In high humidity: Violin hanging or in the case?

July 1, 2018, 9:58 PM · I remember there was some consensus in to always put back the violin in the case, and not to hang it, even for the convenience to take it and practice. However now in the humid season in Asia, I am receiving the advice to hang it instead of putting it back to the case, if possible, to "let it breathe". It is true that I see that the case is regularly more humid than the room, more so with the air conditioning drying effects. If the room is at 50-55%, the case, in the same room, stays at 65% (I guess there's humidity in the inner lining that it's released slowly...). I would like to listen opinions and advice from the hardware experts...

Replies (9)

July 1, 2018, 10:28 PM · Keeping it in its case will serve to decrease the *rate* of humidity *changes* that your instrument experiences in your home.
July 2, 2018, 2:04 AM · A few things:

1) If you're measuring the case's inner humidity based on its built-in hygrometer, you should know that those things are basically never accurate.

2) If you're using an aftermarket hygrometer, you should know that those, too, are inaccurate unless they're factory-calibrated (these are usually somewhat expensive, but you can calibrate any hygrometer yourself using the salt method).

3) Paul is correct in his assertion that the case buffers the violin from *abrupt* humidity changes, but doesn't protect it from humidity overall.

David Burgess has an entire article written on his website regarding how to maintain a constant indoor humidity in your house (he may also have an article on how to calibrate hygrometers), but if you're unable to commit to such a serious routine, you may find my personal solution appealing:

1) Make a "humidity case" for your violin/s. Use some combination of wood and plexiglass, or whatever floats your boat. Really, it just needs to be a box that isn't overly moisture-permeable. Your violin case itself would suffice, except there's not enough internal room in it to do this recommendation properly, and also, this method could potentially destroy the lining of your case.
Anyways, make the humidity box at least 50% longer than your violin, so there's room in the end for a *saturated salt solution*.

2)Get some powdered potassium carbonate online and dump some of it in a bowl (so that it's a pyramid-shape). Don't inhale it. Pour some water over it and wait a bit (actually, use a sprayer bottle to mist the top). The bowl might get pretty hot from the water interacting with the dry salt. Leave it for a bit and then come back to it and see if the salt on top is dry. If it is, mist it some more. Keep repeating this until the salt stops absorbing moisture, but also don't soak it to the point that you lose the pyramid-shape that you started with.

3) I recommend putting the bowl with the salt pyramid in ANOTHER bowl, because the salt will creep over time. Also, the pyramid will eventually lose its shape but I don't think it matters all that much.

4) The main thing to look out for - once your pyramid has become flat - is a *pool* of water on the surface of your salt. If there is an 1/8" or more of water, then the salt is no longer able to absorb any more moisture. On the other hand, also look for overly-dry salt. If the salt is no longer moist, then it will only be able to absorb moisture and not to give it back, and thus the regulatory nature of the salt is lost. If that happens, spritz the salt a few times until it is once again saturated.

The whole point of the saturated salt solution: when the relative humidity in your box goes above 45%, it will absorb moisture, and when the relative humidity goes below 45%, the water within the saturated salt will passively dissipate into the air and bring it back up to 45% again.

You can also do this with other types of salt if you're looking for a different relative humidity than 45%.

Here's a chart that will tell you what to expect from some different salts:

Edited: July 2, 2018, 5:17 AM · Thank you for your answer, Erik. I would control the humidity of the violin to that 45% if I would be able to use it in controlled environments, but not being the case I decided to not go that path (unless luthiers advice me otherwise).
I use several humidifiers and de-humidification systems in the house, as I have valuable collections and even for some mundane things such as closets I have chemicals for that. But my thought has been more to avoid frequent huge jumps in humidity. Some months ago I made a humidity violin box with silica gels (I have kilos at home, waiting for use in those mundane purposes). It was very good on keeping the violin and bows at 45%, but I didn't like the results when taking it out to play at the academy or a friends' house. The soundpost is fitted for A/C room humidity and violin expansion. After a weekend in the box, I could see it was too tight and then it became normal again and then it tightened again... I'd better don't do that. And that's precisely my question about hanging it or putting it in the case: If it's better to reduce the humidity changes by leaving it outside by the cost of potential damage and dust, or accept the constant 15-20% up and down and keep it safe... Living where we live, the violin and myself must adapt... flexibly.
July 2, 2018, 7:14 AM · This is interesting--I'd never thought of this. Where I live the relative humidity averages 80% and right now is around 60%. I've always left out our (admittedly student level) violins and didn't know it was a problem.
July 2, 2018, 12:41 PM · 40-60% is safe.
July 2, 2018, 4:22 PM · Currently the daytime temperature where I live in England is a clement 32-34 (night-time is about 22-24), and relative humidity is around 30%, which is unusually low for us on this side of the Pond. The current spell of hot, dry weather has now been with us for over a week and is expected to last a few more weeks, hopefully punctuated by the occasional violent thunderstorm.

How does this affect my violin? Last Thursday I had an evening symphony rehearsal about an hour's drive from home, the hall's aircon was down and the temperature was at least 30 throughout the evening. When I took my #1 violin out of its case all four pegs immediately gracefully unwound. Fortunately, there was just about enough residual tension in the strings to hold the bridge in place while I tightened the pegs up to pitch, speaking severely to them as I did so. The pegs retained their grip and behaved themselves for the rehearsal, the concert in the hall the next day (aircon still down), and another concert in a church elsewhere (no aircon) on the Saturday.

My #1 violin was strung with gut A, D and G, and a steel E, so the pegs were set up for easy tuning of those strings. What I think happened was that the peg gunk, which I believe is wax-based, softened under the heat, thereby releasing the pegs. So I made sure I inserted the pegs just that little more tightly, and this worked. A couple of other players, one a violist, had the same problem, but not with all 4 strings. The violist remarked that the way to go to stop this sort of thing in its tracks is to have geared pegs fitted.

Edited: July 5, 2018, 6:51 PM · Further to my previous post, I have Beethoven 9 coming up next week at Clifton Cathedral in Bristol, England. The weather forecast is that there is no forecastable end to the current high temperatures. Not wanting to risk instrument tuning problems on the day with the Beethoven - or anything else for that matter - I've therefore replaced the gut strings with steel (Spirocores) and installed fine tuners so as to avoid peg tuning entirely. I'm happy to report that the violin retains its tuning, tone and playability, although its sound is obviously no longer that of the gut strung. I'll probably look into the possibility of geared pegs later on so that I can revert to gut whenever I want.
July 5, 2018, 12:44 AM · I use Eudoxa in all strings, and geared pegs without finetuners. The truth is that without those pegs I would reconsider my choice of Eudoxas for all the tune-up tune down with temperature. But with the geared pegs, the process takes less than 15 seconds and that minimizes for me the only problem of gut.
July 5, 2018, 4:47 PM · It is not humidity per se, but sudden and significant changes in humidity. There are ways to keep the inside of the case relatively dry using hydro-absorbent silica gel, or humid using a good humidifier (or the method described above). The problem is if you spend a few hours using your violin in the opposite environment: extremely dry or extremely humid. My luthier told me no to strive to keep an ideal level of humidity, but to gradually adjust my instrument to seasonal changes, trying to curb them if possible.
Your case ought to be not more than 10-20% more or less humid than your practice room. People often forget to close the case once violin is out, so it will naturally get as humid or dry as the environment. All of this.... could be ignored if one had a practice CF instrument when residing in extreme climate. my 2 cents.

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