String Instrument Maintenance
You purchase your first instrument, bring it home, and take it out of the case. Now what?
All musicians must learn to take care of their instruments. Here are some rules to always follow:
Wash your hands
Washing your hands will minimize the amount of oil, dirt, and grime that will build up on your instrument and cause your fingers to slip off. Additionally, it will prevent an odor. Just like nobody wants to be near a stinky friend, nobody wants to be near a stinky instrument.
Rosin your bow
Rosin is made from tree sap. String players put it on their bows to make their bow hair sticky. When you pull a sticky bow across the string, it makes the string vibrate and it produces good sound. If you have just started lessons and are practicing less than 30 minutes a day, I recommend rosining your bow once a week. If you play more, rosin it more. You don't need to worry about over-rosining your bow because any excess rosin will come off while you play.
Loosen bow hair
Loosening the hair will make your bow last longer and relieve tension from the stick. Be sure not to loosen it too much or else the hair will get tangled and the screw will come off. If you're not sure how much to loosen it, ask your teacher and he/she will be happy to help.
Wipe off excess rosin
Use a soft cloth to wipe the rosin off the body of the instrument, strings, and stick of the bow. If you do this every day, it will keep your instrument clean and feeling like new.
Put it away
The best way to store your instrument is in its case. If you are only taking a short practice break and need to set it down without completely packing it away, make sure that you never set the instrument on its bridge; the bridge is very fragile, and you don't want it to collapse. A violin or viola should always be placed in its case with the strings facing up. A cello should always be placed on its side in a safe place where it will not be knocked over or stepped on. Set the bow on the music stand or other sturdy surface with the hair facing out so it doesn't come into contact with more oils or dirty materials.
Don't touch the bow hair
When you touch the hair, the oils from your hands get on the hair and reduce the ability for the bow to grip the strings. This slows down the vibrations and prevents your instrument from ringing. The more your strings ring, the better sound you will produce.
If you're playing approximately 30 minutes a day, change your strings once per year. When you begin to play more, you will have to change them more often. Consult your teacher or instrument rental shop for guidance.
Don't leave it in the car
The instrument is sensitive to humidity and temperature changes. In the heat, the instrument glue will melt. In the cold, the wood will crack. Always bring your instrument inside with you. Never leave it in the car. If your instrument breaks due to leaving it in the car, insurance will not cover the damages.
At StringTime, we teach our students how to properly maintain their valuable instrument from day one. Our program will set your child up properly for a lifetime of music making.
Lourdes de la Peña and the StringTime Family