Arrival of the worrisome season.
With continuous rain, the humidity gets high, and instruments absorb the moisture.
We need to protect our instruments by resisting this unavoidable natural phenomenon in any way we
So, this is the time of year when I get tense, worrying about the humidity.
There were times in the past when I didn’t care much about it, as some instruments I used then were
not so old. Modern instruments are strongly made with new and hard wood and varnish, and a little
humidity could sometimes give good effects as it could help to create nice, moist sound.
When I was a child, we did not have air conditioning at home until when I was about 10 years old, so on
hot summer days, we needed to think of ways to enhance the effect of the fan. What I did was, squeeze
a wet towel tightly and wear it by draping it on my shoulders. Then, I would hold my violin on top of it,
and set it up by my chin and shoulders. By attaching the wooden instrument to a wet towel, it would
naturally peel off and break.
I have no idea why I did not realise this; I may have been dazing but that is how I used to practice in the
summer season. My mother and I were amateurs in music, and we spent the summer days with no
doubts or worries.
One autumn day, I tried out for a music competition’s primary school section, for the first time in my life.
When I was waiting for my turn to perform at the important competition, my violin made a funny noise
and started ripping off and got broken. I said to my mother, “Mummy, my instrument is sounding strange,
isn’t it?” She replied, “Oh, this part seems to have peeled off, but now there’s two pieces of wood so it
might create twice as much sound, you should play it proudly!” and cheerfully sent me off to the stage. I
remember the audience being surprised by my slightly strange sound as soon as I started playing.
After my professional debut at the age of 12, I started using old violins. First was the Guadagnini and
then Serafin, and I remember they were both wonderful instruments I got attached to. Old instruments
are so delicate and unless you maintain them properly, they cannot be kept in good conditions.
They have been made from hundreds of years before, and the wood themselves are selected wood that
has grown in terms of millennia. It is finely grained, and the wood is dry and requires to be treated
As they are sensitive to humidity, as soon as humidity rises, they sound so poor. Older timber absorbs
humidity and the glue that hold the wood together start melting and peel off with humidity.
But it does not mean that getting drier is better.
For instance, it is very dry inside airplanes, and we hear many cases of instruments cracking and
breaking on board.
It is terrifying just imagining about it.
In such cases, we use instrument humidifiers called the dampit.
Stradivarius Duranty, the instrument that I treasure now, is in good shape when it is just about too dry.
That is why I get so nervous during this season.
At home, I keep it in a humidity-controlled room in perfect condition, and when I take it out for concerts, I
carry desiccants in my violin case and keep the inside very dry.
At the concert halls, I open the violin case only if it is safe, after measuring the humidity with my own
From there onwards, it becomes a meticulous process with the help from the hall staff.
When the humidity is too high, I must figure out how it could be brought down before the performance
and how long I could rehearse until the last minute.
Concerts that follow, are truly blessing moments, being able to go on stage thanks to all the staff.
Bringing the singing of the Stradivarius to the audience, multiplies the happiness and are piled up in my