Even after all these years, woodwind instruments still retain their popularity in an abundance of musical styles. In fact, there just might be more widespread wind instruments compared to brass ones. However, what's quite important to note about all of these instruments is that they're pretty sensitive and require special care.
Wind instruments almost always come with their own specially designed care kits for their maintenance. Therefore, it's pretty obvious that you'll also need to educate yourself about taking care of them. With all this said, we'll be taking some time to explore this topic and will bring you the most important tips for taking care of your woodwind instrument.
Assembling and Disassembling: Handling Your Woodwind Instruments
One of the main things you should know is how to assemble and disassemble your woodwind instruments, all while paying attention not to do any damage. This especially goes for keys as you're not supposed to pick them up by holding on to them, but rather the instrument's body.
When assembling your woodwind instruments, it's extremely important to be patient and careful. You don't want to jam and force them in their place. And while you're disassembling them, you should pay attention not to put any excessive pressure.
In case you feel like you're struggling too much when assembling or disassembling any of the woodwind instruments, it's always advisable to ask your tutor for advice. In case something's wrong with the instrument, you can always take it to a luthier and see where exactly the problem is. After all, it's always safer to have a professional look at it rather than risking doing damage to it.
Take Care of What You Eat and Drink Before Playing
It may sound weird, but taking care of what you eat and drink before you play any woodwind instrument is just as important when caring for your instrument. Accumulation of moisture is already a problem of its own, and getting small bits of chewed food in there is not only disgusting but can also hinder your performance and even damage the instrument in the long run. What's more, even just a slight addition of sugar can make your instrument's pads stick. This is a common issue with woodwind instruments, and plenty of experienced players even brush their teeth thoroughly before playing. In fact, you shouldn't eat or drink anything before playing. Water is fine, but everything else is out of the question.
Cleaning Accessories That You Should Get
Whether it's the largest woodwind instrument or the smallest woodwind instrument, they all need to be maintained properly. And it's not just the regular cleaning cloths and kits that come with them, but rather very specific cleaning accessories that you should get your hands on.
A clarinet mouthpiece, an oboe mouthpiece, or pretty much any woodwind mouthpiece should be cleaned properly. For this, we'd advise you to get mouthpiece brushes. These can help you remove any dirt from your instrument's mouthpieces, thus removing any risk of experiencing obstructed airflow. Mouthpiece brushes are also designed to remove any excess moisture and saliva and are thus a better choice than any improvised cleaning tools, like toothbrushes.
Pad savers are also very useful accessories. These come in many different shapes and sizes, bringing a nice fit for any woodwind instrument that comes to mind. The main purpose of pad savers is to save the pads from any potential damages, like scratches. It's not an expensive investment but it can prolong the life of your instrument's pads.
If you're a flute player, then it's essential to get yourself a cleaning rod. Cleaning rods are made out of different materials, but we'd recommend lightweight wood since it significantly reduces the risk of doing unwanted scratches and other damages to your instrument.
There are plenty of other accessories that you should look into. For instance, you have silver protection slips for instruments with silver-plated parts, silver polish, clarinet swabs, bore oil, cork grease, and even entire care kits that include plenty of different tools and accessories specially designed for a particular woodwind instrument.
Make Sure Not to Put Anything on Top of Your Woodwind Instrument
You might already know that woodwind instruments are pretty delicate and that they require special care. However, it's extremely important to add that you should take care of how you put them away. In fact, one of the easiest ways to damage it is if you place anything on top of it. This also goes if the instrument is seemingly safe in its bag or a hard case.
Extreme Humidity and Temperature Are Your Enemies
Basically, any instrument that's made out of wood, or has some wooden components, is very sensitive to external factors, like climate. This is especially the case with humidity, as some unusually arid or moist settings can be pretty harmful to it in the long run. The easiest way to deal with this is simple cork grease. This is the simplest way to close any small gaps or cracks, usually not visible to a naked eye, and prevent moisture from getting into them and do serious damage after longer exposure. If we're talking about arid areas, then you can use humidifiers to keep your instrument safe. Just like excess humidity, a lack of humidity can pose a threat as well.
It's also important to know that your instrument should be kept safely at room temperature. Longer exposures to colder or hotter temperatures, or, even worse, drastic temperature changes, can seriously harm any woodwind instrument. It would surprise you what unwanted expanding and shrinking due to temperature changes can do to your precious instrument, to the point where it can be completely ruined.
Lastly, it's always important to remove all the excess moisture that builds up inside the instrument. The best idea is to do this after every session and simply clean your instrument. For this, you'll need moisture swabs made especially for the particular size of an instrument that you're playing.