Back to School Strings Tips, Part 1

As young players are dusting off their instruments or planning to rent following summer break, these maintenance tips will help keep stringed instruments in the best playing condition.

Always store your instrument and bow in a case or bag, making sure to loosen the bow hair before putting it into the proper protective compartment.

Never expose the instrument to direct sunlight or sudden changes in temperature or humidity. Store it in a place with moderate humidity, away from radiators or hot air vents. Never leave an instrument in a car in extremely hot or cold weather.

Stringed instruments need at least 50% relative humidity to maintain their adjustments and integrity. Use a Dampit to insure that sudden changes in humidity don’t crack your instrument or cause it to go out of adjustment. The Dampit should be remoistened daily whenever the heat is on and especially during the winter months. Case-mounted humidifiers are not a substitute for a Dampit and using steam vaporizers in the music room is recommended for added protection during the dry season.

Remove rosin dust and use a microfiber cleaning cloth to wipe down the strings and body of your instrument after every playing session. Periodic polishing will maintain the instrument’s luster, but avoid using alcohol because it can damage the varnish.

A fresh hank of bow hair can last for just 120 playing hours, meaning your bow should be rehaired once every six months if you play half an hour a day, five days a week. Loosen the bow when it’s not in use and keep polish and fingers away from the bow hair.

The feet of the bridge should always be aligned with the inner notches cut in the F holes. It must be kept in a perpendicular position. Tuning the strings tends to pull the bridge forward, so check its position frequently. If neglected, the bridge may warp, or even break. If it requires adjusting, grasp the bridge at both upper corners with the thumb and first fingers of each hand while holding the instrument firmly. Then gently move the top of the bridge to a perpendicular position.

— Nicole Springer, © National Association for Music Education

Originally published August 31, 2010.