WINTER CARE FOR THE CLARINET AND OBOE
The winter cold weather is here and with that means cold dry air! Why is this scary for a player with a Wood Clarinet or an Oboe? The cold dry air can cause them to crack, which can lead to some expensive and timely repair costs. Being a clarinet player and lesson teacher I get asked by many, Why does this happen, what should I look for, How do I know if I have a crack, and what can I do to help prevent this?
Let’s start with the Why this happens?
- Wood reacts to humidity the same way skin does, it gets dry in the winter and the wood grain shrinks and in the summer when it warmer and more humid the wood grain expands.
- A crack happens when the wood grain shirks from the cold and dry air and has no moisture within the grain itself. That’s why I always tell my students; NEVER put a wooden clarinet/oboe over a heating vent in the winter. You’re just drying out the wood even more by doing this and it will crack.
What do I need to look for as a warning sign?
- Clarinet’s and Oboes are pretty easy to tell when they become dry.
I always check these areas.
- Barrel- The piece the mouthpiece goes into- take your pinky finger and stick it inside of the clarinet barrel you shouldn’t be able to feel any grain. If you do feel the wood grain it means the instrument is very dry.
- Tuning rings- the clarinet and oboe both have these silver rings between each separate piece. Check to see if you can move them. If you can that means the clarinet/oboe is very dry and is in danger.
How can I tell if I already have a crack in my Clarinet/Oboe?
- Odds are if you have a crack in the instrument you already know and here are some issues you’ll come across.
- Wrong note sounding when fingering the correct note
- Being very out of tune and not being able to fix it
- Not being able to sound any notes
- All notes being very stuffy and hard to play
What can I do to prevent this from happening?
- Bore oil- a little goes a long way with this product, put a little on a cleaning swab and run through the instrument 4 or 5 times to get the inside coated, I also put a pin prick amount onto my clarinet and rub it into the outside real well that way it’s coated inside and outside. Wait 15-20 being playing after doing this.
- Humidifier/Dampit- these products basically go into the case and keep moisture inside the case so that the wood doesn’t dry out while not in use. You either fill or soak the product in a little water and it’s good to go.
- Orange peels- peel an orange, put the peel into a zip lock bag, and poke a few holes in the bag and place in case. This not only makes your case smell fresh but works as a great humidifier!
- ALWAYS let your clarinet/oboe warm to room temperature before playing and clean with your swab really well after playing.