A good string instrument is not made in a day , but rather is the product of many months of the most painstaking and expert work. To give an instrument proper care requires little time , and is not a difficult task. Regular attention to the following details will help keep a string instrument in the best playing condition.
The Most Important rule: Always keep the instrument in its case when not in use.
Never , under any circumstances , allow anyone but an expert string instrument repairer to repair your instrument. More fine instruments have been ruined by inexperienced repairers than in any other way. Even though the repair needed seems of a minor nature , be sure to place your instrument in skilled hands.
The instrument should not be subjected to rapid changes in temperature , so far as possible. When taking the instrument outdoors , it should be kept in its case , particularly in extremely hot or cold weather. Also , the instrument should not be exposed to hot sun. Care should be taken to store the instrument in a place with moderate humidity , away from heating.
A soft cloth , preferably flannel , should be used to remove the rosin dust from the instrument , the strings , and from the bow stick after each usage. An excessive accumulation of rosin dust on the strings can be removed by lightly scraping the strings with the thumb nail. NEVER TOUCH THE INSTRUMENT VARNISH WITH ALCOHOL. Alcohol is a solvent and will damage the varnish on a string instrument beyond recovery. When extensive cleaning is requires , the instrument should be given to an expert repairer.
The bridge is normally positioned between the inner f-hole notches , and the feet of the bridge are fitted so that the back side (nearest to the tailpiece) is perpendicular to the top of the instrument. The pull of the strings constantly forces the bridge to incline toward the fingerboard. For this reason , the bridge should be checked frequently and returned to the proper position , so that it minimises the bridge warping and even breaking. This is best done by grasping the bridge at both upper corners with the thumb and first finger of each hand , while holding the instrument firmly braced , and gently forcing the top of the bridge backward to the proper angle.
In general , strings are replaced one at a time. To replace a complete set of strings , remove only one string at a time. Start with the two middle strings removing the old one , putting on the new one and bringing it up to pitch , then the outside strings.
Every player will do well to carry a complete set of spare strings for immediate replacement in case a string should break or become false. One small but very important detail involves a frequent check that the string tuners used for metal strings have not been turned down so far as to scratch the top of the instrument. This also prevents tuning the string properly.
The length , fitting and position of the sound post require individual adjustment specifically for each instrument. If the post is too short the pressure of the strings will , in time , pull down and warp the top; if it is too long , wither the top or back , or both may warp or even crack. A sound post of improper length can sometimes be detected by the level of the F-hole wings in relation to the instrument top. In any event , the fitting and adjustment of a sound post should be done by an expert.
The bass bar , like the sound post , has two functions-to aid int he amplification of tone and to help support the top against the string pressure. Its proper proportions and placement mean a great deal to the time and general health of the instrument If the tone of your instrument seems to be suffering from some unknown trouble , do not allow an inexperienced repairer to lay the fault to the bass bar and proceed to replace it. seem expert advice in every case.
Even the very best grade ebony will develop grooves under the strings. When this happens , it is necessary to have the board planed (dressed). This must be expertly done so as not to alter the arch of the fingerboard. A slight concave dip , extending the length of the fingerboard , is required for proper string clearance. The fingerboard nut should also be checked occasionally and replaced when it has become too deeply grooved.