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What happens to a violin in cold weather?

As we head into winter and temperatures drop, violinists may begin to notice a change in the way their instrument sounds. Many musicians who play violin, viola, cello, bass, or guitar report that their instrument feels tight and often sounds “tinny” in the colder months. This can lead them to play more aggressively to achieve their desired sound, potentially causing damage to their instrument.

Most string musicians are aware that the physical integrity of their instrument is directly related to the way it sounds. What they may not be aware of is what exactly happens to a violin in cold weather and how different weather conditions can affect wood instruments. With cold air comes low humidity, and the dryness of winter sucks moisture out of your instrument. This causes the wood to contract and puts pressure on the sound post, affecting your ability to produce sound.

However, the solution isn’t to expose your violin to a hot temperature. Instead, let’s break down how to preserve the quality of your instrument as the seasons change.

Why you should never leave your violin in a cold car

illustration of violin

Now that you know what happens to a violin in cold weather, what about when it’s exposed to a warmer environment? While cold weather causes wood to contract, moving an instrument from the cold to a hotter, moister climate, can actually cause the wood to expand.

For example, you may notice some expansion if you move your violin from a cold car to a well heated living room. As it swells, the change in humidity can cause separation between the wood and the plates on the side of the instrument. Frequent changes in humidity can lead to cracking, warping, and permanent damage to your violin, which is why most musicians prefer to keep their instrument in a temperature controlled environment.

Better protection in all weather

You may be wondering how to protect your violin in all weather and guard against changes in humidity. Fortunately, you don’t have to keep your home perfectly temperature controlled. In fact, the right case can actually help your instrument stay at an appropriate temperature and retain its moisture. You can also invest in a humidifier if you live in a colder climate that may affect your violin.

Not sure where to find the right supplies? At Johnson String Instrument we offer a wide variety of violin cases and accessories to help you keep your instrument in top shape. Visit our site to explore our inventory and expand your violin maintenance routine.

Additional Resources

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