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How to Keep Your Clarinet in Top Shape

In this article, we will show you how to properly clean, oil, and store your clarinet, as well as how to identify and solve common problems. This way, you will enjoy your clarinet for many years.

When you play the clarinet, you know how important it is to keep your instrument in good condition. After all, you can't be a clarinetist without a clarinet. A well-maintained clarinet sounds better, lasts longer, and prevents you from spending money on unnecessary repairs. But how do you maintain your clarinet? And what should you do if your clarinet needs repair or overhaul?

Playing Your Clarinet

Good clarinet maintenance begins with regularly playing your clarinet. This helps keep your clarinet in good condition and prevents it from deteriorating or losing its quality. Playing your clarinet is the most enjoyable part of keeping it in good shape. Here are some tips:

Before assembling your clarinet, check if the tenon corks are too dry. If they are, apply a little cork grease. Do not use too much grease as it can damage the corks.

Play your clarinet with good posture and a proper embouchure. Hold your clarinet firmly and comfortably, with your fingers on the keys and your thumb on the thumb rest. Keep your clarinet at a 45-degree angle to your body and avoid bending your neck or back. Also, make sure your mouth is clean. Food particles can cause the pads to stick sooner and make the instrument smell. Additionally, food particles can get stuck between the mouthpiece and reed, damaging the reed.

Cleaning Your Clarinet

After you finish playing, it is important to clean your clarinet thoroughly. This prevents the buildup of dirt, dust, saliva, and bacteria. Cleaning your clarinet is simple and only takes a few minutes.

Remove the reed from the mouthpiece and store it in a reed case or reed protector. This protects the reed from warping, cracking, or chipping. You can also gently wipe the reed with a soft cloth or tissue to remove any moisture or residue. Always wipe towards the tip of the reed and never the other way around!

Wipe the inside of the mouthpiece clean with a mouthpiece brush or a swab. This removes any saliva and dirt that may have accumulated in the mouthpiece. You can also rinse the mouthpiece with cool to lukewarm water, but make sure to dry it thoroughly before placing it back on the clarinet or in the case.

Wipe the inside of the upper joint, lower joint, and bell with a pull-through swab. A soft cloth can also work, but you may need a cleaning rod to push it through the clarinet. Using a pull-through swab removes any moisture and dirt that may have accumulated inside the clarinet. You should pull through each part separately and gently, without forcing or twisting the swab or cloth.

Wipe the exterior of the clarinet with a microfiber cloth. This will remove any fingerprints, smudges, or dust.

Storing Your Clarinet

After playing and cleaning your clarinet, you naturally want to store it properly. This protects your clarinet from moisture, temperature changes, dust, and other factors that could damage it or affect its performance.

Place your clarinet in the case. Always store your clarinet in the case when you're not playing it. This prevents your clarinet from getting damaged. Make sure your clarinet is dry and clean before placing it in the case. Moisture and dirt can cause mold, corrosion, or decay. Also, ensure that your case is in good condition and that your clarinet fits well in it.

Maintaining Your Clarinet

In addition to keeping your clarinet clean, it's also important to take your clarinet to a professional repair workshop once a year for a check-up and adjustment. Every other year, a full adjustment should take place; the other year, a COA – a clean, oil, and adjust – and when necessary, an overhaul. We recommend a COA or adjustment once a year. Together with a repair technician, you can determine what is needed that year.

During an adjustment, the clarinet is thoroughly tested and adjusted. The repair technician plays your clarinet and checks for any leaks, squeaks, or tuning issues. They also ensure that your clarinet sounds and feels good, and meets your personal preferences and needs. The technician will discuss any potential further steps that may be required.

A COA means that your clarinet is completely disassembled. The repair technician takes your clarinet apart and inspects each part for any damage, wear, or defects. They will also thoroughly clean each part, removing dirt, dust, or residue. The wood and the mechanism are oiled. After that, the clarinet is reassembled and fully adjusted.

Getting Your Clarinet Repaired

In addition to maintaining your clarinet, it's also important to have it repaired promptly if something goes wrong. These issues can result from an accident, a defect, or normal wear and tear. Repairing your clarinet is not something you should attempt yourself. Always take your clarinet to a qualified and experienced clarinet technician as soon as possible. Here are some common clarinet problems and how to handle them:

Cracked or Broken Wood

This is one of the most serious and common problems you can encounter. Cracked or broken wood affects the integrity and sound of your clarinet and can lead to further damage if not treated promptly. Cracked or broken wood can be caused by sudden changes in temperature or humidity, or by a fall or impact. If you notice a crack in your clarinet, stop playing immediately and take it to a repair shop. A clarinet technician can repair the crack or chip by filling it with a special glue or resin, using ring banding, or by replacing the damaged part with a new one.

Loose or Bent Keys, Rods, or Posts

This is another common issue that can affect your clarinet. Loose or bent parts can cause your clarinet to sound out of tune, leak air, or make unwanted noises. If you find a loose or bent key, rod, or post, you should take it to a repair shop. A clarinet technician can tighten or straighten the key, rod, or post, or replace it with a new one.

Sticky or Worn Pads

This is a small but annoying problem. Sticky or worn pads can cause your clarinet to leak air, make unwanted noises, or play poorly. This is caused by a buildup of moisture, dirt, or oil on the pads.

If you have a sticky pad on your clarinet, you can try to temporarily fix it yourself before taking it to a repair shop. You can use a bit of powder paper to make the pad less sticky so you can continue playing. If it is a persistent problem, take it to a repair shop.

At a repair workshop, a clarinet technician can replace the pad with a new one or adjust the key mechanism so that the key closes perfectly again.