ON PRACTICING - Beginning to intermediate string students taking private lessons should try to practice 30 minutes every day or a minimum of 100 minutes per week. Practicing with parental supervision is especially helpful for younger students. As students progress, practice time should increase. Try and find a room where you can shut the door and leave the world behind as you concentrate on practicing your instrument. Keeping a practice journal and recording practice time each day is a good habit to develop.

BEWARE OF INTERNET INSTRUMENTS! - There are many stringed instruments for sale online and many of them are under $100 and have 5 star customer ratings. These instruments may look shiny, have light weight cases and may appear to be good instruments…however, in most cases, these instruments are poorly constructed of cheap materials and are not “set up” properly. The bridges have not been precisely fitted and are not notched, the sound posts have not been cut and fitted properly, the strings are cheap and the instruments sound tinny and are extremely hard to play. The bows that come with these instruments are also poorly made of cheap materials. A typical student instrument made with quality materials and set up by a trained luthier should cost between $600-$700. Please refer to the sidebar for two recommended string instrument rental facilities. Violins and violas are available as rent-to-own at a cost of $20-$30 per month ($30-$40 per month for cellos and $40 - $50 per month for doublebass) and have been set up properly by professionals, allowing the beginning student to play comfortably and to produce a healthy tone early in their training. There are other reputable sources for instrument rental. Please check in with your teacher before deciding to rent or purchase an instrument.

TIGHTENING AND LOOSENING THE HAIRS OF THE BOW - Hold the bow at the frog and turn the adjusting screw clockwise to tighten the hair. Tighten enough to maintain the curve of the stick (smiley face curve) and the midpoint of the stick is approximately 3/8” from the hair for violin/viola, 1/2” for cello and 3/4” for doublebass. Do not overtighten the bow such that the stick becomes straight or curves the wrong way (frowny face curve). Always loosen the hairs of the bow when you are finished playing. Turn the adjusting screw counterclockwise until the hairs have just relaxed. Do not loosen the hairs too much. 

HOW MUCH ROSIN TO APPLY - It is not necessary to apply rosin every time you play the instrument. Check to see that the bow hairs have enough rosin so that the string responds readily. Put on a minimal amount. Be sure to rosin the bow a little more near the frog and the tip as well as the entire length of the hair. Too much rosin will create a scratchy tone and will cause a white build up on strings and varnish.

CARE OF YOUR INSTRUMENT - Gently wipe the instrument and strings off with a soft cloth when you are finished playing. Never use furniture polish to clean rosin deposits. Instrument varnish cleaner and polish is available at this studio and can also be purchased here. Severe rosin deposits can be removed with a chemical called Xylene which is also available at this studio. We will take care of this free of charge.

FINGERNAILS - String players must maintain well trimmed fingernails in order to facilitate proper hand position. This is a sacrifice for many of the girls but is so worth it to be able to play such a beautiful stringed instrument. You will find that most people do not even realize you have trimmed fingernails. If there is an important dress up event such as a dance or the prom, use glue on fingernails and remove them the next day. 

COLD, DRY WEATHER CONDITIONS - when the weather becomes cold and dry and when the furnaces in your homes come on,  the dryness is very bad for stringed instruments. The dry air makes the wood shrink. Stringed instruments are glued together with “hide glue” which is designed to let go before the wood cracks. As a result, when the wood shrinks,  the seams can open up and will need to be re-glued by a luthier. The dryness also affects the tone of the instrument. In order to prevent this it is necessary to introduce humidity to your instrument. 

There is a relatively inexpensive product designed to provide moisture to stringed instruments during this dry weather. It is called a Dampit. The Dampit has a long rubber tube with absorbent material. This material is moistened and the tube is placed into the interior of the instrument through the F hole. These can be ordered online at SHAR ( They can also be ordered on Amazon. Be sure to order the one that is specific to your instrument. Here is a picture of the product.

How to Use the Dampit

Optimum 45% to 55% humidity
Follow DAMPIT humidity indicator directions carefully.

(1) Immerse DAMPIT in water about 20 seconds

(2) Pinch end of DAMPIT to remove excess water. Gently wipe outer tube dry. Place inside instrument. When DAMPIT is nearly dry repeat the above process.

(3) The DAMPIT humidity indicator will show the percentage of humidity of your room. The numbered spots on the left will change color as the humidity changes. If the segments are all pink the humidity is over 50%. Determine the percentage of humidity by choosing the numbered spot most closely matching the color of the background panel on the right. Take the reading for your instrument at the point where there is a division between light pick and light blue.

(4) The DAMPIT may remain inside the instrument while it is played. There will be no tonal loss.

(5) Store your instrument in the coolest part of the room away from radiators and heat registers.

(6) Use DAMPIT only during dry weather or central heating periods.

© Mark Haven 2015