It won’t be long before school starts up again, and for many students and parents a new school year means signing up for the school’s band program. Some students own their own instruments, and many will rely on rental programs offered through the school or a local music store.
It’s not uncommon for a band director to penalize a student’s grade if they can’t participate in rehearsals because their instrument is in the shop, so having a working instrument for band class can be critical for a good grade.
Here are five things that will help keep your student’s instrument out of the repair shop during the school year.
Get the Instrument Tuned Up: If you haven’t done this already this summer, do it now. A good technician can get the instrument properly adjusted and address the need to repair things like dents, sticky keys, cracked barrels (common in wood clarinets and oboes), worn out pads, and sticky valves in brass instruments.
Summer is usually one of the busiest times for band instrument repair shops, so get your student’s instrument in now if you want to be sure you can get it back in time for the start of school.
Use a Pad Saver: What’s a pad saver? It’s a long, fuzzy stick that goes inside of a woodwind instrument to wick moisture away from the pads. A pad saver can really prolong the life of pads on a woodwind instrument—especially on saxophones, which have leather pads.
Use a Reed Case: If the instrument uses a reed, take the reed out of the mouthpiece, and put it in a reed case after every playing session. This will keep the reed from warping and chipping, and it will allow the student to swab out the mouth piece, keeping it clean and dry.
Leaving the reed on the mouthpiece between playing sessions might seem convenient, but not only is it bad for the reed, it’s really unsanitary. Leaving the reed on the mouthpiece quickly causes a heavy buildup of gunky crud—an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.
Swab the Instrument: Blowing through the instrument causes it to get wet inside. Some of this moisture is condensation, and some of it just plain-old spit. Get the right swab for your instrument and use it after each playing session.
Don’t Drink Soda While Playing: Drinking soda right before or during a playing session will cause the student to blow sugary residue into the instrument. This will eventually cause a thick, sticky buildup on the pads, and the acid can actually cause the brass on instruments like saxophones and trumpets to corrode.
Each kind of instrument has it’s own special needs when it comes to care. Check with your band director or local music store for further information about caring for your instrument.
Here is a video showing some of the unique requirements of caring for a flute. This is the first of a three-part series. Check it out.