How long can a violin be stored without opening it's case?

March 21, 2020, 8:07 AM · So I was studying abroad and went back home a few weeks for the holidays. Little did I know that the outbreak of CoVID-19 would prevent my school from letting me return. I stored it in my closet. Loosened the strings. Put foam under the tail piece and around the bridge so that in case it collapses it wouldn't damage the varnish.
I stored the bow in the long plastic bag thing it came in and tightly shut the end. And also of course loosened the hair. The place I went to study is very cold in the winter and just warm in the summer. My instrument has survived being stored for 3-4 weeks in the same way because I didn't have time to practice. So I know it can survive weeks. But what about months? Its been almost 2 months since I left. How long can it survive?
I should also mention that there are no luthiers there. I tried searching for them.

Replies (16)

March 21, 2020, 8:59 AM · The important issue is what is the environment temperature and humidity range where your instrument is stored. Also be sure their are no wood or hair-eating bugs or mold in the case.

I have multiple instruments. Usually only one (of a kind) has my favor for a long time so the others remain stored in their cases with no special precautions other than loosening the bow hair (which I always do after playing, anyway). These cases often remain unopened for months at a time - even a year or more (especially one of the cellos).

I have not had any problems - in fact the instruments are usually close to in tune when I do open their cases. My storage conditions are fairly stable in closets, with room temperatures between 65° and 80°F year round and fairly stable moderate humidity within 2 miles of the SF Bay.

I have followed this practice for 25 years in this environment and previously for the same amount of time living in the California desert with some of the same instruments.

March 21, 2020, 9:41 AM · Barring bugs, mold, or floods, I would think careful storage like that could go for several hundred years, or at least a lot longer than if you played the thing.
Edited: March 22, 2020, 12:13 PM · So pretty long.
Edited: March 21, 2020, 10:19 AM · Somehow a couple hundred Strads have survived for generations, sometimes in dingy attics or damp cellars, and through two world wars.

Violins are not built with a self-destruct mechanism in the event that they aren't played for a month.

March 21, 2020, 11:44 AM · Actually, the thing to worry about is the foam. Many plastics have chemicals in them thay soften varnish. You were OK to that point.
March 21, 2020, 12:05 PM · Cotton, you probably have no idea of the extensive repairs that have been performed on most of these instruments.

Edited: March 21, 2020, 2:45 PM · I'm almost exclusively a violist and rarely play violin. From February 2011 until January 2018, my violin case was only opened twice in the summer of 2013. From 2007 until this week it was never opened more than three times in a calendar year. Except for bow bugs in 2013 (subsequently remedied by keeping the violin on top of a tall bookcase), no ill effects.
March 21, 2020, 2:06 PM · Having watched some repair videos, I see the extent to which they basically have to be rebuilt from nothing. But they're played on anyways, huh?
March 21, 2020, 2:22 PM · Sure. But these are not the Strads and Guarneris which fetch prices like 18 million bucks. Just about anything can be repaired. What is suffered from the damage and the repair is a reduction in value.
March 21, 2020, 2:45 PM · It’ll last a long time... UNLESS YOU USE A BAM CASE!
March 22, 2020, 7:22 AM · If we are talking less then a year, the way you stored it will be fine. I'd remove the foam as Michael Darnton stated. You may be a little concerned about bow bugs (carpet beetle larvae) depending on your environment. The most they will do over a short period of time is nibble on the hair. If a few hairs look like they have been chewed you you'll want to take care of it. I'm actually putting a short article together on bow bugs for my blog this month. Check it out at www.adbowslllc.com/blog in the coming weeks for more info.
Edited: March 22, 2020, 10:51 AM · How long can it survive to what?
A violin stored in a case where nothing happens?
How long? Probably INFINITY?
You put foam in case the bridge collapses? What?
What is that, a closet or an oven?
Unless the bridge was set up very, very wrong, or your closet is an oven or a micro bio-habitat with winter and summer, there's absolutely no reason why the bridge would collapse. Unless, we are talking about decades. But we are not, I guess you are talking about weeks or 2-3 months.


Nothing serious is gonna happen to a violin in a closed case in a regular environment. I would understand if you asked this question because you stored your violin in the attic where the humidity is very high and have leaks, or you go from 30ºF to 90ºF every day. Seriously, in a closed case, regular conditions, inside a closet, inside a room, inside a building, what do you think can possibly happen to a violin?

March 22, 2020, 12:16 PM · And if you have gear pegs it'll probably still be in reasonable tune.
Edited: March 22, 2020, 3:05 PM · If you have a valuable instrument and are not playing on it, I would heed David Burgesse's comments. He is a very well known conservator and maker. We are fortunate to have him on this particular forum.

About 25 years ago I kept on going to John Montgomery in Raleigh NC (conservator of the Smithsonian stringed instrument collection) concerning a persistent buzzing coming from my then only 350 year old Brothers Amati violin. After a number of visits he finally and reluctantly said that it was probably about time to take of the top and redo all the previous repairs. His take was that about every 50 years or so many of the older instruments would need this to be done. I was never happier with the work that he did. I have never had any major problems with the violin since then, but when I reach the age of 120 I may have to do this again.

Always remember: Do not consider yourself to be the owner of your instrument; you are just its caretaker for a few years.

March 22, 2020, 3:36 PM · When my daughter stopped violin lessons I stored her violin pretty much the same way you described except without the foam. Last week she wanted to start playing again so I got it out for her ; it had been stored for 11 years and was still absolutely perfect.
Edited: March 23, 2020, 1:41 AM · Thank you so much everyone for the replies. Also, I should clarify that when I said foam I didn't mean the kind that's a bit hard. There's a soft spongy material in my country and we call it foam. I'm a little bit of a paranoid person when it comes to my violin so that's why I used something soft. There's nothing I can do about it now but perhaps next time I'll listen to your advice and experiences and not use it.


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