As the Chicago winter has worn on, mercilessly, the air has been dry. Cold air is always dry, but the hygrometer in my new violin case provides some data – when the case arrived, it read about 30% humidity, but within two days it read 0% humidity. It stayed there, and I actually began to wonder if the device was broken. But then I received the instrument/case humidifier I ordered and began to use it. We also had a day of temps near 50 F. As a consequence, the hygrometer now reads about 10% humidity (yesterday it was 20%).
Extremely dry air is bad for instruments. The older the instrument, the worse it is. Violins are thin bits of wood held together by glue. They carry a lot of tension due to the strings as well. Old, dry wood and glue under tension can crack, and seams can open up. The repairs to my instrument that I had done when I first received it were the result of age mainly – these things just happen – but changes in the air over the years are the primary responsible factor. So I have to be careful. I’m glad the humidifier is working to a certain extent, but it would be better if I could get the humidity in the case into the 40% range. I’ll have to keep working on it.
The humidifier I have slips into the instrument itself, and can stay there as I play. There are also humidifiers that attach to the case, so I might see about getting one of those as well. It does seem like the air in our condo, where my violin lives and works and plays, is especially dry. Some people report that the humidity factor has an impact on tone production as well.
The moisture situation is heading in the right direction, and I’m happy to report that the Minuet 2 situation is too. In yesterday’s lesson I finally made it through to the end. This is the first piece I’ve taken three weeks to get through – it has been challenging, and I love it. When I get to the point I can play it straight through without stopping I think the song is about three and a half minutes long. That might not seem like a lot, but to me it’s exciting. After today’s practice session, it’s likely that I’ll have memorized a real song-length piece of music! By Bach!
Thanks for reading.