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Care and maintenance are very important to teach students at the very beginning of violin lessons. I often ask my violin students to treat their instrument like they treat their pet. While violin cases do provide some protection, like a pet, violin students need to make sure to not swing their cases around, drop it, or hit it against objects. By treating the case gently, students can avoid knocking their instrument out of tune and dislodging the sound post or the bridge.
Most violin cases come with fabric covers or sleeves for the violin. These should be used. The same fabric or a soft cloth can be used to gently wipe down the strings and the front of the instrument after practicing and helps prevent rosin build up. Because of the oils on the skin, a violinist should only touch the neck, strings, fingerboard, pegs, tuners, and occasionally the upper bout. Always wash your hands before practicing and before violin lessons! Most old violins will show evidence of oil build up on the upper bout. While the grime build up can be cleaned, it does wear down the varnish of the instrument.
The bow hair should also not be touched for the same reason; oil can cause build up and can make the hair very slick. Bows also need to be treated with extreme care. The tip in particular is fragile, and if dropped, can break. As the stick is under a great deal of tension, repairing a stick is not always effective, and a new bow may have to be purchased to replace a broken one.
Instruments should never be left in cars for reasons of extreme heat/cold and also theft. In general, a violin that is maintained, played regularly, and cared for will usually stay that way. Instruments that are neglected can fall out of tune over time. A big part of maintenance is making sure to replace your strings and rehair your bow regularly. In violin lessons, I recommend that the bow hair get replaced after about an eighth of the hair has broken. You will see the ribbon of hair become much thinner or disappear from one side of the bow. If a hair breaks, remove the remaining parts from the bow carefully by using scissors and not by pulling the hair. By pulling the hair, you risk pulling the plug from the tip or the ferule. You can also pull out other hairs, which mean that a costly rehair will have to happen that much sooner. Rehairs should be done by a professional. Strings should get replaced approximately twice a year (depending on use). Keep an eye on your strings…if you see the metal winding start to stretch or fray, it’s time to replace!
When changing your violin strings, your violin teacher or a violin shop can do this, or you can try it yourself! If you are comfortable tuning with your pegs, you’ll probably have the finger strength and the ability to change your strings. First step is to remove the old string. Next, take a pencil and mark inside the groove at the nut and at the bridge. The graphite helps lubricate these areas that are most known for breaks. Changing a string takes practice and can be difficult, so be patient and when in doubt, go to your violin shop to have them replace the string. If you have to replace more than one string, make sure you do two alternating strings at a time to reduce the strain on the instrument. I usually replace my G and A string, wait a week for them to settle and stretch out (by this point, they should hold their pitch pretty well) and then I replace the D and the E. To replace a string, I strongly recommend this tutorial:
If you are interested in violin lessons, go to the contact page and send me a note! I’m looking forward to working with you! Until then, Happy Practicing!