Violins are fragile wooden instruments that need a little extra care during the winter months. Taking the instruments from cold temperatures to hot, dry heat, can really wreak havoc on our instruments. You may have noticed that your violin has started to go out of tune more often. This can be very frustrating for beginners! Unfortunately, this is normal for instruments during this time of year. What happens is that as the wood is exposed to dry heat and then cold, the wood in both the pegs and instruments contract. This makes the pegs slip, and the violin goes out of tune. This is especially noticeable on lower-quality instruments in which the pegs may not have been fit specifically to that violin. Here are a few tips to prevent this: 1. Get a Damp-it for your instrument: Here is a link to one on amazon, but be sure to get the correct size for your instrument! A Damp-it is basically a tiny sponge that you soak with water, dry off, and then insert into the F-hole of your violin. You can leave it in when you're playing, and you only need to put water in it once a week or so. This helps keep the instrument at a constant humidity, which will help the instrument to stay in tune better, and will also prevent the instrument from cracking, and seams from opening. These repairs can be very costly, so it may be a worthwhile investment to purchase a Damp-it.
2. Instead of a Damp-it, you can cut a kitchen sponge in half, wet it, and put it in a ziplock bag. Do not seal the bag. Then put that in the bottom compartment inside of your case. This will do the same thing as a Damp-it. Some people put orange peels in a bag in their case to do the same thing.
3. Keep your violin away from heating vents.
4. Don't leave your violin in a cold car. Think of it this way- if you wouldn't leave a pet in the car, your violin shouldn't be left in there either!
5. If you have a humidifier in your house, leave your violin in the room with the humidifier.
6. If your pegs are continually slipping, you can apply peg drops to help them stay in place. This can only be used twice a year, and your teacher should show you how to apply them because it involves removing the entire peg from the instrument.
7. Get familiar with tuning! There are lots of great apps to help you tune your violin. *Not all tuners in the app store pick up the sound of the violin.* Here are the ones I recommend. I use ClearTune. Another free tuning app is called PanoTune. You can also buy a Clip-on Tuner that you clip onto your instrument. If you don't know how to tune your instrument, please talk with your teacher about this! It's really important to be able to tune yourself. If you're unable to tune your instrument, you'll be unable to practice. Students should have instruments with either fine tuners or perfection pegs, which are geared pegs that are easy to turn. If you're a serious student who has been playing for a while, I can't recommend perfection pegs highly enough. They take all the work out of tuning, and make it nearly impossible to break a string. Mi Vida Strings on 72nd and Lowell will install perfection pegs on instruments, and so will Veritable Violins in Boulder. 8. Don't forget about the bow! The corks on the bow can become dry in the winter too, which can lead to literally all of the hairs falling out of your bow. If you put a little drop of water on both of the corks (the one at the frog and the one at the tip) this will help to prevent this from happening.
9. Winter Rosin? I don't really worry about this one too much, but it is recommended to switch to a dark rosin during the winter. This is softer and less viscous. Melos has a nice dark rosin. For me personally, I just use light Bernadel year-round.
10. Some strings stay in tune better than others. Strings are made out of all different materials, and their composition determines their sound, as well as how often they need to be tuned. I find that D'adario Helicores are an inexpensive string that settles in quickly, and generally stays in tune. They have a richer sound than Prelude's, which are a great option for beginners. Stay away from dark strings during the winter. You'll just be tuning non-stop. Examples of darker strings are gut strings, or synthetic gut like Evah Pirazzi.
With a little extra love and care, you can have a lot of fun making music this winter!!