Traveling with your instrument in the Winter

January 8, 2017 at 10:51 PM · Hi everyone:Since it's Winter I would like to ask, when you travel with your violin, do you do anything to combat the possible low temperature and humidity? (As a side note I read on Pirastro's website when on air planes gut and gut core strings should be tuned 1/4 lower as they tend to stretch higher due to the lower humidity)

Replies (20)

January 8, 2017 at 11:23 PM · I use a violin humidifier (Dampit). I've never tuned my strings down for airplane travel and they've never gone sharp. Seems like a recipe to make sure your violin won't stay in tune for six weeks after flying with it.

Never, never, never leave your violin in a car or check it with luggage. As long as it stays in the case and with you, it shouldn't be in very cold temperatures long enough to affect it.

January 8, 2017 at 11:46 PM · Please read the on-going thread:

There is already a lot of buzz about thermal protection there.

January 9, 2017 at 01:56 AM · I agree with what Rocky says.

January 9, 2017 at 03:23 AM · Here is a good discussion on Dampit type devices and case humidifiers:

David Burgess' website has some great information on humidity control:

I think that it's really hard when traveling to maintain a proper environment for the violin. I try to keep it in a humidity controller room, and get it back there as soon as possible between rehearsals. I do use an in-case humidifier and a case over-cover in the winter, but I know the these do very little.

January 9, 2017 at 04:40 AM · Depending on how you humidify your room and/or case, Pirastro's advice also applies to regular violins not played in a while in dry situations. The pitch will go up, and possibly snap the string. Indeed, some would then think gut strings have "poor longevity"-no, they just need a bit of management.

I think the half pitch down rule has been universally applied for ages to different instruments as a safety measure. I remember a similar recommendation from a classical guitar manufacturer, specifying to tune down the strings while on a flight, and these are generally nylon. Not sure if the advice is current, or should be heeded blindly, given that evidently it doesn't affect some, as stated above.

January 9, 2017 at 10:05 AM · While air in the cabin of high-altitude aircraft is super-dry, when I checked after a nine-hour flight, the moisture level inside the case had hardly changed at all. I haven't checked on a much longer flight, but if I was worried about it, I'd just seal the case in a large plastic garbage bag. Works great for carrying a violin in the rain too.

So you probably don't want to take your violin out of the case and play it during the flight. ;-)

January 10, 2017 at 02:46 AM · On a related topic, I'd like to ask about hygrometer accuracy.

I asked about this recently ( ) and got referred to David Burgess' article on this topic.

My question is, how do I know whom I can trust on the reliability of a hygrometer? No doubt any seller will assure their customers that theirs is correct. But how am I to know which one ACTUALLY is?

I don't mean to doubt your expertise in this area, Mr. Burgess, but in your article (, you don't explain anywhere how you know which hygrometer is correct. Can you please explain? I'm not inclined to believe that there is only ONE precise hygrometer being manufactured in the world.


January 10, 2017 at 03:44 AM · Mr. Burgess's website has a section on how to test the accuracy of a hygrometer:

January 10, 2017 at 06:18 PM · True, Erin, but (& I quote from that very link you posted): "Remember, this only tells you if your hygrometer is accurate at 75%. It could still be way off at other readings."

How do I know that's true?

January 10, 2017 at 07:20 PM · You might call Mr. Burgess and ask him to explain; sorry, I can't.

January 10, 2017 at 09:03 PM · The most weatherproofed of Musafia cases help stabilize humidity quite a lot. Get the tropicalization, waterproofing, weather seal, pressure ports, etc. The standard humidifying tube also helps, although it can dry out pretty quickly in the winter.

I'm on a week in Europe right now, where it is well below freezing outside, and bone-dry in the hotel. To be safer, I have put Boveda Two-Way humidifier packets in the case as additional support. You can get a rubber-ish sleeve that holds two of the little cells, and the whole package fits nicely under the neck in a shaped case. According to the manufacturer, it can last for a few months before needing replacement, either expelling water into dry air or sucking up humidity if RH goes over 49%. I don't know how completely true that is, but the instrument is behaving itself very well so far. [Just for safety, I put those in my luggage for the flight. No sense having to prove that it isn't filled with plastic explosives.] You can get the packets in boxes of 12, which will protect a few cases for more than a year.

An alternative would be Arion, which can often go into a case where a shoulder pad otherwise would. I don't know if that uses exactly the same materials as Boveda, but quite a while can go by before the crystals dry out. Another rig with a strong family resemblance to Arion would be Precipitube, which is the same general shape as a string tube. I think that will dry out faster than Arion, but it seems to borrow much of the same technology, and is very convenient.

January 10, 2017 at 09:13 PM · Stephen, which Boveda packets do you use, there is a wide selection at the Boveda web site.

January 10, 2017 at 09:21 PM · G.A., checking calibration at other values isn't easy, but if you want to go to the trouble, you can do it using magnesium chloride (33%), and Magnesium Nitrate (54.4%), with a vapor permeable membrane to separate the hygrometer from the saturated solutions.

That's what I do with the hygrometers I sell, because that's more within the useful range or target range for instruments. As a result, they are a little off at 75%, but perfect accuracy at that value isn't as important, because once humidity gets up around that range, it's too high anyway, and the hygrometer will still let you know that.

You can do a search under "saturated salt solutions", and find values for quite a list of the other various chemicals, if you're interested.

January 10, 2017 at 10:53 PM · I think that was the one. If you search for 49% RH and use with guitars, you should find it.

January 11, 2017 at 12:05 AM · Thanks for the response, Mr. Burgess. So it seems there is a given method of testing the hygrometer with chloride and nitrate. and you do that to ensure the authenticity of your hygrometers. I wonder how many sellers do that...

I'll keep in mind those products, Stephen, if I need them. Until now, I've just been following the in-case hygrometer in my old violin. I have no clue how precise it is, but I've just been taking care to keep it at the same percentage all the time. Now that I just sold my old violin, though, I'm even more paranoid about the humidity of my violin. Hence the above question.

Side random point: Does anyone else keep their violin in a closed, cool, non-heated room (and more humid as a result)?

Another 'trick' I do which I'm not sure is proper, is after I shower and fill the bathroom with humidity, I open the door of the room where the violins are (right nearby) and let the humidity pass in. Any reason I shouldn't do this? ;)

January 11, 2017 at 01:07 AM · I am no expert, but I would think consistency in conditions would be better than either a sudden temperature or humidity change in either direction.

January 13, 2017 at 04:25 PM · Thanks so much for all the great responses! Just got back from Berlin, my luthier also doesn't think one needs to loosen the strings in the Winter and just use Dampit if the humidity is low.

January 13, 2017 at 09:16 PM · Due to floor heating, mediocre building quality and ventilation habits, the humidity in our house stabilizes below 30% from november-march. Impossible to keep a violin with friction pegs in tune, as your can imagine... (In early december I measured even 21%, and itstill wasnt very cold outside!) So I HAD to go for a room humidifier.

For measurent I compared 4 hygrometers: the one that came with my Negri Venezia violin case, the Stretto STR-1060 (which seems to be identical with the TFA Dostmann, the latter for €13 instead of 32...), a calibrated industrial one I could loan (for the fee of a lang stew and some glasses he would have received anyway) from a friend who uses it for his expert's reports, and one that we already found in the house (one of that kind you get to buy in hardware stores). The last one behaved quite weird, but the other 3 congrued surprisingly well, at least in an environment from 30-60% RH which seems to be relevant to me. In this spectrum they never diverged more than 2% (as far as you can tell from the Negri's analogue face...) Coming below 30%, the Negri fell off, while the Stretto still performed.

Actually I use a Venta LW45 room humidifier. It's certain not enough for a house, but keeps our living room (where we store and play the violins) between 38 and 47%, depending on heating and ventilation (continuous operation on level 2 out of 3).

Additionally I use one Stretto STR-1010 in each case, mainly for travelling and to manage the days the instruments go out of the house, or when their operators are banned from the living room. The first weeks I only had these, and they managed to bring up the in-case humidity at ca. +10%, if the case was consequently locked 7/24. I like them because compared to specific other products (e.g. dampit) I don't risk wetting my violins inside...

From an aesthetic and practical point of view I'd prefer the precipitube, but it is not available in the german speaking world. And, my case doesn't provide a mount for a string tube...

January 13, 2017 at 09:32 PM · I am also using a Venta LW 45, aimed at the room containing my instruments; Venta keeps the humidity within an acceptable range. For trips outside, I use a Cushy insulated case, which fits over my Negri violin case. Although my pegs are still recalcitrant, the violin seems to stay in tune!

January 14, 2017 at 02:36 AM · Personally, I prefer a steam-type humidifier, which will kill most of the mold and bacteria (which tends to build up in humidifiers) before releasing it into the room.

Whether using a Venta or steam type, there are now pretty inexpensive humidifier controllers (70 bucks or less, just plug your humidifier into the control unit) which will automatically turn them on and off as needed.

A couple of them even have audible alarms, which can be set to go off if the moisture level goes too far outside of your desired range.

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