double bass humidity
Keeping your upright double bass at the proper humidity level is
very important. Seasonal changes, (whether it be from travel
or changing seasons) can really create havoc on a bass. There
are at least 2 major factors when dealing with humidity (or lack
thereof): The overall level of dryness and sudden changes from wet
to dry or even dry to wet. Keeping your bass in relative parameters
of dryness, helps keep the super highs or low humidity changes less
traumatic. (For example, in the winter, with the dry and cold,
do not keep your bass in too wet of an environment. (In the winter,
too wet would be in excess of 50% because). Keeping the bass
had a higher humidity would normally be fine, but when it goes out
(into a much dryer room, the bass will get a too much of a "shock"
from the sudden dryness. Stay within some parameters, 40-50%
is perfect. Even 55% would be ok depending where you are going
out into. Some humidity levels in halls (in winter) can go
down into the teens.
Some simple ways to protect the bass in the winter:
1) If you can keep your bass in a special room with a humidifier,
that's great. Just remember not to go too high.
2) Use Dampits. These are the green sponge type humidifiers
that are hung inside of the upright bass f-holes. A quick
note about these: These are my personal favorite. I
use 4 Dampits. Using 4 will help keep me from trying to over
saturate using the normal 2. You don't want to ever drip in
your upright bass! I squeeze the excess water out before putting
them in the bass and when I am not playing, I keep my cover on the
bass. That helps keep the moisture from escaping. I
notice that even when the bass is not super dry, the wood vibrates
so much better. Also, if you live in an area with hard water,
it's good to wipe off the tops of the Dampits that touch against
the bass so that they will not leave a water spot. I've noticed
some new Dampit knockoffs lately that don't hold the same amount
of water and tend to drip too easily. (Only get the Dampit
3) I also heard of another idea (in the winter) for those living
in small apartments suffering from too dry conditions. Simply
splashing water droplets on the carpet or rug can significantly
help bring up the humidity. This is not practical to have to do
every day. One of my Japanese upright bass player friends
has a very small apartment in Tokyo and when he starts getting static
shocks and the bass gets super dry, he sprinkles water all over
the carpets. (Let's call that one Bass Blessing!) haaa! But
it actually works!
4) Are you in a college or do you have to keep your bass in a locker?
Keep a bucket of water in the corner with a hand towel clipped on
the top edge inside the bucket. This acts as a wick and will
humidify the locker enclosure ( I still like my Dampits though!)
The best way to monitor humidity and the cheapest, is a cheap digital
gauge one can find at a nearby Radio Shack. For $30, you can post
it near where your bass is normally stored. Don't trust those silly
little color coded cards with the Dampits.
If you live in a region of the country that has super humid summers
and cold, dry winters, you might want to consider having 2 sound
posts. Sometimes these posts can really vary in length.
This will keep you happy (as your bass will sound better if the
post is not too short or too long and keep your bass from needless
soundpost cracks. (you can sometimes see the strings dropping
closer to the fingerboard, the sound post side of the top tilted
upwards or the E-string side f-hole pointed inward a bit. Time to
get that post checked then. When I lived near Chicago, I learned
a lot of upright bass players there had a winter and a summer post.
You'll notice that once you become more aware of your surroundings
and the humidity levels, you will be better able to control or create
better conditions for your upright bass. Just watching the
string height changes, or how a bass is responding (changing) could
be enough for you be aware of your post getting too tight.
Any carved upright bass will sound the best if the wood has some
moisture in the wood and will be much less susceptible to cracks.