General Violin & Bow CARE
For happy violins & bows
C A R E !
Some thoughts from friends to help you maintain your violin and bow.
It is a common problem and one that
can be a nuisance for players if it is left wholly unattended or
infrequently attended, for in the worst case the tightening of strings
may eventually pull the top of the bridge so far north that the bridge
becomes warped, or, worse still, falls over.
The back side (facing the tailpiece) of the bridge should
be perpendicular to the top of the violin. The tendency is for the bridge
to be pulled forward. You need to gently pull it back. Sometimes only
one side (usually the Bass side of the bridge) is being pulled forward.
To do this,. sit down in a chair with your knees together in front of you.
Checking to see that you're not wearing varnish scratching zippers or
belt buckles, put the violin in your lap with the scroll away from you. You
should be looking down at the top of the bridge. Supporting the violin
with your lap, nip the crown (top) bridge between your thumb and index
finger and gently pull it backwards. If the violin is immobile in your lap
you should be able to move the bridge easily and in very small
movements. The trick is to just move it a little at a time and this is
partly accomplished by pulling with your finger and offering a bit of
resistance with your thumb. If the bridge really does not want to move
back, or it feels like it pops back, you can remove the strings, one at
time, and while the string is off, rub a bit of lead from a soft-lead pencil
in the string groove on the bridge. This may facilitate smooth pulling
back of the bridge. It is important to remember that we have only been
considering movement of the top of the bridge. The feet will be in the
You can use both hands to pinch the two sides of the bridge as you
pull back, one finger thumb combo on the left top of the bridge, one finger thumb combo on the right.
If you want to rub a bit of lead into the string groove, only do this one
string at a time. With all of the string loosened or off, the bridge and then soundpost are likely to fall.
Kelvin Scott Violins II. ROSIN
Keeping a round cake of rosin in usable shape takes some thought when you are rosining the bow.
Keep turning the cake each time you use it, to maintain a flat surface on the rosin cake. A flat surface will make better contact
with the bowhair and also will not harm the wood of the bow. In this picture you can see on the left a round cake of light rosin (Obligato by Pirastro) that is fairly new, on the right a cake of dark rosin (Olive by Pirastro) that is several years old, and on the top a
wooden holder type (Super-Sensitive) rosin. Many rental violins come with the wood holder rosin. The wood holders are a problem when the rosin gets low in the holder. The bow wood can rub on the wood holder and the hair gets hurt. I recommend the round cakes in cloth wrappers. There are also round cakes available in foam wrappers; however, after a while the foam wrappers tend to disintegrate and make a mess on the rosin. I even had one foam wrapper become stuck all over the rosin.
Sheila's Corner III. FINE TUNERS - Tuners are worn out when they cease to function. When a tuner gets
hard to turn you should remove the screw and rub it's threads on a candle, and then jam a little of the wax into the hole the screw goes
in--in fact this is good to do with new tuners, too.
There are three types of tuners pictured here. The top one is a Durhill midget-style. The other two are lever style. The advantage to the midget style is that the lower part slides back and forth rather than up and down toward the violin top. Damage can be done by the lever style if they are allowed to touch the top of the violin. Many
fractional size violins come with the lever type of tuner. This is because the small violins are hard to tune with the pegs. However, the lever tuners also dampen the sound and many times end up pressing on the top of the violin. Keep and eye on the lever tuners to be sure you do not damage the top of your violin. The midget tuners need to be watched for burrs or sharp places on them so they do not cut the loop of the string. If your string is breaking at the tuner be sure to check for sharp edges on the tuner. These can be ground smooth.
Rosin can accumulate on a bow. Wipe the rosin and perspiration off with a soft cloth every time you use your bow or if you're in a long rehearsal, take time out to wipe it down. Hardened rosin needs to be removed by a repairperson.
Rodney D. Mohr IV. POLISHING
The violin on the left is a clean violin. It has been wiped down after each playing period with a soft cloth. The violin top on the right shows the rosin accumulation under the fingerboard area. The flannel cloth shown is just an
example of cloths available from different sources to keep in a case for wiping down a violin. This one is an untreated soft flannel. Silk or soft cotton would be good also.---Sheila
The best practice with regard to cleaning and polishing a violin is simply to
wipe it down after and perhaps before each playing session. I suggest that
players keep two cloths in their case: one for cleaning the area between
fingerboard end and bridge and all surrounding areas on which rosin builds up
during playing; the other cloth for wiping down parts of the rest of the
instrument, which often, no matter how careful we are, collects fingerprints,
perspiration, and so forth. Silk cloths are great, but any
soft, non-linty material will do.
The reason for avoiding commercial cleaners is that many contain solvents that
can damage varnishes. Others contain oils and waxes that build up and or
penetrate your varnish, altering its visual and physical properties. Keep in
mind that there are an infinite number of varnish formulas in the world of
violin making, each displaying the idiosyncratic preferences of the maker. It
is perhaps then a bit of a gamble
to think that a polish that you pull off a shelf or out of a catalog will be
100% compatible with your varnish.
The key to keeping the surface of your violin happy is constant vigilance.
Wiping down the instrument is a pain when you want to get out of the hall and
catch a bus or go eat dinner, but the real problems arrive when you neglect to
do this simple cleaning regularly and then the rosin and muck gets a foothold
and clings to the surface so tenaciously that a wipe with a cloth will not
remove the build up.
If you feel that your violin reaches this point, I suggest you take it to your
luthier and try to do better next time.
Kelvin Scott Violins
These are general comments to help guide, individual cases always need to be considered on a one to one basis.