I looked at the forecast for later this week and did a double-take – is it already winter?!? The furnace in your residence will be working hard for the first time later this week, so it’s worth talking about what that means for your instrument. For me, it means being greeted by slipped pegs, loose strings, and open seams when I arrive at the shop. Although we work hard to keep things humidified, with this many instruments, winter problems are inevitable.
Slipped pegs – if you haven’t already started, I suggest tuning your instrument using the pegs quite often this time of year. You’ll often find that the peg will move farther into the pegbox this time of year and resetting it will keep you from opening your case to loose strings and possibly even a bridge that has fallen over. If your pegs won’t stay set even after tuning, it might be time to bring your instrument in for us to evaluate. Peg compound, or even work on the pegs themselves, might be necessary to keep them working properly.
Open seams – for cellists and basses in particular, this is the time of year we start worrying about open seams, especially down at the bottom of the instrument (near the endpin). These are often visible simply by looking for them, but occasionally the gap between the plates and ribs is so small that you need to gently tap the plates in that area and listen for the “click” of the two surfaces colliding. When in doubt, have your instrument evaluated by our luthiers.
Instruments love constant temperature and humidity, and the big temperature swings during this time of year along with humidity variations caused by our HVAC systems, put the instruments under great strain. Minimizing these swings by setting your home at a constant temperature and keeping the room in which your instrument lives humidified are good measures to take to help your instrument stay healthy.