School-Owned Instruments

The School of Music maintains an extensive collection of musical instruments for checkout and use by members of the music faculty and students enrolled in our courses and performing ensembles. As with other items we use in the course of our daily lives, musical instruments must be cared for properly and cleaned regularly. Each instrument in the Department's collection receives a thorough inspection at the conclusion of the academic year. Annually, thousands of dollars are spent to clean, adjust, and return instruments to full playing condition.

Instrument Care & Handling

The School of Music instrument collection represents a significant investment in our students and programs. With proper care these instruments will provide many years of trouble free service, needing only minor adjustments.

The school expects students and faculty who borrow from the school's collection to understand the proper care and maintenance of the instruments. Simple care and maintenance on school instruments should be performed daily. More serious maintenance and repairs are left only to trained professionals.

The following tips are provided for students in instrument methods classes and others using school-owned instruments with which they may be unfamiliar. These recommendations will help to maintain school instruments in good working order.

Flute/Piccolo

  1. When removing the flute from its case never pick it up by its keys. Remove it by the ends where there are no keys.
  2. Put the flute together with a slow back-and-forth twisting motion, never push or pull the flute when assembling or disassembling this can cause the instrument to become bent at the joints.
  3. Each time you put the flute together a small amount of debris will build-up on the tenons (this is normal). This can make it difficult to assemble. Always wipe the tenons (joints) with a soft cloth before assembling.
  4. The use of lubricants on the tenons is not recommended - this can cause damage over time. The only exception to this rule is on some piccolos and wood flutes that have cork tenon joints. You should apply a small amount of cork grease to these joints, as needed, to aid in assembly.
  5. When finished playing, use a cleaning rod with an absorbent, lint-free (silk, cotton) cloth to swab out the inside of all parts to remove moisture. Carefully wipe the outside of the flute to remove oils or perspiration left from handling the instrument.
  6. Always store the flute in its case when not in use, this helps prevent damage and aids in keeping the instrument from tarnishing. Do not place anything in the case that can press on the flute, this can bend keys.

Clarinet

  1. When removing the clarinet from its case never pick it up by the keys. Remove it by the ends where there are no keys.
  2. When putting the clarinet together, first apply a small amount of cork grease to the tenon corks.
  3. Put the clarinet together with a slow back-and-forth twisting motion, never push or pull the clarinet when assembling or disassembling this can damage the tenon or tear the cork.
  4. Assemble the second joint and bell first, then add the first joint. Pay close attention to the bridge key when assembling the first and second joints. Then add the barrel and the mouthpiece.
  5. When tightening the screws on the mouthpiece ligature, take care not to over tighten as this can cause the screw to break.
  6. When finished playing, pull a cleaning swab through all parts of the clarinet to remove moisture. Carefully wipe the outside of the instrument and keys to remove oils or perspiration left from handling the instrument.
  7. Always store the clarinet in its case when not in use, this helps prevent damage and aids in keeping the instrument clean. Do not place anything in the case that can press on the clarinet, this can bend keys.

Oboe

  1. Attach the bell to the bottom joint. If the instrument has a low Bb key, hold it closed while assembling the joints.
  2. Line up the posts so that the bridge keys will close the Bb key.
  3. Assemble the upper and lower joints, holding the top of the upper joint and the bottom of the lower joint. Align the main key posts rather than the bridge keys.
  4. To assemble cork joints, gently twist the two parts until they come together. A small amount of lanolin or cork grease may be applied occasionally to make the assembly easier.
  5. Hold the upper joint, avoiding any keys, and insert the reed all the way.
  6. When finished playing, pull a cleaning swab through all parts of the oboe to remove moisture. Carefully wipe the outside of the instrument and keys to remove oils or perspiration left from handling the instrument.

Bassoon

  1. Grease all tenons sparingly (even the bocal). Some bassoons may have string on the tenons. You can still grease that if needed.
  2. Start with the boot of bassoon and always rest it on the floor when assembling.
  3. The wing joint and the bass joint can be attached together or separately. Most bassoonists will insert the wing joint first, then the bass joint with bell attached. Bassoons will have a pin holding these two pieces together. Be sure to undo the pin if needed to ease joints into the holes.
  4. BE VERY CAREFUL of whisper key mechanism/bridge key. This has to be aligned properly for the low register to work.
  5. Be careful when attaching the bell. Press the pad of the low Bb key to avoid damaging the key mechanism.
  6. Seat strap and or neck strap should be adjusted so bocal comes to the player's mouth. Students should not have to bend or crane to get to the bocal.
  7. Always grasp the bocal around the curve. Grabbing on to the reed end of the crook can result in a crack or dent. The bocal is a VERY delicate and expensive component of the bassoon and should always be handled with the utmost care.
  8. Line up vent hole on bocal with the whisper key.
  9. When finished playing, pull a cleaning swab through all parts of the bassoon to remove moisture.

Saxophone

  1. When removing the saxophone from its case never pick it up by the keys. Remove it by picking it up by the bell.
  2. When assembling the saxophone be sure to wipe the neck joint and inside of the receiver with a soft cloth to make it easier to assemble.
  3. Apply a small amount of cork grease to the mouthpiece cork to help the mouthpiece move into position.
  4. When tightening the screws on the ligature, take care not to over tighten as this can cause the screw to break.
  5. When finished playing, pull a cleaning swab through the saxophone to remove moisture. Carefully wipe the outside of the instrument and keys to remove oils or perspiration left from handling the instrument.
  6. Always store the saxophone in its case when not in use, this helps prevent damage and aids in keeping the instrument clean. Do not place books or folders in the case as this can bend keys.

Trumpet (And Other Valve Instruments)

  1. Valves on brass instruments need to be lubricated on a regular basis. To do this: (a) Unscrew the valve cap and pull the valve out about half way. (b) Apply a drop of valve oil to the wide part of the valve.(c) Push the valve back into position making sure that it is lined up correctly. (Note): The valve has a guide that keeps it in place. To check for correct alignment gently try to turn the valve. If it does not turn it is lined up. If it turns keep turning the valve till you hear a slight "click" and the valve stops turning.
  2. Students using school horns should check with their instructor(s) for the proper care of rotary valves.
  3. Occasionally a mouthpiece will become stuck in the instrument. If this happens don't try force to remove it - this can cause major damage to the instrument. Take it to a repair shop or music store to have it removed. Most shops do not charge for this service.
  4. When finished playing, make sure you remove any excess moisture from the inside of the instrument by opening the water keys and blowing through the instrument. Carefully wipe the outside of the instrument to remove oils or perspiration left from handling the instrument.
  5. Always store the instrument in its case when not in use, this helps prevent damage and aids in keeping the instrument clean. Do not place books or folders in the case, this can bend slides and cause valve problems.

Trombone

  1. Great care is needed when handling the trombone. The smallest bump or dent in the slide can cause problems with its proper movement. Due to the precision needed in adjustment of the slide, repairs are time consuming and costly so... Be Careful!
  2. The slide needs to be lubricated on a regular basis. Apply a small amount of slide oil or cream to the boot area of the slide as needed. The boot is at the very end of the slide, so be careful not to allow the slide to slip off the trombone.
  3. Occasionally a mouthpiece will become stuck in the instrument. If this happens don't try force to remove it - this can cause major damage to the instrument. Take it to a repair shop or music store to have it removed. Most shops do not charge for this service.
  4. After you finish playing make sure you remove any excess moisture from the inside of the trombone by opening the water key and blowing through the instrument. Carefully wipe off the outside of the trombone to remove oils or perspiration left from handling the instrument.
  5. Always store your trombone in its case when not in use, this helps prevent damage and aids in keeping the instrument clean. Do not place books or folders in the case, this can bend slides and cause problems.

String Instruments

  1. Always keep the instrument in its case or bag, and stored properly, when not in use.
  2. Avoid rapid temperature changes. Do not store the instrument in extreme hot or cold environments.
  3. After you finish playing remove any rosin and hand oils from the instrument with a soft cloth. Don't let rosin buildup on the instrument; remove it after each playing. It is very difficult to remove rosin if left on the instrument for any length of time.
  4. Strings will last nearly twice as long if you wipe them each time after playing. This will also reduce the amount of rosin the builds up on the fingerboard.
  5. Keep an eye on the bridge. As you tune the instrument the strings tend to pull the top of the bridge toward the fingerboard. If the bridge tips too much it may fall over. This might break the bridge or even crack the top. If the bridge falls the soundpost inside the instrument may also fall over. The backside of the bridge (side toward the tailpiece) should be at a right angle to the top and the feet of the bridge should touch the top uniformly. If your bridge tilts take your instrument to a shop and have them straighten it. Unless it is done correctly you could break the bridge.
  6. Be sure that the pegs turn freely with minimum pressure toward the peg box. Over time the pegs will go out of round and start to slip. If this happens they will need to be refitted for proper operation. The dry conditions of Las Vegas might cause the pegs to shrink, causing slipping. Never forces a peg into the peg box if it slips, and if it is stuck do not force it to turn. You could break the peg or the peg box under these conditions. Take the instrument to a repair shop and have them correct the problem.
  7. Basses and some cellos have mechanical tuners and a drop of light machine oil should be applied to all bearing surfaces about every 6 months.
  8. Do not bang the tip or drop the bow as this can break the head.
  9. Keep the bow away from extreme heat. This can warp the bow.
  10. Always loosen the hair when you are not using the bow. Otherwise, over time this can warp the bow and stretch the hair.
  11. Keep the bow stick clean by wiping off excess rosin and any perspiration after each use.