Caring for Your Instrument in Winter

Winter is coming and it is time to take those necessary seasonal precautions for your instrument.

Never heard of this before today? It comes down to low humidity, temperature, and rapid changes in environment between buildings, air conditioned vehicles, and the outdoors. The violins expand and contract in response to the humidity levels. Being conglomerates of spruce, maple, and ebony, the various parts of the instrument do so at different rates and, thus, the instrument can crack, seams between the parts can become unglued, pegs can get stuck, and more. When the temperature becomes extremely cold, the wood grows brittle, making the risk of cracks higher. Lastly, in modern times, we have air conditioned buildings and vehicles, leading to drastic changes in environment when an instrument travels from one place to another. All of these factors lead to a high risk of damage to your instrument. This may sound like another burdensome to-do on your long list if you are inexperienced with these instruments.

Not to worry! Here are some basic precautions that you can take that will protect your instrument from weather-related damage:

  1. Acquire a violin humidifier (or viola, cello, bass, etc.). This is an inexpensive accessory that can fit in your instrument case. This small apparatus holds water and releases it into the body of the instrument naturally (no electricity required!). All that you have to do is check the humidity levels on that weather app that you have and, when it is below 40% humidity, fill the humidifier with water and keep it inside of the body of the instrument when not being played. This is probably the most important step that you can take, since the instrument will have to go outside, in cars without humidification, and in buildings with suboptimal conditions.

  2. Leave your instrument in the case when changing environments and let it sit in the case for some time until you take it out to use. In other words, try to arrive early at rehearsal, practice, and performance locations so that the instrument can sit in the case and acclimate to the new environment after coming in from the cold.

  3. Heat up your car before bringing the instrument outside. It is often extreme changes in humidity and temperature that cause negative reactions in the wood.

  4. Humidify the room where you store your instrument with a humidifier or invest in an air conditioning system that does so and make sure that the storage environment stays at around 50% humidity. This is highly recommended for optimal protection.

It is important to be prepared for the coming changes in weather and to develop the right habits in order to care for the instrument and prevent it from damage. Now that you are aware, we hope that you'll be ready for it!