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Do I REALLY need to humidify my instrument?

If you don't, you'll likely wish you had after it's too late!

Humidifying Your Musical Instrument: Why It Matters and What Happens When You Don’t

As a musician, you likely understand the importance of proper care for your instrument. One aspect of care that is often overlooked is the issue of humidity. The lack of humidity can harm your instrument if you live in a particularly dry region, such as the northeast United States, during the winter months. In this blog post, we’ll explore why it is so important to humidify your musical instrument and what can happen if you don’t.

Why Humidify Your Instrument?

Wood is a natural material used to make many musical instruments, including guitar, violin, viola, cello, bass, and pianos. Wood is hygroscopic, which means it has the ability to absorb and release moisture. This ability can cause the wood to expand and contract with changes in humidity. If the air is too dry, the wood will absorb moisture from its surroundings and shrink, causing cracks and warping. On the other hand, if the air is too humid, the wood can expand and become warped or even split.

Instruments are particularly vulnerable to changes in humidity because the tension created by the strings can cause the wood to crack if it becomes too dry. This tension can also cause other problems, such as fret buzzing, loose fittings, and even ruined sound quality.

What Happens When You Don’t Humidify Your Instrument?

If you live in a dry region and don’t humidify your instrument, likely, you will eventually experience some of the following problems:

  • Cracking: Dry wood is more likely to crack, which can be a serious issue for instruments that rely on the integrity of the wood for sound quality and structural stability.

  • Warping: Wood that has become too dry can also become warped, which can cause a variety of problems, including fret buzzing and loose fittings.

  • Ruined Sound Quality: The tension created by the strings on a dry instrument can cause the sound to become dull and lifeless and even ruin the sound quality altogether.

  • Expense: If you don’t humidify your instrument and it becomes damaged, you may need to pay for costly repairs or even replace the instrument entirely.

There are a variety of methods you can use to humidify your musical instrument. Some of the most common methods include:

  • Room humidifiers: By using a room humidifier, you can increase the humidity level in your home, which will help protect your instrument.

  • Instrument humidifiers: There are also humidifiers designed specifically for musical instruments, which can be placed inside the instrument case to provide direct humidity.

It is important to monitor the humidity level of your instrument regularly, and to take steps to increase humidity if necessary. A hygrometer, which measures humidity, can be a helpful tool in this regard. In conclusion, humidifying your musical instrument is an essential aspect of care that should not be overlooked. Properly humidifying your instrument can protect it from damage, ensure it sounds its best, and extend its lifespan. So, if you live in a dry region, take the necessary steps to keep your instrument properly humidified.

BUT WAIT. . . . The benefits aren't only for your instrument!

Yes, there are also benefits for humans when it comes to maintaining proper humidity levels. When the air is too dry, it can have a number of adverse effects on our health, including:

  • Dry skin: Low humidity levels can cause the skin to become dry and irritated, leading to itching, flaking, and even cracking.

  • Respiratory problems: Dry air can also cause respiratory problems, such as dry throat, nosebleeds, and even worsening of conditions such as asthma and allergies.

  • Increased risk of infection: Dry air can also increase the risk of infection, as viruses and bacteria are more likely to spread when the air is dry.

  • Sleep disturbances: Dry air can also affect sleep, causing discomfort and making it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.

A few years back, I was experiencing chronic sinus issues, from congestion and headaches to full-blown sinus infections. After completing several courses of antibiotics and with no relief, a friend suggested I buy a room humidifier.

At that point, I was willing to try almost anything. I knew I needed to keep my valuable instruments adequately humidified. After all, I'd told my clients about this practice's importance for decades. However, I'd not ever given any thought to the effect the dry air was having on my sinuses. Long story short - The humidifier did the trick, and I've not had a full-blown sinus infection in more than nine or so years!

Maintaining proper humidity levels can help mitigate these health problems and enjoy a healthier, more comfortable living environment. This is especially important during winter when low humidity levels are typical. So, in addition to the benefits for your musical instrument, there are also clear human benefits to be gained from maintaining proper humidity levels.

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