Ideal Violin Environment

December 7, 2005 at 12:51 AM · Hello,

This should be a quick question. After a search, I didn't find these questions on the site.

What is the ideal environment for a violin. I realise it's probably a window ie: temp range, humidity range, etc.

A quick search on google told me to avoid big and or quick changes in temp and humidity, but no target values.

Oh, just found this: "Ideally, a stringed instrument should always be kept in a moderate environment of about 60–70°F with 50 percent humidity."

Is this accurate?

Replies (20)

December 7, 2005 at 04:09 AM · I've read many interviews with owners telling stories about their Strads and DG's. Invariably they say they can sound poor in humid conditions and better than normal in dry conditions. What I've determined is that as long as the violin is cared for properly, the drier the environment (to a point of course) the better.

December 7, 2005 at 04:34 AM · Agreed...Rick, check out my profile, I've posted the first track from our Wieniawski Volume 2

December 7, 2005 at 07:24 AM · The San Francisco Bay Area has the ideal year-round temperature and humidity for violins. The shops here tell me that there is no need for dampits or humidifiers. It also does not get too humid, neither does it get too dry or hot.

December 7, 2005 at 07:57 AM · When I was in silicon valley I was astounded to find lots of houses and apt buildings there are built without heating or air conditioning.

December 7, 2005 at 10:43 AM · I'm confused. My violin completely deadens if I don't keep the humidity up. I have a humidifier in the room and try to keep the humidity at 50 or above.

December 7, 2005 at 03:10 PM · I notice trees in my area do ok in temperatures that fluctuate over a 120 degree (F) range throughout the course of the year. With wood it's all about how quickly the temperature changes (and not hitting a high enough temp to combust). Temp changes should be gradual.

Humidity gauge in my case marks 30% and 60% as the low and high ends of the 'normal' range. In summer it was around 60% and right now it's near 30%. I've noticed no difference in sound/tone, though the number of string spinouts overnight has increased as the humidity has fallen and the wood (I assume) has contracted a bit.

December 7, 2005 at 04:07 PM · I agree with Eric’s observations on wood and gradual temperature changes.

I’m in north-central Alabama. The hot, humid summers start early here, and they hang on a long time. By late March, we can get afternoon highs around 80° F. Ditto for early November. From June to early September, highs over 90° are routine. Between now and February, we can get lows in the 20s or teens, with outdoor humidity falling to 20–30%.

I keep my home at 72° during the winter — windows closed, humidity around 50%. In summer, I don’t use air conditioning nearly as much as most of my neighbors do; so the indoor summer temperature can sometimes be in the mid-80s. I prefer natural outdoor air, and hot weather doesn’t get to me as much as it does a lot of folks. If it’s, say, 95° outside, with humidity over 60%, I’ll set the air conditioning to 82°. That’s as low as I need — or want — in summer.

My violins — and strings, too, for that matter — seem to do fine with these temperatures. Regarding the ideal violin environment, there is another factor to be considered besides the violin itself — namely, the violinist who must play it. For me, personally, the 60–70° range you cited is too low. When it comes to playing such a demanding instrument, I find cold, dry conditions to be anathema. I usually jump-start my winter practice sessions by running very warm water over both hands, drying the hands, and immediately jumping into vibrato and finger-stretching routines.

My phobia isn’t playing recitals and auditions — although I no longer have to do either of these. My real dread is the prospect of having to play a recital or audition in a room with insufficient heat and humidity to provide my hands with instant grip and reliable traction.

December 8, 2005 at 06:24 AM · It is the glue that will be affected before the wood. Too much heat or it being too cold will affect the wood also, but the humidity, which can fluctuate radically from location to location even in the same temperate region must not be such that it will damage the glue (this has happened to many famous violinists, and most of the time it was a high humidity which was the culprit).

I don't think one can look at a perfect setting either, since the glue and wood will adapt to it and then change radically when put into a different environment. Many collectors have put their prized possessions in climate-controlled walk-in safes and use settings that have been set once and for all. But a violin is a living thing in many ways and if it isn't given a change of environment every now and then it will adapt to and become sensitive to the persistent environment.

The Messiah Strad gets played on once a week in the British Ashmolean museum. Otherwise, it sits under very carefully controlled conditions. This may indeed be a way to perserve the 'look' of the Strad, but I believe that it's sound is actually being damaged.

Paganini's 'Canon' is another example. It literally came apart sitting in its Italian museum home. Now they realize that it needs to 'get out for a walk' every now and then and be played more.

December 8, 2005 at 04:43 PM · I wonder if the bit about the glue applies to all instruments or just instruments of a certain age where the composition of the glue was different than now. ?

December 8, 2005 at 08:13 PM · No. I've had mine reglued at least three times. They use special glue that can be undone on purpose, in case it needs reopened for repairs.

December 8, 2005 at 08:25 PM · Yes but at what temperature? Surely something higher than 110-115 degrees F which is the highest temp you could reasonably expect in most places. I'm just wondering.

December 8, 2005 at 08:32 PM · I did some digging and it looks like these glues melt around 140-150 degrees F.

December 8, 2005 at 09:46 PM · Anyone know how hot a car gets in the sun when it's 100 degrees outside? That's how hot my fiddle got, on more than one occasion.

December 8, 2005 at 10:08 PM · More digging, looks like cars with windows up can quickly heat to 130-160 degrees on a sunny summer day.

December 8, 2005 at 11:30 PM · Definitely don't leave your violin in the sun or anyplace where the temperature is going to rise above 100-120 for very long. Sure the glue will melt and you've got a big problem, but if the wood warps you've got an even bigger problem, and ribs especially can be quite fickle as regards high temperatures.

December 14, 2005 at 12:10 AM · What's the lowest temperature at which you'd keep your violin? I have my lesson after work and I usually take my violin inside, but tomorrow I'll be in a unsecured and crowded training classroom so I'm thinking of leaving it in my car. It shouldn't get below 50. That's safe, isn't it?

December 14, 2005 at 08:09 PM · It's not so much cold temperatures that are the problem (though it's always good to make the changes gradual, as pointed out above). Low humidity is the biggest problem for me with winter. It'll get down to 20% humidity here for most of the winter, and if I don't keep the case humidified I definitely see problems -- the worst of which is when old cracks open up.

When the season suddenly changed here the day before my orchestra concert, I discovered that my soundpost was cut too short. During the summer it didn't matter, since the humidity stayed around 50% or more. When it got down to 40%, the post started to shift around -- and then fell, the night before my concert!

So the good part is that I now have a properly-cut soundpost. Still, I start to get nervous when the hygrometer needle is below 40%.

December 21, 2005 at 08:09 PM · 50 or so is normally not a problem unless you then bring it inside and set it next to your heater (not recommended). Variations in humidity are a larger problem, and care should be given to limit any drastic changes. Most recommend keeping the humdity level in the 45-55% range. Remember, the same type of temperature changes that affect your instrument also affect your bow (both the hair & the wood).

December 21, 2005 at 11:33 PM · I remember hearing once that the ideal environment for a violin is in the same location as it was made.

January 19, 2006 at 06:36 AM · the special glue is hide glue. it is interesting stuff. it shrinks surfaces together (not good for filling gaps). i have a pyrex beaker with glass peeled off the bottom of the beaker by glue that dried and curled up. yet the right kind of shock can pop it free.

any how. changes. gradual is better. in some areas of the country where summer is humid and winter is heated (dry) indoor air; seasonal adjustments are needed. some instruments have two sets of soundposts (and sometimes bridges also) to accomadate seasonal change. this is extreme. usually just a sound post adjustment is all that is necessary. avoid extremes. a violin should substitute as a canoe paddle only in an emergency.

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