Lazar’s Early Music

425 N. Whisman Rd., Ste. 200

Mountain View, CA 94043

Bill.Lazar@gmail.com; www.LazarsEarlyMusic.com

 

Before you start

 

The Puchalski vielles are finished with oil.  They can be wiped off with a damp cloth.  If the finish dulls over time, wipe on some oil such as almond oil, let sit for a couple of hours, then wipe off the excess with a soft cloth.  This is best done with the bridge removed and the tailpiece pulled up out of the way of the soundboard.  Mark the position of the bridge, as well as the side that faces the tailpiece, to make sure you replace the bridge properly.

Quick String Instrument Care Summary

  • When you are not playing your instrument, keep it in its closed and latched case.
  • In the winter, use a humidifier.
  • Don’t cook it.
  • Don’t freeze it.
  • Keep it clean.
  • Don’t drop it; hold it by the neck only.
  • Use the shoulder rest properly (for violins/violas).
  • Keep the bridge straight.
  • Lube the pegs.
  • Take care of the bow. Loosen the hair when you are not playing and have it rehaired once a year, or as needed.
  • Only allow qualified technicians work on your instrument.

Best Care Practices

  1. When not in use, the instrument should be kept in its closed and latched case—and this means during rehearsal breaks too! If small children have access to the case it should be locked; however no lock will keep a determined thief or vandal from opening your case. If the case cover has a zipper, remember to unzip it all the way—otherwise the zipper will fail prematurely.
  2. Extremes of temperature or humidity are not good for instruments. Rapid changes in humidity can cause open seams, cracks in the finish, and cracks in the wood itself. During dry humidity periods a tubular instrument humidifier should be used. Please refer to instructions for its use, below. Excessive humidity is also a problem, but it is more difficult to controlkeep your instrument out of the basement in the summer.
  3. Never leave your instrument in a hot car or you will get a big surprise! The temperature inside a car directly in sunlight can exceed 150° F. This is also why you should never store any musical instrument in the attic. The varnish can be damaged and instruments assembled with improper glue can literally melt apart. Conversely, a cold violin can be problematic as well. If your instrument gets below 40° F, allow it to warm up gradually in its case before you remove it. If an instrument warms up too fast the result is similar to the above humidity problems.
  4. Always wipe the rosin off of your instrument after you have finished playing. Accumulated rosin can damage the finish. Use a soft 100% cotton cloth like an old non-terry dishtowel or part of an old sweatshirt. If rosin cannot be removed, take your instrument to a qualified repair person where the rosin will be chemically removed. I no longer will sell or give formulas for violin cleaner because cleaners that actually work can often cause problems in inexperienced hands. If your instrument looks dull or covered with fingerprints you may use a commercial violin polish; however, be aware that these products contain wax and many of them do not dry thoroughly. Always apply sparingly and remove as much polish as possible with a soft cotton cloth. If the finish prints easily, then there is still too much polish on the surface.
  5. Hold your instrument by the neck only. If you have a fine instrument, the acids and oils in your perspiration can quickly wear away the varnish. Touch the top as little as possible. If you use a shoulder rest (most players use one today) be sure to attach it and remove it safely, placing the body of the violin against your torso and holding the neck in your left hand. Attach the rest with your right hand. That way no one can knock the violin out of your hand in the typical frenzy of a rehearsal. If the shoulder rest has latex covered feet, replace the latex when it becomes cracked and dry.
  6. Be sure to keep your bridge straight. The best bridge will warp if it is not maintained. Your teacher or repair person will show you how to do this.
  7. If your pegs stick during high humidity and you cannot move them do not force them or attack them with pliers! You could crack or break off the peg box. Take the instrument to your repair person, as he or she knows how to loosen them safely. Use lava soap or commercial peg dope to lubricate sticky pegs.
  8. Always loosen your bow hair when you are finished playing. Be aware that humidity has an effect on the length of the hair. Sometimes during the dry season you will not be able to loosen the hair all the way. If it is a little too tight do not worry, but if the hair is not tight enough to play, take it to a repair person and have the bow rehaired. When not actually playing always hold your bow at the frog with the tip pointing up; do not use it as a pointer, a cane, or a sword; and certainly do not bang it on a music stand to applaud a soloist! Also, do not over rosin. If you had enough rosin on your bow yesterday when you finished practicing, there is no reason to add any today. Have your bow rehaired at least once a year.
  9. If you have a problem with your instrument, take it to a competent repair person. Be advised that the vast majority of music stores do not have a qualified repair person even though they advertise repairs. Before you entrust your instrument to anyone, be sure to inquire about his or her qualifications. Be sure to examine your instrument frequently for any problems—warped bridge, open seams, cracks, etc. Small problems do not become big ones unless they are neglected

Instructions for using humidifiers: Dampits and Humitrons

  1. The indoor relative humidity in much of the US often falls far below safe levels for string instruments during the winter months (Nov. to April). The use of a tubular humidifier greatly reduces the detrimental effects of dryness (open seams, cracks, low string height, etc.).
  2. Start with cold water. Place the humidifier in the stream and squeeze water through the holes into the sponge inside. Remove it from the stream and squeeze out the excess water. Dry off the outside. Water should not drip from the humidifier—it should feel like a piece of limp spaghetti. Over-filled Humitrons and Dampits can cause major water damage inside your instrument. Provided instructions seldom warn against this problem.
  3. Place the humidifier in the lower left f-hole. Be careful of the point on the f-hole when removing the humidifier. The instrument must be in its case for the humidifier to function.
  4. The humidifier should be rinsed and refilled every day, since you are not putting that much water in it in the first place.
  5. If tap water has a high mineral content you will need to replace the humidifier once a year. Use of distilled water will greatly increase its life.

Adapted from The Violin Shop of Santa Fe