Maintenance of corks and keys of the clarinet - Clarinet U Article

Maintenance of corks and keys of the clarinet

Corks are certainly one of the most important elements in the clarinet. They allow the correct assembly of every part of our instrument, so it is necessary to carry out proper maintenance to extend the lifespan of corks and thus avoid serious problems in the future.

Generally, if some joints seem to be a little tight by assembling the clarinet, applying a moderate amount of cork grease will be sufficient to make easier the assembly of the instrument. However, some people apply cork grease every day, which may provoke the cork to crumble away in time.

Apply a moderate amount of cork grease to make easier the assembly of the clarinet. (Manuel García)



Excess of cork grease may provoke the cork to crumble away in time. (Yamaha.com)

For that reason, cork grease should only be used when it becomes difficult to slide the joints of the clarinet, unlike new instruments which need to be greased more frequently than ones that have been played for a while.

Likewise, corks must be checked once in a while to see if they need to be replaced. If it is noticed any cork has become excessively soft or has started to crumble from the instrument, it needs to be replaced at a repair shop as soon as possible.

Cloth must be always used to wipe the grease off the corks before returning the instrument to its case. Otherwise, the dust will adhere to the cork since the grease is sticky.


Use always a cloth to wipe the grease off the corks. (Manuel García)

There are also long lasting-premium cork lubricants that provide a smooth tenon joint assembly. They are characterized by preserving joint corks without causing build-up or caking, while a special dropper tip applicator makes dispensing easy to use.


Premium cork lubricants provide a smooth tenon joint assembly in the clarinet. (Manuel García)

Maintenance of keys

Another point to take special care of is the maintenance of keys, since have been precisely designed to allow control over pitch and tone, so it is important to check they are in good working order.

For that reason, it is important to check carefully the screws are tight for each key lever and arm in the clarinet or they may loosen on their own. If any signs of disfigurement are found, the instrument must be taken to a repair shop as soon as possible.

Likewise, it will be important to apply a small amount of key oil to the moving parts of the keys, taking care not to use too much oil.

After applying the oil, it will be necessary to press down each of the keys to allow the oil to spread into the lever mechanism.

If key oil is not applied, in the worst case the keys will get rusty and rust particles will impair the action of the keys. Furthermore, the direct contact between the metal components when the keys are operated will generate noise.


The function of the key oil is to protect the metal surfaces of the keys. (Bacmusicshop.com)


If key oil is not applied, in the worst case keys will get rusty and become wobbly. (Yamaha.com)

Without going further, keys will become wobbly and it will become impossible to close the holes properly.

Finally, any excess oil must be wiped off from the surface, joints, or keys of the clarinet.

On the other hand, jewelry wipes can be used to remove any dirt and tarnish from the keys to look shiny and elegant.

We can use jewelry wipes to remove any dirt and tarnish from the keys. (Manuel García)

With these simple tips, it is possible to carry out basic maintenance of keys by ourselves, which are fundamental for the control over pitch and tone in our instrument.

Spanish version

Mantenimiento de los corchos y las llaves del clarinete

Sin duda que los corchos son uno de los elementos más importantes presentes en el clarinete, ya que estos permiten el correcto ensamblaje de cada una de las partes que componen nuestro instrumento. Es por ello que es necesario realizar un debido mantenimiento para así prolongar su vida útil y evitar graves problemas a futuro.

Generalmente si encontramos que las uniones parecen estar un poco apretadas al ensamblar el clarinete, basta con aplicar una cantidad moderada de grasa para corcho, lo que permitirá que este se ablande y facilite el ensamblaje de las piezas del instrumento. Pese a ello, hay personas que aplican grasa todos los días al instrumento, lo que puede provocar que el corcho se desprenda a lo largo del tiempo.


Basta con aplicar una cantidad regular de grasa para corcho para facilitar el ensamblaje de las piezas del clarinete. (Manuel García)