WOODWIND & BRASS INSTRUMENT MAINTENANCE
We all know how important instrument maintenance is but it’s so easy after a long session to just think “I’ll do this later” and then forget about it. However those 3-5 extra minutes spent on instrument TLC can save you time, money and trouble in the future. Plus it’s a great opportunity to slow down, breathe deeply and enjoy some Zen time with your instrument! Wipe her (or him) down, admire its beauty and thank it for the beautiful session you’ve just had together!
Your baby is a mechanical instrument, and as such there are a number of maintenance measures you can take to minimize its wear and tear.
It may seem obvious but the handling of your instrument is probably the most important factor in keeping it from damage. Try not to drop or bump it into anything. Virtually anything in the natural universe is harder than a band instrument.
Give your instrument the TLC it deserves and it will respond in kind. Less than 5 minutes after each session will help to ensure top performance.
The safest place to keep your instrument when you are not playing is in its case– even when simply having a break during band practice. Don’t leave it resting on a chair, you are tempting gravity.
Close the case-latch securely when you put your instrument away. This way it won’t leap out when you pick the case up. It may sound obvious but we see it happening again and again…
Remember: accidents happen easily!
Music method-books, flip folders and other “necessities” jammed into the case can do plenty of damage. Avoid putting pressure on your instrument – get a bag for your music supplies.
Whilst no doubt you will want to show off your pride and joy, don’t allow inexperienced persons to handle your instrument when you are your beady eyes are not present.
Never leave your instrument in a car in hot weather, directly in the sun or close to a heater. This causes damage to the pads as they expand and will lose their ‘seat’ on the tone-hole.
Woodwind instruments by their nature collect a lot of moisture but do avoid playing outdoors in the rain or in the shower.
After practicing, wipe your instrument with a soft cloth to remove all sweat residues left from your hands. Take care not to run against the pad edges as this can cause wear and tear and affect how well the key closes.
Don’t forget to wipe out the inside! Use a swab or pull through – this will prevent the growth of strange looking stuff inside you instrument.
NEVER use abrasives of any kind, i.e. brass polish. You can use a silver-cloth to polish a silver-plated instrument but do use it sparingly.
Do your maintenance in a safe place. Sitting down with it on your lap is good. Working over a slippery surface a meter from the floor is not.
Correct assembly and disassembly of neck pipe is necessary to avoid damage to the octave key and alignment – even one slightly bent key can make notes unplayable.
Make sure your mouthpiece cork/tuning cork is greased.
Clean mouthpipe/neck and mouthpiece periodically. A mouthpiece swab or brush pulled through works well.
Loose tuning cork? Wrap plumbers tape tightly and evenly around cork.
Sticky pads? Using cigarette rolling-paper, insert a sheet (keep it flat) between the tone hole and pad. Press down firmly and drag it out.
Sticky pads continued… For more stubborn stickiness, sparingly wet rolling-paper with lighter fuel (available at any tobacconist/Spar Supermarket) and do the same. – DO NOT use benzene, meths or alcohol – these will dry out your pads.
Be good to your instrument and it will be good to you! Happy music-making!