Too MUCH humidity??

Jennifer said: Jun 9, 2008
Jennifer Moberg
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Dehbori Kabul, Afghanistan
71 posts

I have a violin care question, both for myself and for my students. I live in an area of extremely high humidity; summer average relative humidity is about 90%.

Concerns about what this does to the frizz factor of my usually straight hair aside, several of my students have come in with mold on their pegs, and I have advised them to keep dehumidifying pouches in their cases to combat this. Here in Hong Kong we keep dehumidifying pouches everywhere from purses to sock drawers to kitchen cabinets, so I figured this may work. It has for many, but now I am concerned because my own violin is sounding very…. muffled. Even my non musical friends noticed today that the sound is dull and damp. I just got the whole thing checked and seams closed last week, so I know it is not a structural damage related sound…. Is it possible that too much humidity can cause this in instruments? It’s been raining for nearly 3 straight weeks now (to the point of major flooding), and the humidity has been at 99% when not actually storming.

I miss my beautiful violin sound! Please share advice!

Thanks

“Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart.”

www.ViolinsAndChinrest.com

Connie Sunday said: Jun 10, 2008
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

Usually you hear concerns about too much dryness, rather than humidity. Extremes of either are not good for the instrument, though a little humidity is thought to be better.

There are a number of devices you can buy to measure or control these factors. See:

Humidifier, Humistat, Hygrometer
http://beststudentviolins.com/StringCareSpecs.html#6

I’d get a good hygrometer, and then consult with the luthier you visited, and also long-term players and teachers in your geographical area, and try to determine what the optimal levels are. You could also get an air purifier to regulate the humidity in the room where the violin is stored and mostly played.

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:
http://beststudentviolins.com/library.html#handouts

Jennifer Visick said: Jun 10, 2008
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

Is it possible that too much humidity can cause this in instruments?

The short answer is yes.

Higher humidity levels causes the wood to expand in thickness or diameter. The plates in the top and back of your instrument were carefully carved to a certain thickness by your instrument’s maker. Too thick and they can’t vibrate properly (hence this might be the reason for your “muffled” sound), too thin and the instrument’s structure is in danger of not holding up under the pressure of the strings and bow.

On a side note, wood dries out over (lots of) time and loses some of its thickness. This is why an instrument a hundred years old has plates which are thinner than they were when it was made. Good luthiers will design for this and will thus make instruments that “age” well, with a sound that opens up over time. (This is not the only factor in having an instrument age well, but is one of many).

Ideal humidity levels for your instrument might be: 1) the climate in which the trees (which eventually gave wood for the body of your instrument) grew. 2) the climate in which the instrument was made.

The ideal level for most instruments is probably somewhere between 30% and 60% humidity.

Jennifer said: Jun 10, 2008
Jennifer Moberg
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Dehbori Kabul, Afghanistan
71 posts

my instrument is about 190 years old from germany.
i have not been able to find any information on the luthier, but the wood is indeed a bit thin. i did not notice any major changes in sound last summer, and the change in sound this week was noticeable and abrupt!

other than keeping the instrument in a dehumidified room (and pretty much all rooms here are dehumidified) and keeping dehumidifying packets in the case, can anyone recommend anything else to prevent molding and changes in sound quality?

as i mentioned before, average humidity here is somewhere around 90%.

“Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart.”

www.ViolinsAndChinrest.com

Kirsten said: Jun 11, 2008
 Violin
103 posts

Hello from Australia:

We have humid summers here too, but not as bad as what you describe. I do know that when we have humid days, I feel like I am playing under water. The music sounds different for sure. I think the humidity here doesn’t affect my violin so much, but it affects the quality of the sound in the air. When the humidity gets better, my sound gets better too.

I wonder if some of what you describe is just the way the humidity in the air is absorbing the music you make. Is that possible?

Of course moldy pegs sound like bad news. 90% Uggh……

Kirsten

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