Proper humidity for my cello

December 30, 2012 11:03 AM

Humidifier for my cello?

I just bought a new (old) cello. Of course people talk about the air being too dry in apartments (I'm in New York City). But now I'm googling and there's all this stuff about how you need a humidity gauge to assess the humidity, and it has to be separate from the humidifier so it won't assess the humidity right near where all this humidifying is taking place, and also humidifiers are stupid and they lie about how much they're humidifying, etc. etc., and I'm confused.

What should I do about the humidity in my apartment. Maybe it's not even too low!
posted by DMelanogaster (1 comment total)

One thing I would do is talk to other NYC cellists and teachers and luthier/repair persons and see what they recommend, since they're probably familiar with NYC weather quirks. You might still get some contradictory info, but at least it'll be more contained than everybody on the intarwebs everywhere.

A lot of the stuff I'm finding about "inaccurate hygrometers" is people freaking out that their hygrometer is off by 5% to 10%. But acceptable humidity for string instruments supposedly ranges from 40% to 75%, so, y'know, in practical terms, even if your hygrometer isn't 100% accurate it's still probably close enough for your instrument to be safe.

It seems that modern digital hygrometers can be calibrated, and are viewed as more likely to be stable and accurate.

Here's a page from Mnatzaganian cello makers that talks about humidity. What they suggest conforms with what I know about acoustic guitars - for practical purposes you don't have to worry so much about the humidity in your whole apartment. Store your cello in its case when you're not playing it, with a humidifier and hygrometer inside. A properly humidified string instrument will retain enough moisture that it'll be fine out of the case for a few hours while you play it. The hygrometer in the case is used to make sure your cello is getting enough moisture while stored.

The linked page did a comparison between various hygrometers and instrument humidifiers, and liked the products from Stretto the best. It looks like you can get a Stretto humidifier & hygrometer via Amazon for less than $100 total.

Personally, I've tried the Dampit system for guitars, and didn't like it, moved to Planet Waves. Also, all instrument humidifier systems say you should use distilled water, which you should definitely do - tap water can have minerals & other stuff in it from the city's water system and/or your building's pipes, which over time makes your humidifier much less functional.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:31 AM on December 31, 2012

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