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  • Ray Zhang

3 Tips for Taking Care of Your String Instrument

The other day, I was practicing at home, and I kept hearing a buzz in my room. What could it have been? My phone was on “Do Not Disturb” and there wasn’t a bee in sight. It was at this moment that I realized my poor viola was buzzing.


There are a lot of ways your string instrument can fall out of top condition. One way is that the instrument buzzes as I described earlier. Other problems include strings unraveling, a chipped body, open seams, loose pegs, and a warped bridge. These are all problems that I have faced, and I’m sure many other string players have dealt with worse.


The best way to keep your instrument healthy is to take preventative measures against damage. Once a problem arises, it’s on you to visit a teacher or luthier to fix it for you if you can’t solve it yourself. As Benjamin Franklin once said: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It’s much easier to prevent problems than deal with them once they appear.



Here are 3 tips to keeping your instrument in great condition:


1 - Practice with enough personal space.


The worst place you can practice is somewhere with a lot of moving people in a cramped space. I’ve had times where I’d be practicing at my school orchestra room and my bow would almost hit my stand partner. There was a time while I was on tour with NYO-USA in Berlin, and my bow bumped into the cellist’s bow who was next to me! Make sure you don’t risk hitting anyone while you’re practicing. A good way to check if you’re alright is to play a full down bow and then play a full up bow while making sure you’re not too close to anyone.


2 - Keep your instrument in your case.



Although it’s tempting, try to avoid setting your instrument down on a chair during rehearsal breaks or while you’re at home. There are many horror stories about instruments falling and breaking after the instrument owner set them down on a seat. There was one instance where I set my viola down during a regional orchestra event and another player accidentally sat on my viola! Although people don’t mean to make mistakes, mistakes happen! If I had just taken the extra minute to pack up and kept my instrument in my case, it would’ve been much safer.



Here’s another horror story about keeping your instrument in your case. I was practicing at home and decided to take a YouTube break (big mistake). I set my bow on my stand and put my viola down under the stand. After my YouTube binge session was over, I got up and knocked my bow over. It ended up falling on my viola and chipping the body, which is irreversible damage that can’t really be fixed. If I had just kept my viola in my case, nothing would’ve happened.


3 - Take care of yourself!


Remember, you are an extension of your instrument! Get lots of sleep, eat well, and make sure you practice with healthy habits and avoid physical injury! If you hurt your arms, you can’t practice much anymore, and that is just as bad—if not worse—than having a damaged instrument. I wrote an article last year about avoiding injury for violin and viola players, and you can find it right here.


Practice safely!


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