A stringed instrument is a living thing. It is crafted from organic materials, the woods, strings, and glues employed during its creation interact with the atmosphere around them. While these materials work together, they are also responsible for the reason that stringed instruments go out of tune.
Especially, wood is material in motion. When changing temperature and/or humidity, wood shrinks and expands. In the winter, your instrument will go out of tune more often. The temperature difference between inside and outside is higher (especially when you have the heating on). Moreover, the humidity in the winter is very changeable. Everywhere you go, your instrument has to adapt to the climate of your home, car and the new location. Therefore, any severe changes in temperature or humidity will affect its tune.
Here are some tips to keep your stringed instruments in tune:
- Avoid changes in temperature and humidity as much as possible. Don’t leave the instrument in a cold room, that you heat up quickly when you have to be there. Take care of conditions so that it can be as stable as possible. The different hardwoods, metals, and softwoods used to craft the instrument absorb moisture in different amounts, so when the location or conditions change, re-tuning is required.
- Are your strings in good condition? Strings are designed to stretch, but after a while they can lose their ability to maintain integrity. In addition, strings get weaker with frequent changes in tension: they snap, go waddle in tone, or go out of tune a lot. I let the students know if any string is in poor condition or needs to be replaced.
- Is the room of your instrument usually too dry? Drought can cause cracks in your instrument. If the environment is too dry, keep it in a room with a humidifier. With stable humidity between 40% and 70%, you do not have to worry.
Keeping your stringed instruments in tune for longer periods of time is possible, students just need to make sure that they protect it, and replace the strings as often as needed. The way the care for their instruments have a big impact on how well it retains its tune.