1) Practice. Hah! Bet you didn’t think that was one of the 10 things. But it is. Practice the hard parts, practice with quiet concentration, put the time in and you’ll get multiple dividends out.
2) Change your strings. If your strings are more than six months old, it’s time to start thinking about getting new strings. Amy, our violinist here in the shop, wrote an entire blog on the subject: When to Change Strings. Don’t go for the cheap strings. The price difference between lousy strings and good strings is about $30 to $50. Considering all the time you spend practicing and playing, isn’t it worth it to get good strings? Here’s our YouTube video on How to Change a String.
3) Straighten your bridge. Your bridge should be pretty much perpendicular to the top of your violin or leaning back very slightly. If it’s leaning forward or warped into a C shape towards the fingerboard, try to straighten it. Of course, we have YouTube videos showing you how to Straighten a Violin Bridge and Straightening a Cello Bridge.
4) Crank up the A/C! Your instrument will love the air conditioning even more than you. It’s very hot and humid in many parts of the country this summer. Your instrument will absorb a lot of moisture from the air. You might notice that your bow hair is very long and your strings are high. That’s your instrument and bow telling you they need to be in air conditioning more often. (If you are reading this in the winter, make sure to keep you instrument humidified with a Dampit or other humidity input system.)
5) Learn to tune better. An instrument in tune always sounds better than one out of tune! If you need fine tuners, get them and use them. Very few of your audience will notice the tuners. Most will notice when you are out of tune. Here are links to our tuning YouTube videos- Violin Tuning and Cello Tuning.
6) Get your bow rehaired. If the hair on your bow is more than a year old or if you have lost a lot of the hair, take it to you violin shop or bow maker and get it rehaired.
7) If you use four fine tuners attached to your wood tailpiece, lose them! Get a Wittner Ultra tailpiece or a Bois D’Harmonie tailpiece put on. The sound improvement will be dramatic! Both the Wittner and the Harmonie tailpieces have Fine Tuners built in. I don’t mind the fine tuning devices – it’s the added weight of four fine tuners on a wood tailpiece that really dampens your instrument.
8) Get your soundpost adjusted. The soundpost is the soul of your instrument. If your instrument is not sounding right, it could be the soundpost. Read my blog on Soundposts here. Just for fun, here’s a video of me setting a cello soundpost to a Bach Cello Suite.
9) Relax! Yes, I know having someone yell “Relax!” at you will have just the opposite effect.
So try relaxing while you are playing when no one is around. You will be amazed at how much better you will play when you are relaxed and focused into the music.
10) Use good rosin. Cheap rosins are like cheap strings – not worth the money you think you are saving! Start with a standard good rosin like Hill Light for violin or Hill Dark for cello. Do a bit of experimentation to find the rosin that works best for you and your instrument.