Don’t put this one thing in your clarinet case

To be fair, there are several things you probably shouldn’t put in your clarinet case – sticky food, beverages in non-leakproof containers, glitter…

But there is one clarinet item you should be cautious about keeping in your clarinet case:

A new mouthpiece!

There are a few layers to this statement – you should not keep a new clarinet mouthpiece in your case if you have a clarinet with silver keys.

This is due to the sulfur in hard rubber mouthpieces reacting to the silver in the keys. (You can read a short blurb about this chemical reaction on Michael Lowenstern’s website.)

Here’s is a photo of a clarinet which has been exposed to a new mouthpiece (look at the RH pinky keys):

See the tarnish on the RH pinky keys?

The good news is that this reaction only occurs with new mouthpieces. After some time (typically around 6 months), mouthpieces should not cause silver keys to tarnish.

Your solutions:

  • Store your mouthpiece separately. Use a mouthpiece pouch or other container to store and protect your mouthpiece away from the clarinet. Just make sure to store the mouthpiece in its cap and in a protective case to avoid damage.
  • Use silver tarnish strips. I’ve personally never used these so can’t attest to their efficacy, but there are several available online for purchase. One colleague recommends 3M Anti-Tarnish Paper Silver Protectors, which they say are effective at preventing keys from tarnishing. When in doubt, talk to a trusted clarinet repair tech for their advice.

Be sure to share this with any clarinet friend who has silver keys and purchases a new mouthpiece!

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