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People still use these things much?

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I was recently researching solid wood ukulele's and I was surprised to read about people warning to verify humidity levels with the solid wood uke's because they can crack.  We have 5 violins in our house and I haven't used any humidifying products.  So I measured our humidity and it's between 40-50% which I thought was ok.  I see on the dampit instructions that one should use it at 40%.  I'm wondering if I really need it?  I'd hate for our violins to crack.  I wonder if there is some paranoia about it.  I currently live in Paris, but prior to coming here I lived in Phoenix and I know if I lived there I'd have to use humidifying products because it's so dry.

 

 

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This comes up from time to time.  The general conclusion is they are more dangerous than helpful, I believe.

 

You are supposed to keep the card in the case.  When I was living in Florida—in FLORIDA FOR GOODNESS SAKE— the card still showed that I had better use the worm.  I always thought the manufacturer programmed the card to panic the poor violin owner.  After all, why buy just one; buy two, three, or four.  You can never have too many.  They should hire Vince, if you know who he is.   :)  He's the hawker who sells food processors on TV infomercials.  This would be right up his alley.

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I never pay attention to the card, I want to know what the humidity level is where the cello has to live.  It's easier to control the humidity in my studio than in symphony hall.  Yesterday was 80 degrees and humid; today is 80 degrees and dry (31% at the hall).  The dampit is an effective* way to even things out so the instrument doesn't suffer the trauma of sudden humidity shocks.  I've been using them since the 60's and never ever had a crack of any kind.

 

* = and if you doubt their effectiveness, just look at your bow hair...

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 I've been using them since the 60's and never ever had a crack of any kind.

 

* = and if you doubt their effectiveness, just look at your bow hair...

And I have NOT been using them since the '70s and have not had a crack.   :)   And because I also dealt violins, I've had a couple of hundred about the house off and on, and they never got cracks either.  However, I can't argue that a certain amount of humidity is good for the sound of most violins. My violins always sound better when I get to SF.  One of my erudite friends claims it's the ideal area for instruments: not too dry or too humid.

 

Considering how much some of my violins have traveled and remained in dry climates for long periods, I'm quite surprised I haven't had any of them crack.  Maybe just lucky.

 

I wonder how many MNers have had a violin crack. 

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I seem to remember back early 2000's Anne Sophie Mutter was spotted actually performing with one of these snakes in her Strad which surprised people.

I think there was a thread about it here at the time.

 

I have had a radiator operting pretty mcuh in a room here for some time so thought I'd put the Dampit into a viola for a while yesterday wile the case was open.

 

I guess Strad didn't supply them as an accessory either.

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I find it rather funny...that we will endlessly debate the perceived minuscule effects - on tone - of things such as the type of wood used for accessories, position of the chinrest, integrated vs. regular fine tuners, the weight of friction pegs vs mechanical pegs, etc.

Yet a relatively honkin' large rubber tube...filled with water and stuffed through a sound hole has no discernible effect on tone...

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Yet a relatively honkin' large rubber tube...filled with water and stuffed through a sound hole has no discernible effect on tone...

Guess it's called marketing?

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Well, anything we do to a violin has an effect, but many things don't change things enough to be noticed.  If, for example, you start moving your chin rest a little left or right sometimes you can sense a difference, sometimes not.

 

I have wondered about taking a Dampit out before a performance, since the violin will start to dry out.  But IMO just going from a humidified hotel room to a dry hall would do more.  I just don't think we should try to be too protective.

 

I remember once having Isaac Stern show up and he and the dG sounded terrible at the first rehearsal. Two days later, all was in order and he and the violin sounded just fine.  I always assume that player and violin have a lot of adjusting to do as they go from one location to another, and in a couple of days a violin might settle in to the new conditions.  

 

It brings up the question of whether older violins are more or less stable, or if some makers make more or less stable instruments.  Probably a completely stable violin would not be very good. 

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It can get very dry here in the wintertime: 20% RH or less. I keep the case humidifier full, check the hygrometer every time I open the case, and use a dampit while practicing at home for more than an hour. I also keep the case shut so it doesn't dry out. But I always dry the outside of the dampit before using, and usually take it out before putting the violin away.

When going out in extreme cold, I wrap the case in a blanket, and don't open the case until it has warmed to room temperature.

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Considering how much some of my violins have traveled and remained in dry climates for long periods, I'm quite surprised I haven't had any of them crack.  Maybe just lucky.

 

Probably just lucky.

 

Repairmen in climates with severe seasonal temperature changes are the ones with the most exposure to the consequences of low humidity. A customer who comes in with a crack will often say,

"I don't understand. I haven't controlled the humidity for the last ten years, and nothing ever happened before."

That's how it goes sometimes. Nothing happens until it does.

 

I don't recommend the snake-type humidifiers. Too many problems, like water dripping off the end in cellos, where they tend to hang vertically. This can happen even when they are carefully dried before insertion.

 

Leaving inserted while playing? It won't really provide any benefit, because too much air is moving in and out of the instrument. Somewhat the  opposite happens when the instrument is stored in the case. The moisture inside the instrument, particularly in close proximity to the "snake",  will be much higher than where the indicator card is located.

 

Too much humidity can be a major problem too, although the consequences are usually less sudden and dramatic than when humidity is too low.

 

More details on instruments and humidity at http://www.burgessviolins.com/humidity.html

 

It's been a major focus of mine for about 35 years.

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Lived in Arizona for 20 years, got advised not to use Dampits, so the violins, violas, and cello did not get humidified, NO cracks.

Contrary to what one might think, average humidity levels in Arizona really aren't all that bad, as can be seen here:

http://www.currentresults.com/Weather/Arizona/humidity-annual.php

 

Where things can get much more dangerous is in areas with very cold winters. When you take extremely cold outside air and heat it to a comfortable indoor temperature, the relative humidity of the air drops dramatically. Here (in Michigan), we can get indoor levels as low as 5%, if moisture isn't added.

 

In the summer, we get many nights when the humidity hits 100%, which is also very bad! With those two extremes, we get severe dimensional changes on instruments between winter and summer.

 

Major museums almost always control humidity within very tight tolerances.

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Would it be possible to commission a  violin (a real  violin with decent sound, not a carbon fiber one)  that is particularly immune to conditions of changing humidity levels ?

 

I have read somewhere that slab-cut backs are more prone to developing cracks than quartered backs; so it should be possible to choose the most stable wood ? 

(perhaps  the most carefully quartered wood from the trees with the largeset diameters, tight grained with as little runout as possible - ok, I don't quite know what I am talking about).

 

I don't know whether  graduations or arching patterns could be selected in a way that makes the violin more immune to environmental influences.

 

I am just curious, if it is possible to make such a violin for a player, who puts for some reason "immunity to environmental influences"  much higher on the priority list than the average violinist.

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Where things can get much more dangerous is in areas with very cold winters. When you take extremely cold outside air and heat it to a comfortable indoor temperature, the relative humidity of the air drops dramatically. Here (in Michigan), we can get indoor levels as low as 5%, if moisture isn't added.

 

I wonder how baggage compartments of airlines relate to this point?  Maybe things are different now, but twice in the old days I saw players who were forced to put instruments into baggage end up with damage.  One viola got a bad crack and a 'cello had a grafted scroll just pop right off.  I remember examining the viola after we landed and it was ice cold.  Is it just the lack of humidity, or can it be a combination of dryness and cold?  Any reason why altitude itself would cause a problem? 

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I've described my daily relative humidity cycling here before.  While the 25% to 100% extreme swings can bumfuzzle ordinary consumer hygrometers, one can watch my hanging bows go from nearly taut to frizzy and back again over a 24 hour period almost every day of the year.  I've never had a spontaneous crack from this, but on everything here that isn't modern (post 1960), I am kept busy with seams.  At the height of the summer heat, particularly in a year with hurricanes, I have to watch for necks as well, and sometimes loosen all the antiques in self defense and just play my moderns.  I did that from late June to mid September one year and may do it again this year.  If I couldn't maintain my own instruments, I simply couldn't operate here. 

 

Dampits aren't exactly on my must have list.   :lol:

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Would it be possible to commission a  violin (a real  violin with decent sound, not a carbon fiber one)  that is particularly immune to conditions of changing humidity levels ?

 

I have read somewhere that slab-cut backs are more prone to developing cracks than quartered backs; so it should be possible to choose the most stable wood ? 

(perhaps  the most carefully quartered wood from the trees with the largeset diameters, tight grained with as little runout as possible - ok, I don't quite know what I am talking about).

 

I don't know whether  graduations or arching patterns could be selected in a way that makes the violin more immune to environmental influences.

 

I am just curious, if it is possible to make such a violin for a player, who puts for some reason "immunity to environmental influences"  much higher on the priority list than the average violinist.

 

Jezzupe can make violins from wood that are extremely stable.

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Thanks to David Burgess (and to some extent, Taylor Guitars), I have been paying a good deal of attention to humidity over the last few months and have been running little experiments, bought a little Taylor Guitars-approved hygrometer (though I think these don't make the grade for Mr. Burgess because you can't calibrate them--however, it does seem to be pretty accurate thus far, unlike the retro analog one in my violin case).  I'm in Eastern Washington, and though we are technically a dry climate, I have noticed that we tend to stay pretty constantly between 30% and 50% humidity, so really it's not that big a deal.

 

But, anyway, I can't see how a Dampit even does anything.  Has anyone tested whether they actually do anything besides stain the insides of instruments?  And if you go into a dry hall and take it out of your instrument, then you have your poor instrument going through the jolt of dryness just as you're actually working the thing--what sense does that make?  Unless you could maintain the humidity of whatever room you're in, it seems to me that even if a Dampit worked, you would be stressing your instrument because of the difference of humidity inside and outside the instrument.

 

I have also noticed that humidity is not easily altered.  We have a woodstove in one room, and an indoor fountain thing next to it that runs water over a piece of slate.  I was surprised to find out that the humidity in the house is not that different in the woodstove room than it is elsewhere in the house, and that the fountain doesn't seem to add any humidity (that really had me scratching my head...).  In my recording studio, I have measured the humidity and then opened the window while it's raining and seen no change in the humidity of the room, even with the hygrometer sitting right in front of the window.  The one thing that gets results is to go into the bathroom and take a shower--THEN, I get a substantial difference, but I can't imagine pumping that much moisture into the air.  Perhaps if the humidity were to drop below 20% then a humidifying gizmo might have more effect. 

 

Anyway, I am left confused by the whole inquiry.  Even if I had a humidifier for my studio, I would worry about the effect of the moisture on the electronics, and anyway, my violin still has to go out into the world on a regular basis.  Hmmm....

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I wonder how baggage compartments of airlines relate to this point?  Maybe things are different now, but twice in the old days I saw players who were forced to put instruments into baggage end up with damage.  One viola got a bad crack and a 'cello had a grafted scroll just pop right off.  I remember examining the viola after we landed and it was ice cold.  Is it just the lack of humidity, or can it be a combination of dryness and cold?  Any reason why altitude itself would cause a problem? 

 

All baggage compartments are not created equal, but most modern jets have heated and pressurized baggage compartments.  That is why they will accept dogs in kennel crates and put them in the baggage compartments.  The circumstances where your baggage really is subjected to the extremes is during winter when the loaded baggage cart is lef outside, especially waiting for a connecting flight or just waiting to be loaded.  The other challenge to your baggage is the long conveyor systems used at large airports with their chutes and slides.  Your baggage can end up being slammed around in there.

 

Animals are kept inside, loaded last, unloaded first and taken immediately into shelter.  Maybe there is an option to have instruments treated the same way?  (The Image of a violin case in a dog suit pops into my mind!)

And, yes I did this sort of work in the '80's.

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I wonder how baggage compartments of airlines relate to this point?  Maybe things are different now, but twice in the old days I saw players who were forced to put instruments into baggage end up with damage.  One viola got a bad crack and a 'cello had a grafted scroll just pop right off.  I remember examining the viola after we landed and it was ice cold.  Is it just the lack of humidity, or can it be a combination of dryness and cold?  Any reason why altitude itself would cause a problem? 

Pressurized doesn't mean "sea level".  Passenger jet cabin pressures exhibit a wide excursion (for those who get to enjoy military and dependents "space available", military is worse).  One ECS curve I used to be familiar with used ambient to 7000 feet ASL, then 7000 (more or less) all the way to ceiling.  On approach, it came back down the other way.  Trapped air in say, glue, expands and contracts.

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Pressurized doesn't mean "sea level".  Passenger jet cabin pressures exhibit a wide excursion (for those who get to enjoy military and dependents "space available", military is worse).  One ECS curve I used to be familiar with used ambient to 7000 feet ASL, then 7000 (more or less) all the way to ceiling.  On approach, it came back down the other way.  Trapped air in say, glue, expands and contracts.

 

VDA is right on the money.  The airplane cabin is pressurized to usually be equivalent to an altitude of 5000 to 7000 feet above sea level (never more than 9,999 feet) regardless of the altitude of the airplane.  Airliners frequently cruise above 30,000 above sea level. 

 

Here is a not so trivial fact. Under those cabin conditions, one drink can go straight to your head. At the equivalent of 8,000 feet in the air, one drink can hit you like two on the ground.  Your blood alcohol level is the same, but your body is metabolising things differently, intensifying the effects.  :blink:

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