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General Instrument Maintenance Guide

Instrument Talk General Instrument Maintenance Guide

  • 2020 04 KBB General Instrument Maintenance Guide

16th April 2020 Print this page Email a friend

General Instrument Maintenance Guide

General Notes During Alert Level 4:

During lockdown, it is best to keep the care of your instrument simple and mindful.
If you are experiencing any issues with your instrument, please contact KBB Music through our website and a technician will be in touch with you shortly. We may be able to assess your instrument and guide you in completing small or temporary repairs via Facebook messenger, zoom, or phone.  Our goal is to keep instruments going as well as possible until we can see your instrument in-person again!
If your instrument is currently at one of our repair shops, or you had already booked in with us, we will be in touch in the days to come to discuss rescheduling your booking. If you would like to make a new booking for your instrument, please send an email to one of our repair branches: KBB Music Albany Repairs or KBB Music Epsom Repairs. Please note, due to lockdown, we may not reply immediately, but we will be in touch in the days to come.

If your enquiry is urgent, or you just want to talk shop, please contact us through our website.


1 Organised Practise room2
  • Arrange the area that you intend to play in so that it is free of hazards for you and your instrument
  • Remove excess clutter
  • Set-up your music stand and chair where you need them
  • Ensure there is a safe place to set your instrument when you aren’t playing it:
    • In its case, closed and latched
    • On a stand designed for your instrument
    • NEVER on a chair, bed, or floor
  • Ensure that small children and pets cannot access your instrument or its case
  • Wash your hands
  • Helps kill germs
  • Helps keep your instrument and its mechanisms clean

2 Washing Hands

  • If you play a wind instrument, brush your teeth or at least rinse your mouth. It helps to keep your instrument and its mechanisms clean.


    • Disassemble your instrument
    Swab out each piece of your instrument to remove moisture

    3 Swab your instrument
    PHOTO: 3- Swab your instrument
    • Clarinet, Oboe, Bassoon, Saxophone
      • Pull through swabs are ideal, with silk ones generally being the best
        • Silk provides superior moisture wicking
        • Silk is less likely to get caught inside the instrument
        • Silk naturally spreads out to fill the bore of your instrument
        • Easy to wash
        • Long lasting
      • Make sure the swab is not twisted or tangled
      • Pull your swab through slowly to give it the best chance to soak up moisture and to help prevent it from getting stuck.
    • Flute and Piccolo
      • A cleaning rod with gauze or silk, or a “Flute Flag” are good swab options
      • To use gauze or silk on a cleaning rod:
        • Pull a corner of the swab through the hole in your cleaning rod so that is make a 5-8cm long tail 
          4 Gauze tail in rod
          PHOTO: 4- Gauze tail in rod

        • Wrap the larger section of the cloth around the cleaning rod so that it first covers the top of the rod, without covering the tail, then goes around the rod. The 5-8cm tail should be loose and stick up. 
          5 Gauze wrapped around rod
          PHOTO: 5- Gauze wrapped around rod
      • Run the swab through your instrument slowly to give it the best chance to soak up moisture and to help prevent it from getting stuck.
Ensure that you use the correct size of swab or swabs for your instrument
6 Different sizes of swabs
PHOTO: 6- Different sizes of swabs

        • Some instruments, such as saxophones, oboes, and bassoons, require 2-3 different sized swabs
        • Ensure that you use the correct size swab for each section of your instrument
          7 Different swabs for one instrument
          PHOTO: 7- Different swabs for one instrument
      • We do not recommend “pad savers” or anything “fluffy”
  • 8 Different types of swabs
    PHOTO: 8- Different types of swabs

        • “Fluff” can easily catch and stick in places where is it difficult to remove.  This can compromise playability.
        • These types of swabs to not soak up moisture as well as silk or cotton.
      • DO NOT store moist swabs inside your instrument’s case
        • Store swabs in external accessory compartments, or
        • Allow swabs to thoroughly dry before putting them in internal accessory compartments.
  • Clean the outside of your instrument
    • Ensure that the tenons and sockets are thoroughly dried by wrapping a gauze or silk cloth around your finger to wipe them off
      9 Drying sockets
      PHOTO: 9- Drying Sockets
    • Use a cotton bud or rag to remove any excess cork grease that may have accumulated
      • Shoulders of tenons
        10 Degreasing tenons
        PHOTO: 10- Degreasing tenon
      • In sockets
      • In OPEN tone holes, such as on clarinets
        11 Degreasing open tone hole
        PHOTO: 11- Degreasing open tone holes
      • DO NOT attempt to clean any tone hole covered by a pad or key
      • DO NOT attempt to clean between or under keys
      • Wipe off the outside of your instrument with a “non-fluffy”, microfibre cloth

        12 Different types of microfibre clothes
      • PHOTO: 12- Different type of microfibre clothes
      • This should NOT be the same cloth you use to swab the inside of your instrument
      • BE careful and gentle 
        13 Clean outside w microfibre
        PHOTO: 13- Clean outside w- microfibre
        • Remove fingerprints from the broad areas of your instrument’s body and the tops of the key cups.
        • DO NOT try to clean between or under key work
        • Be sure to avoid touching any pads, key cork, key felts, or springs.
        • NEVER use liquid polish or cleaners of any kind on any woodwind
        • Silver Polishing cloths are not highly recommended, however
        • They can be used to shine up your instrument for a special occasion
        • NOTE:  ALL silver polishing cloths are like a very fine sandpaper.  They DO remove silver every time they are used
        • NOTE: Tarnish is only cosmetic, if you wish to have it removed, please talk with professional repair tech.
    • As you tidy up your instrument, look it over and take note of any problems: Bent keys, damaged pads, damaged key corks/felts, loose tenon/neck corks, dents, unhooked springs, etc
  • Place each piece away in its case
  • Put all your accessories away appropriately
    • No accessories, except tenon caps or end plugs, should be stored on, in, or around your instrument
    • Many cases have dedicated space for accessories inside and/or outside the case
      14 External accessories storage
      PHOTO: 14- External accessories storage
    • Anything that is moist should be stored outside of your instrument’s case, at least until it is dry
      • Swabs
      • Reeds
    • “Reed water” containers should be dumped, rinsed/washed, and dried before putting them away.
  • Mouthpieces and Headjoints: Swab with a gauze or silk cloth and wipe off daily.  Occasionally, you may want to clean your mouthpiece a bit more thoroughly.
    • NOTE:  We are not medical professionals.  The instructions below do not ensure any degree of “sanitizing” or “sterilizing”.  If you are concerned about the cleanliness of your mouthpiece, head joint, or instrument, please seek help from a medical professional.  We are happy to work with the advice of your chosen medical professional
    • Clarinet and Saxophone mouthpieces
      15 Washing mouthpieces
      PHOTO:15- Washing mouthpieces
      • Wash with tepid or slightly warm (not hot) water and mild dish soap
      • Use a soft toothbrush, gauze cloth, or cotton bud if necessary, then allow to dry 
        16 Washing Sax Clarinet Mouthpieces
        PHOTO: 16: Washing Sax and Clarinet mouthpiece
      • NOTE:  Hard-rubber mouthpieces may discolour when washed, especially with warmer water.  This is cosmetic only, as it is the outside layer of the rubber oxidizing.
      • Spray the mouthpiece with 70% isopropyl and ALLOW TO AIR DRY.
      • NOTE:  Bass clarinet and saxophone neck that DO NOT have any keys on them can also be washed
      • NOTE:  Bass clarinet or saxophone necks CANNOT be washed if they have any keys on them.
  • Flute and Piccolo Head joints
    • DO NOT submerge your head joint, as it has a crown cork inside.
      • Speak with a professional repair technician to learn how to safely remove and reset your crown cork.
      • DO NOT attempt to remove your crown cork if you are unsure of the process.
    • Gently clean your head joint with a microfibre cloth, fine toothbrush, or cotton buds dipped in a solution of warm (not hot) water and mild dish soap 
      17 Washing headjoints
      PHOTO: 17- Washing headjoints
    • Hold the head joint such that excess water will drip away from the crown cork.
    • Rinse any soap from your head joint with flowing water from the tap, holding the head joint such that excess water flows away from the crown cork
    • Allow your head joint to air dry
    • Metal or plastic head joints
      • Spray with 70% isopropyl and ALLOW TO AIR DRY
      • Rinse and let air dry one more time.
    • Wood head joints
      • DO NOT use isopropyl alcohol
      • Lightly oil after washing
      • Speak with a technician about oiling options and techniques
  • Bassoon and Cor Anglais Bocals
    • Soak in warm (not hot) water with mild dish soap, with the cork above the water line for a few minutes
    • Use a fine toothbrush to clean the outside of the bocal
    • Use a bocal brush to scrub inside if you have one
    • DO NOT attempt to use any other type of brush to scrub the inside of the bocal
    • Rinse and allow to air dry
    • Spray 70% isopropyl alcohol inside the bocal and ALLOW TO AIR DRY

Orchestral Strings

  • After Playing
    • Use a soft, flannel cloth to remove fingerprints, “faceprints” and excess rosin from you instrument, strings, and bow-stick and frog


        25 Remove rosin from instrument
      • PHOTO: 25- Remove rosin from instrument

        26 Remove rosin from bow stick
      • PHOTO: 26- Remove rosin from bow stick

            27 Remove finger and face prints
          • PHOTO: 27- Remove finger and face prints
        • Loosen your bow 
          28 Loosen Bow
          PHOTO: 28- Loosen bow
        • As you tidy up your instrument, look it over for any problems it may have, such as cracks, open seams, leaning bridge, damaged strings, etc.
        • Put all your accessories away appropriately
          • No accessories or books should be stored on, in, or around your instrument
          • Many cases have dedicated space for accessories inside and/or outside the case


  • Keep your case/bag free of clutter and rubbish at all times
  • Occasionally, you should thoroughly clean your case:
    - Vacuum your case
    29 Vacuum Case
    PHOTO: 29-Vacuum Case
  • - Let your case sit empty and open in the sun for a couple hours
    - Clean the outside of your case:
    Spray Methylated Spirits on a cloth to help remove some types of paint marks
  • Use Pledge on a soft cloth to dust and clean the outside of your plastic or cloth case/bag
    30 Clean outside of case2
     PHOTO: 30- Clean outside of case

  • Ensure that your name tag has accurate information
    31 Name Tag
    PHOTO: 31 Name tag