against each other.

Violin seems happy!

November 12, 2015 at 11:33 AM ·

November 12, 2015 at 01:16 PM · David, where would you say is the "happy spot" in terms of relative humidity? 40~60%? I aim for 60%~70%

November 12, 2015 at 03:07 PM · I make humidifiers by taking discarded pill containers and drilling 1/4 " holes In the sides, top and bottom. Then I cut a strip off a sponge and wet it and insert in the container. This does take some skill with the drill.

November 12, 2015 at 04:08 PM · A word of caution about humidifiers. The "cool mist" type of humidifier produces a fine mist of liquid water droplets. These droplets will contain not only water but all of the minerals that may be present in the water that you supply to the device. Those minerals can cause a fine film of scale to build up on everything in the vicinity of the device. I would imagine that this film could be quite damaging to a violin that is left exposed, e.g., on a stand or sitting in an open case. (The minerals will not diffuse through the aforementioned hygroscopic materials, such as plywood and fabric, of a closed violin case.) You could use a steam-type vaporizer or you can fill the cool-mist humidifier only with distilled water. Using distilled water will additionally impede the development of mildew in the device.

On a side-note, cool-mist humidifiers are often advertised as energy saving. Because they create small liquid droplets rather than water vapor, they do not, themselves, directly supply the heat required to convert liquid water to vapor. However thermodynamics teaches us that the latent heat of vaporization must come from somewhere. In the case of cool-mist humidifiers, it comes from the surrounding air in the room, and in the wintertime (which is normally when we use humidifers), the heat that is lost to vaporizing the water droplets must ultimately be made up by your home furnace.

November 12, 2015 at 05:33 PM · Liz, if you live in an older and really leaky house, you may be fighting a losing battle trying to control the humidity. Perhaps you can control it in one room - the room where you practice and store your instrument(s)?

However, check your dehumidifier to make sure it's actually removing a significant amount of water. They can turn on and off, and make noise like they are working, long after they have ceased to remove water efficiently.

My house was built in the 1950s, yet I'm able to dehumidify the entire house with a single floor-standing unit. Yes, it gets really cold here in the winter, so even houses built in that era are probably tighter than those built in more temperate areas.

November 12, 2015 at 06:35 PM ·

November 12, 2015 at 06:46 PM · Liz, I'm currently using a Frigidaire Enery Star 30 pint-per-day dehumidifier. It's been adequate even when we have extended periods over 80% humidity.

One other thing you might do is check the accuracy of your hygrometer, to make sure it doesn't read quite a bit higher than the actual level. They are often way off.

So there's a possibility that you think you are only getting the humidity down to 70, when it's actually lower.

November 12, 2015 at 07:01 PM ·

November 12, 2015 at 07:18 PM · Outdoor measurements can vary quite a bit, depending on exactly where they are taken, so you could also try the test described here:

hygrometer test

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