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Monday, June 6, 2016

It's Hot in Here!

Violin and fan
Even Violins Get Hot!
At first I thought that this was a terrific time of year. There were light breezes outside, birds chirping, hummingbirds battling for feeder supremacy, bees humming, and frogs firing up the frog chorus at night with the wise old owl providing rhythmic back beat.

And then the heat came.

I live in Central Texas, so when I say "heat," I mean hot. Temperatures jumped from the mid-sixties to the high eighties. My air conditioner kicked on regularly, and the one in my car struggled to make a difference, any sort of difference. I scrambled to find shorts and other summer clothing and abandoned my long-sleeved shirts. Along with heat comes humidity, and Texas has experienced an unusual amount of humidity this year, as we battle what seems to be near-constant rain and flooding issues. And sad to say, mosquitoes come with the rain. Bummer, needless to say.

My biggest concern though is how my students will treat their instruments in this heat. Every year I seem to find a few students who forget how important it is to keep their instruments protected and safe from the soaring temperatures. No matter how many times I discuss this subject, I still find students and parents who seem to forget this important information.

Here in Texas, it takes less than 15 minutes for the varnish on a violin to begin to boil when a violin is left inside a hot car. Rosin will melt on the instrument and the strings if the instrument is played outside in temperatures that are too uncomfortable for the human race. And leaving an empty case in the car while keeping the instrument cooler elsewhere will still case problems with the rosin and case glues melting. Any rosin dust melting in the case will also be a problem.

Direct sunlight is a problem too. If you sit in direct sunlight, you will feel hot. So will a musical instrument exposed to a similar situation, whether inside or outside the case. Heat softens glue, and then the tension of the strings will help to undo the rest of the setup. What a mess this can be!

Temperature fluctuations can be a major problem as well and cause a cracked or glazed look to the finish. It is best to minimize such fluctuations as much as you can. Keeping the instrument inside a case will help to stabilize temperature changes. When I travel to central Oregon to a music festival where the temperatures can be in the mid-eighties during the day and thirties at night, I leave my instrument in its case in an inner hallway or room closet, which tends to be stabilized in temperature most of the day and night with little fluctuation.

Avoid exposure to water, which will cause the wood to swell. Many of our summer activities consist of enjoyable water activities, so be sure that the instrument is protected from any splashing or dumping into water.

As always, be mindful of leaving your instrument in a car or other vehicle, and not only because of the temperature issues associated with hot cars. Most musical instruments are stolen from vehicles, and it takes very little effort or time to take the instrument inside with you. I frequently grocery shop with my instrument rather than take a chance of having the instrument stolen by leaving it in a car.

Let us use this month to remind ourselves of how to take care and maintain our instruments in the best condition that we can. Our first step is to be mindful of the summer temperatures and water exposure. Let us stay cool and dry.

Until next time,

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird

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