There are a thousand little tips and tricks when it comes to violin maintenance. These small tips appear obvious to seasoned players, but they need to be explained to beginners. All that I have written in this blog, and in this particular article, has been demonstrated to me by my teachers, my Great Violin Master (Leonid Kogan’s pupil, remember), and by all the luthiers I have been fortunate enough to work with.
A violin well maintained and clean is a violin that will give you the best chances to improve your music.
There are no complex tasks to perform on a violin; for those, ask your local luthier. Other than that, you can or rather need to do a few maintenance actions on your violin that I have explained further in this blog post for your violin and in that one for your bow.
Products to clean your violin
This is the list of the most common products I use when it comes to maintaining my violins and bows. I will link them to Amazon if you want to check their price and availability.
- Compressed air, suitable for electronics. It helps you remove dust in places where you can’t reach even with a pencil, or in conjunction with a paintbrush.
- Hard paintbrush of several sizes, I typically use a brush to remove dust from the pegbox or the fine-tuners,
- Hill compound for pegs, the original Peg compound by the great luthier is essential if your pegs can’t hold tension. It is just the friction of the pegs in the pegbox that prevent them from turning. But if the pegs are worn out, the holes in the pegbox can become too big. The result is a peg that is slightly too loose. Some people used to use chalk to prevent the peg from turning too much. But chalk dust is bad and spread all over the pegbox. The right product to try is the Hill compound to put where the pegs get in contact with the pegbox. Always keep your pegs clean and dry; never lubricate your pegs whatsoever, as you wouldn’t want to lubricate your bike brakes.
- Hill polish, it is hands down the best product you can buy off the shelf to clean your instrument. Of course, you can buy some polish at a luthier’s shop, but I can’t advise one in particular. Hill’s polish is once again made with the recipe of the late great luthier and is the perfect polish for your instrument. Use it with parsimony.
- Alcohol at 70% or 90%. As I have described in detail, alcohol is really useful to clean parts of the violin and the bow. It dissolves rosin and dirt and helps sanitize parts such as your chin rest. Be careful: do not put alcohol on your varnish! It might dissolve it.
- Cotton swab: I use them to put a small amount of Hill polish on my violin.
- Cotton pad: to spray alcohol on it and carefully clean your bow stick and frog (see my blog post).
- Micro-Fiber cloth (at least two of them). You need one cloth to clean the parts of your violin and bow that have been contaminated with rosin. Then another cloth to clean parts where rosin is (almost) absent. Do not exchange clothes as you would put rosin dust where it doesn’t belong: this is something you don’t want. Clean your clothes regularly in a washing machine.
- Tweezers: you need tweezers to grab small objects such as E string sleeves, for example. But their most important role is to grab the end of the string when you install them in order to adjust their length correctly, and the angle of the pegs. I have described the complete process in that blog post.
- 2b pencil: You need the graphite of those pencils to lubricate the nut and the bridge when you install strings. Put the tip of the pencil where the string slips on the nut and bridge to help the string sliding and get a good tuning.
- String cleaner, and rosin remover. I do not typically use those. I think that alcohol on a cotton pad is perfect for that. I have mentioned the link for you to check out, but I think this is a bit of marketing, and alcohol is ideal for that.
- Bow hair cleaner. I do not recommend, and I do not use a bow-hair cleaner. I am not sure of the true purpose of it and if it is even harmful to the bow hair. If I need to clean the bottom part of the bow (close to the frog), I typically use alcohol. If I need to remove some rosin, I wipe it off with a clean and dry microfiber cloth. If the hair is dirty enough to be cleaned thoroughly, I prefer to change it altogether. I do not know if you have some experience with a bow hair cleaner. I would love to have your take on that. My bow maker does not recommend it.
Checking and correcting the humidity of your violin and bow case
- Hygrometer, if it is not included in your case. It is essential to know what is the humidity rate if you want to take proper care of your violin and bow when you travel. Some cases have hygrometers built-in, but you can add one yourself for a modest price like this one, pretty inexpensive on Amazon. This one is a bit more expensive but gives a great upgraded look to your case.
- Dampit: in case your violin is too dry, you need to use a Dampit. Just check the humidity rate on the above hygrometer. Then, put your Dampit in a glass of water, then wipe off the excess of water with a cloth: you do not want some water drops inside your violin. Then insert your Dampit through your violin F-hole: and voilà! You are good to go. Your violin (and bow hair, strings, and so on) will not suffer from too dry air.
- Desiccant. Lastly, if you travel to countries where the atmosphere is too humid (for example, Asia at certain times of the year), then you might want to add some desiccant in your violin case. Monitor the hygrometry level and add and change desiccant accordingly. I prefer to buy small dehumidifier packs; I can add and change them easily.