As important as the instrument and bow are to a violinist — given they are tools that serve as an extension of a musician and their abilities — taking good care of these items is critical. This includes having awareness of how temperature and humidity can potentially affect the violin and bow, especially if the bowstick is made of a type of wood.
Learn what can affect violins, including how it can impact performance and what can be done to avoid these changes.
How Does Temperature Affect the Violin?
The violin has been in existence for roughly 470 years now, and not a lot has changed since it was first introduced during the Renaissance. Violins — made almost entirely of wood and glue — tend to expand in the heat and shrink in the cold, like anything made of wood. But what many people don’t realize is that this phenomenon can primarily be attributed to humidity, rather than temperature. Put simply, all wood has a moisture content which can go up or down based on humidity, and temperature is a secondary factor as it impacts evaporation.
Violins, which are typically made by luthiers from spruce or maple trees, respond to moisture in the air, causing them to expand or shrink when they are exposed to changing conditions. The difference is easy to detect for violinists who travel far distances frequently to give performances, or if they live in spots that experience dramatic seasonal changes — like on the East Coast or in the Midwest.
How Does Humidity and Temperature Affect the Violin Bow?
Like with the violin, bows made of wood will expand or shrink based on humidity and temperature. This means that in humid climates, moisture can cause a violin bow to droop to the point bow hairs may loosen. In dry conditions, the bow will likely draw tighter to the point it may bend upward.
This is concerning because the change in violin and bow that is caused by humidity does more than affect aesthetics: it also negatively impacts performance. The amount of friction that’s between a bow and the violin’s strings changes with humidity, which alters how the bow will pull on the respective string. In layman’s terms: as a violinist performs, their bow will glide across the string differently, even if they play with identical force and technique.
To keep the violin and bow from expanding or shrinking, it’s best to keep them from large changes in humidity or temperature. This can be achieved, in part, by keeping the instrument and bow in a climate-controlled environment. In the summer months, if in a humid area, keep the bow stored indoors when not in use in a cool area, ideally where an air conditioner and dehumidifier are present and working. In the winter months, try to store the violin and bow in their respective case in a heated spot where humidity is controlled between 30 and 40% on an ongoing basis.
Trust Your Performance to an Award-Winning Carbon Fiber Bow
The easiest way to keep from having a bow that expands or shrinks due to humidity and temperature is to choose a carbon fiber bow. Not only will carbon fiber stay consistent in size year-round, regardless of humidity and temperature, they are durable, crafted to last a lifetime, and they can rival the performance of the finest wooden bows.
CodaBow’s master bow-makers have created an award-winning collection of carbon fiber violin, viola and cello bows for players of all styles, stations, and aspirations. Unlock your potential with an industry-leading bow that is reliable and allows you to always give your best performance. Shop the collection or visit a local CodaBow dealer today. Feel free to sign up on our email list for additional information regarding temperature control for your orchestra bow. If you are wanting to see the CodaBow difference, try an In-Home Trial.