Humidity and Wooden Instruments


Wrtten by: Remenyi House of Music
It’s common knowledge that wooden instruments are sensitive to humidity, but most people do not understand exactly why humidity is so dangerous. This is because wooden instruments, including violins, cellos, and guitars, are made of thin, fragile wood, which is quite porous. As a result, wood tends to exchange water with the surrounding area, causing expansion and contraction. 
The way in which wood expands and contracts with moisture can be beneficial. Humidity, as well as heat, can be used to contour and bend certain parts of the instrument, such as the sides of a violin. This is how many wooden instruments are initially created. At the same time, expansion and contraction can be detrimental to wooden instruments. For example, when a wooden instrument is transferred from a space with high humidity to one with low humidity, the wood will begin to contract due to a loss of water that had been absorbed previously from the air. In the event that the wood contracts at varying rates, the wood can become stressed and ultimately crack. This is why it is ill advised to leave a wooden instrument in a hot vehicle for any length of time. 
Wooden Instruments And Humidity Care
Temperature is only part of the issue, however. Rapid drying, also known as dehydrating, can also present problems. As the air grows hotter, it dries out quickly. This can cause the moisture in your instrument to be consumed in just a matter of minutes. 
Humidity can be measured with a tool known as a hygrometer. This tool measures the amount of humidity in terms of percentage. For instance, 0 percent means there is no moisture in the air, while 100 percent means the air is completely saturated with moisture. A hygrometer is a relatively small investment for protecting the longevity of your musical instrument. 
It’s important to keep the humidity level in your instrument’s environment as consistent as possible. Humidity levels should be maintained between 40 percent and 50 percent. While you cannot control the weather, you can do some things to keep the humidity in the environment surrounding your instrument constant, including using humidifiers and dehumidifiers. In situations in which you must move your instrument, try to avoid rapid transitions from areas with high humidity to low humidity and vice versa. 
If you’re unsure how to best protect your wooden instrument from humidity changes, consult an expert at Remenyi House of Music.
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