Tips on Avoiding Trouble with a Clarinet

In addition to the tips in the foregoing, here are a few more which will save you expense and worry.

In the register hole is a small tube which extends into the bore of the instrument. The pad seat on this tube is usually somewhat sharp and the pad will become cut more readily than the other pads. Many players substitute a cork in this pad cup. The cork will not cut easily and covers just as well as a regular pad if fit properly. Nearly all oboes use cork as standard in this small register hole pad cup.

To quiet the noise where the two parts of the side lever keys are joined, a small piece of “gold beater skin” is used. When this wears out, you can supply a new piece by taking the skin off an old pad.

On all model clarinets except the articulated models the ring on the upper end of the lower joint is held by a metal strap screwed securely to the body. In dry weather the wood may shrink away from this retaining ring; but you won’t notice it as you will on models where the retaining ring is not held by this strap, for on the latter models you can tell when the ring is loose. On the models with the strap, the strap holds the ring solidly so it doesn’t seem to be loose. However, shrinking leaves the wood of the tenon receiver without reinforcement. If you try to force the upper joint tenon into a lower joint receiver when it is in this condition, you are liable to split the wood in the tenon receiver. In dry weather examine this tenon receiver carefully and be sure the cork on the tenon fits easily into the tenon receiver.

Don’t tinker with the mechanism. If it doesn’t work properly and you can’t locate the trouble by applying the foregoing simple methods, take it to an experienced repairman. If you begin adjusting a key here and changing another there, the first thing you know you will have the entire mechanism out of adjustment and in the end you’ll have a major repair job.

Don’t lay a clarinet down on its side. Stand the Bb soprano clarinet upright on a peg. Use appropriate holder or regular instrument stand to hold alto or bass clarinet. The keys are delicate and the instrument will not stand the abuse of your laying it down on its keys. This also puts a strain on the middle tenon, which is the thinnest and most easily damaged tenon on the instrument. Further, laying a clarinet down causes the water in the instrument to run out into holes on the underside, damaging the pads. If a clarinet peg or instrument holder is not permitted in the concert band or symphony orchestra (although we can’t understand why some directors ban them) and you must lay your clarinet down, lay it so the fewest tone holes are on the underside.

In summer the air contains more moisture than at any other season. It is then particularly that you should do everything you can to keep your instrument dry. This is the season you will have trouble with swelled tenons. Carry a piece of camphor in your case to help absorb moisture. In winter the humidity in the air decreases. Furthermore, overheated, dry rooms increase the dryness. It is during this season you will notice loose rings and posts. This dryness plus quick changes from warm to cold increases the danger of cracking. Be on your guard against quick changes of temperature and supply a little moisture by carrying a humidifier in your case.

If you have difficulty getting your clarinet in pitch you’d better investigate the matter of barrel joints. If your instrument is very sharp with A-440 don’t use too much pull on mouthpiece or barrel — get a longer barrel joint. If your instrument is flat with A-440 get a shorter joint. Conn furnishes several lengths of barrel joints to meet varying tuning conditions.

Keep all accessories in box or tied down so they will not clatter around loose inside the case. This will not only mar the finish of your instrument but may cause serious damage to the key mechanism.
Don’t play with chewing gum in the mouth, nor right after eating candy or drinking a “soft drink.” You will blow sugar water into the instrument and when this gets on the pads you will have a lot of trouble from pads sticking.

Don’t use rubber bands to operate keys whose springs have become broken. In a short time the sulphur in the rubber band will produce a black tarnish where it contacts the instrument and will eventually eat through the finish on a plated instrument.
A piece of camphor in the case will absorb moisture and will retard corrosion and tarnish. Recommended in summer when humidity is high.

Always loosen the ligature on the mouthpiece when putting it away. Constant pressure of a tight ligature is liable to warp the facing and in time may even cause a constriction in the chamber.

Always put the cap on your mouthpiece when it is not in use, especially when you put it in the case. This will prevent breaking many a reed and it may prevent chipping the tip or marring the facing of your mouthpiece. Even a small nick or chip on the tip will ruin a mouthpiece.

If you are one of those who blow lots of water into your instrument, you can make the pads last longer if you will blot them dry with ordinary blotting paper, especially those near the mouthpiece where the water is heaviest.

If you have a dry mouth, don’t chew gum to help the flow of saliva. The sugar in the gum will cause sticky pads. Some players are helped by putting a small, smooth pebble or other non-soluble object in the mouth. This starts the flow of saliva. Be sure to take it out before playing.

When you put the reed on your mouthpiece, ordinarily you will put the reed on the mouthpiece and then slip the ligature over the reed. Since there is a gap between the tip of the reed and the tip of the mouthpiece, often the ligature snags the reed. You will save reeds if you will put the ligature on first (loose, of course), and then slip the reed under the ligature.