Hi, I’m Mitch Reed…Welcome to The Vlog! Today I thought I would talk a little bit about something that I get a lot of questions about. Doesn’t have a whole lot to do with actually playing the fiddle but it’s just keeping up your fiddle.
Sometimes you might notice when you go to jam sessions and stuff like that, you’ll see fiddlers that have a lot of white powder right here on the fingerboard, on the fiddle body itself, on the strings and stuff, and that’s just rosin dust that collects there over time after playing maybe the fiddle all week and it just gets all over your fiddle. So you definitely want to clean it.
I’m not super particular about keeping my fiddle spotless but what I’ll do is maybe after a tour, when I get back from the road with BeauSoleil, I’ll clean my fiddle. Or maybe at the end of a week of teaching I’ll clean it.
So really all you need to do is get a rag, like this, it’s kind of like a diaper cloth material. Years ago I used to use a polish, like a white polish, but a good friend of mine Anya Burgess who has SOLA Violins she really taught me a lot about just cleaning the fiddle, cleaning the violin, with just a dry cloth; it’s the best way to do it.
If you can, if you have something real big and gummy stuck on there, you might have to bring it to a luthier and clean it or get some polish. But for the most part you want to leave your violin dry because that’s what gives the wood a good sound: it’s a good dry wood.
So yeah! So using this cloth I just get in there and clean all the rosin dust off. I clean the strings too as well, all the way up. Clean the sides, both sides. You can even get underneath the fingerboard, so you can actually take your cloth and go underneath the fingerboard and then you can go underneath the strings as well and go all the way up. Actually go all the way up here because you’d be surprised the oil from your fingers and stuff how it collects on the strings.
And all these things have a lot to do with the strings resonating and sounding good and I know living in Louisiana where we have a lot of heat and humidity if you leave this rosin dust on your fiddle it turns into this like black gum and that can like kind of cake on to the wood and really mute the wood, keep it from being able to vibrate like it should.
So like I said about once a week I use this rag on the fiddle and clean everything. I even clean the back, clean the sides, I clean the neck as you have oil on your fingers and stuff, clean the scroll all that area. In the pegbox, you get dust in there, you can just blow like that and you can get that out. Yeah!
So it’s definitely a good thing to do especially if you have a nice instrument. But even if you have an okay instrument, I mean if you want to try to resell it and get what you paid for it, if you keep it up, if it looks like pretty much like when you got it, then people will pay you a good price for it.
The next thing too is the bow. You can actually clean the bow. You get rosin dust along the bottom of the stick here. So what you can do is you can take your cleaning cloth and I just take like a finger and then put it right where you see the rosin and just go right across like that, and that’s all you need to do. As as far as the hair you don’t need to clean the hair, you always want to just keep it sticky with rosin and eventually, maybe after a couple of years, you would want to get new hair put on.
Talking about rosin, so let’s talk a little bit…The other question that I get a lot is how often should I rosin my bow? “How often do you rosin your bow?”, people ask me. I usually rosin my bow once a day, and it’s usually when I get up in the morning and maybe just warming up or right before my first lesson. And what I do is I take the rosin in my left hand and I’ll take the bow, just lay the hair down flat and I just do this: I go back and forth back and forth, all the way to the tip of the bow, and then go all the way back to the frog, alright? And that’s all I need.
So yesterday somebody was saying, “I think I’m over rosining my bow,” and I asked them how many times they go to the tip and back and they said, “Oh maybe three or four times,” and I said “Yeah, that might be too much,” you know? So from what I’ve always learned and what works good for me is you go to the tip, go to the frog and then you’re good. If you do that every day you should always have enough rosin.
The only time that living down here in Louisiana where it’s very humid is sometimes when we play festivals outdoors which you know most of our festivals are outdoors like Festival Acadien and stuff like that. If you’re playing kind of maybe in the late afternoon or in evening outside it gets a lot of moisture in the air. So sometimes I have to rosin my bow extra for that, just for the moisture. Or even if you go and sit in your backyard, your patio, just to play some tunes maybe in the morning or in the evening you might get more moisture on your bow so you might wanna rosin your bow little bit more that’s about it.
The other thing two people have asked me about recently is the tension on the bow. I’ve always gone by this, if i’m going to play a really soft song I tend to loosen the tension a little bit but never so much where the stick is touching the hair, the hair is touching the stick. But if I’m gonna play something really nice and soft, just something real gentle and then maybe even like single strings, not so much double strings you know…[6:18]…there I have the hair on my bow fairly loose.
But if I’m gonna play something where I’m gonna use double strings, maybe more old timey style like a Dennis McGee style, rocking the bow, catching all four strings, I’m gonna tighten it up a good bit. But I always leave that dip in the bow. I try to never tighten the bow where the stick is straight. If you start to see the stick is just straight or even if the stick is going out you’ve tightened it too much and you don’t want to do that to your bow. You could actually damage your bow. So just remember that even when you tighten it tighter, always keep that little dip in there. You want that bow in there. So that’s really important.
But yeah! For those Dennis tunes, maybe the more louder types of tunes, also playing with an accordion, you’ll try to be a little louder you know so yeah I would definitely tighten it up…[7:23]…that kind of thing.
So definitely you can change the tension on your bow depending on what style you’re going to play or the dynamics of the tune and that kind of thing. But these are all things that you tend to figure out just by trying different things and and seeing what you like it, what works for you. But these are my little secrets that I recommend.
The last thing I’ll talk about is how important it is to actually have a good case for your violin. Even if you have a $200 or $300 violin, which is not considered a really expensive violin, you want to keep it in a case and travel with it in a case that is going to protect it and (the most important thing) keep it in tune. What’s frustrating is we have an old-style case or a rougher case where the fiddle kind of gets shaken up a lot and pegs are gonna hit against the walls of the case. Then when you get to where you’re going, your fiddle is out of tune.
So one of the things I recommend, I don’t have a particular brand that I use, but you can use really a cheap case and I actually got these cases from Shar Violins and it cost me seventeen dollars and it’s just a foam case. So that’s the thing: It’s just a foam case. If you touch it you can almost dig your nails into it. It’s not wood it’s just foam but it’s hard and it will protect your violin and it’s very, very light. But the great thing about it is it really hugs the fiddle well, protects it, and then if you drop the case it won’t damage your violin, it won’t go out of tune.
So some of you all that have the wood cases they look really cool cos they look old timing but they don’t always protect your violin really that great. The other thing about this one that I like is it has a pocket out here for your shoulder rest. You can put your shoulder rest in here and as you can see it’s a good… really a nice decent case for 17 bucks. Maybe they went up a little bit but I think that’s what I paid for it just this last year.
So anyway, those are just some tips, some basic things about maintenance of the violin. Just letting you know what I do. This is the things that I look for and do. And talking about a case, I do have a double fiddle case but really the case that I’ve traveled with on the road with BeauSoleil is just an eighty dollar case and it’s a foam case. It’s just a little maybe a little bit stronger than this one I’ve just showed you just because I have to carry on airplanes and stuff like that. But just one of those cases is really all you need.
The other thing too: it’s good to have two bows. It doesn’t mean you have to get a really expensive bow. But if you can get two bows you, maybe one you can get a cheap fiberglass bow or get one that’s about 50 bucks or something. But to have two bows is good because when it comes for you to get your bow rehaired you’ll have that second bow so you can still play and practice.
Well thank you so much for joining me today on The Vlog. It’s just about maintenance on the violin, but these are questions that a lot of people have been asking so I thought I would talk about that stuff. So thank you so much for joining me today. Have a great week, stay inspired and keep on fiddling…Thank you!