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Know the Clarinet wood

The clarinet is made from grenadilla wood (African Blackwood). It is a well-known type of wood famous for making instruments and furniture. This wood is extremely dense and oily when attached to the tree, and you need to take care and pay attention to how it reacts to changing temperatures after it has been cut, because the oil stops producing once it has. Constant temperature changes can have a negative impact on the wood and that’s why clarinetists need bore oil to protect the wood from cracking.

Why is bore oil for clarinet important?

When you use the clarinet for a while, depending on the climate you live in, the wood tends to dry that can cause cracking. That’s why it is important to carefully break-in brand new clarinets to allow time for the instrument to adapt to the weather and to regulate the moisture absorption before you use it. Through this gradual process, the instrument can become climatized and be able to sustain long period of playing.

How to use the Bore oil

Take your clarinet swab and soak it with bore oil. Afterwards, take your swab and pull through the instrument 2 – 3 times. Only use the bore oil for clarinet.  Do not use olive oil, vegetable oil or any oil that is not specifically for moistening the clarinet bore because it will damage the wood of the instrument and the clarinet pads.

For my suggestion, if you have a friend who is a technician or favorite technician ask him/her to do it for you. It’s the best way.

How often to use the bore oil?

For my opinion it depends on the environment of your living area to how often you use bore oil. For Southeastern Asian and tropical countries, one does not have to oil their instrument as much as someone living in an area that is very cold and dry. The winter season can always be problematic because it is one of the most vulnerable times for the instrument to crack.

When you first play the clarinet, the inside of the clarinet changes temperature as you are blowing air throughout the instrument. If you don’t use clarinet bore oil and you live in a dry climate, the wood is more likely to crack. If you live in a zone that has very dry weather, you need to use the bore oil for once a week for two months. If you live in a humid area, you can oil your instrument once every six months, and for countries with temperate weather just once every three to four months.

How to break-in your clarinet

  1. In the first week, try playing for 15 – 30 minutes maximum, then swab the clarinet completely and make sure the whole instrument is dry.
  2. After the first week, increase the time per day maybe 10 minutes per day until you are playing the instrument regularly.
  3. Make sure the clarinet is at room temperature and that it is not too cold. Do not break-in when the temperature is low because it can cause the clarinet to crack.
  4. Always swab inside the clarinet after use.

General care guide for wooden clarinet

  1. When you open the case check the temperature of the clarinet wood. Is it cold or not? If yes, open the case to allow air circulation or make it warm first. You can use the instrument cloth to make it warm.
  2. Always swab the instrument during playing sessions.
  3. Use clarinet bore oil when necessary.
  4. When finished playing always put the instrument back in its case.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your wood clarinet is well cared for and preserve the life of your valuable instrument. When you first get a new instrument, it is important to make sure that you gradually break in the instrument so that the wood becomes acclimated to being played on and to the climate of where you live. While it may seem time consuming, it is important to take these measures with a new instrument. Clarinets can cost upwards $5,000 and can be expensive to replace, especially if the instrument has multiple cracks. Depending on the severity of the crack and its size, that part of the clarinet would have to be replaced. This is not an ideal situation and that is why it is necessary to follow these guidelines when taking care of your clarinet.

Where you lives plays an important role in how often you need to oil your instrument to prevent it from cracking. It is important to remember to oil your instrument only when necessary. This will also help preserve the wood and the playability of the instrument over its lifespan. If you follow these guidelines, you will be able to play your clarinet for a long time without problems!