4 Spring cleaning tips for fiddlers

by Katrina VanTyne

instrument careSpring has finally arrived, according to the calendar at least. And though there is still a ton of snow on the ground here in Vermont, there is no better time like the present to do some spring cleaning on your instrument.

Winter can wreak havoc on instruments so now is the time to take a good hard look at it and tidy up some of the things we have neglected over the last few months. Here are a four tips to get you started:

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Winterizing your instrument

instrument careWhen strings are a popping, wood is a cracklin’ and you can’t keep your instrument in tune, you know it can only mean one thing – winter is back. Though I love the crisp winter air after a fresh snowfall, it surely takes a toll on one’s instrument.

The dry winter air can cause your strings to unravel, wood to crack, glue to weaken and suddenly what was a beautiful instrument becomes a product of Christmas past.

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Winter is here so be kind to your instrument

Instrument Care

Winter has officially arrived here in Vermont. Today, I broke out the puffy jacket, it was cold and snowy. It won’t be long before we’re riding down the mountain on snowboards humming our favorite tunes while dodging skiers and flat-landers (I can say that cause I was one). I can’t wait.

With cooler days and the lovely white stuff well on its way, you need to take extra special care of that instrument of yours. Here are some helpful reminders to keeping your instrument in tact during the winter months:

  • Humidify – Use an instrument humidifier in your case and be sure to keep it filled with water.
  • Let it Acclimate – When  you are transporting your instrument let it acclimate to its surroundings before taking it out of the case and playing it.
  • Don’t leave it in the car – need I say more?

It’s really quite simple hydrate and keep out of extreme temperature changes. Oh, and play it as much as you can. 🙂

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How to Care for Your Instrument in the Winter
Instrument Care

Weather proof your instrument

One of the things I love about living in Vermont is the change of seasons. However, they can be drastic. There is a Vermont saying that reads; “if you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute.” This isn’t a joke. This was my yard this morning when I woke up:

And this was my yard by late afternoon:

If you think this is drastic, think about how your instrument feels. The drastic change of seasons can be grueling on an instrument. There are many things you can do however, to keep your instrument from going into change-of-season-shock. Here are some tips to keeping your instrument safe and happy:

  1. Humidify. Keep a humidifier in your case filled with water at all times throughout the winter. When a fiddle gets too dry, the glue can weaken and the instrument could crack. You also might find your pegs pop when you open the case if it’s too dry.
  2. Keep it encased. I once had a teacher that said if you’re fiddle isn’t on your shoulder it should be in its case. It’s the safest place. Keep your instrument in its case when it is not being used.
  3. Keep away from heat. Keep your instrument away from any heaters or drafts or drastic temperature changes. Try to keep your instrument in a place that has an even temperature all the time.
  4. Don’t leave it behind. Don’t leave your instrument in the cold car.
  5. Let it sit. When going from a warm house to a cold car to a warm house again, let your instrument sit for a little while before opening the case. This will allow it to adjust to the temperature in the room.
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How to care for your instrument in the winter

Unraveled strings, out-of-tune flutes and crackling sounds that aren’t coming from the fire can only mean one thing. It’s winter in Vermont and your instrument is singing the blues.

A Vermont winter can really take a toll on your instrument, like it did mine the other day. Just recently I pulled my fiddle out of its case after being in the car for a few hours, only to find the strings unraveled and the instrument completely out of tune. I’m lucky that was the only thing that happened. Cold dry air, wood stoves and the extreme changes in temperature from inside to outside and back in again, can do some serious damage. The dry air can cause pegs to pop, strings to unravel, buzzing sounds to arise and cracks to form in the wood of any instrument.

How can you prevent your instrument from singing the winter blues?

  • Use a case humidifier. Whether its a fiddle, flute, guitar or bouzouki, be sure to keep your instrument in the case with a case humidifier.  They are an affordable and highly effective way to protect your instrument. I use one by Planet Wave who makes it in all sizes starting at about $12.
  • Use a room humidifier. Great for your complexion and even better for your instrument. An instrument prefers to be kept at a humidity level of 40-50%.
  • Store your instrument in a moist room of the house. This means keeping it away from heaters, fireplaces, wood stoves or anything else that could dry your instrument out. Even if you have a humidifier, try to keep your instrument in a moist room.
  • Let your instrument acclimate. When bringing your instrument from your car into your house or any building, let it sit for a little while before you open up the case and begin playing. It needs to get acclimated to the temperature.
  • Bring it inside. Don’t leave your instrument in a cold car for a long period of time. Heck you don’t like to be left out in the cold, neither does your instrument! (I found this out the hard way).

I hope this helps you keep your instrument safe this winter!