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String Instrument Care

Turn Your Pegs!!! This cannot be emphasized enough. Your instrument is made of wood, and just like any other piece of wood, it will swell in the summer and shrink in the winter. In summer, this swelling can be so extreme that you will not be able to turn the pegs. Do not rely solely on fine tuners for your tuning. At least once a week, Turn Your Pegs.

• Do consider yourself the current caretaker of your string instrument. With proper care, your instrument will provide music for generations of musicians.

• Do make sure the instrument is secured in the case by way of a tie or padding so that it does not rub against the bow.

• Do not prop up the instrument in such a manner that it could fall over. This is especially true of cellos and basses. If they fall, the neck is very likely to break. Do not place violins or violas on a chair because someone will certainly sit on them or knock them off.

• Do clean the violin and bow after each use with a soft cloth or chamois in order to prevent an unsightly build-up of rosin. Bow rosin is a by-product of turpentine making and can damage some violin varnishes. A heavy layer of rosin on the instrument can affect the tone. Do NOT use alcohol to clean the instrument. Alcohol will dissolve some finishes.

• Do keep the instrument away from the fading effects of sunlight.

• Do replace strings one at a time in order to maintain pressure on the instrument and to minimize the risk of the soundpost falling. String instruments can take days to stabilize once the pressure of the strings is applied. This stabilization is temporarily lost if all the strings are removed at the same time. Change one string at a time if you decide to replace the entire set. When changing or replacing a string, lubricate the bridge groove and nut groove with pencil lead (graphite). This helps the string to slide freely over these areas and not stick. This is also a good time to lubricate the peg. If a commercial peg compound is used, apply it sparingly. An excellent peg compound is a combination of LAVA hand soap and sidewalk chalk. These items can often be found at many grocery or drug stores.

• Do avoid abrupt changes in heat or humidity. String instruments are made of very thin wood and are sensitive to sudden changes in heat or humidity.

• Do loosen the strings immediately if the soundpost should fall. The downward pressure of the strings can damage the top, especially the area of the right bridge foot, if the bridge is not supported by the soundpost.

• Do loosen the bow hair after each use in order to minimize deforming the bow. Remember to grasp the bow frog when tightening or loosening the hair.

• Do keep an eye on the bridge position. It should be located in the center of the instrument between the nicks of the f-holes, perpendicular to the long axis of the instrument. The side of the bridge facing the tailpiece should be perpendicular or lean very slightly toward the tailpiece. A side view of the instrument shows that the angle made by the bridge and strings is more acute on the tailpiece side than on the scroll side, therefore, the pressure the strings exert is greater on the tailpiece side. This in turn causes the bridge top to creep toward the scroll when playing and tuning. If the bridge top moves too far forward, it could warp or fall over. Gently pry the bridge top back when this happens. Loosening the strings a bit will make this easier. This is another reason for keeping the bridge string grooves lubricated with pencil lead (graphite). A close examination of the bridge should reveal horizontal grain lines. If you pretend that these lines represent logs stacked on top of one another, it becomes clear that in order for this pile of logs not to tip over, the logs need to remain vertical.

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