Here are a few tips to help you to use and maintain your instrument in excellent condition. With a bit of skill, there is much that you can do yourself.
Winding the strings correctly
If you have to replace an entire set of strings, always replace one string after the other. Never loosen the four strings at the same time, as this may cause the sound post to slip or fall off.
Before winding a new string, use a soft pencil to place enough graphite in the notches of the bridge and nut. The graphite acts as a lubricant and prevents premature abrasion.
After the string has been inserted ca. 2 mm into the hole in the tuning peg, begin wrapping the string in the direction of the opposite pegbox wall and then back crosswise. This prevents the string from slipping out of the peg hole.
Firmly tighten the string and avoid pinching it against the pegbox wall.
Finally, make sure that the bridge stands straight, in its correct position (perpendicular to the surface of the belly).
Caring for and lubricating the pegs
If the pegs are hard to turn or slip, it may be due to the fact that they no longer fit properly because they are no longer round or because the cone no longer fits the peghole in the pegbox wall. In this case, you should seek the help of a professional violinmaker.
However, if it is only a matter of lubrication, you can do this yourself.
Caring for the pegs
Here, too, as is the case for the strings, you should work with one peg after the other: loosen the string, lubricate the peg, and wrap the string until it reaches the right pitch. This way, the correct pressure is maintained on the violin belly and the sound post cannot slip or fall off.
After the string has been properly tuned, you should make sure that the bridge is still standing in its proper, vertical position.
Lubricating the pegs
This requires curd soap and school chalk. First rub the soap over the contact area of the peg, reinsert the peg in its hole, and turn it a few times in both directions (e.g., 10 times forwards and 10 times reverse). Pressure may be placed on the peg during turning, but this should be done carefully! Rub the peg with soap several times, until it can be turned easily and smoothly.
Using the school chalk
To make sure that the peg does not slip back because of traction from the string and that the instrument remains tuned, the contact areas of the pegs need to be rubbed with school chalk, but only until the peg works properly after it has been turned several times! If the peg cannot retain the pressure of the string, rub more school chalk on the contact areas. With experience, you will soon find the proper balance between soap and chalk. However, please bear in mind that winding the strings too often may damage them.
Protecting the instrument from damage
Protecting the belly
A well-known problem is varnish injuries in the proximity of the fine tuners. A quick look under the tailpiece will reveal whether the screw of a fine tuner must be slightly loosened and the string tuned using the peg. Don't allow the screw to scrape the instrument belly. This will avoid the need for costly repairs. After the string has been tightened with the peg, the position of the bridge must be checked.
Caring for and protecting the edges and ribs
Very often, scratches on the edges of the back and on the ribs of a violin are due to the fact that the rubber tubes of the shoulder rest feet are worn out. The tubes must be checked regularly and replaced immediately when porous or torn. New tubes are inexpensive and available from specialty shops.
Caring for and protecting the varnish
Care must be taken that jewellery, buttons, and zippers do not come into contact with the instrument. Each time after the instrument has been played, it and the bow (included the frog) should be wiped with a soft cloth in order to remove rosin dust. Fine dust under the fingerboard and the tailpiece must also be removed carefully to its binding with the instrument's varnish. Care must be taken that the position of the bridge remains unchanged.
Storing your instrument
Proper storage of your instrument requires that it always lies safely in a case or a bag. Never leave the instrument in the heat of a car, near central heating, or exposed to direct sunlight. Protect the instrument from drastic temperature changes and from too-low humidity. Ideal humidity in a room is ca.60%. If the instrument is not properly cared for, glued seams can open, cracks can form, and the varnish damaged.
Inserting the string into the peg hole
Wrapping the string in crosswise
Vertical position of the bridge
Materials for lubricating the pegs
Rubbing the peg with soap
Lubricated peg after turning
Lubricated, chalked, and positioned
Belly injuries caused by the fine tuner
Damaged edges because of a defective
Rosin dust can damage the varnish
Severe cracks because of improper storage