How do I determine the correct size student instrument?
A string teacher or your local stringed instrument dealer can measure
a student for the correct size instrument. If that is not possible, refer
to these guidelines:
• Violin/Viola: Place the instrument under the chin in playing position.
The instrument is the proper size if the palm and fingers of the performers
left hand, with arm extended but elbow relaxed, can comfortably cup the
• Cello: Seat the student so that the knees are bent at a 90-degree
angle. The upper rim of the instrument should rest on the sternum (breast
bone) and the left knee should contact the curve below the lower bout
corner. The neck of the cello should be a few inches from the performers
shoulder, and the C string peg should be near the left ear. The students
left hand should be able to reach both ends of the fingerboard with ease,
and the first and fourth fingers of the left hand should be able to span
a major third in 1st position (E to G# on the D string).
• Bass: With the student standing behind the bass in playing position,
the fingerboard nut should be opposite the forehead near eye level. The
right hand should be able to comfortably draw the bow from the frog to
the tip. The first and fourth fingers of the left hand should be able
to span a whole tone in 1st position (E to F# on the D string).
The chart below is a general guide based on age of the student.
GENERAL AGE LEVEL GUIDE TO INSTRUMENT SELECTION*
|10 – adult
9 – 12
6 – 10
4 – 7
3 – 6
3 – 5
3 – 5
|12 – adult
10 – 13
9 – 11
6 – 9
12 – adult
9 – 13
8 - 12
|12 – adult
10 – 13
9 – 11
8 – 10
*Subject to developmental variations among children of the same age.
How do I care for my Becker instrument?
• Keep the instrument clean. Wipe the body of the instrument, fingerboard and strings with a soft cloth after use. Do not clean the instrument with alcohol or water as these can cause damage to the wood and varnish.
• Do not subject the instrument to sudden changes in temperature, humidity or prolonged sunlight. Do not leave it in a car for any length of time and keep it away from heaters and air conditioning vents.
• Let the instrument have time to adjust to changes in temperature or humidity before opening the case.
• Handle the instrument by the neck and chinrest to minimize wear on the varnish.
• When tuning the instrument, gently twist the peg inward toward the pegbox to ensure good contact with the peg hole.
• Never over tighten a string to stretch it. Tighten it to pitch and no higher.
• Since the top of the bridge has a tendency to pull forward when strings are tightened, check that the back of the bridge remains perpendicular to the top of the instrument and that the bridge feet remain flush against the instrument.
• Use a soft cloth between the instrument and player to help protect the varnish from perspiration. Be aware that buttons and jewelry can cause damage to the instrument.
• Do not loosen the strings after playing.
• Remove the shoulder rest or shoulder pad from a violin or viola before placing it back in the case.
• Do not hang an instrument from a music stand or leave it on a chair. Return it to its case or a stringed instrument stand.
• Tighten the chin rest to the instrument with just enough pressure to hold it firmly in place. Too much pressure can cause damage to the instrument.
What about preventative maintenance?
• Individual instrument humidifiers may be useful in areas of low humidity or during winter months. Use according to directions.
• Check each string adjuster under the tailpiece. Over time the adjuster screw may be turned in as far as it will go which can cause contact with, and damage to, the violin top. Before this occurs, turn the adjustment screw counter-clockwise to a safe level and re-tune the string with the peg.
• Occasionally check the shoulder rest feet to make sure that the rubber tubing has not worn through, which can damage the instrument.
• Periodically check the edges of cellos and basses. Rough edges can splinter when caught on clothing or carpets, causing increased damage to the instrument.
• Strings can be damaged if the grooves in the nut and bridge are not lubricated. To lubricate, use a very soft lead pencil.
• When replacing strings, remove and replace only one string at a time. This will keep pressure on the top of the instrument to prevent the soundpost from falling and will also keep the bridge in the proper position.
• The soundpost is held in place by string pressure. It is never glued into the instrument. If the soundpost falls down, immediately loosen the strings and do not play the instrument. Otherwise, the pressure of the strings could collapse the unsupported top. Take the instrument to a repair shop to have the soundpost refitted.
• If a crack develops or a seam opens up, keep the area clean and take the instrument to a qualified repairperson for repair.
• Do not attempt to adjust, repair or glue an instrument yourself. Take it to a repairperson for periodic check-ups and adjustments to avoid more costly repairs later on.
How do I care for my bow?
• Always hold the bow by the frog. Avoid touching the bow hair with the fingers since the natural oils from the skin prevent the bow hair from holding the rosin.
• Tighten the bow hair to a moderate tension prior to playing so that the curve of the stick remains concave. If you cannot get enough tension by adjusting the screw, the bow hair may need shortening or rehairing.
• Without rosin, the bow will not produce a sound from the instrument. Apply rosin evenly by drawing the bow hair over the rosin in smooth even strokes. Avoid the tendency to over-rosin the bow since too much rosin produces a harsh, coarse tone. It is not necessary to rosin the bow each time the instrument is played.
• Do not attempt to remove excess rosin by striking the bow hair against a hard object or swishing it in the air.
• Always loosen the bow hair after playing. This prevents stretching of the bow hair, reduces warping and helps the stick retains its elasticity.
• Clean the bow stick with a soft clean cloth after each use.
• Some insects and mites are attracted to bow hair. Keep the bow and case off the floor, especially in carpeted areas or closets.
• When the bow hair becomes uneven due to broken hairs the bow is more susceptible to warping. Take it to a repairperson to be rehaired.
• Periodically check the leather thumb grip near the frog and replace as necessary to prevent eroding the stick underneath.
How do I correct slipping or sticking pegs?
In time, normal use will cause the pegs and peg holes to wear. For slipping pegs, apply chalk to the areas of contact between the peg shaft and peg hole to provide more grip. For pegs that stick or are hard to turn, peg dope or soft graphite pencil lead can be applied to the contact areas. Eventually you may need to have replacement pegs fitted by a repairperson.
What if my bridge becomes displaced?
The bridge is kept in place by string pressure. It is never glued to the instrument. All bridges must be adjusted periodically as repeated tuning of strings can cause them to tilt or collapse. You can reposition the bridge to its approximate placement using the following guidelines:
• The lowest side of the bridge fits under the E string on the violin, A string on the viola and cello and G string on the bass.
• With the lowest side of the bridge under the correct string, center the feet of the bridge between the inner notches of the f-holes.
• Position the bridge so that its back is perpendicular to the top of the instrument and the bridge feet fit flush.
What causes an instrument to buzz?
The most common causes of buzzing are caused by:
• Loose string adjusters or lock nuts
• Loose sliding-style mute
• Loose string winding
• Loose fittings
• Too much of the endpin retracted into the instrument on cellos and basses.
• Open seams or cracks in the instrument.
• Worn fingerboards that open up at the base of the neck.
An open seam can be located by holding the instrument by the neck and gently
tapping it all around the top and back. Take the instrument to a qualified
repairperson for repair.