4 ways to care for your violin, viola and cello

July 29, 2015

Violins, cellos and other stringed instruments need to be treated right; if they are they will only sound better as the decades pass.

4 ways to care for your violin, viola and cello

1. Know when to replace strings

  • Strings on violins should last three to six months, but on cellos can last up to 18 years.
  • Violin strings should be replaced once every three months if you play daily or up to six months if you don't.
  • The thicker strings on cellos and basses don't need to be changed as often; once every 18 years or so should be fine.
  • When changing the strings on your violin, be sure to change them one at a time to keep the bridge in place.

2. Brush off rosin dust

  • Use a soft, clean cloth or paintbrush to remove the rosin dust from your cello, violin, or viola after each time you play it.
  • If you leave rosin dust on the instrument, it will eventually harden and become increasingly difficult to remove.

3. Pencil in your strings

Use a soft pencil to apply a small amount of graphite to the bridge and notches on the top nut of your violin. It will enable the strings to slide more easily, and they'll last longer, too.

4. Take care of your bow

Taking good care of your bow is crucial for getting the best tone from your violin, viola, or cello. Here are some essential tips for proper "bow etiquette."

  • Never touch the bow hair; your skin's natural oils will counteract the gripping effect of the rosin.
  • Always loosen the bow after playing by giving it three or four good turns. Leaving constant tension on the bow hair will not only stretch the hair but eventually will weaken or warp the bow as well.
  • Replace the leather grip on the bow if it becomes worn. If you ignore it too long, it could damage the wood underneath the grip, which will affect the bow's tonality.
  • Don't apply machine oil to a sticking bow screw; rub it with a candle instead.
  • When tightening the hair on a new bow, leave just enough space to insert your pinky between the bow and the hair (slightly more for a cello).
  • You can experiment with different tensions to find the best tone for you, but be careful not to overtighten the hair.
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