What are some important violin care tips

The violin: practical questions about strings, rosin, care and playing

Practical tips for storing the violin, cleaning, rosin, strings, voices and peg care.

On this page we have put together some questions and answers, tips and tricks and instructions for the correct handling of the violin, instructions for cleaning the violin and to change the strings, as well as tips on choosing the right string or stringing and care of the violin. The instructions for cleaning, changing strings, installing fine tuners and pointing towards the bridge apply analogously to other string instruments in most cases.

Overview:

What's the best way to store a violin?

The safest place for the violin is of course its violin case, which should be kept in a room with as constant a temperature as possible and not too low in humidity. If there are several potted plants in the same room, sufficient moisture is usually already provided - provided they are watered regularly. During the heating season, a so-called Dampit can be recommended to avoid damage to the gluing of the string instrument or even cracks. Inside the room, the violin should be in a place that is not exposed to drafts or direct sunlight. It is important that the violin case does not “stand in the way”, i.e. that it can be knocked over in passing or, for example, when stored on a shelf or cupboard, that it can be torn down with other objects. Although the corners of the rooms are often particularly attractive from a “traffic safety” perspective, caution is advised here: especially in old buildings, the walls in these areas are often very cold, so that warm room air affects the violin from one side and the other the coldness of the wall - a dangerous constellation that can provoke cracks. In general, however, small string instruments such as the violin or viola are less sensitive to unfavorable temperature and humidity values ​​than larger ones, especially cellos. When storing the violin in the Violin case Make sure that no sharp-edged or pointed parts damage the paint. Most violin cases come with a soft cloth that is spread over the ceiling, neck and scroll of the violin before closing the violin case. This means that there is a risk of scratches from those fastened in the lid Violin bows safely banned. Where such a cloth is not available or cannot be inserted in a non-slip manner, it is advisable to wrap the frog of the violin bow in a sufficiently wide, thin cloth, for example in a handkerchief, because the edges of the frog are the greatest danger to the violin lacquer . However, it is better to completely cover the string instrument in order to prevent permanent contact with the rosin on the stringing of the violin bow; See also the section on cleaning the violin. Many musicians even wrap their string instruments in cloths made of silk or other comparable materials, thereby ensuring better protection as well as a firmer hold and softer padding in the violin case. But be careful: the violin must never be under tension and jammed in its violin case!
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How do you clean rosin from a violin?

Not only violins that are stored openly for decorative purposes or are - always at hand - outside their violin case, have to be cleaned regularly. The most dangerous contamination is the rosin dust, which is deposited on the ceiling with every game and can damage the violin varnish if the rosin is not removed immediately after playing. The residues on the strings of the violin and, if necessary, the fingerboard should also be wiped off on this occasion to remove the rosin. A soft cloth is best suited for this purpose, but it should not also be used to clean the rest of the body: On the one hand, coarse residues of the removed rosin that have stuck to the cloth can cause scratches, and on the other hand, it is spread like this fine layer of dust over the entire string instrument, which can gradually dull the paint. In a well-stocked violin case there should be two cloths: one for the areas that are “contaminated” with rosin, one for the other parts of the violin. For stubborn incrustations of rosin Pure alcohol or denatured alcohol can be used on the strings, but with great caution. This is put in a few drops on a clean cloth with which the strings are rubbed. Since alcohol damages the lacquer on the violin, it is very important to use so little of it that nothing can drip onto the body of the string instrument. The fingerboard, which is usually not varnished, can also be cleaned in this way (see below). Other soiling should be avoided if possible; Washing hands before playing the violin is not only a good custom, but an important contribution to maintaining the value of a string instrument. See also the section on paintwork care. Another area of ​​the violin that needs cleaning from time to time is the inside of the body. Not only old violins found in the attic contain dust that has accumulated over time. The best way to remove it is to pour a certain amount of commercially available rice through the F-holes and shake the string instrument thoroughly - if not too vigorously. The rice grains absorb the dust quite reliably and at the same time ensure gentle mechanical cleaning of the inside of the top, back and sides of the violin.
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How do you care for the varnish on a violin?

The most important maintenance measure for the paintwork of a string instrument was already mentioned above in the section "How to clean a violin": Carefully wiping and removing rosin after each playing. This little effort is more helpful than all the tricks that were ultimately just invented to eliminate the consequences of carelessness in “dusting”. Handling the string instrument in a manner that is gentle on the paintwork also includes only touching the neck in order to protect the body from direct exposure to sweat from the hand. Even the cleanest hands leave behind small amounts of sweat and acidic fatty compounds, which at best let the violin varnish become dull, at worst lead to its gradual dissolution. In order to remove acute or long-term dirt, we recommend special polishes and care products that are available from violin makers and specialist shops. In more severe cases, however, it is best to entrust the experienced hand of a violin maker who is trained in the selection, dosage and use of the right remedies.
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How often should you change the strings on the violin?

The right time for the Change one or more strings the violin depends on too many factors to be able to give a general recommendation. Different types of strings, i.e. gut, plastic core or steel strings naturally allow a different length of use, which also varies from brand to brand, even from string to string. The intensity of the game and the daily practice times, the characteristics of the personal playing technique and the structural features of the instrument make up the individual stress profile. It is not uncommon for it to be deepened or excessively sharp grooves in the bridge and saddle of the violin that lead to premature wear and tear of the strings. However, many good musicians recognize at a very early stage by the sound and response whether the strings of their violin have exceeded the time of their best quality. Visible damage e.g. B. on the wrapping of the string, which can occur long before a break, should definitely be used as an opportunity to replace the violin string in question.
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How are the strings of the violin wound and changed?

It is important that the string pressure of each individual string on the violin is maintained as far as possible so that the bridge and sound post remain in position. Please never loosen all four strings at the same time, but change each string of the violin individually and tune it before loosening the next string!

The Wind up and change a single string of the violin is very straightforward: If the old string is still wound up, you loosen its peg and turn it towards your body until the end of the violin string slips out of the small hole; then it is simply hung on the tailpiece. It is important to keep the string of the violin under slight tension with your free hand so that it does not hang loosely on the body of the instrument and cause scratches there. If the string is loosened, you should take the opportunity to examine the notches in the saddle and in the bridge of the violin. If they are cut too deeply or if you notice sharp edges over which the string runs, you should ask a violin maker for advice, who can rework the notches if necessary. In order to make it easier to wind and tune the strings and to avoid tension imbalances that can lead to premature tearing, the notches of the violin bridge can be made runnable with a little graphite; Coloring in with a soft, good pencil is sufficient for this purpose. To pull the violin string, you first hang its lower end on the tailpiece or fine tuner.

Now the string of the violin is constantly held under slight tension so that it does not slip out of this holder; the other hand threads the top end of the string into the peg hole and pokes it a few millimeters on the opposite side of the peg. Then the string of the violin is wound up by turning the peg, in the direction of the peg handle upwards. The individual turns should be close and neatly next to each other; Use your free index finger to guide you, crossing the string on the peg can be helpful and provide additional support if the string slides too easily out of the peg hole. Otherwise they should be avoided, as the punctual pressure at this point can encourage the violin string to break. Peg holes made too deep in the pegbox can also result in the violin's string being squeezed between the peg and pegbox, which creates another weak point. Strings that are too long and press against the side pegbox wall can also break faster. In this case, it is advisable to unwind the string again and cut it to the appropriate length with a wire cutter.

As soon as most of the string has been wound onto the pin, it is essential to ensure that the string runs correctly. As the tension increases, it must not lie next to its notch on the bridge or in the upper saddle, in order not to damage it. Particularly thin strings, especially the E string on the violin, should be underlaid with a small tube at the contact point of the bridge so that they do not cut too deeply into the wood As precise a tuning as possible on the peg, there is enough leeway to tune the string higher on the fine tuner.

If several strings are to be changed on the violin or a whole set of strings, it is very important to proceed individually - do not loosen all strings at the same time, but always loosen one, immediately pull up the new violin string, then loosen the next, etc. In this way one prevents the bridge of the violin from falling over, which is not firmly attached to the body but is held solely by the pressure of the strings. When changing several strings, you should always pay attention to whether the bridge is still correctly positioned or has to be straightened, see below.In addition, changing four strings is done in the same way as described above for the individual string of the violin.

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Which strings are right for the violin?

Two generations ago, the question of the right violin string was easy to answer: demanding musicians played gut strings, simpler string instruments were mostly strung with steel strings. The situation today is completely different: since the 1920s, the steel string has achieved ever better standards thanks to improved production processes; At the same time, the synthetic core string was developed as a real alternative to natural casings. So-called "nylon strings" of the first quality have practically no disadvantages in terms of sound compared to gut strings, which are mainly used today in historical performance practice. Plastic is also characterized by a number of important advantages: the strings fit perfectly with almost all instruments, have less of a tendency to get out of tune and are generally more “solid” and more durable than gut strings. Corilon violins, for example, covers all instruments in its online catalog with Pirastro Tonica or Pirastro Evah Pirazzi. But we can also recommend Larsen Tzigane or Thomastik Dominant. Musicians of our day choose the string that best suits their musical preferences, their technique and, last but not least, their instrument. Good advice, for example from a teacher or violin maker, and simply trying out different types and brands are the best way to find the right string for you. Quite a few violinists also combine strings of different brands, which can be bought in specialist shops and online shops both as a string set, but also individually.
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How do you tune a violin?

The starting point at Voices of the violin (and every other string instrument) is the so-called concert pitch a ', which - with deviations from regional preferences and traditions - is internationally fixed at a vibration of 440 Hz. After this note, which can be picked up from a tuning fork or found on the obligatory CDs of contemporary violin schools, the a'-string of the violin is first tuned. A trained ear is the best prerequisite for tuning the other strings. Being able to hear when the fifths between g - d - a 'and e' 'sound in is an important exercise that should not be underestimated. Help is provided by the CDs already mentioned, on which the other strings are played individually in addition to the a 'string. Many websites and smartphones also offer tuning aids with varying sound quality - a useful control option that should not replace the tuning after fifths. Many violins are only equipped with one fine tuner on the tailpiece. Your tuning requires a little more practice, as the pegs are much more difficult to handle than the lever mechanism of a fine tuner. You can find a good contribution to the tuning of the violin at Violinorum: Tuning the violin - online or do you prefer analog?
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What to do if the vertebrae are too heavy or too easy to move?

As simple as their construction may appear, violin pegs are a physically complex device that must meet two opposing requirements at the same time: On the one hand, the pegs should move as easily as possible and enable the violin to be tuned finely, on the other hand, they should keep the tuning well achieved, as cleanly and as long as possible, even when the room changes and temperature fluctuations No vortex can make this compromise in the long run without occasionally requiring a certain amount of care. Especially at the beginning and at the end of the heating season, the wood from which the pegs are made changes, so that problems occur particularly often during this time. With peg soap, which is offered by the violin maker or in specialist shops, you can ensure better running ability. The opposite effect can be achieved with peg chalk, which ensures a stronger hold in the peg box. Even when pulling up new strings, you can ensure a certain protection against pegs flying out by bringing the winding of the violin string around the peg particularly close to the wall of the peg box. However, the prerequisite is always that the vertebrae are properly fitted; From time to time you should have fine string instruments checked by the violin maker, who also checks the condition of the pegs and in particular can enlarge the holes in the peg box or reduce them by bulging, which is one of the common restorations of old instruments.

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How can you straighten the bridge of the violin?

In "everyday use", many bridges give way to increasing string tension when tuning and lean slightly forward towards the fingerboard, which can be corrected by evenly pressing both thumbs. This correction of the bridge stand is called "straighten the bridge of the violin". Aligning the bridge is not entirely harmless, as an incorrectly positioned bridge can cause severe damage to the top of the instrument - for example by tipping over from an inclined position or by directing the string pressure to an unsuitable point on the top. On the other hand, many musicians have too great concerns about correcting misalignments of the violin bridge themselves or repositioning a fallen bridge.

Simply ignoring the position of the bridge or postponing its correction to the next visit to the violin maker is not a sensible alternative.Because the movement of the strings when tuning alone pulls the bridge a little out of its position, which is why you can use it once a week if you practice frequently Visual inspection should undergo. Such a test is absolutely necessary after pulling up new strings, and it should then be repeated at shorter intervals until the instrument reliably maintains the tuning and a weekly test is sufficient again. Many musicians even routinely check the slope of the bridge before each practice; this is particularly recommended for high-quality violins, as even a slight inclination of the bridge can change the vibration behavior of the entire instrument and significantly worsen its sound and response. Bridges that have been played with an incline for a long time can bend and become unusable or, in extreme cases, break or fall over and damage the top of the violin.

Before the Setting up a fallen walkway It is essential to take a look through the F-hole to see whether the sound post is still up or has fallen over. In the first case everything is fine and the bar can be positioned and straightened; in the latter case - if the sound post has fallen - a violin maker must be consulted. If the sound post is still up, the bridge is placed under the slightly tense strings in the middle between the notches of the F-holes, as upright as possible to the violin top. You fix it in this position by gradually increasing the pressure of the strings. To do this, you tighten the strings one after the other and check in between that the bridge is still correctly viewed from above and from the side and, if necessary, pull it backwards according to our video instructions for straightening the bridge. Many string players also place the bridge with a very slight incline towards the tailpiece, so that the position normalizes itself while the strings are tensioned; However, this is not recommended from a tonal point of view, sensitivity and experience with your own instrument are required here.

Video tutorial: straightening the bridge of the violin

When should the bridge of the violin be replaced?

The right time for a new bridge can be clearly determined by two features: the depth of the notches through which the strings run, and a laterally recognizable curvature of the bridge below the heart, usually towards the fingerboard, which should ideally not be present at all . Both signs of wear impair the sound and the playing behavior of the instrument, so that tonal defects can also be an indication that the bridge of the violin should be replaced. Since adapting a bridge to the instrument requires a lot of experience and a trained hand, you should entrust this work to a violin maker and not do it yourself, even though bridge blanks can easily be ordered over the Internet these days.
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Video: Adaptation of the bridge to the top of the violin

How do you install fine tuners?

For the Installation of new fine tuners Basic technical knowledge and a little instinct are sufficient. First the adjusting screw and the nut are removed from the fine tuner. Then loosen the string in question until its ball can be pulled out of the tailpiece. The string should only have as much play as is absolutely necessary to avoid scratches on the top of the violin body. Now the new fine tuner can be inserted from below through the opening in which the string was previously attached; then the nut and the adjusting screw are reattached, the ball is hooked into the holder on the fine tuner and the string is tuned. With thicker strings, it can be helpful to carefully press the holder apart, for example with a knife. After installing all the fine tuners, the violin should be carefully tuned with the pegs so that the adjusting screws of the fine tuners can remain unscrewed as far as possible. Depending on the individual distance between the body and the tailpiece, the mechanism of the fine tuner can quickly reach the top of the violin and cause unnecessary damage to the paintwork. If you can hear rattling noises after installation, this may be due to the lock nuts on the fine tuner that are tightened too loosely. An interesting alternative to fine tuners on the tailpiece are special pegs with self-locking gears, which are firmly inserted into the holes in the peg box and enable low-wear fine tuning on the peg. The fact that the strings are hooked directly into the tailpiece with this method increases their swinging length below the bridge - which in many cases has a positive effect on the sound of the violin. Fine tuners that have a hook for strings with a loop end instead of a ball holder also promise similar effects. They are shorter, so the distance between the bridge and tailpiece is greater than with ball models.

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How should the fingerboard be cleaned and cared for?

For the Cleaning and maintaining the fingerboard As with the whole string instrument, regular cleaning of rosin dust after every play is the easiest, best and most sustainable measure. For them, nothing more than a soft cloth made of microfiber or some other soft material is ideal, which can also be pulled through between the strings and the fingerboard. To remove older or stubborn dirt, unpainted fingerboards can also be rubbed with a very small amount of rubbing alcohol or denatured alcohol. As with cleaning the strings, it is essential to ensure that no amount of alcohol, no matter how small, gets onto the top and causes damage to the paint. You should also be cautious about veneered fingerboards and possibly ask a violin maker for advice beforehand. Black lacquered hardwood fingerboards can be impaired in their coloring by the alcohol, a defect that is easily rectified and of a purely aesthetic nature. After this treatment, the fingerboard should be rubbed with a little oil on another cloth, which usually gives it a nice shine again. All vegetable oils that are as pure as possible are suitable for this purpose, e.g. B. good linseed oil or olive oil. Most of the time, the strings do not even have to be loosened for this treatment. If grooves have formed on the fingerboard after a very long, intensive use of the string instrument, this is by no means a reason for a complex replacement. Good fingerboards can be removed several times by the violin maker with special tools, without any consequences for the playability or the sound of the violin. Antique string instruments from our company, which often still have their generation-old fingerboards, are refurbished with precisely these means in our specialist violin-making workshop - a perfect solution that saves the string instrument the risk of repairs, which is always associated with replacing a fingerboard.
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What can you do to improve the sound of a violin?

The tonal optimization of a violin and any string instrument not only requires specialist knowledge and experience, but also patience in order to find the best setting through targeted experiments. String instruments that are professionally prepared and ready to play may also require further optimization if the individual playing technique or the tonal ideas of their new owner cannot be satisfactorily implemented. The most important measures for improving the sound include the positions of the sound post and bridge, which can be used to specifically influence certain frequency ranges of the tone. While you can undertake your own attempts with the necessary caution with the bridge, repositioning the sound post is a clear matter for the violin maker. This applies entirely to a further, possibly very effective intervention, which consists in changing the bass bar and can only be accomplished with great technical effort. But musicians who have carefully selected their violin and found it to be suitable can usually achieve the necessary improvements with much simpler methods: A different rosin not only changes the response, but also the sound of the violin; other strings often open up completely new aspects of playing on one and the same string instrument and, last but not least, the violin bow plays a decisive role. Cellists in particular have a lot of practice in mixing sets of strings and develop a certain virtuosity in finding their personal A-string. Last but not least, there is considerable potential for improvement in the most essential accessory of a string instrument: the violin bow. Many musicians spend a long time looking for a better violin, until they find out that a new bow opens up previously unknown areas of musical action for their instrument.
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