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Instrument Care in New England Winters

We are now one month into VYCo's establishment (yay!), and it's been exciting seeing our home slowly come to life!

One thing that our little musicians and families have been noticing everywhere - this wintery weather has been affecting our instruments and we sometimes open up our cases to find our instrument strings dangling and very loose. The culprit - dry winter air.

Luckily there's a simple solution that usually requires a bit of diligence - reincorporate some humidity into the area where you store your instrument, using all sorts of humidifiers and hygrometers to detect moisture levels.

How does this whole process work? Particularly for wood-related instruments (piano, strings, guitar, etc), when the dry air is exposed to the wood for a duration of time, the wood condenses and shrinks slightly. This in turn enlarges the peg holes that our tuning pegs are fitted into, causing the pegs to loosen, and slip to unwind from the tension of the wound-up strings. By keeping the environment more humid, we help prevent the wood from shrinking as much, though a very tiny amount is likely inevitable here in New England.

A hygrometer measures the amount of moisture in the air, and is very useful to help gain a sense of your instrument's moisture needs. If your case does not come with a hygrometer, I'd recommend this Oasis digital hygrometer to help you keep an eye on the moisture level in the instrument case. Typically you'd like to keep moisture around 40-50% humidity, too much is also not good for the instrument. There are various types of humidifiers for instrument type (i. e. Dampits are a common recommendation for string instruments), but a regular room humidifier can also do wonders for your at-home practice room.

Of course, there will be inevitable moments where you will have to expose your instrument case outdoors (shuttling to/from school, lessons etc), in which case I'd just say please keep your instrument out of the cold as much as possible - don't leave it in the car while you go to grab food, for instance, and certainly never leave it there overnight!

Hopefully, this article helps to clear up some of the mysteries of instrument care, and with diligence you should find it easier to keep your instrument in top shape throughout all the seasons.

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