With limited resources for many music programs these days, proper instrument upkeep has never been more important. While you need to handle major repairs with a complete instrument repair kit, many smaller issues can be solved with regular maintenance.
A few cheap and easy fixes can make your equipment last a lot longer, saving your program a lot of money in purchases and repairs. Here are a few of the most important items for keeping your instruments in playing condition:
The materials used to make woodwinds may have changed a bit over the years, but a few things are still essential to their upkeep. As with any instrument, the interior of a woodwind comes in contact with a lot of moisture. It is very important to keep the insides dry between rehearsals to keep the instrument in pristine working condition. That’s why every woodwind player needs some kind of swab to dry out the insides. Saxophonists will often use a large brush and keep it inside the neck where most of the moisture collects.
Not every woodwind instrument still uses cork at its connections, but most of them do. Cork grease is essential to keep these cork connections from drying out. If the cork dries out, it will begin to flake and break apart until the different segments of the instrument no longer fit together. Without the cork, your clarinet won’t be good for anything!
Care of brass instruments can get complicated. Even the relatively small instruments are a complex system of pipes and valves. The French horn has over 20 feet of tubing all coiled up in a circle. That can get a little difficult to maintain, but a few key products can make things a lot easier. The most obvious is valve oil. Every brass player should have their own bottle as it’s essential to keep the instrument in playing condition, but it’s important not to overuse it. A light coating of oil every few rehearsals goes a long way. Putting too much on can actually slow your valves and significantly impact your playing.
Of course, there’s more to brass instruments than just the valves. If you really want to sound great, you need free use of your tuning slides — and that means you have to keep everything well greased. When those tubes dry out, you might as well forget about getting the perfect pitch.
Percussion covers such a wide range of instruments that it’s difficult to nail down just a few essentials. Probably the most important thing to have is a full repair kit designed specifically for percussion. You don’t want to be scrambling for a drum key when a drum head comes loose during the first set.
Of course, there are many other maintenance items needed for incidental issues that crop up. Pepper has a long list of necessities to help you protect your instruments and make sure they last a good long time.