Essential String Instrument Care

By Sam Qam

With good care given to string instruments, their life duration can be limitless. Here are a few pointers for their care and maintenance:

Avoid extremes in temperature and humidity. Wood cracks easily when put under too many extremes of temperature. Never leave the instrument by a radiator, in a car, or in a room that is prone to these variances in temperature. If it is necessary to bring the instrument into an environment with a real difference in temperature, allow it to acclimatise more slowly by leaving it in the case for a short period of time before opening it. If travelling abroad with an instrument to a hotter country with low humidity, invest in a humidifier so that the instrument has time to slowly adjust without drying out too quickly.

Cases are the safest place in which to leave the instrument when it is not being played, unless an investment is made into an instrument stand. Whilst the stand is not as safe as a case, it is at least a designated place to support your instrument.

For the bowed string instruments, simple procedures such as loosening the bow in between playing times is essential for keeping the bow stick in its natural shape and preventing it from warping (bending so that unnecessary pressure is put on frog and tip of bow and the tracking of bow is out, making it more likely that wood touches string rather than bow hair). Avoid touching the horse hair as the natural oils in the fingers reduces the effectiveness of bow sound quality despite application of resin. Bows will need to be taken in to a qualified Instrument repairer for re-hairing sooner than necessary if the bow hair is constantly touched (the bow needs to be of sufficient value to warrant this, otherwise it is better to just replace the student bow). Be careful not to over resin a bow. It only increase need for cleaning the instrument afterwards, and it can reduce the quality of tone to a gruffer, rasping sound.

For cleaning the main body of the instrument, a simple polish cloth is sufficient to remove general dust and resin. If the resin has been left on the body of the instrument for extended amounts of time, there are special products that can be bought to remove the resin without damaging the varnish of the instrument. Likewise, with guitars, there are products you can buy for the fret board. But for all these additional cleaners, they are to be used rarely and sparingly.


Guitar

The guitar is a popular musical instrument classified as a string instrument with anywhere from 4 to 18 strings, usually having 6. The sound is projected either acoustically or through electrical amplification (for an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar, respectively). It is typically played by strumming or plucking the strings with the right hand while fretting (or pressing against the frets) the strings with the fingers of the left hand. The guitar is a type of chordophone, traditionally constructed from wood and strung with either gut, nylon or steel strings and distinguished from other chordophones by its construction and tuning. The modern guitar was preceded by the gittern, the vihuela, the four-course Renaissance guitar, and the five-course baroque guitar, all of which contributed to the development of the modern six-string instrument.

Violin

The violin is a string instrument in the violin family. It is the smallest and highest-pitched instrument in the family in regular use. The violin typically has four strings tuned in perfect fifths, and is most commonly played by drawing a bow across its strings. Violins are important instruments a wide variety of musical genres. They are most prominent in the Western classical tradition and in many varieties of folk music (where the violin is often known as the "fiddle"). However, violins are also frequently used in jazz, a number of different forms of rock and roll and metal, and descendants of folk including country music and bluegrass music. Further, the violin has come to be played in many non-Western music cultures all over the world. The violin is sometimes informally called a fiddle, regardless of the type of music played on it.

 

Cello

The Chello is a bowed string instrument with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is a member of the violin family of musical instruments, which also includes the violin and viola.The cello is used as a solo musical instrument, as well as in chamber music ensembles, string orchestras, as a member of the string section of symphony orchestras, and some rock bands. It is the second-largest bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra, the double bass being the largest.

Cellos were derived from other mid- to large-sized bowed instruments in the 16th century, such as the viola da gamba, and the generally smaller and squarer viola da braccio, and such instruments made by members of the Amati family of luthiers.
Cello parts are generally written in the bass clef, but both tenor and treble clefs are used for higher-range parts.

Viola

 

The viola is a bowed string instrument. It is slightly larger than a violin in size and has a lower and deeper sound than a violin. Since the 18th century it has been the middle voice of the violin family, between the violin (which is tuned a perfect fifth above it) and the cello (which is tuned an octave below it).

Music that is written for the viola differs from that of most other instruments, in that it primarily uses the alto clef, which is otherwise rarely used. Viola music employs the treble clef when there are substantial sections of music written in a higher register.

Ukulele

The ukulele is a member of the lute family of instruments; it generally employs four nylon or gut strings or four courses of strings. The ukulele originated in the 19th century as a Hawaiian adaptation of the Portuguese machete, a small guitar-like instrument, which was introduced to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants, many from Madeira and the Azores. It gained great popularity elsewhere in the United States during the early 20th century, and from there spread internationally. The tone and volume of the instrument vary with size and construction. Ukuleles commonly come in four sizes: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone.