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Now In: Rental Maintenance
Now that you've gotten your rental instrument home....

You've rented your instrument and gotten it home. Its bright and shiny, and you can't wait to try to play it. You know that you'll be playing beautiful music in no time, you just need to try it out.
WAIT!

We realize that as a new student, you are VERY excited about your new instrument. However, if you open the case and look at it, you can see that there are several different pieces and keys. It is very easy to bend a key or jam a mouthpiece if you have not been shown how to assemble the instrument properly. If that happens, your new instrument will end up in the repair shop. Wait for your first lesson, and your music teacher will show you how to properly assemble and hold your instrument.

Like anything else,your rental instrument needs regular care and maintenance. A few simple steps, practiced each time you play the instrument, will help keep it in top shape. Remember that even though the R&R coverage on your rental contract covers normal maintenance on your instrument, repairs include time spent without your instrument while its in the shop.

Please check out our maintenance guidelines for your rental instrument. Each step requires minimal accessories, and can be completed at home. Skipping a step every now and then will not permanently damage your instrument. However, following them faithfully will extend its overall life.

Problems happen, no matter how well an instrument is maintained. Torn pads and corks, stuck slides, and air leaks are all the result of normal wear and tear. When that happens, your instrument needs to come in to the repair shop. As general maintenance, we recommend bringing your instrument in once a year for a general check over. School vacations and summer are a great time for repairs.

A Few General Rules:

  1. DO NOT eat or drink anything before you are going to play. The sugars from food particles build up inside the instrument, causing keys and slides to stick.
  2. Wash your hands before you handle the instrument. The oils from your hands will eventually wear away the instrument's finish.

Flute & Piccolo Maintenance
General maintenance on flutes & piccolos is very simple, but it is also essential. Proper care not only extends the life of your instrument, but also insures that it is always playing at its optimum level. To properly maintain your flute or piccolo, you will need:

  • Cleaning Rod - Metal or Plastic
  • Pad Saver OR Handkerchief/Lint Free Cloth (please see below to determine which is best for you)
  • Care Kit: All of the accessories you need to properly maintain your instrument, plus step by step instructions for proper maintenance, are available in a Flute Care Kit.

Swabbing Flutes & Piccolos:
Frequency: Every Time You Play Your Instrument
Moisture accumulates inside your instrument each time you play. This moisture can destroy your instrument's pads. Pads are the white or yellow objects on the bottom of each key that seal the note and prevent air leaks. Moisture causes pads to corrode. To prevent air leaks that result when pads corrode, you need to either purchase a "Pad-Saver" or properly swab out your instrument each time you play.

To Swab out Your Flute or Piccolo:

  1. Pull the cloth about halfway through the oval shaped loop at the end of the Cleaning Rod.
  2. Push the rod down through the inside of the all three pieces of your flute or two pieces of your piccolo.
  3. Pull the cleaning rod and swab out the other side.
  4. Repeat this several times each time the instrument is played.

Pad Savers
A "Pad Saver" is a nice alternative to swabbing out your instrument. A Pad Saver is a fluffy device that is kept within your flute or piccolo when it is not being played. The Pad Saver absorbs the moisture that will damage pads if left unattended. Pad Savers are a great alternative to swabbing, especially for students who find they don't have time to properly swab their instuments after band class. Pad Savers can be washed using mild detergent and lukewarm water, but make sure it is completely dry prior to putting it back inside your flute or piccolo.

Polishing
Frequency: Once a Week
If there are fingerprints or smudges on the outside of the instrument, they can be removed using a soft cloth. Be careful! The keys bend easily, resulting in air leaks.

Clarinet and Saxophone Maintance
General maintenance on clarinets & saxophones is very important. Proper care not only extends the life of your instrument, but also insures that it is always playing at its optimum level. To properly maintain your clarinet or saxophone, you will need:

  • Swab - Clarinet or Alto Sax OR a Pad Saver
  • Cork Grease
  • Mouthpiece Brush
  • Handkerchief or Lint Free Cloth
  • Care Kit: All of the accessories you need to properly maintain your instrument, plus step by step instructions for proper maintenance, are available in a Clarinet or Saxophone Care Kit.
Swabbing Clarinets and Saxophones
Frequency: Every Time You Play Your Instrument
Swabbing is the primary method for cleaning woodwinds. A soft cloth is pulled through the inside of the instrument, absorbing moisture that may have collected there. Moisture of any sort, when trapped in the instrument, will cause the pads to decay. This, in turn, will cause air leaks. To prevent this, the following should be done every time the instrument is played:
  1. Use the specially designed cloth swab with a weight on the end.
  2. Drop the weight into the instrument and have it hang out of the bottom.
  3. Carefully grab the weighted end and slowly pull the cloth through the instrument. Repeat this process a few times until the inside is dry.

Pad Savers
A "Pad Saver" is a nice alternative to swabbing out your instrument. A Pad Saver is a fluffy device that is kept inside your clarinet or saxophone when it is not being played. The Pad Saver absorbs the moisture that will damage pads if left unattended. Pad Savers are a great alternative to swabbing, especially for students who don't have time to properly swab their instuments after band class.

Pad Savers can be washed using mild detergent and lukewarm water, but make sure it is completely dry prior to putting it back inside your clarinet or saxophone.

Cleaning the Mouthpiece
Frequency: Once a Week
The mouthpiece should be cleaned on a regular basis (once a week).

  1. Use lukewarm tap water and a mild soap.
  2. Run warm water through the mouthpiece ONLY. Try not to get the cork around the clarinet mouthpiece wet.
  3. Using a mouthpiece brush or rag and a SMALL amount of soap, clean out any dirt or grime that may be inside.
  4. Rinse and dry the mouthpiece thoroughly.

Polishing the Keys
Frequency: Once a Week
Key maintenance is relatively simply. However, if neglected, the finish on the keys may eventually tarnish due to the acid in your hands. To prevent this, make sure you always wipe off the keys when you are done playing.

Applying Cork Grease
Frequency: As Needed
Woodwind instruments use cork to create a tight seal between two pieces. On a clarinet, there is cork on the mouthpiece and the top and bottom of each joint. Saxophone cork is only found on the instrument neck.

The cork on clarinets and saxophones is maintained using cork grease. This is usually packaged in a chap-stick style container, to simplify application. Cork grease is used to help the joints assemble easily and to help prevent cork cracking. To apply cork grease, rub a THIN LAYER over the cork.

Trumpet Maintenance
General maintenance on trumpets is essential to insure proper playability. Moisture collects inside your trumpet every time it is played. If left unattended and permitted to collect, it will cause ugly corrosion to occur from within. To prevent this, the instrument should be maintained regularly. You will need:

  • Valve Oil
  • Mouthpiece Brush
  • Trumpet Snake
  • Polishing Cloth

Important Information About Valves
Beginning Trumpet Students often think valves are the "buttons" that you press down to produce sound. Actually, valves have nothing to do with the production of sound, because sound can be generated simply by blowing through a brass instrument. However, pressing down on the valve will alter the pitch of your trumpet, thus permitting you to produce music.

To properly clean a brass instrument, you must first remove the valves. The actual removal of valves is relatively easy. However, if you do not pay attention to a few critical details, you will most likely not be able to play the instrument once you have it reassembled. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Each valve must be returned to the valve casing from which it was removed. To prevent confusion, manufacturers have engraved the valve number on each valve (1, 2 or 3). In general, the first valve is the one closest to you when you are playing the instrument. However, this is not always the case. Make sure you check and remember which valve goes into which casing when you are dissambling the instrument.
  • DO NOT TRY TO DISSAMBLE THE VALVE ITSELF. Simply remove it from the casing and set it aside. Valves are very delicate. If they are dropped or dented, they will probably not function properly once the instrument is reassembled. If this happens, you need to bring it to a qualified repair technician.

Flushing Trumpets
Frequency: Once a Month

  1. Remove the major slides from the instrument. Take note of which slide goes where, so you can re-assemble your trumpet.
  2. Unscrew the valves and remove them (see information on valves above). Set aside.
  3. Unscrew the valve caps on the bottom of the valve casing.
  4. Run lukewarm water through the instrument and the slides.
  5. Use the trumpet snake and a mild soap to scrub out the inside of the instrument. A snake is a long piece of reinforced wire with a brush attached to the end. This permits you to clean deep within the complicated tubing of brass instruments.
  6. Once the inside is clean, rinse the instrument and slides with lukewarm water. Let all the parts air dry.
  7. Reassemble - making sure to place the valves in their original casings.
  8. Make sure you oil the valves before you try to play the instrument.

Oiling the Valves
Frequency: As Necessary

  1. Unscrew the valve from the casing.
  2. Pull the valve half-way out of the casing.
  3. Apply a thin stream of oil to the valve while spinning it once in its casing.
  4. Replace valve.

Cleaning the Mouthpiece
Frequency: Once a Week

  1. Remove mouthpiece from the instrument.
  2. Run lukewarm water through the mouthpiece.
  3. Using a mild soap and a mouthpiece brush, scrub out the inside of the mouthpiece.
  4. Allow the mouthpiece to air dry.

Polishing
Frequency: Once a Week or as Needed
Wipe down the entire instrument with a cloth. Commercial cloths specifically designed for lacquer instruments actually polish the instrument. However, a soft, lint free cloth will remove any fingerprints or buildup just as well.

Trombone Maintenance
Like most instruments, general trombone maintenance is focused on the inside of the horn. Moisture collects within the instrument every time it is played. If allowed to build up, it will cause corrosion from within. To prevent this, the instrument should be flushed out monthly.

It is the slide that differentiates trombone care from other brass instruments. Both the outer and inner slides are very delicate, and subject to problems if not maintained properly. When it is permitted to accumulate, grime causes the slide to stick. To prevent this, special care should be taken every time the instrument is played.

To properly maintain your trombone, you will need:

  • Slide Oil
  • Mouthpiece Brush
  • Snake
  • Polishing Cloth / Handkerchief / Lint Free Cloth
  • Care Kit: All of the accessories you need to properly maintain your instrument, plus step by step instructions for proper maintenance, are available in a Trombone Care Kit.

Slide Maintenance and Applying Slide Oil
Frequency: Every Time the Instrument is Played

  1. Carefully extend the inner slide from the outer slide, without fully removing it.
  2. Using a lint-free cloth, wipe down the inner slide. If there is any grime on the slide, your slide lubricant (oil, cream, etc.) will not stick, causing hangups while you are playing.
  3. Apply your slide lubricant (oil, cream, etc.) to the inner slide. Control the amount you use - a little bit goes a long way. Work down the slide, in a relatively straight line.
  4. Replace the inner slide within the outer.

Flushing Trombones
Frequency: Once a Month or as Necessary
A note on flushing trombones: This is a very delicate procedure. Due to the unwieldy nature of the trombone, this can be difficult to do in the bathtub at home without damaging the slide. If you are unsure as to your ability to flush the trombone, bring it to a qualified repair technician.

  1. Remove the main tuning slide from the instrument.
  2. Run lukewarm water through the instrument and the slide. Be VERY careful with the slide. Even the slightest dent can affect the way the instrument plays.
  3. Use the trombone snake and a mild soap to scrub out the inside of the instrument. A snake is a long piece of reinforced wire with a brush attached to the end. This permits you to clean deep within the sometimes complicated tubing of brass instruments.
  4. Once the inside is clean, rinse the instrument and slide with lukewarm water.
  5. Let all the parts air dry and reassemble.

Cleaning the Mouthpiece
Frequency: Once a Week

  1. Remove mouthpiece from the instrument.
  2. Run lukewarm water through the mouthpiece.
  3. Using a mild soap and a mouthpiece brush, scrub out the inside of the mouthpiece.
  4. Allow the mouthpiece to air dry.

Polishing
Frequency: Once a Week or as Needed
Wipe down the entire instrument with a cloth. Commercial cloths specifically designed for lacquer instruments actually polish the instrument. However, a soft, lint free cloth will remove any fingerprints or buildup just as well.