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How to take care of your band or orchsetra instrument in the winter

STORE Blog

How to take care of your band or orchsetra instrument in the winter

by Travis

 

Time is flying by and November is here! School is in full swing, band and orchestra class has started, and the weather is finally starting to cool down. What many beginner musicians don’t know is that the change in seasons can have adverse effects on your instrument if they are not cared for properly. Here are some things to look out for, as well as things you can do to keep your instrument playing well throughout the winter.

 

String instruments

  • Violinists and violists will want to use dark rosin during the winter rather than light rosin. Dark rosin is softer and stickier than light rosin, so it works best in the colder and drier months of the year. During the summer, light rosin will be preferable.

  • Wood instruments are very susceptible to damage from changes in the weather. Wood is an organic material and will expand or contract depending on changes in temperature and humidity. Make sure to never leave your instrument out in a car overnight or next to a heater or radiator. It is also best to keep a humidifier in your instrument case when you are not playing and be sure to rewet it about once a week. The humidity level in the case should typically be between 40% and 60%, though the most important thing is that the humidity level is consistent. Drastic changes in humidity will cause the wood to warp or crack.

  • As the season changes, you will likely see your strings go out of tune a lot quicker than usual. The strings and the bridge are also affected by the temperature change, so this is a normal part of the change of seasons. Just be sure to keep an eye on your strings so that they don’t get too loose and cause the bridge to fall over. If you do not feel comfortable tuning the strings yourself, or if your bridge has already fallen over, have your teacher or another music expert help you to retune your instrument and reset the bridge.

 

Woodwinds

  • Flutes made of nickel or silver will be largely unaffected by temperature changes. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that as the temperature gets colder, your instrument will tend to play more flat. It becomes especially important to check your intonation with a tuner not just at the beginning of rehearsal, but also throughout as you blow warm air through your instrument thus changing your intonation again.

  • Clarinet and saxophone players will need to make sure to keep their reeds properly humidified so that they will not warp or crack. Using a reed case with a humidifier in it will help with this, as will making sure to rotate through your reeds throughout the week.

  • Clarinetists playing on wood clarinets will want to take extra care of their instrument as wood is an organic material and will be susceptible to cracking as the temperature and humidity levels decrease for the winter.

 

Brass

  • Make sure to use a tuner to check your intonation throughout rehearsal, as changes in temperature will have an effect on your pitch. When your instrument is colder, it will tend to play flatter, so especially if you have just brought your instrument in from outside, or if you are playing outside, you will be flat at the beginning of rehearsal. As you blow warm air through your instrument, your pitch will tend to go sharper, so you will need to adjust your intonation as you play.

  • We’ve all heard what happens to kids who lick lampposts during the winter. Don’t let that happen to you and your mouthpiece! Especially if you are in marching band or playing outside for any reason, you will want to make sure you don’t freeze your lips to your mouthpiece. This can be prevented by making sure to wear chapstick or chop saver lip balm. Some people will even use a plastic mouthpiece when playing outside to avoid this.

  • You also want to make sure that your valves don’t get frozen. If you are playing regularly and making sure to use valve oil, you should be fine.

 

For all instruments, you want to always make sure you are keeping your instrument maintained. Many of us will have concerts around the end of the year, followed by a little downtime for a week or two. This is a perfect time to bring your instrument in for its biannual maintenance. Just be aware that many repair shops will be busy this time of year as many other folks will also be bringing in their instruments. Be prepared to either be without your instrument for a little bit, or have a replacement lined up for the meantime.

 

If you have any questions about instrument care during the winter, feel free to call us and we can help!