Maintenance, Cleaning and Care of Instruments
These are my Tips! Take what you need and ignore what you will. You might not agree with all the things I recommend, and that is fine, just search the Web and you will find hundreds of sites to help you with this area of interest. Some people will want to sell you something, others just want to help you keep your instrument working well! And that is what this page is about....your instrument and it's care.
Maintaining your instrument will not only keep it in good condition for a longer time, but it will be ready to play when you need it, (mishaps are of course, another thing).
Musical Instrument do wear out, need regular cleaning, and can be easily damaged if handled badly. Most of the time they can be repaired or serviced to keep them working at top playing condition, but a lot of the jobs can be done by you, and that makes for a more special musical experience.
Many people, new to owning an instrument, for the first time, feel that having paid their money the instrument will last forever, without regular service. They don't! Particularly when given to a very young child to play in the school band.
With children the new instrument will normally be dropped, bruised and most often played straight after eating food or sweets.
So the here are some easy rules:
Don't eat and then play your instrument. Bits of food will end up in or on the instrument.
Wash and dry your hands (also around mouth and lips) and at least rinse your mouth out, before playing a Brass or Wind instrument. Cleaning teeth is even better if possible.
Never expose your Instrument to extreme Heat or Cold. An instrument left in a hot vehicle can have permanent damage done to it. In most cases, adhesives and glues become soft and parts like corks and felts can fall off the instrument. Wooden instruments, particularly violins, guitars etc can warp or fall apart as the glue fails.
Avoid high Humidity like steam in bathrooms.
Don't leave the instrument on the lounge or chair. They will be sat on eventually or they will end up on the floor broken or bent.
If playing a string instrument, wash your hands and dry them before touching your Violin or Cello.
We are all different. Some people have lots of perspiration, other don't. But what ever you touch will carry grease and acid from your skin onto the instrument, that is normal, but it should not stay there. Generally a soft clean cloth wiped over the parts that you touch, will remove most grease and acid. But not all of it. I use gentle waxes that have no abrasives to protect areas that are touched or held frequently.
Avoid using abrasive polishes. It will not be long before your Lacquer or Plating is worn through.
On Lacquer coated musical instrument I feel it is good to occasionally use a small quantity of soft polishing wax gently wiped into areas that are clear of pads, but with particular effort on places like the parts you use to hold or lift your instrument. (Always test on a small part of your instrument first, before rushing into the whole thing.) This is going to cause great uproar in some areas, but if done carefully and wiped off properly with a soft clean cloth, the lacquer coating will last a lot longer than just using a soft cloth. I have even heard of good results using neutral shoe wax. Remember that lacquer and plating were not introduced to musical instruments until probably around the 1920's and before that, Brass instruments were just that, Brass!
Solid Silver constructed instruments will tarnish, just the same as Plated Silver ones will, so it is up to your personal taste whether to keep polishing or let the tarnish happen. The instrument will still sound the same, whether shinny or tarnished
Now for rules after playing:
After playing, it is very important to put a cloth or swab through your Brass or Wind instrument to dry up the condensation that has occurred during playing. Silk cloth is the most absorbent, and will fit through the smallest of opening easily. Chamois leather is also a very good for this job but is more bulky when dry. Don't be too concerned if the only cloth you have is an old clean large handkerchief. They work well and most people use them if the truth be told. The best part is old hankies just pop in the wash to be cleaned (often).
It does not matter how much you pay for your instrument, proper care and maintenance will make it perform better for longer. Some jobs are best carried out by a professional instrument repairer, but there are many tasks you should do yourself. Take pride in your instrument. You will understand it better, if you try and see how things work, and what adjustments the repairer does for you. Ask questions, and before you know it, you will have knowledge about your instrument that you did not have before.
Cleaning your instrument
Harsh chemicals and abrasive cleaners and scourers will damage your instrument.
Instruments with pads such as Clarinets, Saxophones and Flutes need special care to avoid damage to the pads. Follow the links below to read more.