As I sat in the sun this weekend under blue sky, with Larches and Aspens turning to gold before my eyes, I thought, “This is probably it – the last of the lovely weather before the seasons change”. This morning, looking out at the cold drizzle, I think I was right.
So we’re heading into winter. Winter means earlier dark and evenings inside. Time to make music! But winter where we live also means DRY.
I have written on hydration before, but there is value in a reminder. If you do not keep a humidifier in your instrument or instrument case, now’s the time to invest in one. Purpose made instrument humidifiers are not expensive, but you can easily hack one by putting a piece of sponge in a little plastic box (like a sandwich box, but one of the itty bitty ones) and punching some holes in the plastic. However you get the sponge in there, here’s the key: you have to keep the sponge moist! In our climate, you want to check it every day or two because the wood in your instrument is thirsty stuff.
I’m sure we’ve all seen dry wood. It’s cracked and brittle and not strong enough to be used for much other than kindling. For your guitar or ukulele (or mando, or violin or piano or other instrument that is made using wood) to give its best sound and be in best health, it needs that moisture. Around here, it’s not going to get that from the air – in fact, the air will draw the moisture out of the wood. I highly recommend keeping that instrument in a case with a humidifier when you’re not using it, even if you have a home humidity system.
For pianos, check with your local piano technician about a proper piano humidity system. A sponge in a plastic box won’t cut it here, and the folk tradition of putting a mason jar of water in the bottom of the piano is also not recommended. Water will evaporate then attach to the coldest surface around, which is not the wood in the piano, but the metal. Metal and water don’t get along so well and soon you end up with rust and broken strings. Humidity systems are designed to deal with that and make sure the moisture gets where it needs to go.
In the same way YOU need to hydrate. We know that it’s important to drink water. Take a sip now. By the time you’re feeling thirsty, it’s too late. Your body will service the major organs that keep you alive before it gives that magic moisture to things like throat, vocal mechanism… (finger nails, cuticles… DANG). But these things will function to a better level if they have received that hydration. So make a habit of water intake.
A friend of mine has been known to fill a four litre jug (approximately one gallon) with water and put it on her counter in the morning. By the end of the day, she’s drunk it all. Out of sight, out of mind, but if it’s sitting there on the counter there is that visual reminder.
If you take that approach or something similar, be ready to have it go through you pretty quickly for a while. A physiotherapist friend told me that it can take up to a month or so of regular practice for your body to get used to absorbing that much water. BUT it’s the thing to do. Not only for organs and fascia and cuticles, but for the beautiful instrument that was designed and placed uniquely in you. Your voice.
Shine on, my friends. And if by chance we’re gifted another Indian Summer Day, I’ll see you on the trails.