Being part of a performance is exciting. Everyone has their part to play and is ready to knock the audience’s socks off, right? But amid the cares and concerns about a particularly difficult section of music, or a song that requires all of your concentration, it can be quite easy to overlook other things. And if you have a violin emergency, you need to know how to deal with it successfully so that you can take part in the concert.
Let’s face it. Murphey’s Law is always in effect and ready to turn your exciting day into a harrowing, stress-filled situation. However, with a few simple preparations, you can handle any last-minute emergencies with your student violin and make quick fixes to any minor problem that could become potential disasters.
Always, always, always make sure that you have a set of replacement strings in your violin case. Although the newly replaced string won’t necessarily have the depth, volume, and tonal quality of one that has been broken in, you’ll still be able to perform. If you aren’t adept at changing out your strings quickly, get help from a friend or your teacher.
It’s not uncommon for your violin to need retuning when it’s been transported to a new location. If your concert is outdoors, it’s a given that you’ll need to retune it; but it can also happen in a heated auditorium under stage lights. Therefore, it’s a great idea to have an electronic tuner with you so that you can make those adjustments quickly. Many smart phone apps are equipped with tuners, or you can purchase a Shark clip-on tuner that works like a dream.
For exactly the same reason that your violin will probably need retuned, your pegs could require last-minute fixes due to temperature and humidity changes. Two items that are indispensable in your violin case are a pencil and a birthday candle (you’ll see why). Carrying peg compound (peg dope) can solve the problem, but if you haven’t got any with you, it won’t do much good. These make-shift solutions can get you through the concert:
Sticking pegs: Pull out the peg partially out of the hole and rub the graphite from a pencil on the area that is sticking. It will act like a lubricant.
Loose Pegs: See if any of your fellow musicians, who wear braces, have their wax with them and gently rub a small bit of wax on the peg. If you have your birthday candle, fantastic! You can use it. Worst case scenario, a wax based lip balm (like Chap-stick) can do the same thing.
Loose Chinrest, Fingerboard, Etc.
For this type of problem, the best thing to do is determine whether or not your instrument is playable as it is. If you can get by with it, great! If not, there aren’t a whole lot of options for these types of situations. Basically, you’ll need to come up with another ‘make-do’ type solution.
One of the best things you can buy and keep in your violin case is removable mounting putty. This is the stuff used to hang posters and other decorations on walls, and you can purchase it at almost any grocery or department store for around three or four dollars. If some part of your violin becomes loose or—God forbid—comes off completely, you can use small amounts of the putty to hold it in place for a temporary fix. It actually works surprisingly well.
After the concert, of course, you’ll need to take your instrument to a repair shop to have the piece re-glued properly, but the great thing about that putty is that it easily (without any residue) comes off.
Experiencing a last-minute emergency with your violin is common, but with a little foresight and judicious planning, you can overcome any little problem and deliver your performance with style in the face of adversity. Plus, having those emergency items in your case may prove a life-saver to one of your fellow musicians and make you the hero of the day.