Invest in a Good Case
Protecting a violin when it's not being used or when travelling is the first step to keeping it safe. A suspension case is correctly shaped inside to hug the violin, making sure it does not move around and protecting it from bumps and knocks. Nowadays, there are many lightweight versions available, which usually come with a strap for easy transportation, pockets and compartments for accessories, such as bow, rosin, mute, and music or notebooks. Before buying, make sure the case is also waterproof to protect the violin from the elements when out and about, and preferably lockable for security.
Establish Good Habits
Establishing good habits when using the violin will also help it to stay in good condition. Never put it down anywhere but in its case, even if it's only for a moment. If the violin is left on a chair, it could be sat on, or if it is placed in front of a heater, the strings and wood could warp. Always remove the shoulder rest before putting it in its case, even if putting the violin down temporarily - forgetting to remove the shoulder rest before closing the lid could damage the violin irreparably.
Never leave the violin in direct sunlight as this could damage the varnish or the wood. Before closing the case, make sure everything is stored away securely; a loose bow or rosin box rolling around inside could cause damage. Many players cover or wrap the violin in a soft cloth for added protection. And always check that the case is securely closed before picking it up or the violin could fall out and break.
Keep the Violin Clean
To produce a lovely sound, rosin must be rubbed onto the hairs of the bow to create friction between the bow and the strings. When the violin is played, the rosin, which is actually solidified tree sap, becomes a fine, sticky powder, which is deposited over the violin body, and over time this can build up. The simplest way to avoid this build-up is to clean the rosin off the violin after every session using a soft cloth. The rosin should also be wiped off the strings as rosin deposits can affect the sound quality.
Take Care of the Bow
Always treat the bow with care as it is delicate and could break with rough use. The tip is especially vulnerable, so make sure the bow is used and stored correctly. Never over-tighten the bow as this can warp the wood and stretch the hairs too much; the gap between the wood and the hair in the centre of the bow should be about a pencil's width. Always loosen the bow before putting it away; again, this is to avoid warping or over-stretching. Be careful not to use too much rosin on the bow before playing because this can build up on the hairs and affect the sound. Only use enough rosin to create the right amount of friction on the strings. Bow hairs should never be touched with fingers, as skin oil can damage them, and from time to time, take the bow to a specialist to have the bow hairs replaced.
Give the Violin a Regular Check-Up
It's a good idea to establish a regular monthly routine to check the condition of the violin and carry out regular maintenance. Are the tuning pegs working well? If they are sticking, use some peg drops so that they turn easily enough for tuning but are not too loose. Are they too loose? Apply peg chalk for a little added friction. Also check that the bottom of the fine tuners are not too near the body. Over time, if not loosened fully on a regular basis, these can end up cutting grooves in the body of the violin, so loosen them well and take up the slack in the strings with the pegs.
Check the condition of the bridge; if the strings are cutting into the bridge too deeply, it may be time to change it, and also check that the string protector on the E-string is correctly positioned. Lastly, if the body needs it, give it a clean, but remember only to use specialist cleaner or the finish could be damaged.
Change the Strings Regularly
Old strings do not produce a high quality sound, so fitting new strings regularly will ensure the violin plays well. If the violin is played several times a week, then most people consider that changing the strings every six months is about right. Even if fitting a whole new set of strings, only change one string at a time. This is important because tension must be kept on the bridge. Without the correct tension, the bridge and inner soundpost can fall out of place, so remember to complete changing one string before fitting the next. It's a good idea to keep the old strings as emergency spares.
New strings take a couple of days to stretch properly, so the violin goes out of tune much more quickly. Old strings are already stretched, so they are useful as a replacement in an emergency, such as in the middle of a performance. Take care to check that the bridge is at 90 degrees to the body of the violin when the strings have been fitted, as tightening the strings can pull the top of the bridge towards the fingerboard.
Always Keep a Spare Set of Strings
Although old strings can be used to replace a broken string in an emergency, a new string will need to be fitted as soon as possible. The violin can be damaged if it is not correctly strung for a long period of time, so always have a spare set of strings ready.
Avoid Extremes of Temperature
Because a violin is made of wood, it is very vulnerable to extremes of temperature or to significant fluctuations in temperature. Frequent changes or keeping the violin in very hot or cold conditions can cause the wood and strings to expand and contract. This can cause the pegs to stick or loosen, the soundpost to fall, parts of the body to come unglued, or at worst create cracks in the wood.
Maintain the Right Humidity
Changes in humidity or damp or dry condition can cause similar damage to unsuitable temperatures. A simple way to address this, especially in a dry climate, is to keep a specialist violin humidifier in the violin case, making sure that the humidity is kept constant and the violin is protected.
Know When to Consult the Experts
Regular care and maintenance is easy to carry out at home, and even other tasks can be done with a little patience and know-how. For example, a soundpost setter can be used to fix a soundpost that has slipped, or a bridge can be replaced with care.However, they are delicate tasks, and players may not want to risk damaging their instrument. If in any doubt, it's better to take the violin to an expert to be sure that the job is done correctly.
Buying Violin Care Products on eBay
Many products for violin care are available on eBay. To find violin cases, first go the homepage, hover over All Categories and select Musical Instruments. Under Accessories / Equipment select Cases. Under the search bar, there may be a link to Violin Case, or a keyword search can be made. For other accessories, go to Musical Instruments, and under the String section, select More categories from the drop-down menu, then select Violin, or search for specific products using keywords.
A violin can provide many hours of pleasure and enjoyment, giving the player opportunities to play alone or in the company of others, so keeping it in perfect condition will be time well spent and will result in a beautiful violin.