11 Winter tips for you and your violin to survive these cold months
Does your violin go out of tune every day?
Winter is coming… well, it’s there already…
Like a living creature, your violin responds to weather changes
Let’s get started where it all starts with: Wood is material in motion… wood shrinks and expands due to changes in temperature and humidity. As your violin is mostly made of wood, this happens to your instrument.
In the winter, some violins go out of tune very often. The temperature difference between inside and outside is higher. The air can be dry because of your heater. Your violin has to adapt to the climate of your home, car and the new location.
Winter tips for your instrument
1. Don’t be scared if your instrument is quickly and often out of tune
This may have to do with the winter weather. Some people think that they have broken something or done something stupid, but that is most often not the case.
Bring your instrument back into tune and tune regularly until your instrument is more stable during a study session or rehearsal.
2. Leave a little earlier to your rehearsal, lesson or performance
In this way you give your violin time to adapt to the temperature and humidity of the new environment. Also you’ll have plenty of time to tune.
3. Avoid changes in temperature and humidity as much as possible
Don’t leave your instrument in a cold room, that you heat up quickly when you have to be there. Don’t put your violin in the trunk (which remains cold), but on the back seat of your car. Make sure that it can’t fall of.
4. Are your strings in good condition?
Strings get weaker because of changes in tension: they snap, waddle in pitch or often go out of tune. Take extra good care that your strings are in good condition in winter season. Are your strings older than 1 year? Then they probably need to be replaced. I recommend that an amateur who plays violin 1 hour a day replaces the strings at least yearly. Do you play more? Then you need to replace them more often. I replace my violin strings every four months… then they are really gone and I’m happy when I am playing on new strings again.
5. Do the pegs of your violin, viola or cello run smoothly?
If your pegs are not doing a good job in the summer, it will only get worse in the winter. Very often it works to treat your pegs with peg soap: remove one string at a time from the peg, remove the peg from the peg box, rub it firmly with peg soap and place the peg and string back. Tune the string and repeat the process for the next string. It is truly a miracle potion!
Didn’t this help? Then it may be that your pegs are not a good fit and you need to replace them or let a violin builder make them fit.
6. Is the room of your instrument usually too dry?
Drought can cause cracks in your instrument. If the environment is too dry, you might consider purchasing a small humidifier for in your violin case. With stable humidity values between 40% and 70%, you do not have to worry. Many violin cases are equipped with a so-called hygrometer.
Your main musical instrument is of course your own body…
Tips for yourself as a violinist
7. Wear gloves very often!
It is not only annoying if it takes time to warm your hands before you can play optimally. If your hands are very cold (and therefore your muscles and joints), then you can get an injury while playing. In very cold rehearsal rooms you could consider playing with fingerless gloves.
8. Muscles and joints just love heat!
If you are cold and you do all kinds of virtuoso tricks, you’re likely to experience discomfort … make sure to do a warm-up not only in sports, but also in music! I myself find stretching (yoga) in between a rehearsal very pleasant.
9. Rub, rub, rub!
You’ll probably have seen it in ladies magazines: in winter you should keep your skin hydrated. As a musician, this applies especially to your hands … playing with a cut in your fingertip is painful or even impossible. So buy the thickest hand cream out there and rub it! It’ll keep keep your fingers smooth and will not quickly become numb. It’s also important that you choose a cream that quickly withdraws: you merely want to rub your hands and not your instrument.
10. Take care of your violin spot!
Violinists can have more trouble with their violin spot in the winter. A violin spot is a spot / irritation / discoloration in your neck caused by the pressure of the chin rest. Udder ointment works very well to take care for and reduce your violin stain. Conditions for this to work are of course a well-fitting chin rest and shoulder rest with a good violin: then you have no hassle of a violin spot.
11. Take a hair dryer with you!
Yup, here comes Zlata again with a weird tip … Do you always suffer from cold hands and gloves don’t help? Just take a hair dryer with you to your rehearsal and blow your hands warm before you start playing. Just rub with a good hand cream and you’re ready to go! Don’t worry, there are violin soloists who do this.
Do you have more winter tips for string players? Do you have questions regarding this article? Let me know in the comments below!
Forget the hair dryer. Just buy some of the heat packs that you squeeze and they produce heat for your hands. You can even keep some in your case.