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Upright 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% .  Keeping the bass at a higher humidity would normally be fine, but when it goes out into a much dryer room, the bass can get 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 or venues (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.  Again, "keeping" it there is fine, but if you keep your bass in a room at 55%, but then take it into a venue that is below 20% for too long might shock your bass a bit.  The idea here is not to keep your bass in a room in that is too dry, but don't humidify so high that no matter where you go, it's going to have to change too much.  Keeping a room at 40-50%, ok. 

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 brand.)  You can buy a Dampit on our bass accessories page here. 

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 Walmart. For less than $30, you can post it near where your bass is normally stored. Don't trust those silly little color coded cards with the Dampits, they don't work.

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 your happy as it will sound better if the post is not too short or too long and keep your bass from needless soundpost cracks.  A sign that your post is getting too tight: 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,  a lot of upright bass players there had a winter and a summer sound 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  bass.  Just watching the string height change, or noticing 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.

Humidity points:

  • If you want to buy a room humidifer, look at the smaller Kenmores.  These can be found at Sears, but I just bought another one one called "Aircare" and it is the same,bass humidifier exact machine, but cheaper!  I like this one because it has a nice (big) water tank, is cold air (never get a warm air type), and this one has a great (reliable) humidity control button % that you can pre-set.  When it gets to your pre-set level, it shuts off until the room falls below enough to kick it back on.  We use this one in dedicated bass rooms when the humidity gets too low.
  • The easiest, cheapest way to keep your bass healthy is to use 4 Dampits, with your cover on during the down time (not playing while you are away or over night).
  • Keep an eye on your string height in the winter!  If you see your strings getting really low...that means that the dryness has gotten into the wood and making your bass contract and shrink.  A little is normal, but don't let it go too far.  (Check that post!)