Young Person's Guide to String Instrument Care
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Copyright © 1999 Henry Strobel
(503) 749-1742
Fitting the Violin or Viola - Hold it under the chin in playing position. If the left-hand +ngers
can comfortably curl around the scroll, with the elbow slightly bent, the instrument is not too
large. Straining to play one too large can be bad for your music or your health.
Fitting the Cello - Sit with knees bent square, the C-peg behind the left ear, the middle
+nger of the left hand able to touch the top of the bridge. (The violin shop can replace a too
short end pin.)
Fitting the Bass - Stand behind the bass in playing position, the nut level with the temple,
the middle +nger of the left hand able to touch the top of the bridge without bending forward.
(Note - the normal "adult" size bass is 3/4, not 4/4.)
Chin Rests and Shoulder Rests - These should let you play comfortably and securely. Your
teacher can advise. Often the original chin rest is OK. Or perhaps a “Teka” or, for a few, a
central “Flesch.” A Kun or similar shoulder rest. Watch out for worn pads that might scratch
your instrument.
Cleaning - Use a dry untreated cloth to clean the instrument after use - a man's handkerchief
is good. If you need to clean or polish it, use only a white liquid violin shop type. Have any
cracks or openings repaired +rst, wipe it on with a clean soft paper towel (not the dry cloth
kept in your case!) and rub it all o>. Keep it away from the strings, bridge, peg holes - and
Bow - Don't polish the bow, or touch its hair, or wave it around. Don't drop or drag it on the
@oor, or touch anything but the strings with it. Tighten it just enough to play right, and loosen
it after playing. Remove the bow before taking a cello or bass out of a soft case, and replace it
after putting the instrument back. Round rosin is best. Rotate it as you apply it - it will last
longer and not become grooved. Take your bow to the violin shop if it loses hair or becomes
warped or "slippery" or cannot be adjusted.
Strings & Tuning - Use the right size strings. They should be wound just to the side of the
pegbox. Tune the pegs slightly lower, then slowly up to pitch, no higher, pressing in slightly. If
pegs slip or stick, have them checked by your teacher or corrected at the violin shop. After a
while tuning pulls the bridge toward the +ngerboard, which can make it warp or fall or a>ect
the tone. The tailpiece side of the bridge must be kept vertical. Ask your teacher to show you
how. Use +ne tuners with steel core strings, but preferably not with gut and synthetic strings.
If the tuner screws go in too far unscrew them (but not enough to buzz) and retune the pegs.
Sometimes a sticking tuner screw can be +xed by removing it and rubbing it on a wax candle.
If not, have the violin shop replace it.
Problems - If the +ngerboard, sound post, or bridge comes loose or breaks, or if you +nd
cracks or openings, loosen the strings right away and take it to the violin shop. If the strings
buzz or dig deeply into the bridge, or feel too high or too low take it to the violin shop. Never
glue anything yourself - and don't let your Dad - and certainly not the bridge or sound post!
Protecting Your Instrument - Don't leave it in extremes of temperature or humidity. Don't
leave a cello or bass standing at a wall. Place it gently on its side on the @oor, but only when
you can't put it in its case, which is the safest place (it doesn't abrade the edges and protects
against classmates falling over it). Use a "suspension" case if possible, @at on the @oor. Close
it securely before picking it up. If you must use a soft case, get a thickly padded one and
beware doorways. And don't leave an instrument or bow in an open case on the @oor - or on a
chair for the careless or absent-minded to sit on or knock o>.