Advice for the most weather-tolerant violin?

August 31, 2018, 1:06 AM · Hi,

Does anyone have advice for the most weather-resistant option for a violin (preferably either a super cheap violin shaped object or a type of rain protection)? I just started playing with this student folk group in Norway and we will be playing outside quite a bit. While I of course won't be playing in rainstorms, the weather here is freezing and unpredictable so I'm looking for something that can handle a few snowflakes and cold temperatures. While my current violin is still a 'student' level violin, it nonetheless is worth more than my car and it means the world to me. I can't see it suffer in bad weather. Does anyone have any thoughts or ideas?

Thank you so much!!

Replies (15)

Edited: August 31, 2018, 1:42 AM · You may have second thoughts about playing outside in freezing weather once you have actually tried doing so. It's very difficult to play when you cannot feel your fingers and they are too stiff to move. I have played for a wedding or two where it was in the fifties (Fahrenheit) and it was a completely miserable experience.

Anyway, you'll probably want a carbon fiber violin for this sort of thing. They exist, but they're not cheap.

BTW cold temperatures aren't good for violins but moisture is worse...snow may be pretty but it's still water.

August 31, 2018, 2:48 AM · I've never tried one myself, but a Glasser AEX carbon composite violin might be worth considering for your circumstances. It couldn't hurt to try one.
August 31, 2018, 5:34 AM · Buy a set of fingerless knit Thinsulate gloves and practice playing in them. As Mary Ellen said, playing with cold hands is a miserable experience, but fingerless gloves really can help a lot when temperature is in the 50's.

Violin and water just don't mix. Playing with wet bow hair is impossible.

August 31, 2018, 6:02 AM · I think the most weather-tolerant violin should be a new one.
Edited: August 31, 2018, 6:57 AM · Get a good new violin made by an experienced luthier who works in your area and fully understands the climate you and the violin inhabit. But for playing out of doors in snow and rain -- if you must -- get yourself a cheap second instrument, or as Mary Ellen suggests, a carbon fibre violin.
August 31, 2018, 7:31 AM · Also consider a no-wood bow with synthetic hair.
August 31, 2018, 8:39 AM · I use a less expensive, contemporary (2015) violin for outdoor playing for greater tuning stability and reduced emotional/financial risk. To echo what others have said though, playing in the cold is no fun at all, and personally, I would not have even my outdoor instrument out of its case if any water (frozen or otherwise) were coming down from the sky. The likelihood of damage is too great.
Edited: August 31, 2018, 9:03 AM · Check out YouTube for several comparisons of the Glasser Carbon Fiber violin (there's two models, acoustic, and acoustic/electric), knowing that videos don't always convey the sound very well. To me, they have a hollow, cavernous sound (and not in a good way), but not completely dreadful. But, I've never played one or heard one live.

Then there's always the Chinese plywood ones! ;-)

Also, some of the videos carry a lot of room reverb, which to me disguises the sound of the violin.

August 31, 2018, 9:01 AM · Andrew alludes to another issue with playing outside -- horse hair. Horse hair is so directly reactive to humidity that a coil of it powers many hygrometers. Not that those are accurate, but that is another discussion...

I also use an alternate instrument when forced to play outdoors, and a CF bow. I havne't been in such extreme conditions that I have needed to consider synthetic hair, but you might based on your OP.

August 31, 2018, 10:10 AM · CF/composite violin with steel strings, and a CF bow with synthetic hair.

But playing outside when it's cold sucks. If you're not doing anything complicated with your right hand, you may be able to get away with a thin glove. On the left hand you can potentially use fingerless gloves, but it's hard to do anything when your left hand is cold.

However, what you really want is a way to warm your hands between songs. Chemical warmers weren't available the last time I played in weather like that, but these days I'd almost certainly go with disposal hand warmer packets, I think. You want the warmth to go up to your elbows where possible.

Everyone's mentioning temperatures in the 50s (Fahrenheit) but if it's cold enough to snow, it's going to be a lot colder than that -- close to freezing, if not below (32 F). The 50s is doable but not pleasant. When it gets colder than that, you have to be pretty resilient.

I remember playing Christmas carols at an outdoor mall in the Chicago area during December, during my childhood, and it was awful. (I was playing on a crappy fractional, and there was an awning, so it never got wet.) Indeed, we went inside to continue pretty quickly, but it sure made an impression on me.

August 31, 2018, 10:38 AM · My point in mentioning my experience with temperature in the 50s was to imply that anything below that would be intolerable since the OP had mentioned snow. Apologies if that was not clear.
August 31, 2018, 1:30 PM · "CF/composite violin with steel strings"

Wouldn't steel strings be even more sensitive to moisture (rust!) than nylon ones? Or are they usually made of stainless steel?

August 31, 2018, 3:27 PM · Thank you all so much for your great advice! I really appreciate your help. Based on your advice, I'll definitely rethink participating in the outdoor events in the colder months. For the months where the temperatures are more bearable, I might just try with a carbon fiber bow and a cheap 'beater' instrument. It might not give the best sound, but since it's a non-professional/student orchestra, I figure I'll sacrifice sound quality for my peace of mind in case the weather takes a turn and it gets exposed to the rain. The composite violin sounds like it could be a great option but is unfortunately outside of my budget. Thank you so much for your help!
August 31, 2018, 6:10 PM · I hate my beautiful wood-looking plastic electric violin, but it is impervious to temperature and humidity and physically very robust, which is why I never worry taking it to construction sites where I work so I can practice during lunch.
Edited: September 3, 2018, 9:17 PM · I second those suggesting the CF fiddle. I have a Glasser CF violin (cost about $500), which I got for travel.

As others have noted the sound is not exactly wood-like, but I kind of dig it. It is a cool crisp tone that I enjoy for a different experience.

That crisp tone is THE tone it has and it just doesn't have the complexity to do otherwise. I'd not recommend it for a beginner as it does not give 'negative` feedback for lazy bowing.

But it sounds better than the various beaters I tested out for travel, many of which were more than the $500 paid for it. It is even and extremely easy to play.

And it literally does not care what the weather is.

Edits: I have played it in actual rain and it did not care at all. I have a spare fitted bridge just in case, but haven't had to use it.

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