String care and maintenance is something that is hardly talked about, yet extremely critical for good playing. No violin, viola, and cello could have lasted through hours of vigorous practice and performances without proper care of these materials. In the same way, the violins, violas, cellos, and double basses you play need proper care to maintain their beautiful sound and attractive appearance.
Here are some mistakes you should avoid for better string maintenance, along with tips to care for your strings.
#Mistake 1: Not Cleaning Your Instrument Regularly
Did you know that most instruments lose their sound quality due to inconsistent cleaning?
String instruments like the violin are delicate instruments that require a lot of care. Making it a habit to clean it after every use can go a long way in maintaining its sound quality, as it removes oil residue, dust, moisture, and product build-up that may leave your instrument vulnerable to damage.
Our Tip: Use two microfiber cloths—one to wipe down and clean the rest of the instrument, and the other specifically for the strings to remove rosin. Using the same cloth might risk spreading the dirt and rosin around, and that’s the last thing you want to do. Do take care not to press down too hard on the strings, as that might cause them to fall out of tune.
#Mistake 2: Waiting for Your Strings To Break Before Changing
Strings are subjected to wear and tear. They continue to stretch and degrade as long as they are in use. It is crucial that they are cleaned and changed on time, and not only when they break.
Changing strings regularly is the best way for you to optimise your sound quality, and prevent damage and snapping. Frays and damages can block the particular pitches of notes, so the instrument is not able to work properly. Many musicians are unaware of these impacts, so they become further into the habit of not changing strings on a regular basis.
Our Tip: Strings breaking are a sign that change is long overdue, so waiting till they break before changing might not be the best practice. The best time to change the string of your violin, viola, cello or double bass depends on how often you play them, the type of string you use, as well as the set-up and maintenance of your string instrument. We recommend replacing your string sets at least twice a year.
#Mistake 3: Not Protecting Them from Environmental Factors
Humidity and temperature are factors that play a huge part in string care. The environment does carry an impact on the tone and sound of your instrument—leaving it open to heat, moisture, or even extremely dry conditions can affect the final tune.
Other environmental conditions include careless treatment of your string instrument. Placing heavy items on top of your strings, overtightening them while tuning, or leaving them lying around unattended can also make your strings susceptible to damage.
Our Tip: Ensure that your instrument is stored or played in an optimal environment, ideally at a temperature between 24 to 28 degrees Celcius. Getting a storage case for your violin, viola, cello or double bass would be the best defence to protect your strings and keep them stored in a safe and dry place when not in use.
#Mistake 4: Using Incorrect Solution and Polish
You should never use alcohol-based solvents, household cleaners, or products with silicone oil or lemon juice to clean your strings. While effective in removing dirt and rosin, such cleaning solutions run the risk of permanently damaging the varnish of your instrument, while altering the windings and tone.
Our Tip: Make use of proper string cleaner products to prolong the life of your strings and maintain the tone of your instrument.
#Mistake 5: Not Visiting a Luthier for Professional Repairs and Maintenance
Consistent self-maintenance for your instrument may seem sufficient, however, it is just half the battle. It is important for you to visit a luthier to service your instrument at least twice a year.
An experienced luthier will perform a holistic check of your instrument, inspecting parts such as the fingerboard, the sound post, and the peg condition along with your strings in order to help you optimise the sound of your instrument.
Our Tip: Consulting with a luthier can help you avoid larger problems, with more preventative measures in place with better quality of care. How often you consult a luthier depends on your playing habits, but we recommend servicing at least twice a year!
In a nutshell
The best performance cannot happen without regular string care and maintenance, whether you're an acclaimed performer or a beginner learning for the first time.
Performing your own maintenance routine for your instrument sets the foundation for your string care, but it is also important for you to ensure that your instrument is professionally checked to ensure top playing condition, and to prevent damage.
Experiencing issues, or wondering if your instrument needs a closer look from a professional? Reach out to us today to find out more about our instrument luthier service today!