Teaching Woodwind Beginners to Clean Their Instruments

cleaning woodwind instruments

Woodwind instruments like the flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and saxophone sound wonderful but to maintain the quality of sound, it is important to maintain the instrument. It is not only the sound quality you save, it is the instrument as well as your health you are looking after by cleaning your instrument. While teaching your students how to play a woodwind instrument, it is essential to explain that cleaning them is also very important. While some will do this without any issues, others might be reluctant. Teaching your students the benefits of cleaning their instruments and properly maintaining their instruments is key.


Your health

Why? Well, when playing, we breathe into the woodwind instrument. Our breath makes the inside of the instrument damp, making it the perfect environment for all kinds of germs. This can not only start to smell bad if you don’t look after your instrument, it could cause health issues as well.


Avoid Costly Repairs

In addition to your health, moisture that gets trapped inside the instrument can cause damage. Learning and taking your time every once in a while, to clean your instrument keeps the doctor and the repair shop away.


Lead By Example

As a tutor, you can explain the issues to your student, and you could set an example by cleaning your instrument after each lesson. This could also be the time when you connect with your student, maybe go over the lesson, or any other subjects while you clean the instruments, this time can bring several benefits to you as tutor.

Cleaning The Instrument

Tell your students that taking care of the instruments start even before they play it. Prior to playing it is best to avoid having soft drinks or gum as your saliva mixed with sugar can build on the pads causing them to stick.
For cleaning purposes, teach your students to get a quality cleaning swab, and make sure to explain that swabs should be specific to the instrument they play. Also, explain that leaving the reed attached to the mouthpiece of the instrument can cause issues as the reed does not get dry and germs can appear quick. For this, the students should get reed cases that help the reed dry evenly. For an instrument like the flute one should get a cleaning rod, coupled with some fabric which should be soft, absorbent and does not stretch.
As a teacher, you should always teach your students the proper cleaning technique and the best tip is usually to look for the manufacturer’s advice. Manufacturers include instruction on how to keep your instruments clean and ‘healthy’ so this is the first step to take. While students can certainly find tutorials and videos online that show you how to clean an instrument, teach them it is better to follow manufacturer’s instructions, which is exactly what you do.

But in general, your students should acquire the habit of cleaning their instrument. They should clean out the moisture before placing the instrument in its case, wipe the outside of the instrument as well.
As noted above, reed should not be left in the mouthpiece and should be replaced as soon as it softens or cracks. Mouthpieces of the saxophone or clarinet should be cleaned in warm, soapy water after the reed and the ligature have been removed only.



Keep Your Instrument Protected

Besides cleaning, maintaining your instrument includes keeping it in a fitting environment. Exposing your instruments to extreme temperatures can damage them. Also make sure nothing is placed on top of the instrument, whether it is outside or inside the case as this could lead to bent keys. Always keep your case closed properly after you place the instrument inside.

If you would like to carry out any repairs yourself, do make sure you have the right tools for the job. Using hammers or pliers will certainly not do the job.


Seek Help From A Professional

Cleaning the moisture from the instrument’s bore (inside) can often require disassembling. You will not always be present with your students when they are cleaning their instrument and students must practice on their own, at home and try to clean their instruments alone. Mistakes can happen, and students could have a hard time disassembling the instrument or in the wort case damaging or breaking a piece. Teach them that, if in doubt, it is best to leave the job to professionals, and get your instrument to a repair shop. In general, for anything that goes beyond basic cleaning of the instrument, it is better to get professional help.

Finally, it is advised that at least once a year your instrument should be looked at by a professional technician. They can maybe find issues you were not aware of and make sure your instrument is in perfect condition, lowering the risk of something going wrong too often.



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