Wooden instruments are particularly sensitive to temperature and humidity. After all, one unexpected accomplice in my late, great huway-out-of-tune debacle was undoubtedly the shrinkage and expansion of Cecelia’s various bits due to fluctuations in my apartment temperature over a 48 hour period (I have baseboard heat in an old building, notoriously unreliable for keeping a steady temp). In research I learned that such fluctuations can cause swelling and contraction that result in cracks and warping of my precious four stringed partner. Even if I’m not playing a $8-million Strad [why not build good cello care habits while I’m still learning to hold the bow?
There are a few great sites and videos for general maintenance and care that I enjoyed. But I was really concerned with this particular season’s effects, especially living in the Pacific Northwest where it can go from cold and rainy to freezing in a matter of days.
Here are a few of the most commonly mentioned tips I gathered online on taking care of your cello during the cold winter months. I am by no means an expert and I encourage you to follow up with your own reasearch if you have more questions. In all cases, if you have ANY QUESTIONS or concerns, bring them up with your cello teacher for a final answer. Also, if you have any additional tips, please drop me a comment and share!
- If you’re cold, it’s colder: don’t leave your cello in the car on cold (or extremely hot days, for that matter). This is a good rule in general to protect against theft, as well.
- Keep your cello away from direct indoor heat – no stashing your cello next to the radiator!
- Avoid getting your cello wet: We’ve all gotten caught in the rain a time or two on the way to a lesson. This is where a good case is a necessity. Although a $500+ price tag seems a lot for a case, consider how much your cello is worth and if you could easily replace it should it warp or crack due to moisture or, I dunno, falling down stairs. A nylon covered hard case came with Cecelia, but as soon as possible I plan on picking up one of those nifty fiberglass deals. Check Ebay for deals. (no guarantees on quality, however so find a name brand!)
- Keep the humidity up. Dry wood is brittle wood. If you are lucky enough to have a whole room devoted to your instrument(s) get one of these. If you’re an apartment dweller or lack space, try a humidifier for your cello case, like this one. I often boil tea on the stove for the scent, which also helps keep up the humidity. A really creative twist on this involves the shower: If your bathroom is big enough to permit your cello to accompany you without getting wet this may be a good idea. A humidifier might be safer – and more convenient – in the long run.
- Keep it in a case: This one makes me really sad, actually because one of the things I enjoy on coming home at the end of the long day is seeing Cecelia in the living room. However, if it gives me more years of playing time, I’m sure just seeing my music on the stand when I open the front door will be just fine.