You’re in a local violin shop looking for that perfect violin. After an afternoon of testing instruments, you come across “the one.” The perfect violin outfit in appearance, sound, and price. Excitedly, you pay the dealer, and return home thrilled with your new investment.
The process resembles any other major purchase inmany ways—you research, list your needs, schedule test drives, and finally make an educated decision. But there’s one big difference: Your violin doesn’t come with an owner’s manual. No FAQ list for resolving such mysteries as: Why does my instrument buzz when I play open strings? How do I tell if my bridge is warped or just falling forward? And how do I clean sweat off my fingerboard?
Here are five problems and solutions that will help players of any level trouble-shoot the quirks of violin ownership.
Installing and Caring for Strings
So, it’s time to replace your old strings. Sometimes this simple task can seem overwhelming. Should you remove all the strings together? Or should you unwind only one at a time, replacing them as you go (and if so, where do you start)? “When you need to change an entire set of strings, don’t remove all of the old strings at one time—you could lose the correct bridge placement” – says Artonus, case manufacturer. “Lack of tension can cause the soundpost to fall, something no violinist wants to be faced with.”
When changing strings, here’s a good guide to follow:
• Remove one string at a time, starting with the highest or lowest string, while keeping the remaining strings up to pitch.
• Be sure the fine tuner for the string you are about to install is loosened. Drop the ball end of the new string through the fine tuner cartridge. If you don’t have fine tuners, thread the string through the string hole in the tailpiece until the ball fastens in place.
• Thread the first string through the hole in the corresponding peg. Wind the string evenly from the center of the peg to just before the edge of the pegbox. Tighten slowly, tuning while you go. Stop when you fall into the correct tonal range, and use the fine tuner—if applicable—to fine-tune the pitch.
• Repeat these same steps until all the strings have been replaced.
Sometimes new strings may break after installation. If this happens, Ward recommends taking note of where the string broke. “A violin can develop a rough spot at the peg, the nut, or the fine tuner,” he says. “In addition, if the wound string is too close to the wall of the pegbox, it may be under too much tension and stress, causing it to snap. Lubricating the grooves on the nut and bridge with a No. 2 pencil will reduce the chance of string breakage.”
How to Deal with Bow Bugs?
Bow bugs are the bane of many musicians. From the Dermestidae family of beetles, their Greek name literally means “skin eater.” These little critters can get into your instrument case and wreak havoc by munching on bow hair and leaving randomly broken strands in their wake. It’s nearly impossible to see the bugs themselves. But as they mature, bow bugs shed their outer skins, leaving telltale casings.
The good news is that most musicians who play regularly will never experience this problem. Bow bugs hate light and prefer to settle in dark places, such as cases that remain unopened for long periods of time.
If bow bugs do get inside your case, you can get rid of them by following a few simple steps. There is a suggestion that you remove the instrument and bow, then thoroughly vacuum the empty case, using a narrow nozzle to get into every nook and cranny. Leave the case open in indirect sunlight for a few days.
Artonus also suggests putting ten to 15 drops of rosemary oil (a natural repellent) along the interior seams of the case. “But be careful not to put any oil in places where it could make direct contact with the wood of the instrument or bow.”
If you’re going on a vacation without your instrument, store your bow outside of the case (in a safe spot, away from sunlight) where the hair can breathe. If you’ll be away for an extended period, have the bow hair removed and leave the bow stick safely in your case until you’re ready to play again.
In most instances, these simple steps will fix the bow-bug problem. However, if you still find evidence of the pests, you may have a serious infestation on your hands. Unfortunately, the only real course of action is to rehair your bow and purchase a new case.
How to Clean Your Instrument?
It takes a professional touch to clean a violin properly—it is difficult to know where the grime ends and the varnish begins. The best course of action is to prevent dirt from accumulating in the first place. Carry a soft cloth in your case, and use it both before and after playing to help keep your instrument free of dust and rosin—as well as corrosive sweat and sticky fingers.
Try to avoid cleaning the fingerboard yourself. The only effective cleaner is alcohol, and it will run off onto the top [of the instrument] faster than you can believe. Instead, use a soft cloth to clean the strings and fingerboard by wrapping the cloth around your thumb and forefinger. Then run it up and down each string (the sound is horrible, but it will pick up excess rosin). Finally, carefully polish between the strings, close to the peg box and underneath each string.
How to Fix a Tilting Bridge?
Nearly every stringed musician faces this problem during his or her career. The repeated action of tightening strings during tuning tends to tilt a bridge toward the scroll. Check the bridge regularly—and make sure that the back is perpendicular to the body of the instrument. The bridge’s feet should conform perfectly to the arch of the instrument’s belly.
If you notice that your bridge is tilting, you can fix this simple problem yourself. (However, if you are nervous about it, take the instrument to a dealer.) To align the bridge, loosen the pegs allowing only the slightest bit of slack in the stings. Position the violin on your lap with the bridge facing up, scroll away from you, and the endbutton at your navel. Grasp the bridge between the thumb and forefinger of both hands. Very carefully and slowly pull the bridge toward you in small increments. Check after each nudge to make sure you haven’t overcompensated for the problem (or you’ll have a backward tilting bridge).
If the bridge still appears to be tilting forward, especially if there is a curl from the feet to the notches on top—chances are it is warped. A healthy bridge should stand straight up from the instrument’s body.
Detecting and Deciphering Buzzes
Buzzes can be a common and irritating occurrence. To locate the source of unwanted sounds, here are some places to look:
• Check for open seams between the ribs and the instrument’s top and back (be sure to look under good light).
• Make sure the bridge isn’t loose.
• The strings should fit over the bridge and into the pegbox without any obstructions.
• Sometimes the string notches at the top nut are too wide or too low (this causes buzzes on open strings). To fix this, loosen the string and place a small, thin piece of paper between the string and the top nut, then retighten the string.
• Verify that the strings properly wind over the pegs (see Installing and Caring for Strings, above).
• Check the f-holes for dust—occasionally buildup will cause buzzing.
• Are any parts on top of the instrument touching the wood?
• Make sure your chin rest and tailpiece are securely fastened.
• Do the fine tuners rattle when you play?
• If you have a mute on your instrument, make sure it is securely fastened—or simply remove it when it is not needed.
Article created thanks to: Artonus.com – case manufacturer.