In most parts of North America, temperature and humidity levels vary dramatically from summer to winter. Stringed instruments are made principally of wood, which expands in the humid summer months and contracts in the winter. Expansion and contraction can cause minor inconveniences such as buzzing or open seams or major problems such as cracks. You can minimize humidity related problems by doing the following:
Stiff or slipping pegs are common problems. The three main reasons behind peg problems are:
Slipping pegs are common during the winter because pegs shrink when conditions are dry. In most cases, rewinding a string in the optimal manner (see: Strings section) is all that is required. If pegs continue to slip or turn unevenly poor peg fit is likely the cause. A qualified technician can refit the pegs and solve the problem. Stiff pegs are often caused by expansion due to high humidity or a lack of peg lubricant. Lubricating the peg and/or re-positioning the peg further from the peg box wall will help.
Regularly wipe excess rosin dust away from the body and strings of your instrument with a dry cloth. Rosin build-up can mar some varnishes and can make strings sound poor. If a bow is over-rosined, a grainy sound will result and rosin dust will be visible. It is not necessary to rosin your bow every time you play. For more extensive cleaning on the body of your instrument, use a mild violin polish available from your stringed instrument shop.
Replace your strings regularly to ensure your instrument always plays and sounds to its full potential. Strings gradually lose their warmth and brilliance even if an instrument is not played frequently. Active players change their strings as often as every six months for optimum sound and performance. Students should generally replace the strings on their instruments yearly. When changing strings, always replace them one at a time and make sure your bridge does not begin to lean forward or backwards. Most strings have a 'break-in' period of a few days before they settle, stay in tune and sound their very best.
To wind on a new string, maintain some tension on the string at all times. Overlap the string once before you continue to wrap it around the peg. Always take care to wind the string close to the pegbox on the same side as the peg you are adjusting. A gentle fit against the wall of the pegbox will prevent most pegs from slipping and strings from unwinding.
This carved, wooden support holds the strings at the correct height and distance from each other and transmits the sound energy from the strings to the body of the instrument. Every bridge should be precisely carved by a professional luthier and custom fit to the table of each instrument. Since the bridge is fragile and not glued or fixed to the table in any way, it is necessary to prevent impact to this sensitive area and to ensure the bridge remains straight and upright. Even with normal use and regular tuning, a bridge will gradually lean forward or back in the direction of the pegs or fine-tuners. If the bridge is left in this position it will eventually warp under string tension. A bridge that is slightly warped can be straightened at your violin shop but a severely warped bridge will need replacement. To extend the life of a bridge, regularly inspect its position and straighten it when necessary. To do this, one must grip the bridge firmly with both hands and carefully ease it back into an upright position. If you are not comfortable moving the bridge yourself, most teachers or any of our staff would be pleased to assist you.
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