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Friday, March 8, 2013

Wooden Musical Instruments in Antarctica

In keeping with passing on tips about what one could take to Antarctica to make your extended stay more enjoyable, I should pass on some thoughts about wooden musical instruments. Many take guitars down to the Australian Antarctic Stations and form bands.There are in fact a range of guitars,drums,key boards and systems down on the stations already. But like most people, its not the same as having your own. There is nothing wrong with this provided you understand that the air moisture down in Antarctica is incredibly dry.This is the main enemy of most stringed instruments.  Wood will shrink in very dry conditions, and cracks may appear in your instrument.  Ideally, solid wood instruments like about 40% humidity.  In very dry weather try to keep your instrument in its case, with a humidifier.  There are lots of humidifiers available on the market, or it's easy enough to make your own.  One method is to cut a sponge to fit a plastic, travel soap dish.  Punch a bunch of holes into the top of the cover, and you have an inexpensive humidifier that works well. 

NOTE:  It is generally not necessary to humidify instruments made of plywood, just those made of solid pieces of wood. 

The only really dangerous element of cold for stringed instruments is sudden temperature change.  When going from warm to cold or cold to warm, your instrument needs to be insulated. If you have a padded case, use it.  If not, wrap the instrument in blankets or towels.  Once you arrive at your destination, keep the instrument cased or wrapped until the outside of the case has been at room temperature for several hours.  If your instrument is still icy when you open the case, zip it back up and wait a while longer.  If you take your wrapped instrument from your warm room, to the inside of a warm room,say a band hut, do not worry at all.  It is only when the instrument is left in the cold for a long period that you need to go through a warm-up procedure.

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