Woodwind Equipment Care

An athlete needs his or her body to function at the highest level in order to be successful. To make this happen they take great care to eat well, get plenty of sleep, etc. An athlete knows that if they don’t take care of their body then they won’t be able to perform at their true potential. As musicians this is something we should take to heart. If we do not take care of our instrument, whether it be a saxophone, clarinet, flute or oboe, it can cause all sorts of problems that will keep us from playing at our true potential. What is even worse is that sometimes we don’t realize these problems are due to the instrument and think we are just incapable of playing well.

Here are a few tips on how to maintain and care for your woodwind instrument:

1) Never eat food or drink pop before you play. (Pretty easy.) This can cause food or sugar to get stuck to the pads and make them sticky. Getting pads replaced can be quite expensive. If you have to play after you eat (as I have to do many times) make sure you wash out your mouth at minimum, although brushing your teeth is most ideal.

2) Always swab out your instrument. This is another really simple thing to do. When you are done playing your instrument run a swab through it. This keeps the condensation and spit that gets in your instrument while playing from eating away at the pads while it rests in your case. For wooden instruments (clarinets, oboes) it also helps protect the wood from cracking (a very pricey repair). The best swab to get is a silk one. While slightly more expensive than its cloth counterpart, it does a much better job and is much more durable (I’ve had mine for about ten years now). Every now and then you just need to rinse it off in the sink and hang it up to dry.

3) Keep your reeds in a bag. Have you ever wondered why the tip of your reed is all wavy when taken out? It happens because the reed dries out too quickly. This can happen very easily in the dry air of Boulder. By keeping your reeds in a plastic sandwich bag you can slow down how quickly they dry out. This will help reeds last longer and be more consistent. Some people will put a small piece of a damp sponge in the bag with the reeds to increase the humidity, but you have to be careful. Too much humidity, or if you leave them in the bag too long with out taking them out (shame on you for not practicing!LOL!), can cause the reeds to mold.

4) Rotate through your reeds. It means spending more now, but if you have five to ten reeds instead of one or two, and you keep switching off which one you play on, they will last a lot longer.

There are many other things you can do to help your instrument play to the best of its ability. These are just the simplest ones. For slightly more complicated care (oiling keys, etc) I suggest you have an expert, like one of the instructors at The Lesson Studio, show you how to do it properly in person. It is ideal if you are taking lessons, because the instructor can give you a hands-on lesson on proper instrument care. They would also be likely to catch any problems with your instrument. Good luck with your musical endeavors.

To contact Mike G. about woodwind maintenance or to inquire about a private lesson with Mike, please call 303-543-3777, or send an e-mail to: tls@qwestoffice.net.saxophone

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