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What are the optimal conditions to store my violin in? A person in my orchestra recently suffered damage to her violin due to the strings tightening and breaking the bridge and I want to ensure I can avoid that if at all possible.

I play on a weekly basis and find that the bow is always a lot looser than I left it. The strings still seem tuned however. Is this a sign of an inadequate environment? Is there anything I should change?

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    That bow ought to be left loose anyway. – Tim Feb 13 '18 at 11:05
  • Tim said it about the bow. If you check the tuning on a weekly basis, that should easily be enough to ensure that no damage is happening. – Scott Wallace Feb 13 '18 at 11:35
  • @Tim I do leave the bow loose, but it's significantly looser, at a point where the individual hairs are separated. – Chris Neve Feb 13 '18 at 12:54
  • Check your humidity is between 40 and 60 percent... A few cases have built in hygrometers for this. – Shawn Li Feb 13 '18 at 14:08
  • @ChrisNeve - that's normal with the bow. If your hair is so loose that you can't tighten the bow enough to play, then you need lower humidity (probably not easy to arrange) or new hair. – Scott Wallace Feb 13 '18 at 17:19
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Strings don't autonomously tighten, and even under extreme changes in humidity & temperature, they won't tighten anywhere near enough to snap a healthy bridge. Your orchestra violinist there must have had a bridge with a significant flaw in it, and/or a nasty bump/drop applied to the violin while in the case, for the bridge to break. (One other possibility is that he'd failed to notice warping in the bridge which can happen when tightening (tuning) strings and the strings don't move smoothly in the grooves in the bridge.)

So, in sum, optimal storage is anything which minimizes variation in temperature and humidity.

And as Tim & Scott warned (in comments): never leave your bow taut. It's not good for the hair or the wood.

  • Any experience with carbon fibre bows? – Tim Feb 13 '18 at 13:24
  • @Tim seeing as they don't have carbon fibre hair :-) , I would still urge detensioning when not in use. – Carl Witthoft Feb 13 '18 at 15:49
  • That part, I understand ! But I wondered if there had been a replacement for the poor horses... – Tim Feb 13 '18 at 15:59
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    @Tim - no generally acceptible replacement for the poor horses yet. But there are some exceptions: the "Incredibow" is entirely synthetic, including the hair, and lots of folkies around here swear by them: incredibow.com – Scott Wallace Feb 13 '18 at 17:24
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If conditions are not good for people, there not good for your instrument. Temperature and humidity should be moderate. You can help protect your instrument by putting it into a bag made for it or in a cloth or t-shirt (which I sometimes use for my cello). Close the case completely. Keep the strings in tune so the sound post won't shift. The bow should be loose because humidity can tighten the hair too much. Advice from the desert: if you use a humidifier in an f-hole, use add water every day. Otherwise, never use it. Lastly, keep your strings clean of rosin.

  • Interesting, why keep the strings clean of rosin? – Chris Neve Jan 28 at 9:39
  • Sorry, I have no idea why. This opinion is based on decades of personal experience in seeing sound quality fall when they are not cleaned. I suggest taking my word for it. I should probably have added that cleaning the body is important, but that is more cosmetic, which is actually important for resale value. – herodotush Jan 30 at 18:11
  • Interesting. I remember asking my teachers if strings should be cleaned of rosin and they never seemed to feel strongly about it. I always try to keep them clean anyway if for no other reason than aesthetics. – Chris Neve Jan 30 at 18:15
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A bridge usually does not snap because of strings tightening by themselves but because of being tilted. Usually the side of the bridge facing towards the tail piece should be about perpendicular to the cover of the violin. String/groove action can cause it to lean differently eventually. Please be advised that fixing the inclination is easy and quick to do right and easy and quick to do wrong, and if you do the latter, chances are high that you'll make the bridge snap in the process of trying to fix it. So before fixing it yourself (in case it is askew), ask a luthier to show you how to do this reasonably safely.

With the bridge in proper inclination, sustained string pressure damage will not affect the bridge but might over decades and centuries (as opposed to most possessions, good violins run through a number of players over their lifetime rather than vice versa) affect the cover, particularly if the bass beam glue dislodges at some points.

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