HOSTS- Jeremy Burns, Matthew Scott Phillips


TYPE- Special Topics




BUMPER MUSIC- "The Individual and Their Society" (Matthew Scott Phillips)

ANNOUNCER- Mike Cunliffe   


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To keep your woodwinds sounding their best, it's important to keep them safe, clean and properly maintained. In this episode, we will review the instruments of the wood wind family: the oboe, clarinet, saxophone, flute and bassoon. We will also discuss the many parts involved and how to properly care for them.


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BODY- Bamboo and teak make up the bodies of most woodwinds. Some, like the flute, piccolo and saxophones, are made of metal alloys of nickel, silver or copper. Some models are also made of synthetics such as plastic. For wood, use a soft, damp cloth to loosen the dirt and oil and buff it out with a dry cloth.  Stay away from sprays, alcohols, silicones, oils, petroleum distillates and abrasives.  When cleaning metal or brass instruments, stay away from hot water as it can remove lacquer. A bottle brush is a gentle cleaning device that won’t scratch your instrument.


KEYS- Polish with a soft cloth and dust with a paint brush. When cleaning the bodies of some of these instruments, like the saxophone, the keys, their hinge rods and pivot screws need to be removed for a deep cleaning.


REED- After you play, when the reed is still a bit wet and flexible, run a pipe cleaner through it to remove mouth particles.


MOUTHPIECE-The single reed instruments, like the saxophone and clarinet, have a mouthpiece that connects to the body. To clean some of the buildup after so much playing, fill a small dish with warm water and a pea sized amount of dish washing liquid and let it soak for about 30 minutes. Then give it a good scrub with a toothbrush. For a deeper clean, stuff a cotton ball into the mouth piece, soak the cotton ball in lemon juice or white vinegar (Apple Cider can stain) and let it sit for about a couple of hours. Then take a dry rag or cloth and finish the job. You can sanitize them with mouth wash and then dry it off.


BOCAL- This is the long thin curvy metal piece that extends from the body of the bassoon. First run luke warm water through it to help loosen up dirt and organic particles. Then put a small amount of sanitizing soap and run a bocal brush through in the opposite direction of your air flow.


TENON-This is where you piece together your clarinet or oboe parts. These are often wrapped in a thin layer of cork.


CORK-A thin strip of cork wraps around the tenons, where the pieces fit in, to provide an air tight connection.These strips of cork can be lubricated with cork grease for a smoother fit. But eventually the cork will wear down and need to be replaced. This may involve removing some of the keys from the instrument.


PADS- If these start to show signs of wear and tear (discolored or tattered) they are probably already leaking air. These can be easily replaced. If the pad falls off, it can be glued back on. Stay away from super glue, crazy glue or epoxies. Orange flake shellac is a popular adhesive for this purpose. The rubber pads on a saxophone can be cleaned with a damp cloth.


1-Handle With Care- Invest in a case. Most cases have compartments to avoid loose items clanking around and damaging the instrument. Invest in an instrument stand. Never store books in your case. This can cause undue stress on your instrument, especially with custom cases. Avoid extreme temperatures. Ideal temperature is 70º F (21ºC). Ideal humidity is between 40%-60% based on geographical location.


2-Keep Them Dry- When you blow into (or across) anything, moisture droplets from your breath gather on the surfaces. This can cause corrosion on the metal parts. It can cause swelling in the pads which can cause air leaks in the instrument. Use a pull through swab to clean the interior after you play. Go in from the big side and out the small side. It is recommended you don’t pull all the way through the top joint because the swab might get stuck. On occasion, consider having your instrument professionally cleaned at a local music shop.


3-Keep A Clean Instrument- Finger residue (such as dirt, sweat and oils) can build up pretty quickly. Different finishes may require differently textured polishing cloths. So find out which is best for your woodwind. The most common finishes are silver, nickel and lacquer. Use something delicate, like a small watercolor brush, to clean the keys.


4-Assemble and Disassemble With Care- The most common cause of injury for these instruments occurs with assembly and disassembly. Use a small amount of cork grease on any cork tenons (such as on the clarinet) and on the joints to help them slide together with less effort. When joining the pieces of these instruments together, be mindful of the moving parts like the keys. If it involves pressure and twisting, try to use the body of the instrument rather than its delicate parts. Don’t use force to put it together. It there’s too much resistance there’s something wrong. At this point, consider taking it in to a repair shop.


5-Bring Them To A Pro For Regular Upkeep-Regular maintenance can avoid bigger and more expensive repairs. At least twice a year is recommended for most woodwinds. If your instrument takes a hard fall, maybe take it in for inspection. It may have suffered damages that aren’t visible.  Other common afflictions include: sticky or torn pads, torn or missing corks, joints or tenons fitting too loosely or tightly or just your instrument not sounding right. These all might be a good reason for a trip the the repair shop.


“The Woodwind Family” by The Oregon Symphony


"Oboe Lesson 1.2 Cleaning and Maintenance"

by Boot Camp at Beginning Band Boot Camp.


"How To Clean A Bassoon Bocal" by Erin Oft


“Woodwind Instrument Care” by Thevault.musicarts.com


"Time To Clean Your Saxophone?" by Jay Metcalf at Better Sax