Though durable, elegant, and produce great sound, the wood clarinets are more delicate than the plastic or hard rubber ones. Here, we’ll show you how to best care for and preserve the clarinet made of wood.
The best clarinets for intermediate and expert clarinetists are made of wood. Despite ensuring that the clarinet yields excellent sound, it is quite delicate and requires constant care and attention for its preservation. So, how do you care for and preserve your wood clarinet?
This guide gives you insights into everything you need to know about the wood clarinets and their preservation.
Guide for caring and preserving the wood clarinets
What wood is the clarinet made of?
The first step to properly caring for your clarinet to enjoy great notes and overall sound for many years is understanding the wood used to make the clarinet. Most wood clarinets are made of grenadilla wood, also called African Blackwood. This type of wood is commonly used in making musical instruments and the best of wooden furniture, thanks to it being extremely dense and also very oily. Unfortunately, the features that make it a great option make it very sensitive and delicate. Grenadilla is quite sensitive to changes in temperature once cut, something attributed to the fact that the oil that keeps it in perfect condition is no longer produced once the tree is cut down.
As a result, constant changes in temperature would hurt the wood. And so, the first line of defense for your wood clarinet is oiling the bore regularly. Oiling will protect the wood from cracking.
It’s also worth noting that even woods as stable as the grenadilla will continue breathing in their lifetime, meaning the wood absorbs and releases moisture for decades or centuries. So, stabilizing the wood means allowing it to slowly settle and slowly lose the moisture, but in controlled conditions. Oiling restores lost moisture to prevent cracking.
Understand the role of the bore
The clarinet’s bore is a critical part of the instrument, and after playing your clarinet for some time, the wood will dry out and may crack, depending on the climate and the prevailing weather conditions where you live. Therefore, you must carefully break in your new wood clarinet, allowing the instrument time to adjust and adapt to the new weather conditions. Breaking it in is also important for moisture regulation and absorption before playing your clarinet. Gradually, the clarinet is climatized, and you will be able to play it for long without worrying about cracking or any other kind of damage it may suffer.
All you need for acclimatization of the clarinet is the bore oil. But how do you use the bore oil?
Using the clarinet bore oil
First, take the clarinet swab, then soak it in the bore oil. And then, take the oil-soaked swab then pull it through your instrument at least twice or thrice. Note that you only use the specific bore oi for your clarinet – not olive, vegetable oil, or any other kind of oil in your home. These other oils may seem to make sense to you, but they don’t have the moistening properties your clarinet bore needs, and olive or vegetable oil may damage the clarinet wood or the pads. Consider buying a replacement bottle for the oil from the nearest music stores. We also recommend having a technician oil the bore for you.
Frequency of oiling your clarinet’s bore
Generally, how often you need to oil your clarinet’s bore will vary depending on how often you use the clarinet and the environment/ climate of the place you reside. For example, if you live in Southeast Asia, you wouldn’t need to oil the bore as frequently as you’d need to if you lived in Alaska or anywhere else that is very dry and cold. Generally, the winter seasons can be challenging, and the clarinet needs more oiling since it would be more vulnerable to cracking in this season.
You also need to know that when you play your clarinet for the first time, the temperature inside the instrument changes as you blow air through it. And so, if you live in a dry climate area and fail to use the bore oil, the granadilla wood will crack easily.
If your home is in a zone that experiences very dry weather, you’ll need to apply the oil once weekly for at least 2 months. But in humid conditions, oiling is only necessary twice each year. In temperate weather, oil the bore once every 3-4 months.
Steps for breaking in your wood clarinet
- During the first week after getting the clarinet, you’d want to try playing it for a maximum of 15-30 minutes and then completely swab down the clarinet, making sure it’s completely dry.
- And after a week, you can increase the daily playtime by 10 minutes until you’re able to play it regularly.
- You also need to make sure that the room you play the clarinet in is at room temperature and not too cold. You shouldn’t try to break in your clarinet where the temperature is too low because it may result in the cracking of the clarinet.
- Finally, you must always swab your clarinet thoroughly after playing.
Other care tips for your wooden clarinet
If you follow the steps above for breaking in and caring for your clarinet, you will prolong its life and always enjoy a great playing experience. But that is not all you can do to care for the clarinet. Below are more instructions to follow when caring for your clarinet.
- Check the temperature of the clarinet wood when you open the case. If it’s cold, leave the case open for some time to allow air circulation and acclimatization. You could also use a warm cloth to warm it up.
- You must always swab the clarinet when playing.
- Only use the bore oil when it is necessary. You don’t want to over-oil it because too much oil will affect the sound.
- After playing, put wipe it, then put the instrument back in the case.
- Every 6 months, you should take the clarinet to a technician or the music store for checking up and tuning, and just to make sure that everything is in order.
- Wipe down keys on occasion using a lint-free or a piece of microfiber cloth to get rid of oils and acids left behind by your fingers. This will slow down wear and tarnishing.
- Wipe moisture off the sockets and tenons when packing to prevent swelling of the joints and preserve the wood. And make sure that all the tenon rings are tight, especially in winter and dry climates.
- Clean the mouthpiece using a Q-tip on occasion. You could also use warm, soapy water. But be extra careful when cleaning the mouthpiece. Don’t get it soaked either.
- Always brush your teeth and wash hands before playing
Follow the steps and recommendations above to get the best out of your wood clarinet. And be patient with it, observing the changes in the clarinet to meet its needs well.
What is the ideal humidity for the clarinet?
For wood clarinets, humidity levels of between 45% and 55% is essential in ensuring the best performance of the clarinet. So in some cases, you may need a room humidifier to keep the clarinet in perfect condition, especially when playing.