Good Habits for Healthy Instruments: Woodwinds

Maintaining your instrument doesn’t have to be a painstaking process; a lot of damage to woodwinds can be prevented with easy daily routines.

Keep your instrument clean

Run a swab through your woodwind after every session. Moisture left in your instrument can be absorbed into the keypads, which results in sticky keys.  If this happens repeatedly, leftover moisture will damage or even break keypads.

When applying cork grease, use just enough to assemble your instrument. The joints of clarinets, oboes, and saxophone necks are designed to be a tight fit. Without grease, players run the risk of damaging the cork, joints wont be secure, and the sound of the instrument will suffer. However, corks naturally retain grease, so only apply more when it is necessary. Excess grease will spill onto the instrument and risk damaging the pads.

Polish flutes regularly with a silver polishing cloth. Just like instruments with cork, these joints fit tightly together. When the surface of the metal is dirty, the joints can get stuck! Polishing will keep the metal clean for smooth assembly.

Protect it from weather

Never leave your instrument in a car for long periods of time, especially overnight. In winter, the freezing temperatures can cause broken keypads, frozen keys, and cracks in wooden instruments.

Keep your instrument in a closed cased as much as possible. This will protect it from the drastic temperature changes that are unavoidable, like when traveling between home and school. Also, consider investing in an insulated or water resistant case. This will protect your instrument from the weather, but will also keep desired moisture in.

Warm wooden instruments to room temperature before playing. Immediate heat from blowing warm air into the instrument creates rapid expansion, which then contracts when in cold weather. This expansion and contraction is what leads to cracks. However, it is fine to blow warm air into metal and plastic woodwinds to keep them warm.

To prevent cracks, keep your wooden instrument humidified. Consider investing in a case humidifier or dampit which will keep your instrument at the right humidity.

Consider using a reed humidifier to keep reeds from warping. Reeds are wood, and just like your instrument, they need to be kept at the right temperature and moisture. Just remember: maintaining reeds is a balancing act. You don’t want them to warp from being too dry, but you also don’t want them damp for so long that they grow mold.

Need help? Let us know!

If you ever need help with your instrument, don’t hesitate to contact The Music Shoppe at (800) 322-5019. Our technicians are glad to take questions over the phone or in person!