SUMMER INSTRUMENT CARE
In the summer time, the living can be easy, as the song goes. However, heat and changes in humidity can wreak havoc with your bowed instrument if proper care is not heeded.
The physics of your instrument during seasonal change is fundamental.
- In the winter, wood contracts.
- In the summer, wood expands.
- Humidity becomes more natural in your home during the warmer seasons, whereas, you may need to add a humidifier in your home during winter to keep your instrument from becoming too dry.
Humidity causes expansion of the wood and can raise the height of your strings off the fingerboard by pushing your bridge upward. As this occurs, your sound post can also fall out of position. Open seams and cracks can also occur especially when humidity is combined with heat, resulting in costly repairs and sometimes irreversible damage.
Your peg box can be effected by temperature change also. In the summer, as wood expands from rising humidity, you may find the peg holes and pegs expand, becoming stuck and difficult to turn.
The summer months tend to offer ample opportunity to perform or jam with friends out of doors. Avoid exposing your instrument to rapid temperature changes and direct sunlight. When traveling about, never leave your instrument in the car. Never.
Your Bow and the Summer
Remember, it is not just your instrument that can suffer the effects of temperature change and humidity. Your bow is equally vulnerable to exposure. Even if yours is a composite of synthetic materials, the condition of the bow hair and its correct placement in the bow at either end can be impacted in a negative way. If your bow hair develops an improper fit (shrinking hair in hot, dry weather), the camber, or curve of the bow, can be damaged and permanently altered. A bow can break under these conditions.
What Can You Do?
What can a musician do to help ensure the health and wellbeing of their bowed instrument? Just as the physics of your instrument is fundamental, so are the steps everyone can take to prevent seasonal and weather related damage from occurring.
- Clean your instrument and bow with a proper instrument cloth after each practice , or playing session.
- Never allow rosin to accumulate on your wood or strings.
- Use care to properly tighten and loosen your bow hair before and after you play.
Take Steps Now
The single best investment you can make to help insure the health and playability of your bowed instrument is to make an appointment with your luthier every 6 months for routine inspection and maintenance. During this service you can have your pegs seasonally treated to avoid them becoming stuck, or so loose that you have trouble staying in tune. You might even consider being fitted for both a summer and a winter sound post.
How well your bowed instrument fares from one season to the next is largely up to you. By taking a few very basic precautions based on a basic understanding of the nature of your instrument, you can easily prevent most of the pitfalls resulting from changing temperature and humidity.