How to maintain a Clarinet

Basic maintenance can be the difference between a great clarinetist and a poor one. The main idea is to keep moisture off the pads and out of your instrument and to keep your keys working well. Wooden Instruments require a little more care requiring bore oil to keep the wood seasoned.

The most neglected part of Clarinet maintenance is the reed. There is much confusion over what is to be done with reeds. The best thing to do is just to make sure the reeds are prepared properly, properly broken in and kept flat.

Reeds are the essential voice of the instrument. If you ever hear someone sound hoarse or airy toned, it is usually because of the reed. Most of the time the reed is too big for the player, it hasn't been broken in or has become warped or cracked. The best way to take care of your reeds is to keep them in a reed card and alternate them between play. Most beginning clarinet players soak their reeds by just sucking on them until they are moist but it is a far better to soak the reed in a pill bottle for a few minutes. I say only a few minutes because anymore time will probably warp the reed.

When you start using a new reed, sand the bottom of the reed (face) (with sandpaper) and rub it length wise on a piece of Plexi-glass. You should only play for a short time and put it away, and every time you play it play progressively longer. That way your reeds will last longer and play better.

The Body of the Clarinet

After playing your instrument you should always swab it out. Besides health concerns, pads have a tendency to grow mold and deteriorate, flake or do other undesirable things if they aren't swabbed out every once in a while. Bad pads cause leaks and they in turn cause terrible tone problems.

Always keep your instrument dry. If the pads get wet they disintegrate. Typical pads are made of rice paper and wool. After getting wet, they are ruined.

Wooden Clarinets

For all those clarinetists lucky enough to own a wooden clarinet, you should oil it about once every 2 weeks. This keeps the instrument's tone clear and rich. To oil your clarinet, put the bore oil on a rag (Not a swab) and run it through your instrument. After running the oil rag through the instruments rub a tiny bit of oil on the outside avoiding the pads. If you don't use bore oil on your instrument, it will crack. After cracking, it doesn't matter who tries to fix it, it will never play quite as well again. Don't oil it more than once every two weeks. The effect is as damaging as not oiling it at all.