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  • Writer's pictureRMMR

How to Maintain Your Woodwind Instrument at Home

Great your student has decided to join band and has chosen a woodwind instrument! But you may be asking yourself how much it costs to keep their instrument in working order. We are here to help you and let you know!


Why You Need to Maintain Your Instrument

  • An instrument in proper working order will help insure that your student has the best chance at success in band. When all the notes play correctly and everything moves as it should, the student doesn’t have to fight the instrument (over compensate and learn bad habits) to get it to play. They will have a much more enjoyable time playing.

  • A well “tuned” instrument will prevent more costly major repairs down the road. For example, if you get your clarinet a COA (clean, oil & adjust) every year and a few pads changed, it will prevent rusted hinge rods and pad mites, where you would have to get all new pads, which can become quite costly depending on the instrument.

  • Keeping your instrument well maintained will extend the life of your instrument. Quality woodwind instruments have been known to last generations. Many times we have seen "grandpa's old saxophone" that is being passed down to their grand-kids, and they are fantastic horns if kept in good condition.


Steps You Can Do at Home for Preventative Maintenance

At Rocky Mountain Music Repair, we like say we are similar to Dentists. Meaning that there is some at-home preventative maintenance that you can do (similar to daily brushing/flossing) and that every year you need to come see us for professional care (deep cleaning/x-rays). Here are some items you can do at home.

Daily Maintenance:

  • Woodwind players should swab out their instrument after every time you play. Be sure to buy a silk cleaning swab designed for your instrument, as the silk drop swabs get stuck less than other kinds.

  • Saxophone players install Key Leaves to hold open the keys which lets them dry out better to prevent sticky pads.

Weekly Maintenance:

  • Use a mouthpiece brush to wash out your mouthpiece with a little Dawn dish soap and luke-warm water.

  • Vacuum out your case and remove any trash that accumulates (we don’t want that getting stuck in your instrument)

  • Clarinet & Saxophone players, grease your tenon corks and mouthpiece corks. You may need to do it more than once a week if a joint is difficult to put together..

  • Flute players wipe tenons with clean cloth (DO NOT USE GREASE)

Every Two Months:

  • Apply key oil to the pivot joints on your woodwind instrument to prevent sticky keys and rusty hinge rods. Also apply key oil if your instrument gets wet during marching band or at an outdoor concert. Check out the video below of oiling a flute.

Visit our Instrument Care section of our website for downloadable guide.


Do You Really Need Professional Maintenance?

No matter how great you are at preventative maintenance, you will need to see a professional repair tech at least once a year for a professional service, adjustments and changing pads & corks and felts to keep your instrument playing in great condition.

Change Pads

  • Every year a few pads will need to be changed as they wear out (get puffy from moisture, to hard because they are old, torn, turning colors other then what they should be). If you get on a yearly rotation of pads it will prevent a more costly repad, where all the pads get changed at the same time.

Repair techs will inspect every part of your instrument and let you know of other issues that may arise. Perhaps tenon corks that should be replaced, saxophone bell realignment, etc.


How Much Does it Cost to Maintain a Woodwind Instrument?

Taking your instrument in for a yearly repair is the most obvious cost associated with an instrument. You should also think long-term for costs associated with your horn, such as getting a new mouthpiece when it chips, and replacing the case when it is worn out, are two great examples.

For more information, check out our article on budgeting for woodwind repairs and average yearly maintenance costs.


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