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How to dry the clarinet properly after playing it

The importance to keep our clarinet in perfect conditions must be an essential part of our routine as musicians, as well as carrying out a proper cleaning and drying of our instrument, especially in winter.

The above will give us important benefits such as the clarinet:

  • Looks better

  • Sounds better

  • Can be played more easily

  • Lasts longer

  • Requires services and repairs less often (saving your money)

  • Has a better resale value in the future

On the other hand, we must consider the moisture exposure of our instrument every time we have finished playing. For that reason, the essential is to remove moisture from all parts of the clarinet, including the main air channel, the reed and from the pads on the underside of the keys. We must remember the main air channel that passes through the clarinet's body is where most moisture collects, so it is important to remove it.

The main air channel that passes through the clarinet's body is where most moisture collects. (Manuel García)

For that, the most effective way to do this is to use a swab, but not before taking gently the five pieces of the clarinet apart. However, if you prefer you can also do it without taking the instrument apart.

Later, we will carefully drop the swab weight into the end of each section to pull it gently through the instrument to remove moisture from inside. If the swab catches on anything, it will be necessary to pull it slowly without forcing it, taking particular care when passing the swab through the upper body.

Pull the swab gently through the clarinet to remove moisture from inside. (

It is recommended doing this several times until each section is dry completely.

It will be also necessary to dry the tenons with the swab and where moisture often builds up. Otherwise, joints may damage since there is a danger that this could cause cracking.

Tenons must always be dried to avoid dangers of cracking. (

As a tip, let always the swab dry before placing it in the case. Make sure that you place the swab in a different part of the case to your clarinet, as you do not want the moisture affects the instrument.

At the same time, when the swab is soiled it will be necessary to replace it with a new one. If a soiled or a fluffy one resulting from over washing is used, dust may collect in the tone holes, what may change the clarinet performance resulting undesirable sounds when playing the instrument.

Another problem that can have a negative impact on tone color and pitch is the excess cork grease, dirt, and oil on the musician’s fingers, what will accumulate over time until the venting of the tone hole is significantly obstructed.

A grimy residue in a tone hole. (

In order to solve this problem, you can use a cotton swab to remove easily these grimy residues. Generally, no cleaners or solvents are necessary.

Just simply insert the swab tip into the tone hole and turn in a circular motion until all of the residue is gone. Washing your hands before playing will also help ensure that the clarinet delivers optimum timbre and pitch.

Move the swab in a circular motion until all of the residue is gone. (

Finally, another important item to consider is the proper drying of the pads and cleaning of keys.

For that, we must put a piece of cleaning paper between the pad and the tone hole and lightly press the key several times. We have to repeat this operation two or three times, applying the paper to different spots on the pad.

Likewise, we must be careful not to pull the paper out with the key held down, as there is a danger that this will damage the pad.

Talking about keys, we can use a dry or microfiber cloth taking care not to touch the pads since they might come off from the keys.

This is a very important point, since finger sweat can corrode the metal and leave some marks with a very bad appearance.