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Clarinet Care And Maintenance
How to properly care for your clarinet, the best advices in clarinet maintenance clarinet 101
Clarinet like any other instrument needs proper care and maintenance to live a long live and give you the maximum
of playing pleasure and satisfaction. If you make the effort to care and maintain your clarinet optimally, it will
be a worthwhile investment. Preventive maintenance costs no money and saves a lot of unnecessary and expensive
visits to the repairer.
Never eat before playing and of course while playing. Food particles cause irreversible damages to the pads and
shorten their live. It is a healthy habit to do a mouth wash especially before playing the clarinet.
Always clean and dry thoroughly your clarinet with a swab after each session of playing to remove any
moisture accumulated inside the bore. Don't forget to wipe inside the sockets. If you are playing
continuously for a long period of time (hours!) try to swab the clarinet when you can (every 20 minutes
approximatively), at the breaks or between pieces.
From time to time wipe the key work with a dedicated rag or a soft cloth. Never use products like metal polish
which can penetrate the mechanism and cause it to jam. The perspiration and the moisture on the fingers cushion is
acid and can tarnish the silver plating, so on hot environment, keep your hands dry and clean, free of grease .
Apply sparingly (too much grease can weaken the cork) cork grease on the joint when needed (according to the
dryness or wear of the cork, it is not necessary to apply grease each time you grab your clarinet, if the joints
are to tight even after greasing (try at different room temperatures) it may be necessary to bring your clarinet to
a qualified repairer. Most probably, he will adjust the cork thickness.
Anyway never expose your precious instrument to extreme variation of temperatures, not near the fireplace nor in a
cold and humid cellar. Avoid direct sunlight.
The pads are very sensitive and can be damaged, the wood is a living organic matter which is influenced by climatic
The cracks in the wood is the worst nightmare of the clarinetist. The cause of wood cracking is the physical state
divergency of different parts of the same piece of wood (it can be the barrel, the upper or lower joint and the
bell), it is a conflict of movements, expanding versus contraction. Blowing warm air into a very cold instrument,
may be a cause of cracking. The bore get warm and dilates while the outside stay cold and does not expand,
consequently it cracks. Accordingly it may exist a situation where the inside is very wet while the outside is very
dry, again this disparity between two extreme conditions is another cause of cracking.
You may use a dusting stick to remove dirt and dust between and under the keys. A quick and easy way to clean the
body is to use a soft paintbrush (1") and brush the entire body. Grime can accumulate too in the tone holes chimney
and distort the tone, so it is a good practice to clean them up from time to time.
A frequent question is: should I oil my clarinet?, to oil or not to oil?
Well there is no absolute answer, it depends on temperature, humidity, frequency
of use, age of the instrument, quality of the wood, etc. My advice is to leave this job to a professional woodwind
repairer during the periodical clarinet maintenance. Generally, a good craftsman has his own "magic formula"
oil, for my part I do recommend sweet almond oil. The secret of oiling is to permit a good water-protection of the
wood whilst allowing it to breathe properly. To fully understand the importance of oiling, it is essential to know its goals:
- First, minimize the rate and quantity of water vapor penetrating the wood and
avoid it swelling too much or too fast
- Prevent the absorption of condensed water droplets into the wood
- Reduce the loss of humidity after playing (drying), preventing a quick
It is advised to do periodical maintenance at least once a year at a professional workshop for general cleaning,
oiling, adjusting, re-corking or re-padding if needed.
My golden rule in life: better safe than sorry. It applies to clarinet care and maintenance too.
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