I love the changing seasons we experience here in West Michigan, but they do present some unique challenges for musicians. It can be hard to know how to protect your instrument from the weather.

If you also live in an area where the climate is sometimes (or always) cold and dry or hot and humid, then read on to learn how to care for your instrument in a variety of weather conditions.

Brass Instruments

If you live in a climate that has cold, dry winters, you may experience problems with your valves as they expand and stick. Temperature extremes will also make your instrument harder to tune.

Make sure to clean any moisture off your instrument before taking it outside in the cold. Remember, water freezes.

Never leave your instrument in a hot or cold car! Keep it in its case when you’re not using it, and don’t store it in direct sunlight, along an outside wall, or in a room without heating and air conditioning if you can help it.

Avoid playing in hot or humid venues if possible. Use a humidifier at home to help combat dryness. Many music stores sell humidifiers that are made for instrument cases.

If you’ve taken your instrument out in the cold or heat, let it return to room temperature before you open it.

Percussion Instruments

Cold air can make drumheads contract, while humid conditions will expose them to too much moisture that may cause warping, cracking, or mold. They may also go out of tune. Some music stores sell humidifiers that are made for drum cases.

Avoid keeping your instrument in a room that does not have heating or air conditioning, or one where it is in direct sunlight for most of the day.

If your instrument case has been out in the cold or heat, let it return to room temperature before you open it. Never leave your percussion instrument in a hot or cold car.

Piano/Keyboard Instruments

Pianos and organs are made of wood. That causes them to contract with cold and expand with heat. Extreme temperatures will also make it harder for you instrument to stay in tune.

Try not to have your piano or organ along an outside wall if possible. Use a humidifier in the winter to keep it from drying out.

Avoid keeping your instrument in a room that does not have heating or air conditioning, or one where it is in direct sunlight for most of the day. Regular tuning will also help keep your piano in top shape despite the weather changes.

Electronic keyboards are less likely to be damaged by hot or cold temperatures, but excessive levels of humidity could cause condensation or rust.

String Instruments

String instruments and their bows are made out of wood that is held together by glue, so excess heat or cold is pretty much their worst nightmare.

Very high or low temperatures can cause the wood on your instrument or bow to swell, crack, or warp, and the varnish can peel away. It can also cause the strings to swell or warp.

Humidity is hard on these instruments. Excess moisture could cause the wood to swell and there could be damage done to the finish.

It will also be hard to keep the instrument in tune in cold, hot, or humid conditions, since the pegs tend to slip.

Never leave your instrument in a hot or cold car! Keep it in its case when you’re not using it, and don’t store it in direct sunlight or along an outside wall.

If the room you practice in is usually dry, try using a humidifier. Many music stores sell humidifiers that are made for instrument cases.

Avoid playing in hot or humid venues if possible. If your instrument case has been out in the cold or heat, let it return to room temperature before you open it.

Never play outside in the rain or snow. That might seem obvious, but I’ve seen people do it with less than stellar results. Purposely performing in the elements like that makes it pretty much impossible to protect your instrument from the weather!

Wind Instruments

The cold, dry air of winter could cause cracks in your instrument, particularly if it’s made of wood. It could also make your reeds dry out. Tuning is always more difficult in extreme temperatures.

Humidifiers help! Many music stores sell humidifiers that are made for instrument cases.

Also, make sure to clean any moisture off your instrument before taking it outside (remember, water freezes). Never leave your instrument in a hot or cold car!

Keep it in its case when you’re not using it, and don’t store it in direct sunlight, along an outside wall, or in a room that doesn’t have heating or air conditioning.

Avoid playing in hot or humid venues if possible. If your instrument case has been out in the cold or heat, let it return to room temperature before you open it.

Never play a wooden instrument outside in the snow or rain.

Your Voice

Musicians sometimes debate whether or not the human voice is considered an instrument, but for the purposes of this post we’ll say that it is. Like any other musician, there are steps you can take to protect your instrument from the weather.

Cold and dry weather can take a toll on your vocal chords, leaving your throat dry and your voice hoarse.

Heat and humidity are usually great for singers, but they do pose their own unique challenges. Hot weather can leave you dehydrated and seasonal allergies cause congestion.

In cold weather, make sure you wear a hat and a scarf to keep as much heat inside your body as you can. Try to breath in through your nose rather than through your mouth when you’re outside on a cold day.

Hot tea is great (but skip the caffeine, since that will just make you more dried out). Don’t forget your warm-up exercises, and try to get to your performance venue a little bit early to let your voice acclimate to the warmer indoor temperature.

Using a humidifier will help if it’s dry in your home, and there are over-the-counter medications you can take to help combat seasonal allergies if that’s a problem for you.

Above all, in any kind of weather, stay hydrated!

How do you protect your instrument from the weather? Leave a comment below.

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