Late Night Tune-Up

My violin case fell from the seat to the floor of our rental SUV as we made our long annual holiday drive down to Wichita from Chicago yesterday.  At our next stop, I opened the case to find two of the strings had loosened, a not-uncommon occurrence for the instrument – in fact it’s possible that the loosening happened at any time since I’d practiced last. Regardless, I was eager to check it all out when we got in to the hotel last night after 11.

As I took it out of the case and began to wind the two strings back up, the bridge flipped down suddenly, producing a sound like a beaver’s tail on water as all the tension held in the remaining strings was released at once.  While I don’t wind strings back up to full tension every day, I’m not exactly new to the operation either.  I’m aware of the potential for this bridge meltdown to occur, and I was being careful to avoid the bridge tipping back toward the fingerboard as I tightened the pegs.  But clearly I was not careful enough – barring a faulty/broken bridge, this particular meltdown only happens when the bridge isn’t properly aligned in some way.

Indeed, I’ve never personally experienced the situation before.  At first, I was worried about the violent release causing damage to the instrument.  I examined the violin and did find a small nick in the finish between where the bridge sits and the fingerboard; it’s cosmetic, quite surface level, and not too problematic.  My 90-year-old instrument has some age spots, and I just added another.  The rest of it seemed to be OK.

The other issue I was concerned about was the sound post – a circumstance like this one can cause it to come out of its tension-held place between the top and back of the instrument; no adhesive is used there.  I quickly determined that the post had not slipped out completely (it would be rattling around inside if it had), so I just got to work tuning the thing back up.

Since by this time it was close to midnight, I put on the mute before playing a few scales. I’m happy to report the instrument is still working just fine for me.  A Christmas sigh of relief.

Thanks for reading.

Ryan

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