Meri’s Musical Musings

My guide to clarinet maitenance

Posted on: August 10, 2009

Most clarinet maitenance guides mention only the simple things of placing cork grease and swabbing the instrument. But good maitenance of the instrument involves a lot more than that.

             One thing clarinetists should be taught to not only pull the swab through the instrument, but also to dry the sockets and tenons. Why? Normal swabbing of the instrument leaves the sockets and tenons of each joint with moisture. It allows moisture and food particles to accumulate, and, in the case of wood clarinets, increases the chances that the wood will expand or crack.

            Second, clarinetists should also be taught to occasionally clean the sockets and tenons, because of the accumulation of cork grease and food particles. This can be done with toothpicks, cotton swabs, water, and 3/4 inch wide strips of writing paper.

To clean the tenons:

Take a cotton swab, and run it around the end of the socket.

Take a toothpick, and gently clean the inside edges of the end of the socket.

Take a strip of paper

To clean the sockets:

Take a cotton swab, dip one end in water, and clean the edges on the inside (where it will look like a lot of particles have built up.

If necessary, clean the rest of the socket using a slightly wet napkin.

Dry the socket.

            Third, clarinetists should be taught for the maitenance of their instruments is to occasionaly remove the dust and dirt that occurs on and underneath the keys. This can be done with a small watercolour paintbrush, cotton swabs, and water. 

To clean the key:

Dip the cotton swab in wate

Rub it against the key.

Dry the keys.

To clean  the dust and dirt that gets trapped between the keys:

Take the paintbrush, and brush the keys where there is dust and dirt, especially in the extension keys.

            Fourth, clarinetists should be taught to clear excess cork grease so that it does not build up in the sockets and tenons. Excess cork grease means that other types of particles can become trapped more easily, and a lot of layers of cork grease means that the cork will break apart more easily or the instrument will be harder to put together.

            Fifth, clarinetists should also check the screws about twice a month if they have come loose, and should always carry two small screwdrivers to place the screws back in that have come loose.

            Sixth, clarinetists should know how to check for sticky pads, and how to get rid of the problem. This can be done with small squares of paper with talcum powder, left on the keys for a few minutes, and then pulled out from underneath the pad, after closing the pad if necessary. If this doesn’t work, clean the area around the tone hole with a wet cotton swab and water.

            Seventh, clarinetists should be taught to use key oil every few weeks, so that the keys are not worn at the pivots due to friction.

            Finally, clarinetists should use a small nylon-covered elastic to place between the bridge between the upper and lower joints, and the LH B key. This controls the degree to which the lower joint goes out of adjustment, as a result of carrying the instrument in its case.


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  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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