Summertime and the living is easy. Yes, but it can also be hard on your string instruments. Wood is vulnerable material and is easily affected by any kind of extreme weather. Heat and humidity cause the wood to swell and sometimes warp instruments. It is important to remember that the season ushers in a unique set of demands on your instruments and bows.
Heat and water are used to make the wood malleable so the craftsman can bend the wood on the ribs of your violin, viola, cello, bass, fiddle, mandolin, banjo or acoustic guitars. This same idea can also negatively distort the shape of your instrument after production. Under sustained string tension, your instrument’s resistance to bending is reduced by more than 25 percent on a hot and humid day and that can lead to a drop in neck projection requiring the neck to be reset. On an extremely hot day, (any given summer day in the Midwest) the varnish on your instrument can soften so much that the fabric lining of the instrument case can leave pitted impressions. Extreme heat can cause a bow to bend or twist, and extreme changes in temperature traveling from a hot car to a cold concert hall, for instance can make a bow snap right in half.
Given the potential for damage, it’s no wonder that your instrument might sound different as the summer rolls around. Avoid bringing your instrument or bow into the sun or heat. Equip yourself with a few simple devices that can help you gauge your instrument’s particular microclimate. Consider installing a humidifier in your home. You can also look into purchasing a hygrometer or humidifier for your instrument case Radio Shack offers a digital hygrometer/thermometer for about $30. Give your instruments and bows a seasonal checkup and beat the summertime blues. Even if you use a humidification system in your case, you should take additional steps to protect your instrument. Avoid overly exposing your instrument to extreme weather. Never leave your instrument in a closed car. Besides the possibility of theft, on a hot, sunny day the temperature inside your vehicle reach 120 degrees or higher. Never put your instrument in the trunk of your car, especially when it is hot. Don’t store your instrument near an air conditioner. When at home it wise to keep you instrument away from open windows with hot and bright damaging sunrays. These are all pretty basic tips to keep your instrument in its healthiest state. Love your instrument and it will love you back. (By providing you with years of quality sound.)