Basic Maintenance for Violin, Viola, Cello and Bass

by Rich Welker, Bronstein Music

While real repairs and adjustments are best left to an expert, there is plenty you can do yourself to keep your instrument in proper playing condition.

Rosin from your bow falls on your instrument as a fine powder. The rosin, if left, will eventually "melt" the finish of the body and heavily coat the bridge. This hurts the longevity of the instrument as well as the sound produced. You can easily wipe most of it off with a soft, lint-free cloth immediately after playing. An old unprinted T-shirt or dish towel will do fine. Be careful not to knock over the bridge and don't forget to wipe off the bow stick too.

Your strings will last longer and sound better if you wash your hands before playing. The grease and acids from your hands will corrode the strings. If you want to polish the violin, use polish that is designed for the spirit varnishes used to finish the instrument. Never use ordinary household cleaners on a string instrument.

Occasionally you should clean the strings to remove rosin residue, grime, and finger oils. Take a clean cloth and push it along the strings a few times from the top of the fingerboard to the bridge. Don't push too hard, and hold your hand over the bridge to keep the screeching down.

The bow is very easy to maintain, but there are a couple of things you must remember. Don't handle the hair because your hand oils will keep the hair from holding the rosin. When you're through playing, get in the habit of releasing the tension on the hair so the stick doesn't lose its tension.