Have you ever noticed that your violin sounds different on a rainy day? This is due to how humidity can affect your violin and bow. It’s important to keep your violin at a steady, moderate level of humidity — let’s go over why that is and how you can achieve it.

How Humidity Affects a Violin

Humidity measures the amount of water vapor in the air. Humidity levels fluctuate depending on the time of day, the temperature, how recently it last rained, and the general climate of an area. Changes in humidity, especially in a short period, can affect your violin in a few ways.

Wood Shrinking and Swelling

Most violins are made of wood. When wood is exposed to too much moisture, it absorbs the water and swells. On the other hand, if the air is too dry, the wood of your violin can shrink.

These changes in shape can cause the wood to warp, crack, and become misshapen. If your violin warps or cracks, it can cause expensive damage to your instrument that requires professional repair.

Changes in Instrument Sound

The wood your violin is made of helps create its specific tone and resonance. The sound can change as the wood swells or shrinks with moisture. For example, excessively high humidity can result in a dampened sound that is duller and less resonant. Dryer air with less humidity can cause your violin to sound harsher, overly bright, and even scratchy. 

It’s not always this extreme, though. The day after it rains, you may notice that your violin has a bit of a warmer tone to it. In some cases, that can be a good thing! If you fly to a show in a dryer climate, on the other hand, you may notice that you have a slightly brighter or buzzier sound, and it may fall out of tune easily.

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Damage to Violin Structure

Long-term exposure to humidity extremes and shifts, either high or low, can damage your violin’s structure. The glue that holds the instrument together can become soft in high humidity and cause seams to split. Too long in very little moisture can cause the same glue to dry out and crumble. In some circumstances, too much time in high humidity can even cause mold to grow on your instrument!

Negative Impact on Wooden Bows

Just like your instrument, if your bow is made of wood, it can change due to differences in humidity. As humidity increases, the balance can become off, and the tension on the horsehair can become slack as the bow expands. Conversely, dry air can cause the bow to contract and the hair to tighten. These factors can cause your bow to warp and influence how it plays.

Not all violin bows are made of wood, though. Carbon fiber bows, such as CodaBow bows, are not affected by humidity like wood ones. If you live in or frequently travel to an area with extremely high or low humidity, consider investing in a carbon fiber bow that you can rely on day in and day out — no matter the weather.

What Is the Ideal Humidity for a Violin?

The ideal humidity for your violin and bow is 30–50%. This moderate humidity level helps ensure that your violin doesn’t absorb too much moisture from the air. Likewise, it is also too moist for your violin’s components to dry out excessively. Maintaining ideal humidity helps you avoid weather-related sound and structural issues with your violin.

How to Monitor and Adjust Humidity

Now that you know how humidity can affect your violin and bow, you’re probably wondering: What can I do about it? There are a few different ways to manipulate the moisture your violin is exposed to, especially where you play and store your instruments.

How to Check Violin Case Humidity

Investing in a small hygrometer can be a great way to monitor the humidity in your practice space, storage area, and even your instrument case. These inexpensive devices give a real-time, digital readout of the moisture in the air and can help you avoid exposing your violin to humidity extremes.

How to Increase Violin Case Humidity

If you live in an arid place, you may need to increase the humidity in your practice space and your violin case. A simple mist humidifier in the room where you practice and store your violin can help introduce more moisture to the air. Check your hygrometer to ensure your humidifier isn’t working overtime, and shoot for that 30–50% range.

You can also utilize an instrument-specific humidifier that goes inside your case. These range from devices you soak in water and insert into your instrument to simple packets that release moisture when low humidity is detected.

How to Lower Humidity in a Violin Case

If you live in a humid environment or your instrument has been exposed to excessive moisture, you may need to reduce the humidity in your space and your instrument case. Dehumidifiers are an excellent option for your room, and special packets designed to help absorb moisture can go inside your case. Keep an eye on the humidity, and don’t overcorrect with too much dryness.

CodaBow: Carbon Fiber Violin Bows, Humidity Control, and More

Humidity levels can wreak havoc on your violin and bow. Upgrading to a carbon fiber violin bow can erase the worry about bow damage due to humidity, and humidity control packets in your case can help protect your violin. Find both online at CodaBow. Shop our selection of violin bows and accessories today.