TEMPERATURE, HUMIDITY & YOUR INSTRUMENT
At this time of year it’s often worth bringing your instrument in for a check-up. If you’re feeling too cold then so too is your instrument.
Numerous complications that can occur in winter could be prevented by simple maintenance/repair steps in autumn when the central heating is soon to be turned on and the humidity is dropping like a stone.
Wood shrinks in the cold or dry air conditions and expands in heat and moist air conditions. Sudden changes in temperature or humidity e.g. taking your instrument out of a cold room into a centrally heated one or from a cold car into a warm performance space can encourage the wood to crack and seams to open. Some of the most common cracks we see in the shop are saddle cracks, especially in larger instruments like cello and double bass. Saddle cracks happen when the spruce top shrinks, the saddle which is typically made of ebony hardly changes and this is where tension occurs and a crack can appear. This type of crack is almost totally avoidable! The easiest solution is to check that your saddle is not too tight and where necessary have it re-fitted, sometimes for basses we leave a gap at the edges which allows for almost a millimetre of shrinkage before the top is again bound by the saddle.
Another area that needs to be maintained is the sound post. If Shrinkage occurs during the cold season then posts can sometimes become quite tight, you may notice a loss of sound or that the sound has become a little muted. It’s often worth running your finger behind the bridge on the front above where the sound post sits to feel for any bump, this can indicate that it’s too tight. Avoid catastrophe and check this area or bring it in and have it checked, too tight can result in a loss of tone and response or hypersensitivity…and worse, a crack! Rarer than a saddle crack, the sound post is very close to the bridge and only a few millimetres of spruce separate the sound post and bridge, too much tension in this area can cause a crack along the weakest summer grain. Cracks are not always directly by the sound post, sometimes further out and extending towards the f hole. Sound post cracks are costly to repair, and can significantly decrease the value of your instrument.
If you feel a ridge or bump from the sound post through the front, bring it in immediately for remedial actions.
Finally humidity and the reason why the above happens! Instruments are like sponges absorbing and releasing humidity constantly. It’s best if you can maintain a humidity range of 40%-50%. Digital hygrometers are accurate and easy to use we recommended those made by Swiss manufacturer Stretto which we can supply.
Call 020 7249 9398 to bring your instrument in for a check-up.