With winter fully upon us, it's a good time to look at how you can protect your flute, clarinet, saxophone, guitar, or other instrument from adverse weather conditions. Instruments are very sensitive to temperature, pressure, and humidity changes. IF not taken care of properly, they can be permanently damaged. Luckily, there are ways to ensure that your beloved instrument stays in tip-top shape, no matter what mother nature decides to throw at it!
Woodwind instruments are possibly the most sensitive to the elements. Extended exposure to cold temperatures can cause the pad glue on flutes, clarinets, and saxophones to weaken, causing otherwise perfectly good pads to fall off. If your clarinet, oboe, or bassoon is made of wood, then even more care needs to be taken. Temperature and humidity changes can cause the wood to dry out, become brittle, and even crack!
- Keep your instrument in a well-regulated, climate-controlled environment
- If your instrument is wooden, get a small case humidifier to keep the humidity stable
- Oil the bore of your wooden instrument to keep it from drying out
- Before playing, slowly blow warm air through your instrument to acclimate it to playing temperature
- NEVER leave your woodwind instrument in your car during times of extreme temperature
While brass instruments are less susceptible to the ravages of winter, they are by no means immune. Cold weather can cause the valves and slides to freeze, rendering the horn inopperable while also creating long term issues.
- Store your brass instrument indoors, the same as a woodwind
- Make sure to empty your waterkeys regularly - the less liquid in the horn, the less there is to freeze
- Oil and grease your valves and slides regularly to keep every moving part smooth and functioning properly
- Before playing, slowly blow warm air through your instrument while moving your valves/slide to acclimate the instrument to playing temperature
- Never leave your instrument in your car/garage during times of extreme temperature
STRING INSTRUMENTS AND GUITARS
Extreme temperatures pose a similar threat to string instruments as they do woodwinds. The wood is prone to cracking, and the strings hold the neck and body of the instrument under tension, increasing the stress on the wood and glue holding it together.
- Store your instrument in a regulated climate-controlled space
- Get a humidifier. They even make ones that are designed to be stored inside the instrument!
- If you are planning on travelling with your guitar or bass guitar in cold weather, tune the strings down to decrease the tension on the neck while in transit. You can then tune it back up upon reaching your destination
These tips can help keep your instrument in perfect playing shape during the winter. Whether wind, rain, sleet, or snow, your horn will be ready and raring to go! Play on!!!
- Dave Litsky
Music & Arts - Hilliard, OH