By RICHARD HANNEMANN
So I had this clarinet that came in needing to be re-padded. I took off all the keys and then I took the lower joint to the sink. Using a stick swab (wool twisted on to a wire stick ($8.50 ea) and a little Dawn dishwashing soap (excellent de-greaser) and warm (not hot) water I began to clean out the lower joint.
You would not believe what came out — brown, uckie, crud water. So bad I thought maybe I had forgotten to clean the swab from the last time I used it. So I thoroughly cleaned the swab until I had clear water running through it. Then I did the upper joint. Even worse! (it would be, by the way). Gack! Would you want this anywhere near your mouth? Do you really want to be breathing in the residuals of your old spit?
Folks — Clean Your Instrument! Regularly. Gook build up in your instrument will effect the air flow and the tone and, more importantly, begin to do really bad things to the inside of your instrument.
For wind players, use your swab every time you put your instrument back in its case. And make certain to clean the swab — a little warm water and any kind of detergent will do the job and ensure that the next time you run it through your instrument you start with a clean swab. And once a month, take a stick swab with a little Dawn and wash out the instrument as I did (you don’t have to strip all the keys off to do this). Sax players, use that neck cleaner and keep it clean. While you are at it, don’t forget your mouthpiece. This is why you have a mouthpiece brush — use it every time you take off your reed.
Brass players, same thing. A little Dawn on your snake and a lot of warm water goes a long way. Use a casing brush on your valves. Use your mouthpiece brush — often. Make certain you keep your brushes clean.
And replace them when they begin to wear out — a drop swab (silk) runs about $15 (bit more for large wind instruments like a barytone sax), a neck cleaner about $10, a mouthpiece brush for winds or brass runs $3.50, a snake runs about $10, a casing brush runs $4. You could replace your cleaning supplies on a yearly basis and not break the bank.
By keeping your instrument well and properly maintained, and cleaned, it will play better and last longer.
PS — use a silk swab and outside cleaning cloth — doesn’t leave lint fibers all over every where.
And, guitarists, when you change your strings (which should be often – every 4-6 weeks for nylons, 6 weeks for steel) take the opportunity to clean and polish your instrument. I use a silk cleaning cloth and Old English Lemon Oil (not the dark stuff) to do the entire instrument.