Why is my mouthpiece green? (And other weird clarinet questions you’re too embarrassed to ask your teacher)

The clarinet is the coolest instrument around, but it does have some…peculiarities….to it.

Here are a few explanations to your most embarrassing clarinet questions:

(Disclaimer: These responses are crafted from a clarinetist’s point of view. Always seek advice from a medical professional when dealing with health, germs, and other areas beyond the scope of this classically trained clarinetist/blogger.)

Why is my mouthpiece green?

Most clarinet mouthpieces are made from either plastic or ebonite (hard rubber). Ebonite can oxidize, and this discoloration can be caused from exposure to sunlight, high temps, and even the type of soap you use to clean the mouthpiece. Read this article from Vandoren for more information.

Can you really get mold in your clarinet if you don’t swab?

This depends on how long it’s been since you’ve swabbed. If you never swab, then the likelihood is far greater that your clarinet could have mold or other particles. You should swab regularly (even during the same practice session), and always before putting your clarinet away at the end of your session.

What happens if I don’t brush my teeth/wash my hands before playing?

You’ll spend more money on clarinet repairs! I’m (mostly) kidding, but I’ve seen photos from repair techs and heard horror stories about replacing pads stained blue and other unnatural colors from food dye, sugars, and other materials which could have otherwise been washed/brushed away. Any dirt or food on your hands or in your mouth can end up in your clarinet, which can cause quicker decay of pads (as well as creating unsanitary playing and breathing conditions).

Can I use the same reed if I’ve been sick?

When in doubt, throw it out! If you don’t want to be exposed to unnecessary germs, use a new reed once you’re fully recovered. If you really want to keep playing a good reed after being sick, let it soak in rubbing alcohol before rinsing and re-using. (P.S. Don’t forget to throw out your toothbrush, too!)

Why does spit keep getting stuck behind my reed when I play?

This could be due to a few things. Start by checking your horn angle – sometimes, improper playing positions can create a direct pathway from your mouth through the clarinet, creating an influx of spit. Some people also produce more saliva than others, so you should check with a dentist or other medical professional if this is becoming a hindrance as you play.

I hope these help answer your most embarrassing clarinet questions! Leave a comment below or send me a message with any other questions you’d like me to answer!

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