Tuning Your Viola
The viola will need tuning every time you play it. From lowest to highest, the viola strings are C, G, D and A. Start by tuning the “A” string to a tuner, accompanying instrument, such as a piano, or designated instrument in an ensemble (usually the oboe in an orchestra). Then tune the other strings by ear in perfect fifths to that (or continue with a tuner if you are using one). Lastly, perfect the tuning by using the fine-tuners to make any needed small adjustments.
Viola Care and Maintenance
Viola strings must be replaced every few months. It is wise to have an extra set of strings on hand at all times, as a string will break on occasion. The “bridge” of the instrument, the part that raises the strings, should be checked and straightened often so that it stays perpendicular to the viola. Occasional inspection and conditioning by a skilled technician is also recommended.
Stringed instruments are very sensitive to temperature changes and extremes. They should be stored with care to avoid very warm or cold temperatures. They should not, for instance, be left in the direct sun, next to a heater or in a warm or cold car or trunk. When they have by necessity been carried outside in colder temperatures, they should be allowed to warm up to room temperature inside the case.
Stringed instruments are also very sensitive to humidity fluctuations and extremes. Storage at humidity levels of 40-60%, or use of a “Dampit” – a device that is soaked in water and than inserted into the instrument to provide humidity – is recommended. After playing, wipe the instrument carefully with a soft cloth to remove fingerprints and rosin.
The bow also needs good care. Be careful not to leave your bow where it can fall, be knocked down or stepped on. The horsehair on a bow shrinks and stretches with changes of humidity. To avoid damage, loosen it when not in use and then tighten it before playing. The hairs wear and occasionally break with use, so the bow also needs to be re-haired periodically – usually about twice a year.