Tips for Taking Care of Your Violin
Pegs are often subject to slipping or sticking. Otherwise normal pegs can slip or stick with a change in humidity or temperature. With pegs that slip, a simple cleaning is recommended. Simply unwind the string and wipe the peg with a fine steel wool and replace. Additional cleaning inside the peg hole may be necessary. Remove the peg and *very* carefully scrape the build-up on the inside of the hole with a pen knife.
With pegs that stick, a little dry ivory soap on the peg where it touches the peg-box wall usually helps. Peg dope, sole as a stick in a tube, also helps sticky pegs turn a little easier.
If these solutions don't work or if you have any questions, consult with a qualified repair-man.
Occasionally, pegs fit poorly and it is recommended they be replaced. Pegs that don't fit can slip, can have a "bump" in them while turning, or stick out on the other side of the peg-box. If pegs stick out too much or there is a crack in the peg-box, a bushing may be required. A bushing involves filling in the peg hole with a tapered dowel and re-cutting a new smaller hole for the peg to avoid excess pressure on a crack when turning.
When should strings be replaced? This is a big question and everyone had a different answer. It really depends on the string and how often you play. Most strings with regular use (1/2 hour to an hour a day) should be replaced every six to eight months. Some sooner - some later. The biggest criteria is: do you feel the string should be replaced? If the answer is 'yes', then replace them.
Strings come in a great variety. Perlon core, steel, rope core, pure gut and wrapped gut. Many fiddlers like the steel string for its power. The perlon (or kevlar) core strings tend to have a smoother sound and last quite well. They are made by most companies. Experimentation and experience will help you choose your string.
Remember to wipe the rosin from the strings frequently and to change strings one at a time.
The fingerboard of an instrument is not flat. It is scooped allowing the strings to play true without buzzing. Lack of scoop or a bump in the board will cause frustrating noise. IN this case a dressing of the board is necessary. The dressing removes bumps, channels dug by the strings, and restores the board. A fingerboard is replaced only when it becomes too think or is badly cracked.
Occasionally, fingerboards come loose from the neck and must be re-glued.
Often called the "soul" of the stringed instrument, the sound post can radically affect the sound of the instrument. Its relative position to the bridge is essential to the tone of the instrument. The post must fit in length so as not to be too tight or too loose. The fit should be snug and clean. The ends of the post are beleved to fit the inside curve of the instrument. An ill fit post will harm rather than enhance the sound.
A general rule is to keep the post approximately 3mm to 6mm behind the foot of the bridge for violin. The post acts as a support to the top and as a nodal point on the top which directs the patterns of vibration and hence the sound.
The diameter of the modern post for violin is 6mm to 6.5mm.
The bridge is one of the most important parts of the set-up of the violin. It regulates the sounds of the violin by setting the height of the strings and setting the relationship of the string to the instrument. A well cut bridge should give a string height higher on the 'g' side than the 'e' side. The feet should fit the contour of the top perfectly, and be shaped so that they are not too thick.
If the feet should rise away from the tip in the back, they lose contact area and hence sound. The bridge will also sometimes be pulled forward nu the action of tuning. The feet can be brought back down by taking the instrument and bracing it against the chest with the scroll pointed down and using your finger to gently pull the bridge back into position. The average bridge (for violin) is to fit at 195mm from the upper edge at the joint of the neck to the body. This usually at the notches of the 'f' holes.
Adjustment shoudl only be attempted with care adn confidence but will improve the osund adn help prevent warpage.
A little graphite from a pencil lead rubbed in the string groves of the bridge will also help the string pass over the bridge a little smoother. This hsould be done perhaps once a month or when the strings are changed.
Check the brdige for warpage by viewing it from the side. A bridge should be at a 90 degree angle at the back, to the plane of the instrument, I fthe bridge curls foward it may be time to have the bridgeeither flattened or replaced.
To protect the bridge frmo the 'e' or 'a' string slowly cutting into the wood of the top, a small, thin piece of leather or parchmant is usually glued into place over the string groove. If your bridge doesn't have one, use the small sleeve provided with most new 'e' and 'a' strings.
Bridges are made to fit in one place and moving the bridge from it original placement is not recommended. Again, any questions or problems you're not sure of should be referred to a qualified professional.
With the changes in temperature and humidity some instruments expand and contract. The strings will feel high or low and the sound can become very unfocused.
Seams are also something that must be watched when seasons change. Yej glue holding the instrument together is water soluble therefore allowing the seams to open rather than the instrument developing a crack. Re-guling seams is a fairly simple procedure that involves washing the old glue out and running a bead of new glue in and clamping it.
Your instrument should never be left in the car or in a dry room. Humidifiers are recommended for winter and careful handling for the summer.
The top nut is the ebony piece over which the strings go into the peg box at the top of the fingerboard. The only real maintenance here is to lubricate the string grooves with a bit of graphite from a pencil lead. You must also keep an eye on whether the string has worn the groove down too low and onto the fingerboard. If this is the case, the string will start to buzz or be difficult to play. A simple mix of super-glue and ebony dust will full the old groove which can the be re-cut.
Cracks develop in the top or back due to changes in the top, ie: shrinking or due to pressure or stress. A proper repair to a large crack involves removing the top and gluing the top crack flush and then patching with vary small spruce studs. In most cases, if the repair is done carefully, the tone will not be affected.
A good bow will make an instrument sound very different from an 'okay' bow. Bows should be kept clean (done at the time of a re-hair) and the hair should be replaced regularly. Some players go for years without a re-hair and some who re-hair every couple of weeks. The choice is yours. A good indication of the need ofr re-hair is when the hair at its loosest hangs well below the stick, or if the hair feels greasy.
Occasionally, the eyelet screw will strip and must be replaced. The eyelet connects the end screw and teh frog. You will notice that its stripped when you are no longer able to tighten the hair andit is possible to pull the screw out.
Other things that occasionally need replacement are the grip and the wrapping. The wrapping (or winding) is made of steel wire, silver wire, whale bone, leather, or plastic. It adds aesthetic and functional value to the stick. It sometimes unwinds. the grip is made of leather or lizard skin and allows a comfortable positioning of the hand.
Thank you Andrew Kirk (1992-04); 6199 Chebucto Road, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, B3L 1K7; Tel: (902) 429-6236; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. I have kept a record of this article, "Andrew Kirik - Violin-Maker: A Care Guide to String Instruments" for years and it has always helped me immensly. I wish to offer my students your knowledge and wisdom so they may better themselves as violin players.