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Caring for Your New Instrument

How to look after your instrument

Download some free Instrument Care Fact Sheets for woodwind instruments which you can print out and hand to your pupils to reduce those lesson emergencies!

(These leaflets are in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format - to read them you'll need Adobe Reader, which is free and can be downloaded here.)

Maintenance tips for all woodwind instruments

  • Always store your instrument in its case when not in use
    Plated instruments tarnish very quickly if left in the open air. Also, the mechanism will become dusty, and the oil inside the mechanism can dry up, leading to noisy keywork and binding.

  • Use an instrument stand when you need to put your instrument down for a few moments
    Using an instrument stand for short breaks means that moisture will naturally drain out of the instrument, rather than sitting in the body and on pads. It also means it's less likely to be knocked off a table, roll off your lap in an orchestral rehearsal, or (in some cases that we've seen) sat upon!

    We don't recommend permanently displaying your instrument on a stand, though. It will tarnish more quickly and attract dust. The oil in the mechanism will dry up more quickly, and your instrument is more likely to get knocked over.

  • Always use grease on cork joints, never use grease on metal joints
    Cork grease should be used only to keep corks lubricated. If used on metal joints, it will attract grit and dirt, causing joints to become even tighter in the long term. If metal joints are tight, try cleaning them with a silver polishing cloth, inside and out - if they remain tight, they may have become distorted - take the instrument to a technician to have the joints refitted.

  • Cigarette papers, powder papers, chalk or graphite should be used sparingly
    Prevention is better than cure, so don’t eat or drink immediately before playing, and always dry the instrument out thoroughly after each use. The above 'cures' can actually cause more problems, as cigarette papers can scuff or tear pads. Powder papers generally attract more dirt over the long-term, so are best avoided. If sticky pads remain a problem, you could try a "Pad Saver". Also read: Ian McLauchlan's blog post on sticky pads.

  • Always have your instrument serviced regularly
    Servicing your instrument keeps it clean and oiled properly, and problems which may develop are usually caught before they become serious. Your instrument will always be in its best condition, and will hold its value better.

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