All musical instruments have elements—wood, metal, and even the human voice!—that are challenged by the onset of winter. As the seasons change, temperature and humidity fluctuates. These two variables, humidity and temperature, when applied to an instrument in extreme circumstances can severely affect the expansion and/or contraction of an instrument. Here are some ideas of instrument maintenance you can do to keep it at it’s best during the winter months.
At best, an instrument’s intonation takes a few minutes to settle as the instrument warms up—at worst, it can cause serious damage, making playing either difficult or impossible. These instruments are all very expensive, so you will want to error on the side of caution and remember the tips below to take good care of it during the winter months.
The wood of guitars, violins, and other string instruments can contract, or shrink in a dry environment, loosening strings, and stressing the glue holding the sides together. Maintenance is very important on these instruments! The metal in a piano or its strings can contract, loosening some strings and tightening others—affecting the tuning of the instrument, and potentially snapping strings. In woodwinds, the glue can dry out on tonehole pads, causing them to fall out. Reeds in clarinets, saxophones, bassoons and oboes require more soaking time or a thinner scrape in order to counteract dry conditions. In extreme cases, especially in wooden wind instruments, the wood can crack creating a leak in the bore of the instrument. This happens when hot moist air is moving through the instrument, creating a warmer environment than outside of the instrument. As the wood heats up and tries to expand, it becomes stressed by the cold contrast of the outside air. Reeds are more likely to crack in these changing conditions, as well.
The best ways to take precautions against these seasonal stresses is to try and manage the variables of temperature and humidity as best as possible. Here are some maintenance tips on keeping your instrument safe through these cold, dry, winter months:
- Use a humidifier in the room you keep and practice your instrument to keep moisture in the air.
- Keep your instrument out of your car as much as possible, especially overnight. This will keep it at a more even temperature.
- Keep your thermostat set at a consistent temperature in your house. Fluctuation will cause problems with the instrument.
- Use a long, slow warm-up with the instrument before practicing to get it ready to play.
If you would like to take instrumental lessons, please check out our website for more information. https://www.omahaschoolofmusicanddance.com