Having lived in super cold environments these last few years (Québec, Iowa, and Manitoba), I’ve done a lot of research into ways clarinetists can protect their clarinet from extreme conditions and potential cracks.
The good news is that there are some precautions you can take to prevent your clarinet from cracking. The bad news is that sometimes, no matter how well you care for your clarinet, cracks can still happen.
Here are a few steps you can take to protect your clarinet:
- Make sure to break in your new clarinet. New clarinets are most prone to cracking, so make sure you break it in properly.
- Keep your clarinet in a stable environment. Wooden clarinets don’t like drastic or sudden changes in temperature, humidity, or other factors, so make sure to keep your clarinet as stable as possible by not exposing it to these changes.
- Use humidifiers. Low humidity levels are great for having good hair days, but not so great for protecting your clarinet. Use humidifiers in your case to keep your clarinet hydrated. (Talk to a trusted repair tech to find out what humidity level they recommend for your instruments.)
- Don’t leave your clarinet out of the case. Indoor heating and air conditioning wreak havoc on wooden clarinets, so always make sure to put your clarinet back in its case when it’s not in use. (I’ve also heard horror stories of dogs and other pets chewing/breaking/eating mouthpieces/knocking over clarinets left out of their case.)
- Let your clarinet warm up before you warm up. If your clarinet is cold to the touch, let it warm up to room temperature before playing. During the winter, I always wear layers so I can wrap my clarinet to warm it quicker. I also plan to arrive at rehearsals and performances very early so I’m not in any rush to warm up my horn. (Note: Don’t try to warm up your clarinet by putting it near a radiator or heater – this temperature change is too sudden and might cause cracks or other damage!)
- Use a quality clarinet case. Make sure your clarinet case can protect your clarinet from external environmental factors. I wrap a blanket around my case to add an extra layer of insulation, but I’ve also had my eye on the Lomax HumidiPro Cases for added protection and humidity regulation.
What to do if your clarinet gets a crack
As I said earlier, sometimes clarinets crack no matter how well you take care of them. If you notice a crack on your clarinet (which are commonly on the upper joint around the tone holes), avoid playing your clarinet until you can take it to a qualified repair technician to fix.
Don’t worry – the majority of cracks can fixed! A cracked clarinet is not necessarily a death sentence for your beloved instrument, and repair techs will assess each clarinet to determine the best way to repair your clarinet.
I hope this advice helps protect your clarinet from cracks and other issues!