How to Winter-Proof Your Clarinet

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!


  • Linda

    I play an ebonite Noblet clarinet my parents bought me when I started playing as a 10 year old in the mid 1950’s. It has served me well through high school, college wind symphony, including marching band in Minnesota, and thru the years as a community band member. I have a decent mouthpiece. At one point I thought about upgrading but opted not to. Obviously I don’t make my living playing clarinet, but I am a decent player. Would a new “more professional” clarinet make me a better player? No. So I will happily continue to play my instrument, hopefully for many more years.

    • jennyclarinet

      It sounds like you’ve had many wonderful musical moments with your Noblet, and I’m sure you sound great on it!

  • Dan

    I think more manufacturers should finally leave the trees alone and start offering their professional models in synthetic materials. On the colder days (-25°C and below), at school, my clarinet simply has no chance to warm up to the point when it doesn’t feel cold to the touch, especially when I practice at my favorite spot by the window.
    That’s one of the reasons I keep leaving upgrade from my B12 for later — almost all options are wooden and I really would like to avoid having to deal with wood.

    • jennymaclay

      Hi Dan,
      Thanks for your comment. I can imagine the difficulty having to fight -25°C weather! Have you considered trying the Buffet Greenline? I know a lot of people have had success with this in extreme environments (cold, dry, etc). Best of luck, and stay warm!

      • Dan

        Hi Jenny,
        The forecast for the next two days is -35°C, so I’ll sure need some luck. Perhaps practicing scales at fast tempi will help me stay warm. ;)

        I guess “professional models” should have read “anything above the basic student models”. I looked at greenline indeed, the only problem is that they don’t have the greenline option for anything but R13, and I don’t really have a budget for a new R13, greenline or otherwise (the fact they are a recent enough introduction to not be widely available on the used instrument market doesn’t help). If a synthetic E13 or YCL650 existed, I’d be ordering one now.
        That said, a number of people are using wooden instruments here and my instructor says their stability has improved a lot in the last two decades, I just would be happier with an instrument that is not affected by temperature and humidity changes at all.

        (Here in Russia, the budgets are rather tighter than they would be in the US and the EU, and there aren’t too many wind players either, which means there are fewer used instruments floating around. The B12 is already a rather expensive instrument by local standards, comparable with median monthly income. I’m a programmer whenever I’m not a musician so I could get a good student instrument and a vandoren B40 mouthpiece without making a huge hole in my budget, but for a starving artist even that would be a stretch. My friend, a very talented oboist, played a college-owned YOB-241 until graduation, and the college-owned clarinets are YCL-255’s — you get the idea what is the lowest level considered appropriate for a serious study here. Kids often have to make do with J. Michael or worse.)

        • jennymaclay

          Hi Dan,
          I like your idea of practicing fast scales! Maybe add the Nielsen or Francaix for additional warmth? ;)

          I do wish that there were more synthetic options, especially at lower price ranges. In the meantime, continue doing the best that you can in such cold weather to maintain consistent temperature and humidity. Have you considered metal clarinets? Maybe manufacturers will soon create weather-resistant clarinets!

          • Beth Graham

            What are your thoughts on the Ridenour hard rubber clarinets?

            (Mind you, I’m a 50-something beginner using her mom’s reconditioned Bundy Selmer Resonite, and have miles to go before thinking of upgrading. Still, it’s never too early to research options, right?)

          • jennymaclay

            I have’t tried them, but choosing a clarinet is highly personal! Give them and try and see what you think. You’re right – it’s never too early to research options! Good luck!

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