The War Against Winter

Winter is coming.

The citizens of Westeros are not the only ones who fear the coming season. Musicians can feel its icy claws reaching out in the form of slipping pegs and shrinking string heights. Humidity once again betrays us as it retreats from winter’s advance, leaving our instruments vulnerable. Rapidly changing environments, both outdoors and in, seek to wreak havoc. How can we defend ourselves against the impending storm?

Step 1: Know your enemy.

Winter has many weapons in its arsenal and wields them without mercy. As fellow survivors of Snowpocalypse 2015: Boston Edition, we remember its fury. The two most effective weapons winter possesses are humidity and temperature.

Humidity:  During more temperate times, humidity can be an asset. Wood expands and contracts depending on the humidity level; more humidity means expansion (swelling of the wood), lack of humidity contraction (depression of the wood). Winter is not a humid season in the northeast, which means the wood on your instrument is shrinking. There are a few specific consequences of this:

  1. As the humidity decreases, the belly will get lower. This lowers the bridge height and consequently the string height. This is most apparent on cellos—many cellists have seasonal bridges for this reason.
  2. Ever wonder why your pegs constantly slip when winter comes? It’s probably winter’s fault for driving humidity away. Pegs and the peg box are made from different types of wood that expand and contract at different speeds. This means the peg may suddenly be smaller than the hole.

Temperature: Like you (or unlike you), your instrument does not enjoy rapid temperature changes. This includes going from the frigid outdoors to the well-heated indoors and vice versa. It also includes switching between rooms with very different climates, like from the green room to the stage. Winter is diabolically skilled at making sure this situation materializes on a daily basis.

Step 2: Arm yourself.

Never forget you have your own arsenal with which to fight back.

Common Sense:

This is your most powerful weapon in the war against winter. Do not underestimate its importance! If you aren’t comfortable somewhere, neither is your instrument. Insulate and humidify it like you do yourself. The analogy ends here, because remember how we said rapid temperature changes were a weapon in winter’s arsenal? While we enjoy sitting by a heater or fire, your instrument does not. Don’t fall into winter’s trap—keep your instrument away from direct heat sources.

Humidity Control: We’ll say it one more time: lack of humidity is bad for your instrument. Humidify the case, just like you do your home or individual rooms. Ideally, you want to keep the humidity around 40%. There are many types of humidifiers you can use, but our recommendation is to stick to an in-case model rather than one that goes inside the instrument. Both work well, however in-case keeps direct moisture away from the instrument and requires less maintenance. If it goes in the instrument, it means drying it thoroughly, keeping track of it when it’s not in the instrument, and daily maintenance. You need to decide what’s best for you and your instrument.

Valuable assets to your armory:

Case covers

Case humidifiers and hygrometers

Peg Compound

Step 3: Find allies.

A luthier can be your greatest ally against winter. Despite your own preparations, winter can be a cunning adversary. Be on the lookout for these common battle wounds:

Open Seams: This is by far the most common issue seen during the winter. Thankfully, it is also relatively easy to fix. Keep an eye on the seams–even if you can’t see them, a tell-tale buzzing, pop, or sudden change in sound will usually let you know something is amiss. Again, this is something that a luthier can take care of relatively easily but DO NOT REPAIR THIS YOURSELF.  Any variety of glue you find at the hardware store should be nowhere near your instrument. Luthiers use hide glue as well as well-placed clamps to ensure everything is set correctly and have a trained eye to check for any other problems. Home repairs can mean more money spent in the future to undo damage. Don’t give winter the satisfaction—go see a luthier.

Cracks: Humidifying your case and protecting your instrument against rapid temperature/climate changes should minimize your risk of cracks, but sometimes winter wins and cracks appear. These should be seen by a luthier as soon as possible because they are more difficult to repair than open seams.

Now is the time to prepare for winter’s onslaught! Check out our newly re-vamped website at www.johnsonstring.com to find out more about the products mentioned here or visit us in person at 1029 Chestnut Street in Newton Upper Falls.

 

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Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

 

 

Gifts for Musicians – JSI’s Holiday Sale!

Our halls are decked and all is merry and bright here during the Holiday Sale at Johnson String and Carriage House Violins!

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Carriage House Violins of Johnson String Instrument

Our friendly and knowledgable staff is here to help with gift ideas for musicians on your list. If you are in New England, we hope you can visit our beautiful new space in Newton Upper Falls, Massachusetts!

Make an appointment to try violins, violas, cellos, and bows in our private trial rooms or recital hall at Carriage House Violins, or visit carriagehouseviolins.com to view our vast collection of instruments and bows. Starting a home trial for a player who needs a new instrument is a great holiday gift surprise!

Upstairs at Johnson String Instrument, you can visit our Bass Shop, Guitar Shop, and Electric Instruments Shop to see our selection of double basses, acoustic guitars, and other fretted instruments, plus electric instruments for sale. We’ve also got a great assortment of accessories, cases, strings, and sheet music, too, on sale now through January 4.

If we can’t meet you in person, we hope you’ll visit our websites at carriagehouseviolins.com or johnsonstring.com to order now for a speedy delivery!

Below are some gift ideas for string players on your list.

 

JSI Gift Certificates:

How can you go wrong? Available in any denomination and can be used in-store, online, or by phone. They make great stocking stuffers and are great for teachers!

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Wristies Hand Warmers:

Wristies provide excellent warmth while keeping your fingers free! Made of incredibly soft and comfortable Polartec polyester fleece, they are water repellent, retain body heat, and wick away moisture. Highly recommended by hundreds of professional string players!

 

JSI Deluxe Stands for Violin or Cello:

The JSI Deluxe Violin Stands are beautiful handmade hardwood stands designed to hold a full-size violin and bow. The Deluxe Cello Stand holds a 3/4 size or full-size cello and bow. The wood is skillfully and tastefully decorated and finished with a golden brown varnish. The padded suede interior of the stand gently cradles the instrument, and comes in different colors. They provide easy access to the violin, as well as a stunning display for any home or performance environment. A great gift for anyone who wants to display their instrument beautifully!

 

 

 

Colorful violin, viola, and cello cases:

View a wide selection of models and colors on our website. Includes Bobelock, Core, Gewa, and more!

Plus, receive 15% off a case and bow when you purchase an instrument and bow from Carriage House Violins!

 

Electric violins, violas, cellos, or basses:

Plug in with exciting electric instruments by Yamaha, NS Design, or Realist.

Plus, receive a free Johnson Artist Carbon Composite Bow with any purchase of a NS Design or Realist electric instrument!

And, Yamaha  violin and viola outfits are on sale!

 

Strad Rosin for violin, viola, or cello in a violin-shaped box:

This makes a great gift both for the excellent rosin–the formula for which is based on an old Italian recipe–and also for the beautiful box it comes in, handcrafted from root of tuja wood, and precisely carved to-scale in the shape of one of Stradivarius’s famous violin forms! Specify violin/viola, or cello formula.

 

JSI Super Wide Stand Light:

The JSI Super-Wide stand light illuminates four pages of sheet music with nine LEDs! Runs on three AAA batteries, power adapter (included), or USB. With two brightness levels, a flexible lamp post, and firmli gripping clamps, this light can be adjusted to accommodate virtually any lighting need!

 

 

The Violin Lesson, by Simon Fischer:

This manual for teaching and self-teaching is a must-have for the serious violin student!

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Watch our blog for more features during our Holiday Sale, and ask us about other great ideas for gifts for musicians!

info@johnsonstring.com