Instrument Care

Be an angel!

Stringed instruments need a little loving care to keep them humming. Following are some tips to help you keep your instrument in top shape.

Instruments

Prevent dirty buildup

After you play your instrument, use a soft, lint-free cloth to wipe dirt and rosin off. A microfiber cloth works quite well. Unfortunately, rosin will eventually coat the surface of the top and fingerboard anyway. At this point, it is time to have it cleaned by a professional who will use a mild solvent and the appropriate polish. Many commercial cleaners/polishes contain oils or waxes that form a film on the varnish surface. Wax or polish may find its way into cracks and make your instrument difficult to repair in the future. It is best to avoid using these cleaners.

Change your strings

A good rule of thumb is to replace your strings every six to twelve months. String life will vary by the type of string you use and how you play your instrument. It’s time to change your strings when:

  • The part of the string that is wrapped around the peg starts to fray.
  • The string no longer produces a clear pitch.
  • The string is no longer resonant.
  • Tilt! Remember the 90 degree rule.

Check the angle of your instrument’s bridge frequently because the friction of tuning usually tilts the bridge forward. A bridge is leaning when it doesn’t fully contact the top of the instrument on the tailpiece side of the bridge. The back of the bridge should also be nearly perpendicular to the top of the instrument. Leaning bridges eventually warp or collapse. If your bridge is leaning, ask us to show you how to pull your bridge upright. We won’t charge you.

String heights need seasonal adjustment, especially on cellos.

Many cellos do best with two bridges; one for summer and one for winter. If string heights above the fingerboard feel too high or too low, we can correct this by adjusting the bridge height or the contour of the fingerboard. Fingerboards should occasionally be smoothed to remove string grooves or finger dents.

Control humidity

During the winter when dry heat and cold sap moisture from the wood, use a device such as a Dampit or Planet Waves humidifier to raise the humidity. Many cases come equipped with a humidification system.

Keep your cool

In the summer, the biggest risk to an instrument is overheating. Summer temperatures inside a closed car can melt or crack instrument varnish in minutes.

Check your joints!

Open seams buzz and detract from the sound of your instrument. At least once a year, particularly during and after winter, check the joints or seams of your instrument between the sides and the top or back of the instrument. These loosen frequently because the relatively weak glue here is designed to release if changes in the weather build up stress. This helps to prevent the top or back from cracking. We easily can glue the joints if you do not allow them to stay open and accumulate dirt.

Please stop by and we will check your instrument’s seams as a free service.

Kids (and adults)…put your instrument away in its case

Storing your instrument in a high-quality case is its first line of defense. For higher-quality instruments, we recommend suspension cases, which may prevent damage if the case takes a hit. Contemporary composite cases can be both protective and lightweight. Need we say more?

Bows

Loosen your bow

Too many students forget to loosen their bows when they are done playing. If you leave tension on the bow hair, your bow stick will gradually loose its curve (camber) and it will need to be repaired.

Get really good rosin

If you use really good rosin like Bernardel, Hill, or Pirastro, your bow hair will last longer. It’s worth the extra dollar or two.

Have your bow rehaired

Your bow needs new hair when the hair no longer grips the strings or when it starts breaking frequently. Professionals and others who play a lot should have their bows rehaired about every six months. If you play a bit less (I won’t tell your mom), take it in for a rehair about once a year.