Cold Weather Instrument Care
As autumn gives way to winter, with dryer and colder air on the way, your stringed instrument may be dreading it even more than you are. Here at SHAR, we live by the old Norwegian adage (some say Finnish, others say German!): “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing”. So, now that you’ve bundled up, it’s time to think about your instrument!
All luthiers will tell you that very dry air can wreak havoc on your violin, viola, cello or bass. Loosening pegs and slack strings, while annoying, are the most minor results of dry air. Opening seams are more serious. And cracks forming in the wood, especially the top, are a string player’s nightmare. Fortunately, a little careful monitoring and maintenance will prevent all these problems, with the help of reliable, easy to use and inexpensive humidification products.
- Stretto are our favorite products for humidity control because they are easy-to-use and effective.
- Dampit and Humidi Guard humidification systems have been recommended for generations by teachers, and are still our most popular. They require daily refilling.
- Oasis products have been used by guitarists for years, and they work just as well for bowed string instruments.
- Boveda is an amazing DUAL humidification system. Too Dry? It adds moisture. Too Humid? It absorbs moisture. Humidity is maintained at a safe level at all times.
Your Case is Your Instrument’s Best Friend
The best cases are well equipped to reduce the effect of severe weather and climate conditions on your instrument, and are your instrument’s first line of defense. And compared to the value of your instrument, they are a bargain!
- The Continental, from American Case, is designed from the ground up to protect your violin under all conditions. With a large vapor bottle, accurate digital hygrometer, five layer laminated shell and genuine Cordura padded cover with rain flap, Continental is the perfect case for cold, inclement weather.
- Musafia cases are as protective as they are beautiful, with winter protection built in. That’s why they are the favorite of the world’s greatest violinists.
Cold air . . . warm air . . . cold air. . . warm air . . .
It’s not that cold air is that damaging to stringed instruments; it’s more a matter of constant and rapid temperature changes. Such changes cause wood to shift, which can lead to cracks along the grain lines. Luthiers will tell you that it is critical to mitigate these changes so that they occur less rapidly. Like a warm winter coat, the idea is to create an insulating barrier to slow the creeping in of cold air.
- The SHAR Raincoat helps protect your oblong violin case when that cold, driving late autumn rain comes out of nowhere.
- Cushy case covers, cello bags and bass bags are made from high quality nylon with thick padding. All of them fully cover your instrument or case, creating an effective insulating barrier for your instrument. Like a warm winter coat!
Sometimes, It’s the Little Things That Make Life Better!
Here are our two favorite winter products that you can keep right inside your case. One of them helps you monitor humidity, and more. The other solves that annoying problem when someone opens the window in the middle of a cold winter’s night rehearsal.
- Only the Planet Waves Humiditrak will tell you what's happening in your case without even having to open it! Keep track of the humidity and temperature levels of all your instruments with a discreet Bluetooth sensor, free app and push notifications.
- Two words: Peg Drops. When winter’s cold and dry air moves in, your pegs often move out . . . right out of the pegbox! It’s no fun opening your case in the morning and finding that all your strings are slack. Peg Drops are a lifesaver!
A Cello That Doesn’t Mind the Cold?
A large instrument, such as a cello or double bass, is even more susceptible to dry air or rapid temperature changes than their smaller violin and viola cousins. The reason is that larger expanses of wood exaggerate the effect of movement. If you are on the market for a student cello or bass, consider a laminated instrument. A hybrid instrument, where the back and sides are laminated, with the top of solid carved wood, is a great solution, providing both the safety of reinforced wood with the tonal qualities of a traditional solid top.