Let’s Celebrate the Clean Violin
If you like the sight of an old violin all caked up with rosin, skip this post. This is about keeping a clean violin that looks good and shows you take good care of it.
Not long ago, one of my students came in to the studio, took out her violin and it looked stunning. It shined like a new violin. I stopped to think about whether I was setting a good example. Maybe I was being a little casual about how clean my violin was.
I like the look of a clean, shiny violin. You can achieve that with just a little effort.
The Clean Violin Step-by-Step
Even symphony orchestra players who are in a hurry to pack up and get out of the rehearsal hall will ran a cloth over the strings, just to take excess rosin off.
That would be the first point of upkeep. Making sure that the strings are clean and ready to play. It’s easy and takes only a second.
The next point of cleanliness is rosin on the violin. That will take a few seconds. Or it may take longer if it’s really been a while since the violin was cleaned.
My favorite cloth for this is a microfiber cloth. A couple of years ago, I watched a few Youtube videos about cleaning with microfiber cloths. I ordered a small pack of them on Amazon. When they came I started using them for dusting. Then, I went back and ordered another bunch in a different color. After getting blue and green, I thought I should get some in black to clean the car.
Sharing the Power to Clean Your Violin
Having so many meant that it was easy to share them with my students. This story is one result of that. Last evening I was teaching at Music Matters. As one of the lessons was winding down, the student said something about, what is this white stuff on the edge between the bouts. I replied that it was probably rosin and started talking about using a damp rag to clean it off.
Then, I spotted the blue microfiber cloth I had given the student some time earlier. I said just try wiping the spot with the cloth. Voila. The violin was instantly clean. It’s a good invention, that microfiber cloth.
The bow can use a microfiber touch up, as well. Slip the cloth between the hair and the stick and wipe rosin off the stick. The bow instantly looks better.
Another matter is the build up of dirt from your fingers or thumb that gets on the hair close to the frog. That may require soap and water. I’ve heard violinists talk about washing all the bow hair that way, without any damage to the hair.
I’ve been more attentive to that part of the bow hair since starting to do a little chopping as taught by Darol Anger. You need to have normal rosined bow hair at that spot to get the right crunch.
And while we are at it, let’s peek into the violin case to see if it has picked up some dust or debris. That would invite the use of a hand held vac to clean it up.
Adjusting the Bridge
After all that cleaning, it may be a good time to look at the bridge to be sure that it is at the right angle to the top of the violin. (And a 90 degree angle, a right angle, is the right angle, with the back of the bridge, facing the tail piece, lining up in the perpendicular position.)
If it needs adjusting, here’s the way I do it. I hold the violin, sitting down, clamped between my knees, neck pointind down, bridge pointine up. Then I firmly grip the bridge at the sides and pull it a little bit. Sometimes, with student’s violins, the bridge gets knocked out of place and I do a similar move to put the feet in the correct position, between the points in the middle of the f holes.
I’ve been instructed by luthier John Importuno to adjust the bridge in a different way. He showed me a move that looked very precise and controlled, but I still do the way I’m use to.
It may be that some old time fiddlers like the image of a rosin caked violin. Maybe it’s a point of pride that they have played so much that the violin is caked. Or perhaps they reserve the possibility of putting rosin on the bow by drawing the hair over the belly of the violin. Although, I’ve never seen anyone do this.
For me, the image of a clean violin in excellent condition inspires the desire to pick it up and play it, even though I’ll be getting rosin on it. It’s no problem. A few whisks of the microfiber cloth and it’s clean violin again.