The following section may prove useful when purchasing or considering a new or replacement instrument. We have tried to cover as much information as possible whether you are an experienced player or newcomer to stringed instruments. Each section covers many of the basics such as instrument tuning, care etc as well as sections for the more advanced player covering issues such as climate change, storage and packaging for transportation. We have also included an online violin tuner to get those new to the instrument started.
2. String Care
4. Tuning Pegs
5. Violin Tuner
6. Bow Care
7. Tuning Adjusters
11. Temperature and Humidity
The back of the bridge should fit perpendicular to an imagined straight line parallel to the top of the ribs, it can tilt very slightly towards the tailpiece, 1-2 degrees.When a string is tuned the top of the bridge will be pulled towards the fingerboard; if you check the back of the bridge (the side towards the tailpiece) you may notice that where the feet touch the front there is a gap. If this is the case then the bridge will need to be pulled back to it's original perpendicular position. You may experience a loss or change of sound, and, if the bridge position is not corrected, the bridge may warp and could even snap.
After tuning, and especially after changing strings, check the bridge to maintain a 2 - 3 degrees backwards tilt. Do not pull it back too far, or it may warp in the other direction.
Always change strings one at a time. Removing tension from more than one string at the same time can damage the adjustment of the bridge and soundpost. New strings may need an hour or two of "playing - in" time before they will hold their tune. Only lubricate string grooves at bridge and nut with graphite from a soft pencil.
If you are experiencing frequent string breakage, particularly near the nut or bridge, then check that the string grooves do not have sharp edges or have worn so that they 'pinch' the strings. If either of these is the case then the bridge or nut will need to be adjusted to prevent further breakages.
When replacing strings, wind the string on to the peg evenly from the peghole towards the pegbox wall.
This will help ensure that tuning holds and is consistent as well as helping to prevent peg slippage or 'popping'. Be careful not to wind the string too tightly against the pegbox wall as this could also result in damage to the string.
Strings should be changed every 4-6 months for frequent players as strings will always be more powerful and pliant when they are new. Occasional players should change strings at least once a year as old strings will sound flat or dull. Top strings tend to wear more quickly than thicker lower strings and so will most likely need changing more frequently.
Strings should be cleaned with a soft clean duster after each time the instrument is played. A build-up of excess rosin will interfere with the tone and should be carefully removed. If you are unable to remove rosin build up easily then use a good quality string cleaner such as Pirastro String Cleaner. Place a few drops on to a clean cloth - try to avoid using too much as any drops would certainly damage the instrument varnish - ( It is a good idea to place another cloth over the instrument underneath the strings as an added precaution ). Gently wipe the excess rosin off the string.
To help preserve strings try using Pirastro String Oil . A few drops on a cloth, gently wiped along the length of the string and then wiped dry with a clean cloth will help extend the life of your strings.
Most strings have ball ends, which can attach to an adjuster or directly to the tailpiece, the slots above the holes retaining the ball. Sometimes a hole isn't large enough to insert the ball from the top in which case thread the top end of the string through from underneath the tailpiece.
Covered-gut strings have a knotted loop end ( e.g. Eudoxa, Olive etc. ). Don't use this type with adjusters as they attach directly to the tailpiece.
We would recommend using the string protector supplied with most top strings, usually a small plastic tube through which the string has been threaded. Alternatively, remove the string tube and have a small piece of vellum or parchment fitted to the top of the bridge for either of the top two strings.
There are two types of string end, typically for violin E strings - ball and loop.
You can find more detail on manufacturers and strings types under our extensive strings section where we offer strings from all the major manufacturers.
We recommend that you wipe the surface of your instrument after playing with a soft cloth to remove rosin dust and fingerprints and to clean the instrument with a suitable Varnish Polish when necessary. This will help to preserve the condition of the varnish which will ultimately extend the life of the instrument. This is also an excellent time to inspect the instrument and to ensure that there are no open seams or cracks. If you suspect that there may be a problem then take the instrument to your local luthier. Never ignore damage to your instrument as cracks and open seams have a tendency to spread very rapidly and a small repair can very quickly become a major headache. If the neck, front, pegbox or other areas are damaged, or the soundpost is down, we would recommend loosening the strings slightly to reduce tension and the possibility of further damage.
Pegs can be problematic and this can either be caused by sticking or slipping but also through improper tuning technique. Pegs are prone to changes in temperature and humidity, which reduces their effectiveness and can prove frustrating. With pegs that slip, often a straightforward clean is sufficient to resolve the problem. Unwind the string and then remove the peg, wipe with a fine steel wool and replace. Cleaning inside the peg hole may also be necessary but this should only be undertaken by a luthier. If a peg is sticking never apply excessive force as this could result in cracking the pegbox.
Where practical we would advise keeping your instrument out of its case or with the case lid open.
Click on the play button to hear the required note. The above notes are in basic Windows .wav format so if they do not appear then please check your browser settings to ensure that mulit-media support is enabled.
For a more portable version please check our metronomes and tuners section!
Avoid getting polish or grease ( such as fingerprints ) onto the strings as this will stop the bow hair from functioning correctly and adversely affect the tone of the instrument. Likewise never handle the bow hair directly as this will also stop it working correctly. Even a small amount of hand oils can create a slick spot on the hair, preventing it from holding rosin and producing tone. If the hair becomes dirty or worn, it will need to be replaced.
Bow hair has tiny natural scales that hold the rosin. Over time these wear away and you will find that you are applying excessive rosin. At this stage the bow needs to be rehaired. Bow hair is also subject to changes in humidity and can shrink. If you find that the bow will not tighten correctly then it is likely that the frog has reached the end of the mortice and, again, a rehair will be required. It is also possible that the brass eye in the frog ( which holds the frog onto the adjuster ) may be worn and require replacement.
If you notice numerous breaks in your bow hair ( especially if you've not been playing the instrument and keep it in a closed case ) you may have Bow bugs (anthrenus museorum). These are a relatively common pest and feed off bow hair. They particularly like the dark but are otherwise harmless and will not hurt the instrument.
Loosening your bow after use helps to extend both bow hair life and prevents the stick warping.
If a bow is dropped on its' tip then damage is almost inevitable. This should be repaired as soon as possible as the tip helps to protect the head.
Bows, like instruments should be kept clean by simply wiping the stick, frog and handle after use with a soft duster. They shouldn't require more than this between re-hairs when the stick should be thoroughly cleaned in the workshop.
Leather thumbgrips will wear and need periodic replacement alternatively many players prefer to use hand cushions such as the DALCO HAND OR THUMB CUSHION.
There are many different designs of adjuster especially for violin E-strings. It is generally worth avoiding the cheapest, as these can be unreliable or at best difficult to use.
Keep the fingerboard clean and don't use frayed strings, as these will scratch the fingerboard making it uneven.
Ideally, once correctly installed, the post shouldn't need any attention for many years unless the instrument is new in which case it is a good idea to have it checked and adjusted if necessary after the first few months when the wood has had time to settle.
Never place your instrument in a poor fitting case, always ensure that the case fits correctly and do not place anything loose in the case, such as music or accessories, as this will cause damage. We have a range of suitable cases available - many with adequate storage for accessories, spare bows, music, spare strings and hygrometers.
We recommend that your instrument is covered with either a suitable cloth or alternatively a specially designed Silk Bag which will help prevent damage from loose bows or accessories.
Store your instrument in a room which usually stays at a moderate temperature and humidity. Insurers do not generally cover for damage caused by atmospheric changes. Wood expands in conditions of heat and moisture and shrinks in cold and dry conditions. Sudden changes in temperature or humidity can cause wood to crack and seams to pop open. Dark cases, in sunlight, heat excessively whereas white cases reflect heat and keep instruments cooler. If your instrument has become cold in transit allow it to acclimatise for a while before opening the case and using. In dry conditions use a Humidifier. In general the use of a Hygrometer, such as the Stretto - which combines humidifier and hygrometer, can also be valuable.
We would always recommend using a specialist Musical Instrument Insurer as they are better placed to understand the needs of musicians. Ensure that your instrument carries a current and appropriate professional valuation as this will greatly assist in the event of having to make a claim. All our fine instruments are supplied with a full and comprehensive valution for insurance purposes.