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Is humidifying my violin case possible?

July 21, 2022, 5:09 PM · I recently bought a new violin and I am considering getting a humidifier and hygrometer as my climate and room is on the drier side.
My violin is well contained. Meaning it goes in a bag (that came with the case) before being put into the actual case and then a thick piece of fabric is laid over that covering the violin completely.
My real question is will all of this fabric prevent the humidifier and hygrometer from having any real effect?

Replies (9)

July 21, 2022, 6:54 PM ·
No, all of those materials are porous, and humidity will distribute itself evenly throughout the case.

In fact, fabrics will adsorb moisture, and help keep the case evenly humidified.

Use something like a Stretto humidifier, do not use a Dampit under any circumstances.

July 21, 2022, 9:27 PM · My unhumidifed apartment can go down to 20% humidity in the winter but it usually about 30%. I have a Core double violin case which is wood. I use 4 65% Boveda packs, one over each peg box and one a couple of inches away toward the tailpiece. They keep the humidity 40-50%. Boveda packs require some maintenance, reconstituting with water before the contents begin to gel. A set of packs lasts all winter.
July 21, 2022, 10:35 PM · I suggest you visit David Burgess's website as he has written extensively on this topic and his analysis and recommendations are based on deep experience and methodical testing of various devices.
Edited: July 24, 2022, 1:25 PM · Before saying anything about humidifying a case I'd like to say that I would beware of an instrument bag. My experience is that there is an added risk to the kind of handling that using an instrument bag creates. I think a supportive case and blanket are sufficient. This obviously has nothing to do with humidifying a case!

Certainly careful humidification of a case is preferable to insertion of moisture inside the instrument (i.e. dampit) - but I recall when the concertmaster of the Columbus, OH symphony came to play the Lalo concerto with our orchestra she mentioned that she had 2 Dampits in her Vuillaume while on the plane (she was a native of our county - that's why she came there).

I think of the classic violins that have survived centuries in the varying natural temperatures and humidity of (baroque and later) Italy and other countries with no central indoor atmospheric controls and I really wonder just how much we have to worry about this problem.

I have played my instruments when dripping sweat on them due to the heat and humidity (that's what eventually leads to the wear and discoloration to the right of the tailpiece) and at 100°F outdoors in the California desert. I will admit to avoiding playing in direct sunlight. But I'm pretty sure I have played instruments outdoors at high temperatures at less than 10% RH for late summer evening Pops concerts (and their morning dress rehearsals).

I have had a couple of seam gaps occur (I really mean just a couple out of 9 instruments and in over 70 years) - but I have crystals of hide glue I can "activate" and appropriate clamps. I did keep my 2nd desert home humidified (50% RH) in winter (and evaporatively cooled in summer - but for the 11 years in our previous desert house we did not have winter humidification.

With our current home we never set the winter thermostat above 68°F at any time instruments might be out of their cases - and lower at night.

July 24, 2022, 8:25 PM · I had a luthier recommend shortening the ribs of an antique fiddle that had been subjected to American central heating for too long. So it isn’t totally trivial.

Nowadays I put Boveda 49% or 59% packs in the case. Sometimes one has to season the case a bit by having it sit in a bathroom with the shower running. Wood absorbs moisture, but it takes a while.

Edited: July 25, 2022, 11:27 AM · Andrew V, I agree with you on the added handling risk of removing and replacing an instrument to and from a bag.

However, you have brought up the notion of the classic violins having survived centuries in the varying natural temperatures and humidity of (baroque and later) Italy and other countries with no central indoor atmospheric controls before, and I continue to refute this notion. Most people have no idea of the extent to which most of these instruments have required extensive repair and rebuilding, often more than once, to keep them on the playing circuit. You may not know about this, but I do, having had frequent interaction with those in the high-end restoration business for about 50 years, and having done a lot of this myself.

Can we finally retire your erroneous notion, please?

July 25, 2022, 11:16 AM · David B. - I think this is the 2nd time you have had to tell me this. Hopefully I will remember it before the next time :)
July 29, 2022, 4:40 PM · My email just delivered this to me from STRINGS magazine:

Managing the Humidity Level of Your Instrument is a Matter of Balance
October 19, 2020

By Elizabeth Marshall

Though musicians are taught to keep a violin, viola, cello, or double bass properly humidified during the dry winter season, over-doing it with the humidifier can create a different—and occasionally grosser—set of problems for string players. Finding the right balance between too much and too little humidity isn’t difficult to manage, but a few telltale signs will let you know when you’ve gone too far in one direction or the other.

While dry air from indoor heaters keeps many string players focused on properly humidifying their instruments and bows, depending on your region and the relative humidity of your surroundings, a humidifying system may not be necessary for daily use. The ideal relative humidity range for a stringed instrument and its bow is somewhere in the neighborhood of 40–60 percent, and depending the system of cooling and heating in your home, a dehumidifier might actually be necessary to maintain a healthy instrument.

A reader recently wrote Strings to describe how a teacher threw away a moldy case humidifier that the student’s mother dutifully filled every day and left in the case. Though tossing the humidifier may have been a bold move on the teacher’s part, he wasn’t necessarily wrong to take such a definitive action against mold—it can be a real health issue for you and for your violin. Because many of the commonly used humidifiers are relatively inexpensive, they’re easily replaceable and should be tossed out if mold is suspected.
Too Much Humidity

Exposure to too much humidity can affect your instrument in other ways as well, and may even make the wood swell. When this happens, the soundpost can lose its footing inside the instrument, giving you a mushy, flabby sound. Overall, in an environment that is too humid, the instrument and bow will become sluggish and uncomfortable to play. Excess humidity can also cause the seams of an instrument to open, which is not a major repair issue, but will necessitate a trip to the violin shop. And as people who live in tropical locations might know, in extreme cases, the wood of a violin can start to warp if exposed to sustained, unrelenting moisture. It would take a very high relative humidity to cause this to happen, but it is not unheard of.

August 5, 2022, 5:16 PM · A good article on line today:

https://stringsmagazine.com/manage-the-humidity-level-of-your-instrument/?utm_source=Strings&utm_campaign=4f248e5db0-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_03_27_STN_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5c9b2872ef-4f248e5db0-362782833&mc_cid=4f248e5db0&mc_eid=a21bd8a5a8

Some things to recall:

1. I have seen a bow break because of low humidity due to summer air conditioning.

2. When one of the cellos made by my California-desert luthier friend was moved to Seattle, WA it actually "fell apart" and had to be re-glued together (so he told me).

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