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Winter Protection For Your Stringed Instrument

Violins and other stringed instruments need protection from the elements. In the summer, it’s the humidity. In the winter it’s the cold, dry weather. Stringed instruments, just like most humans, prefer a constant temperature of between 60-70 degrees with a relative humidity of 40-60%.

Unfortunately, these conditions are pretty tough to maintain as the temperature turns from pleasantly mild in the fall to downright cold in the winter. And, as the weather changes, so, too, does the amount of moisture in the air.

Professional musicians, college students, or children just starting to take music lessons, anyone who owns a stringed instrument needs to know about winter protection for stringed instruments, especially if they live in cities like New York, Chicago, and Boston where the winter weather is particularly cold and dry. Instruments traveling from home to school, rehearsal, or performance venue and back can experience a lot of damage if not adequately protected from the winter elements.

violin made out of ice

Keep track of humidity levels in your case

Why are stringed instruments so susceptible to the vagaries of the weather? Stringed instruments are made from different varieties of wood. Wood is “hygroscopic” which means that it attracts and absorbs moisture from the air, and swells. As the wood dries, it shrinks.

If the humidity falls below 40%, changes in the moisture levels in the air could result in loose pegs, lowered string heights, a change in tone, open seams, and cracking. Therefore, being able to monitor the humidity levels and keep a stable temperature is critical to preventing any damage to your instruments.

The good news is there are ways to protect your instrument from the cold and changing humidity levels in the winter:

  • Keep your instrument in the case, preferably a hard case, as much as possible
  • Open the case when you arrive at a different environment to allow your instrument to acclimate to the changes in temperature and humidity
  • Consider keeping your instrument in a silk bag or cotton cover to retain heat while in the case
  • Get a hygrometer if your case does not have one as a built-in feature

A hygrometer is an instrument that measures the relative humidity of the inside of your case which gradually matches the air outside the case. Take note of the reading every time you open your case so that you can be alert to a change in humidity levels that could be potentially damaging to your instrument.

Need more humidity?

Dry conditions are the bane of stringed instruments. However, there are products that you can use to humidify your instrument case, such as Dampits. A dampit is a soft rubber sleeve that holds a special open-cell sponge that slowly releases water throughout the day to protect the wood from cracking and other damages.

At Johnson String Instrument we offer a variety of accessories to humidify and protect your instrument.

Additional Resources

Carriage House Violins

Located in Newton, Massachusetts, Carriage House Violins is the instrument sales division of Johnson String Instrument.

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Johnson String Project

A charitable foundation whose goal is to provide high-quality instruments to children who live in under-served communities and who are participating in El-Sistema-inspired programs in Massachusetts.

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