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How Much Summer Heat, Sun and Humidity Can Your Cello, Viola or Violin Take Outside In The Summer Before They Are Damaged (ie Glue Getting Soft, Varnish being damaged or Pegs Being Affected)?
I would like to mute my bowed string instruments and play outside, but Summer sun, heat and humidity concern me. What are the time restraints for playing outside in the Summer without the sun, heat and/or humidity damaging your bowed string instrument?
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cid
May 5, 2020 - 8:47 am
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I would like to know what the limits are for temperature, humidity and sun when playing cello, viola or violin outside. 

Almost a couple weekends ago, I was out on my deck with my good viola. It was nice to be out there. I was playing and after a while I noticed it was getting out of tune. As I retuned it, thinking how odd it was because I never had to retune during a playing session before, it dawned on me that it might be because I was sitting in the sun. I also noticed the viola top was warm.

In a panic, I took my viola back into the house and hung it on its rack. I went back out onto the deck and gathered everything else. I was worried the glue was softened or whatever and I had just ruined my beautiful new viola. I let it cool on the rack and later that evening I tuned it up. 

It was fine and still is, but I was really worried and bummed. I was hoping to be able to take my cello, viola or violin out under my tree and play them at times, or my front porch. Later in the Summer my deck is a wasp/blue hornet (hope those giant ones stay away) gathering place, so it unused ☹️. 

Now, considering the tree does not give complete shade, the porch shade moves with the sun, but part of me is always in the sun, indirect sun and partial shade, how long can I use a bowed string instrument outside? I know it would depend on how hot it is, direct or indirect sunlight, right?

1. If I was in partial shade heat 80° up to about 90°, low to average humidity, what would be the limit? I can’t see myself out in heat any higher. 

2. If I was in mostly sun up to 70° up to 80°, low to average humidity, what amount of time would be safe?     

3.  If I was in partial shade, 80° up to about 90°, humid, what would be the limit?

4. If I was in mostly sun up to 70° up to 80° and humid,what amount of time would be safe?

Would it be the same for a cello as it would be for a viola or violin? If so:

What amount of time for a cello for numbers 1-4. 

What amount of time for a 15 1/2” viola for numbers 1-4. 

What amount of time for a violin for numbers 1-4. 

Would these time amounts change depending on whether in direct sun shining on the instrument or the partial or full shade? Would it be the same for a cello as it would be for a viola or violin? If so:

What amount of time for a cello in direct sun while playing for numbers 1-4. 

What amount of time for a 15 1/2” viola in direct sun while playing for numbers 1-4. 

What amount of time for a violin in direct sun while playing for numbers 1-4. 

I used my electric cello outside Sunday because that would not be an issue. I am finding that I have a hard time with playing that now, so I don’t play it often. I don’t want to mess up for my acoustic cello hold and bowing, so I would rather not use that outside. Would rather just mute my acoustics.

Thank you.

Viola Time! 

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Gordon Shumway
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May 5, 2020 - 9:09 am
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Instruments tend to get flatter because air warms up, metals expand in heat - steel strings get slacker. This happens in hot concert halls, especially in the summer. Woodwind gets warm from breath. Crowded bodies generate a lot of heat. Instruments need to be warmed up already before tuning them.

But I have heard of a ukulele literally falling to pieces in a car with the sun on it. Heat combined with humidity can cause hide glue to soften.

Andrew

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GregW
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May 5, 2020 - 9:56 am
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There sure are a bunch of outdoor fiddle/acoustic style festivals concerts and such.  Ive also attended summer in the park orchestra series where the whole orchestra was in Sun/partial sun in the middle of June in Dallas.  I think the thing with hide glue would be a situation where it was in the car with sun shining through.  All that said.. I'm nervous about it as well and don't have a long bit of history with dealing with it.  

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Irv
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May 5, 2020 - 9:57 am
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@cid and others.  First, I think you should be rewarded a badge for the longest title in forum history.  Quite impressive.

Your question is endlessly repeated by string stage  musicians.  I read once that a performer (I think it was Tertis), would turn his back on the audience and blow moist air from his lips into the f hole of the instrument to have it retain moisture when he played on a lighted stage.  

I would use a solid electric cello on a deck.

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

It is unpleasant to be thought so uncleverly unclean and capable of poisoning a whole city.—Sir Walter Scott

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AndrewH
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GregW said
There sure are a bunch of outdoor fiddle/acoustic style festivals concerts and such.  Ive also attended summer in the park orchestra series where the whole orchestra was in Sun/partial sun in the middle of June in Dallas.  I think the thing with hide glue would be a situation where it was in the car with sun shining through.  All that said.. I'm nervous about it as well and don't have a long bit of history with dealing with it.  

  

I've played outdoor concerts in temperatures as high as 98 degrees, though always in shade. Generally, when professional orchestras play outdoors, the string players don't use their good instruments. Because the risk of damage is higher and tone quality doesn't matter as much outside of a controlled concert hall environment, professional string players buy a "beater" or "gig" instrument to use for outdoor or amplified gigs, usually an intermediate to advanced student instrument that is playable for all purposes but is a small fraction of the price of their good instrument. As it turns out, these less expensive instruments might be better able to withstand heat and direct sunlight than high-end instruments, as the varnish on high-end instruments is softer to begin with.

I'm not a pro, so I only own one violin and one viola. But I've felt fairly safe rehearsing and performing outdoors in hot weather, even on my expensive viola, as long as I'm not in the sun for more than a few minutes at a time. Neither I nor my luthier have ever noticed damage to the varnish from playing outdoor concerts, not even after the annual Elk Grove Strauss Festival where my semi-pro orchestra plays outdoors in late July five evenings in a row (dress rehearsal and four shows) with temperatures usually in the low 90s at the beginning of the show. The only heat damage my instruments have suffered has been open seams (which just need re-gluing) immediately after I moved from Los Angeles to Sacramento, which involved a full day's drive in bone-dry 90+ degree weather. Again, though, I've never played in direct sunlight for more than a few minutes at a time.

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lbrookins
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May 5, 2020 - 10:08 pm
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Living in north Florida, I had those same questions. So With my hubby’s blessing, I purchased a 5 string carbon fiber Fiddle from Fiddlershop. Problem solved 🤷🏼‍♀️

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MrYikes
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May 6, 2020 - 8:06 am
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There was a time that I practiced outside for a couple of hours at a time during the summer with 80 degree temps. I had to re-tune the violin several times (I remember one day I tuned it 4 times). My advice is to down-tune it before taking it inside. If you are outside and the sun stretches the strings and you tune the strings tighter, when you go inside and the strings cool and contract, it will put stress on the neck attachment point. I had one violin that was affected by this. The end of the fingerboard became too close to the violin (it's called projection). I had no other problems with the violins because of playing them outside.

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Gordon Shumway
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May 6, 2020 - 9:56 am
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MrYikes said
My advice is to down-tune it before taking it inside. If you are outside and the sun stretches the strings and you tune the strings tighter, when you go inside and the strings cool and contract, it will put stress on the neck attachment point. 

This is good advice. I have seen it elsewhere, but I forget the context.

Andrew

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cid
May 6, 2020 - 10:52 am
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Any suggestions on the time it is safe for the glue? I tend to forget about time and would like to set a timer. I am not sure how long I could be in hot sun before the glue itself would soften. It is not as hot as the inside of a car, which I never leave them in, so, I am not sure how long a timer I can set and be safe,

Cello - 

Viola -

Violin -

For anyone who can answer this question, what temp in F are you referring to? 

Thanks. My viola is fine, but I was really concerned about the glue. 

Good tip to down tune before bringing the instruments back inside. Thanks for that. Since I did not tune it when I realized it has warmed up and the sun was shining right down on me when it was out if tune, it was fine when it cooled off. I just brought it inside out of tune because I was in panic mode 😁.

Getting a carbon instrument is not going to happen. 

Viola Time! 

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Irv
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May 6, 2020 - 2:30 pm
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@cid and others.  Time and size of instrument is largely irrelevant.  Hide glue is melted in a double boiler, so anything approaching 180 f is too late.  Your hand can’t hold on to an object that is more than 130 f, so I think that you would be safe if you used that as a criteria.  

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

It is unpleasant to be thought so uncleverly unclean and capable of poisoning a whole city.—Sir Walter Scott

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MrYikes
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I did want to add one more thing about playing outside. It feels great to do that. We spend a lot of time closed in. Practicing and playing by ourselves in smallish rooms. Playing outside gives a sense of open-ness, of freedom, of taking off the leash and letting the dogs run loose kind of thing. I had a one hour set of tunes that I played outside. My neighbors were able to barely hear my playing through the trees, but they enjoyed it and have asked me to do it again. But only the violin, they have never asked that I practice drums outside. ha.

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cid
May 7, 2020 - 9:19 am
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@MrYikes How hot was it when you played for an hour and were you in direct sunlight?

Viola Time! 

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cid
May 7, 2020 - 9:32 am
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Okay, I think I have my answer.

Summer Heat and Humidity and Your Bowed String Instruments

Note, it is not just the instrument, itself, that needs to be cared for. The bow and bridge are also affected.

I think I will just stay inside. I can’t get a carbon instrument at the moment. I would like to get a Fiddlershop 15 1/2” viola next year, so it will be a couple years before I purchase a carbon viola or carbon cello.

Also, on another site, it showed a cello sitting in a car. The cello cracked on the backside because it was in the cold for too long. So for cars, heat and cold are an issue.

Viola Time! 

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Gordon Shumway
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May 7, 2020 - 9:48 am
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I live near a very rich part of town, and there's a big house that used to have a harp in a south-facing window, for show? I assume they had a teenage daughter or something. I guess the sun destroyed that harp. The daughter probably doesn't miss it.

Andrew

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cid
May 7, 2020 - 10:52 am
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I have seen houses, when driving by, where people have grand pianos, harps, a cello one time, sitting in front of a window that lets in a lot of direct sunlight and the window is not shaded. I have often wondered about that. There is a house we have driven by for decades with a grand piano in front of a big picture window, in long exposure to daily (when sun is shining) direct sunlight. The house has been sold 5 times now. Up until the last buying last year, that piano was there. I had never seen anyone playing it, it was a regular route and we drive (used to drive with the COVID situation) by it a lot. Maybe it was there for show, only?

Viola Time! 

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GregW
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possibly...

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Fiddlerman
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May 7, 2020 - 1:21 pm
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It's funny. Almost every professional orchestra musician has had to do their share of outdoor concerts with the orchestra. Our union when I played in Sweden had rules about minimum temperature but not the maximum.

I had a brand new Jan Larsson violin that was dark red and was the concert master for the outdoor concert just weeks after I purchased that instrument. As the concert master you sit on the outside and the stage that we were playing on didn't have a huge top. The sun was coming in at an angle and shined right on my new fiddle. The whole top of the instrument got these fine small varnish cracks that I had to have repaired by the maker. He decided that it would be easier to kind of antique the finish instead when he did the restoration. It's been that way ever since. 

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Ilona
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I love playing outside. We have quite small yard and neighbours are very close, so I’m too shy to play here, but my parents has large garden and I love to go there and play for hours. Temperature has not been much above 21°C (70°F), so it’s about same than inside. I’m just trying to avoid direct sun. Temperature is quite seldom over 80°F here, but when it is I will probably stay inside, just in case.

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AndrewH
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I've been practicing outside a lot recently. Because of extra apartment noise with other people staying home more during the pandemic, I started going out to the American River Trail and looking for quiet, shaded places to practice. I've had no issues playing outdoors with temperatures over 90°F. I'm staying inside when it's over 100°F, and making sure my viola is completely shaded when playing outdoors.

(Note: because of where I grew up, I consider 80°F to be close to winter weather!)

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BillyG
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June 8, 2020 - 3:00 pm
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🙂 @AndrewH - your 80F is our hot summer (25 - 27C or so)!  And I can tolerate that as long as it is not overly humid with it.   When we hit the 30+ ( C ) - well - I just fill the bath with cold water and jump in or swim ( well, even that's too much energy, just float !) in the sea.....

I love playing outdoors, and 10 ( C that is ) is just on the lower limit of comfort.  The previously mentioned 25/27 ( if not sticky/humid ) is the top limit of my comfort.  But, to get back to the violin's experience - never had an issue in over 5 years with string pegs slipping or even radical tuning changes OTHER than when sudden and dramatic changes occur in either or both temperature and humidity.  I've generally found that yes, if tuning drift occurs - it is pretty much equal across the instument - so it may (overall) end up a tad flat or sharp overall (not important unless playing along to a backing track - but even then - as the great Ivan Galamian wrote - 

One should be able to play in tune on a violin which is out of tune. The performer who has acquired such a skill will never be shaken out of his assurance and authority in public performance by a recalcitrant string.

LOLOL- indeed !!!   Words to be appreciated....  I believe we have both said this before "Let your ear be the guide" ( or words to that effect )

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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