Taking care of my instrument

December 29, 2018, 12:02 PM · I just realised my teacher neglected to teach me some very important things... Other than loosening the hairs on the bow when not in use, and dusting off the wood from the rosin dust, I was never taught how to care for my instrument...

I have a beautiful 200 year old violin I bought about 20 years ago in CT which I love very much.

I just took it in to get serviced, as I noticed the bridge had started to bend just slightly.

But could any of you answer these questions?
- What do I need to do to take care of my instrument on a daily / weekly / monthly basis?
- What do I need to look out for and react, ie. the bridge bending?
- Are there any tell-tale signs for those of us who weren't taught these things that the strings are dead etc?
- Is there an ideal height for the bridge or distance between the strings and the grip-board? (I have no idea what the English term is... English is not my first language) How does it effect the sound if the distance is smaller / greater?
- Any other things I should know?

I am a relatively seasoned violinist otherwise... I've played 2nd violin in an amateur symphonic orchestra.

Replies (6)

December 29, 2018, 12:13 PM · I recommend the book "Kitchen Table Violin Repairs" by internationally recognized luthier Dalton Potter. This book shows you, in very simple, easy-to-read fashion, what you can and should be doing by yourself (daily, weekly, etc.) and what you should be leaving to professionals.
December 29, 2018, 12:19 PM · On a daily basis, wipe off rosin from the playing area (strings and beneath) using a clean dry untreated microfiber cloth. Practically all violin shops sell or give away such cloths.

Change strings roughly every 100 to 150 hours of playing in order to keep the violin sounding optimal. You can probably go 6 months without changing your strings, even a year with some string brands, and still have the violin sound okay, but if you wait that long, you're giving up quite a bit of sound quality.

Take the violin to a luthier with every major seasonal change (either 2 or 4 times a year, depending on where you live). Have the violin looked over and the soundpost adjusted.

The luthier should spot things like seams that are opening (and thus need to be re-glued), the bridge warping (what you call "bending"), and other issues. Things like string height are something you can discuss with the luthier; there are standard heights but the whole thing really depends on the instrument's set-up.

December 29, 2018, 12:39 PM · Thank you, Lydia.

My violin is currently with a luthier who laughed when I told him that it hadn't been looked over for 20 years, as I don't know it was supposed to be looked over regularly. He's changing the bridge, fitting it with new strings, changing the bow hair and giving the violin a thorough check-up.

He recommended a slightly higher bridge than the one on it now, to give it a more clear sound, but I only have his opinion on it... I guess once I get it back a week from now, I'll know if I feel like the sound has changed and how.

December 29, 2018, 12:40 PM · Thank you, Paul.
Edited: December 29, 2018, 12:51 PM · Bridges usually warp because you don't keep them standing up straight, for most luthiers the tailpiece side of the bridge should make a right angle to the body, this needs to be adjusted fairly frequently, especially when you change strings.
December 30, 2018, 5:29 AM · Hi Malene,

When you pick up your violin ask the luthier to show you how to straighten the bridge because it is fairly easy to snap a bridge if you do not do it correctly.

One good tip for you is when you change your strings take a pencil and rub the graphite in each nut and bridge slot to let the strings slide easier when tuning.

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