Taking care of your musical instrument

It’s not enough just to be a good musician, if you want to get the best out of your instrument it has to be kept in tip top condition! Musical instruments are precisely made and require a bit of TLC to stay at their best. Poor maintenance can make the instrument difficult to play and can even cause damage that requires expensive repairs.

Use these tips to keep your instrument safe and in good condition:

General care

  • Always keep your instrument in its case and store it in a safe place where it won’t be knocked or sat on. Most accidents happen when the instrument is left unattended and out of its case.
  • Don’t keep books, music or other items in your case – unless it has a separate compartment for them.
  • Try to avoid leaving your instrument exposed to direct sunlight or heat, such as a radiator or in the boot of a car on a hot day.

Before playing

  • When assembling your instrument try to hold it where there are no or few keys. This will stop the delicate joints inside being damaged. Special care should be taken with a saxophone as the octave mechanism is easily bent.
  • Cork joints, like the mouthpiece joint on a saxophone, need regular greasing. With a new joint, it’s best to grease every time you play for the first few times. After this you should only need to grease every two months or so.
  • Try to allow your instrument to acclimatise if you are coming in out of the cold. Blowing warm air into a cold instrument could damage it.
  • Don’t eat just before you play, you’ll blow food into your instrument and it will start to smell! Food will also corrode the inside of your instrument. Make sure you wash and dry your hands thoroughly before you play.


  • Clean your instrument regularly and in accordance to the manufacturer's instructions. Most music shops sell a range of soft cleaning cloths and tube cleaners. Remember not to keep damp cloths in the case, as they can transfer moisture back to the instrument.
  • Dry the inside of your instrument after you play. Leaving the inside damp will cause the pads to rot. They could start leaking and will need to be replaced. If your instrument is wooden, moisture may cause the wood to crack and the instrument will become unplayable.
  • Fingerprints are easily removed with a clean soft cloth. Lacquered instruments can be shined up using a non-silicon based furniture polish, but be careful not to get any polish on the pads.
  • Silver plated instruments and keys should be polished with a silver cloth. Don’t be tempted to use a liquid silver or brass cleaner (such as Brasso or Silvo) they are too abrasive and could cause your keys to stick.
  • Avoid rubbing the front edges of the pads when cleaning the instrument; this is one of the biggest causes of pad wear.

Remember: Don’t try to fix a problem yourself; you could cause even greater damage. Let your Commanding Officer know as soon as you think there is a problem.

Air Cadet Magazine

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Air Cadet Magazine

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