As a musician, one of the most important lessons that you must learn is that proper care and maintenance of your instrument will help you maintain consistent sound quality and save money in the long run. Many young musicians spend less time playing their instruments during the summer, which means they don’t perform the regular maintenance steps involved before and after playing. Beat the summer slump and try these tips to help flight common summer maintenance issues for your instrument:
Whereas cold weather can cause an instrument to contract, the typically hot weather of the summer months has the opposite effect. In extreme heat, an instrument’s materials may expand. This affects the instrument’s ability to withstand tension. These increased temperatures and humidity can make the instrument very difficult to play and lead to costly repair bills. When asked how hot weather and instruments go together, many players report that their sound becomes “sluggish” in the heat.
What can you do?
- Always keep your instrument in the case when you are not playing or practicing. This will protect it from weather elements and accidents (like getting knocked over!)
- Store your instrument in a safe place in your home and avoid rooms with extreme temperatures. Limit exposure to direct sunlight if possible. High heat can lead to warping and cracking, which can lead to costly repairs.
- Never leave your instrument in the car, where heat and humidity exposure is increased.
- Wood instruments require extremely special care during warm weather months. For high humidity areas, storing your instrument in a room with a dehumidifier is ideal.
- Regular oiling of the wooden body with bore oil can also help combat humidity damage. Humidity can dry out wooden bodies, leading to cracks. Cracked bodies make instruments extremely difficult to play and can be costly to repair.
Whether you’re a busy professional musician or a budding music student, keeping your instrument clean is the only way to reach your full playing potential. This is an important issue no matter who you are or what your goals are in music because leaving an instrument dirty and unmaintained for too long can eventually cause permanent damage.
What can you do?
- Take-home instrument care kits help musicians of every age, interest, and musical background keep their instruments cleaned and in prime playing condition.
- Avoid placing accessory items, like reeds or swabs, on top of the instrument while it is closed in the case. Do not place other items on top of your instrument case.
- Use brushes from your care kit to remove debris from the inside of your mouthpieces, slide tubes, and lead pipes.
- If your instrument has a mouthpiece or head joint, always use a swab to clean the inside of your instrument (including the mouthpiece!) after playing. This removes condensation and saliva from inside. Leaving these types of moisture in the instrument can lead to the growth of mold and other harmful bacteria, especially in the summer months.
- Keep wooden instruments hydrated with regular polishing.
- If your instrument has strings, as a part of your maintenance routine, wash your hands before use. Many manufacturers sell special cleaning cloths and packages made especially for this. The dirt and oil left on the strings after use will oxidize over time and kill your tone. Not only does string oxidation cause strings to sound dead, but it can also lead to premature breakage.
Regular Use & Maintenance
As we mentioned, sadly many young musicians spend less time playing their instruments during the summer. However, playing regularly during the summer will not only help grow a musician’s skills, but will also help them combat potential damage from lack of playing. Even if you don’t play every day or week during the summer, it’s still important to perform regular maintenance and care for your instrument to prevent damage.
What can I do?
- Keep it tuned. Think of this as your first and last line of defense: if you don’t regularly tune your instrument, it simply won’t perform to the best of its ability. If tuning is overlooked, you’ll start to notice a degradation in sound and pitch; as is common with pianos.
- Keep woodwinds and brass instruments well oiled and greased. This helps keep the keys lubricated so they can move freely. High temperatures and humidity can cause oil to evaporate, which leads to rust and frozen keys. Dried cork will crack and cause instrument joints to become loose, making the instrument more difficult to play.
- Wood bodied instruments (including pianos, percussion, and guitars) are more susceptible to cracking. Try investing in a hygrometer. A hygrometer is a device which measures the amount of moisture in the air and can be used to determine a baseline humidity level for your instrument.
- Purchase a sturdy case and always ensure a tight seal when you put your instrument back. Check to make sure there are no holes or gaps where air can enter.
The Repair Shop at Music & Arts
Need a little extra help? Our certified repair technicians can fix almost any musical instrument. We are also an authorized service center for many of the most popular orchestra and band instruments.
With over 40 instrument repair centers nationwide servicing 240+ retail stores, there’s a Music & Arts near you that’s ready to help get your instrument back in perfect shape. Contact us today.
For a more detailed explanation on the proper care and maintenance for your instrument, check out some of these articles:
- Proper Care and Maintenance of Brass Instruments
- Tuba Maintenance: Tips & Advice
- Proper Care and Maintenance of the Saxophone
- Violin Care & Maintenance: Tips & Advice
- Proper Cello Maintenance and Care