To get the best out of your instrument you need to make sure you care for it properly. To help you look after your instrument we have put together this simple viola care guide.
1. HOLDING YOUR VIOLA
The best steps you can take to caring for your viola is to hold it properly and carefully. Always take your viola out of the case carefully and hold the it safely by the neck and chinrest. Where possible try to avoid touching the varnish on the body of the viola as the oils from your fingers can cause damage to it over time. Whenever you take a break from playing try to put your viola away in the case or use an instrument stand to keep it safe from knocks and bumps.
2. THE BOW AND ROSIN
When applying rosin to your bow pay attention to how much you use. A bow with not enough rosin will slip on the strings and not produce an even sound. If you have applied too much rosin the bow will feel sticky on the strings, produce an uneven sound, and leave rosin dust on the body and strings of the viola. Where possible try to avoid touching the bow hair. Oils from your skin can dirty the bow and stop the rosin from sticking to the hair allowing it to play properly.
3. KEEPING IT CLEAN
After you have played your viola take some time to care for it before putting it away. When you have finished playing use a soft, clean, lint-free cloth to wipe the rosin dust from the strings and body of the viola. Taking time to do this is an important step as rosin dust can actually damage the finish of your viola over time and dampen the sound from the strings. When cleaning the viola also take some time to clean rosin dust from the bow.
4. REPLACE AND REFRESH
Over time it is likely that there will be a build-up of rosin on the strings that you may not be able to remove with just a clean cloth. If this happens you will need to use a solvent to help remove the rosin from the strings, make sure to avoid getting this on the varnish. The body of the viola may also become sticky or dirty with use. Do not use polish or cleaning products to deal with this, instead only use cloths or cleaners made specifically for the viola. Your strings and bow hair will gradually wear with use and need to be replaced. If you are not confident in taking these steps take your viola to a luthier and they will be able to help.
When you are not playing your viola always ensure you put it away in a good quality, durable viola case to keep it safe. When putting your viola away make sure it is stored bridge side up to avoid any strain on the bridge, then make sure the viola is securely restrained in the case - using the neck strap to keep it in place. Place all accessories, such as rosin, in separate compartments of the case to avoid them from bumping into the viola during travel. Before putting it away loosen the adjustment screw of the bow to relieve the tension of the bow hair, this will help to avoid the bow from warping. Making sure that your viola has been put away properly is one of the best steps you can take to maintaining your viola.
6. TEMPERATURE AN HUMIDITY
Violas are very sensitive to temperature and humidity, so correct storage is important for caring for your instrument. Ideally you should store your viola in its case, in a room with stable temperature and humidity. Try to avoid storing your viola in an area of excessive heat or cold (such as in a car overnight in winter) as this can cause the wood to warp or crack.
You also want to keep an eye on the humidity. The ideal humidity for a viola is around 50%. Use a hygrometer to check the humidity - a lot of viola cases come with one installed, if yours doesn't it may be an idea to look into getting one. If the air is too dry for your viola you can look into using a humidifier to stop your viola from drying out and alternatively if the air is too humid you can use a de-humidifier.
If you have any cracks or damage to your viola, take it to a luthier as soon as possible to get it repaired. Don't be tempted to try and fix cracks yourself as you may cause more damage further down the line. If ever you are concerned that your viola is damaged or not playing properly rather than guess or use home remedies take it to a luthier to be inspected.
For peace of mind in the long term look to get your viola insured against any damage that could occur.
- Hold your viola carefully by the neck and avoid touching the varnish
- Don't apply too much rosin to the bow
- Wipe down the viola, strings, and bow with a soft clean cloth after playing
- Replace the strings and bow hair when necessary
- Store securely in a case when not in use
- Store in a room with stable temperature and humidity
- If in doubt take it to a luthier
- Insure your viola
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If you have any questions or need any help let us know in the comments.