Blustery cold, wind-tangled hair, dry hands, chapped lips…winter isn’t for the faint of heart! If you’re dreaming of warmer days, you’re not alone – your clarinet is also eagerly awaiting the sun and humidity of summer.
Harsh winter conditions can wreak havoc on your clarinet. From the bomb cyclone to other arctic conditions, winter weather is unforgiving to clarinets, causing tuning issues, unpredictable reeds, and cracks.
Here are a few preventative steps to protect your wooden clarinet this winter:
- Avoid drastic temperature changes. Cold winter air outside + overactive heating inside = a recipe for disaster. Try to keep your clarinet as stable as possible, in regards to temperature.
- Warm up before you warm up. If your clarinet feels cold to the touch, let it warm up to room temperature before playing. You can do this by holding it close to your body or under a sweater. After a few minutes, gently blow air through the clarinet without actually sounding a note. DO NOT warm it up by placing it in front of a heater or fireplace – this temperature change is too drastic and may cause your clarinet to crack.
- Use a case cover. Insulate your clarinet case with a protective case cover. To add more insulation, wrap an old sweatshirt or blanket around the case so cold air can’t reach your clarinet as easily. Bonus: BG and Altieri makes a Clarinet Cozy to cover your clarinet while it is still out on a stand.
- Use humidifiers. Counteract the dry winter air by placing a humidifier in your case. I use Dampits, but there are many other products and DIY versions, such as orange peels and sponges. (Humidifiers are also great for reeds – I recommend the Vandoren Hygro Reed Case.)
- Stock up on cork grease. Winter can dry out the corks, so make sure that you’re frequently using cork grease to prevent split corks.
- Swab meticulously. After you’re finished practicing, make sure that you remove all water from the clarinet. After swabbing, I use cotton swabs to remove any extra water that’s accumulated (especially in the barrel and top of the lower joint).
- Never leave your clarinet in the car. This should go without saying, but I’m always surprised to see musicians leaving their wooden instruments in the car. Even if you’re just running into a store for a few things, always take your clarinet with you. Besides the cold temperature, this is an invitation for thieves to steal your instrument.
Now that we’ve covered winter clarinet care, here are a few of my winter essentials for clarinetists and other musicians:
- Favorite lip balms: Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm; Nuxe Rêve de Miel Ultra-Nourishing Lip Balm (and yes, I do wear lip balm while I practice)
- Combat cold, dry hands: HotHands Hand Warmers; hand lotion and cuticle cream (I like Burt’s Bees); gloves (I bring gloves to performances year-round in case of overactive air conditioning)
Wishing you lots of warmth, coziness, and great practice sessions this winter!