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Clarinet Maintenance

Tips for Every Day

1. Never pick up the instrument by the keys as you are removing it from the case. Pick it up by the ends where there are no keys.
2. Apply a small amount of cork grease to the tenon corks to make putting the instrument together easier. Only a small amount is necessary – you don’t want to corks to get too slick or coated in messy residue.
3. Always use a slow back-and-forth twisting motion to put the pieces together. Don’t shove the pieces together or yank them apart. This can tear or damage the corks. Start with the bell as you assemble the instrument. The mouthpiece is the most easily damaged piece of the instrument, so we put it on last so it can’t be knocked against the stand and break.
4. When screwing on the ligature, don’t tighten the screws too tight. This will restrict the movement of the reed and could damage the ligature. Always leave the screws loose as you put it away on the mouthpiece. Leaving it tightened can warp the mouthpiece as it rests in the case.
5. Every time you are finished playing, pull a cleaning swab through the instrument from bell to barrel. Do not pull a swab through your mouthpiece – you can gently wipe it out. Most teachers suggest a silk swab because it absorbs the most moisture quickly. Use a microfiber or silver polishing cloth to wipe oils from your fingers off the body and keys of the instrument.
6. Store your clarinet in the case when you are not playing it. Do not place any paper or music in the case. This presses on the clarinet and can bend the keys.
7. If you see any screws that are coming loose, take your clarinet to a repair shop to have it adjusted. Don’t try to adjust them yourself – you can over-tighten the screws and cause damage.

Tips for Yearly Maintenance

1. You should have your instrument check and adjusted by a repair shop at least once every year. If you use the same instrument for marching and concert band, you should have the instrument adjusted after marching band so it is in top condition for concert band. Spring is the best time to have your instrument serviced because repair shops are not overloaded.
2. Don’t let your instrument sit unused over the summer. First of all, practicing will keep your skills sharp. And, small bugs can get into the case if it sits too long and eat the felt of the pads. That would be an expensive repair!