How to break in a new clarinet

If you are the proud owner of a new clarinet, congratulations! I wish you and your new clarinet a happy future filled with many wonderful musical memories.

To increase the longevity and quality of your clarinet, here are a few tips to help you properly break in your new clarinet:

  • Is it a plastic clarinet? If so, you don’t have to follow any formal break-in process. Break in processes are only necessary for wooden instruments to help the material adjust to its new environment.
  • Is your wooden clarinet used? Hopefully, its previous owner already broke in the clarinet, but it never hurts to break it in if you aren’t sure what kind of care the owner took of this new-to-you instrument.
  • Increase your playing time gradually. I know you’re probably excited to play your new clarinet, but make sure you don’ toverdo it! For new clarinets, you should only be playing 10-20 minutes at a time. Even though clarinet wood (which is typically grenadilla) is very resilient, it still needs time to adjust to its new environment and playing schedule. Gradually increase your playing time by 5-10 minute increments.
  • Swab, swab, swab! Introducing too much water to new wooden clarinets can cause the wood to swell and contract, making it more prone to cracks later on in its life. I recommend swabbing every 10 minutes for the first several weeks. Don’t forget to clean the tenons using a cotton swab or the edge of your cleaning swab.
  • Avoid drastic temperature changes. Avoid playing your wooden clarinet outdoors, and always make sure that your instrument is room temperature before practicing. If it is too cold, the combination of hot air and cold wood can lead to cracks.
  • Use cork grease as needed. There is no universal rule for how often you should apply cork grease (it depends on clarinet usage and environment), so just pay attention to when the cork feels a bit tight – that’s when you know it’s time for more cork grease.
  • Pay attention to humidity levels. Humidity levels for wooden clarinets are around 40-50%, so it’s smart to invest in a hygrometer to monitor humidity levels in your practice area. Even in humid climates, indoor air conditioning and heating can wreak havoc on clarinets if they are set too high or low.
  • Consult a qualified repair tech. If anything feels strange or doesn’t sound right, don’t be afraid to reach out to a qualified repair tech to make sure your new clarinet is in proper working order.

That’s all there is to it – enjoy your new clarinet!

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