Summer is coming!

April 8, 2019, 10:14 AM · My question is about the safest indoor temp range for violins. I've read, here and elsewhere, that the optimal temp range is 60-70 degrees, but my apt will never be that cold in the summer. I like summer temps between 78-83 depending on humidity. Now that winter has passed my violin stays on a stand for ease of access.

Is 78 too high a temperature for my violin? I assume >80 degrees is... am I just overthinking this? I do understand the dangers of leaving it in the car, or in the sun during the summer. Thanks in advance!

Replies (10)

April 8, 2019, 10:21 AM · To some extent I think it depends on how finicky your violin is. Inasmuch as you don't seem to have any other option, you might just try and see. Humidity might be just as important as temperature too.
April 8, 2019, 10:37 AM · The great and classic string instruments made in northern Italy were subject to the wide natural variations of temperature and humidity of that locale's climate. A large number of those instruments are still with us and still being played and still great.

80° F is definitely not too warm for a violin. I keep my violins and violas in their cases unless I am actually playing them, but I have been keeping one of my cellos out in a stand for the past 20 years, 19 of those with no summer AC. My local climate is similar to that of northern Italy.

I also have one violin that has been with me long enough to have survived 100% RH with temps in the 90s and 5% RH with temps to over 100. "No sweat" - at leat not from the violin!

April 8, 2019, 10:51 AM · Thanks Andrew and Paul, this was my assumption starting out but the more I looked into it the more I started overthinking. My violin's tuning is normally quite stable, so I have this in mind as a good thing to watch to get an idea how finicky it may be this summer. Indianapolis isn't as humid as, say, Atlanta so that shouldn't be an issue.
Edited: April 8, 2019, 11:06 AM · Catherine, 78 degrees should be fine. I'd worry much more about extremes in humidity.

Andrew wrote:
"The great and classic string instruments made in northern Italy were subject to the wide natural variations of temperature and humidity of that locale's climate. A large number of those instruments are still with us and still being played and still great."

Andrew, we've been through this before. Most of those instruments are still with us due to the heroic efforts of some really talented restorers. Most people have no idea of all the complex restorations and repairs they have undergone to keep them in service.

Yes, just about anything is fixable (at least temporarily), but at what cost in repairs and depreciation?

April 8, 2019, 11:26 AM · David - what would you consider the danger point for humidity?
Edited: April 8, 2019, 11:56 AM · I always keep the humidity in my shop between 40 and 60 percent. I consider the danger point of high humidity to be around 80 percent relative humidity, because that's the level where wood becomes so flexible that it deforms badly under stress (string tension).

On the low humidity end, the danger is more from cracking due to contraction of wood as moisture levels decrease. However, frequent cycling between high and low moisture content can not only increase the probability of cracking, but also produce even more deformation than high humidity alone.

Museums tend to take great pains to keep temperature and humidity constant all the time. Out in the real instrument-use world, this is pretty much impossible, so that's why I try to recommend a reasonable range. Not that constant temperature and humidity are not better.

April 8, 2019, 12:27 PM · This winter I was able to keep humidity in that room between 45/50% pretty easily, or at least in that ballpark as my room hygrometer is pretty basic. The saline test helped me understand its limitations. Will keep an eye on it this summer and try to keep it under control. Thanks for the info everyone!
April 8, 2019, 1:09 PM · Correct humidity > correct temperature.

Violins can withstand quite extreme temperatures, but rapid or large fluctuations in humidity can cause a lot of damage.

April 8, 2019, 1:20 PM · I've been in north-central Alabama almost 18 years, around the 34th parallel. Hot, humid summers start early here and hang on a long time. In fact, it's warm enough about 8 months every year to practice and play in the garage. I regularly play the evening sessions out there, where the temp is often 85 F. -- give or take. I use a compact floor fan, about 10 feet away, when it gets that warm. The air current makes the room comfortable and keeps excess moisture from building up on the hands.

All three fiddles have held up just fine over the years -- no guarantee that someone else's instruments would do as well. I avoid sudden temperature and humidity changes. The lowest I'll set the air conditioning indoors is 82 -- I tolerate heat better than most other people -- and I don't even need the a/c unless it's really hot outdoors, over 90, and very humid. Most days, for me, floor fans and open windows are enough.

April 8, 2019, 2:56 PM · Thanks Cotton and Jim for adding to the conversation - I think I knew that proper humidity was more important than temperature, but it's really helpful to have it laid out that way. Most of information I've found online addressed winter conditions, or extreme outdoor summer conditions but little in between. I love my workshop intermediate violin, I won't outgrow it for quite sometime (if ever) and want to do what I can to keep it in good condition.


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