what you can do
Always keep your instrument and bow in its case or bag when it’s not in use. Make sure the bow hair has been loosened before putting the bow in the proper protective compartment.
Never expose the instrument to direct sunlight or sudden changes in temperature or humidity. When not in use, store in a place with moderate humidity, away from radiators or hot air vents. Never leave an instrument in a car in extremely hot or cold weather.
Stringed instruments need at least 30% (40% is better) relative humidity to maintain their adjustments and integrity. Use a Dampit to make sure sudden changes in humidity don’t crack your instrument or cause it to go out of adjustment. The Dampit should be re-moistened daily, whenever the heat is on in your house and especially during the winter months. Case-mounted humidifiers are not a substitute for a Dampit. Additionally, we recommend the use of steam vaporizers in the music room for added protection during the dry season.
Rosin dust should be removed immediately after each playing. Use a Potter’s microfiber cleaning cloth to wipe down the strings and the body of your instrument after every playing session. Periodic polishing with Potter’s Violin Polish will help maintain the luster. DO NOT USE ALCOHOL. Alcohol is a solvent and can damage the varnish.
A fresh hank of bow hair can be expected to last for just 120 playing hours. This means your bow should be rehaired once every six months if you play 1/2 an hour a day, five days a week. Loosen the bow when not in use. Keep polish and fingers away from the bow hair.
The feet of the bridge should always be aligned with the inner notches cut in the F holes. It must be kept in a perpendicular position. Tuning the strings tends to pull it forward. Check its position frequently. If neglected, the bridge may warp, even break. If it requires adjusting, grasp the bridge at both upper corners with the thumb and first fingers of each hand while holding the instrument firmly braced. Then gently move the top of the bridge to a perpendicular position. Or, ask your instructor to do it for you.
Even the finest instrument cannot sound its best with old or poor quality strings. Strings will usually go bad (6 months) long before they ever break. Look for changes in the appearance of the surface of the string. By regularly examining the windings, for changes in texture and color, you soon learn the signs that your old strings are becoming lifeless, false and dull. Check your Potter’s maintenance and warranty brochure to be sure you replace your strings with the same type that is currently on your instrument so that you don’t jeopardize the soundpost adjustment. Put new strings on one at a time. Guard against the bridge being pulled forward while tuning new strings up to pitch. Avoid using Super Sensitive, or other bottom-priced steel strings, if you have a better quality instrument.
If your tuner has a lever under the tailpiece, guard against the lever touching the top of the instrument. This can seriously bruise the wood. To reduce the depression of the lever, merely turn the tuner screw to the LEFT (counter-clockwise). Then raise the pitch with the peg. If you wish to use more than one fine tuner, consider having us install a Wittner tailpiece with the built-in tuners for ease of tuning and changing strings.
If the chinrest is loose or touching the tailpiece, it may produce a buzzing sound. Insert a chinrest key into the small hole in each chinrest bracket barrel and turn clockwise to tighten just enough so that the chinrest is firmly secured. Take care not to push the key out the opposite side of the barrel or it may scratch your instrument as you are adjusting it.
Even normal tuning will cause both the peg and the peg hole to wear smooth. This causes slipping. To give the peg more grip, apply ordinary Lava brand soap (dry) against the peg shafts where they have become polished and shiny. When pegs become seriously worn, see your repairman.
Things to be done only by your repairman
Don’t let grooves develop under the strings. Grooves prohibit free vibration of the strings. Be sure the board has a sufficient concave dip. See your repairman. He will also check the grooves in the nut for excessive wear.
In warm weather, the top of the instrument swells upward. This raises the bridge and lifts the strings too high above the fingerboard for comfortable playing. A lower bridge is required. In cold weather, the top is at its lowest level. Then a higher bridge is required. Otherwise, the strings will be too close to the fingerboard to permit free vibration. See your repairman.
If the post was fitted during cold weather, it may be too short for summer use when the top rises. Conversely, if it was fitted in warm weather, it may be too long for winter use when the top subsides. Unless the post fits properly, the tone will be disturbed. If it falls, or moves, loosen the string tension slightly and ask your teacher or repairman to re-position it.
Check your instrument regularly to note whether the top or back has become unglued from the ribs at any point. If so, do not neglect this; see your repairman as soon as practicable.
Check periodically for cracks that may develop, especially during cold, dry weather. Keep all polishes away from open cracks. Have your string repairman glue the cracks as soon as possible.