Protecting your violin from changes in humidity
The internal wood fibres of a violin can be significantly altered by changing weather, with factors like temperatures and humidity causing the instrument to shift and change.
It is, therefore, important that you remain aware of the relative humidity level in places where your instrument is most often kept. The relative humidity is the term used to describe how much water is in the air in comparison to how much it can hold at that temperature.
A relative humidity of less than 30% for an extended time, i.e. a very dry atmosphere, can cause seams to open and cracks to appear in the instrument, especially in vulnerable areas like the top.
What damage can weather fluctuations cause to your violin?
As humidity levels change through the year with the seasons, it is important to understand the impact this could be having on your instrument.
Changes to the instrument’s dimensions
Dry weather causes the wood’s internal fibres to contract. This causes change to the height of the top, bridge, and neck, bringing the strings closer to the fingerboard. The opposite can be said for high humidity.
Lesser quality of sound
In a very dry environment, the sound produced can become strident and harsh. In contrast, a humid climate makes the instrument’s sound lose power, so that it sounds much sandier and more crackly. Striking a balance between the two allows for the best possible conditions for your violin, and therefore the best sound.
Dry weather can cause buzzing
Although adjusting the strings on the fingerboard eases articulation, it can also cause buzzing on the lower strings. Correcting the humidity of the environment the instrument is in, be it the room or its case, will stop this unwanted buzzing.
How to prevent damage caused by dry air
Keep the humidity stable
You should aim to keep relative humidity levels at 50-60% in order to keep the instrument in good working order and producing a quality sound. Regularly checking on the relative humidity levels will help to prevent your instrument from the issues associated with fluctuating humidity levels.
Moisten the instrument internally when dry
A specialist string instrument humidify, such as Dampit, can be used to prevent cracking, split joints, and damages caused by dry air. It helps by stabilising the internal humidity level of your violin, viola or cello.
Check the relative humidity level of your case
Just like you should monitor the humidity levels in the room in which the violin is kept, the case, where it will be most of the time, should be monitored too. If it’s too dry, you can slightly moisten the fabric of the case. If it’s too wet, dry the case with a hairdryer or by exposing to the sun. Ensure you remove the instrument and bow from the case before moistening or drying it.