The flute is an amazing instrument used in bands and orchestras all over the world. But what do you do after playing the flute? Do you just let it sit on a stand? Do you immediately put in it’s case? Can you make the best recommendations for your flute students? Today we will identify some recommended steps for post performance maintenance of your flute.
Take it Apart
When you or your students stop playing, whether it is a performance, a rehearsal or just practice, the moisture in a flute condenses. This creates a wetness inside the flute that can potentially harm the longevity of its usable life. By drying the flute it will allow the pads to last longer and prolong the useable life of the flute.
You are going to need to dry each section of the flute separately. Start by disassembling the instrument and placing it in it’s case. In some cases in which a flute may be new or old with dents, the instrument may be difficult to take apart. In this case be sure not to grip the rods and pull so hard you might damage it. Be careful not to use oil or grease and never ever use tools like pliers to pull it apart.
In this case find a towel and wrap it around the flute. Carefully try to pull the flute apart with the towel. If it still does not work then bring it to a flute technician.
Use a Cloth
Carefully consider what type of cloth you use to dry a flute off. Take your cleaning rod and wrap a lint free cotton cloth around it. These cloths do not to be fancy. You can find one at your local music store or can even use an ordinary handkerchief. Next stick one of the corners of the cloth through the hole opening of the rod and wrap it around itself.
Once you have wrapped the cloth around the cleaning rod, it is time to start to clean the footjoint. Start by pushing the rod and cloth through the footjoint a few times. This movement should be done in the same direction. As a word of caution, moving the rod and cloth in back and forth movement may damage the pads.
Our next step is to dry the body of the flute. With this section of the instrument you will want to push the cleaning rod all of the way in. You will want to do this so that you can pull it out from the other end. Worry not if the rod will not reach to the end of the body of the flute. Just use your finger to push it just a bit further. In addition, it is best that you do not hold the flute body in a way that puts pressure on the rods and keys. This may bend them. Rather always hold the instrument on its non-keyed end.
Finally, it is time to dry the headjoint. Do this by pulling the cloth a but further through the hole of the rod which is often called its eye. Then stick the cloth end of the rod into the headjoint, pull it out a little and carefully pull it out. You will want to rotate the rod but it must be done in a gentle manner. It is recommended that you repeat this process. Remember to pull, push then twist.
Repeat this process until the cloth reaches the stopper. This is the cork portion of the headjoint. Be careful not to push the stopper out of place. If you do this it will disrupt the intonation of of the instrument.
Consider all of the germs and micro-organisms that live in your instrument’s wet places. Be sure to wash the cloth every so often. After awhile you will notice it will get noticeably dirty.
The effectiveness of a cloth that has been washed multiple times is actually more absorbent than a new cloth. Consider this in your maintenance schedule.
It is IMPORTANT not to store the cloth with the flute. This means inside the case and the instrument itself.
You can also purchase different sized swabs at your local music stores. These serve as an alternative material for cleaning out your flute.
In some instances you should consider using silk rather than cotton to clean your flute. This would make more sense if your flute is made out of wood.
Saving Your Pads
This whole concept of cleaning your flute after you play is a learned habit designed to save your pads. After you dry your flute, consider inserting and using a pad saver to absorb any unwanted moisture. These are like long fluffy rod-like devices. Unfortunately, the drawback to these devices is that they may leave unwanted fibers within the flute. As a result, tiny leaks may form. Instead of using pad savers as a replacement for a rod and cloth, consider using it in combination of all the elements.
Remember the more often you dry your flute the better chance that your flute will last longer. It doesn’t matter if you played your flute for only a minute or an hour, moisture always condenses in the instrument.
When dealing with the outside of the flute, consider wiping it down with a soft, dry, lint-free cloth and NEVER use a silver polish cloth. Remember the daily objective is to clean, dry and remove fingerprints from the instrument.
In conclusion, the flute is a beautiful instrument that needs regular, daily maintenance. Directors and flautists need to understand that the life expectancy of their instrument is directly related to the condition of the instrument’s pads. Moisture in the instrument is a necessary element that must be monitored. Proper instrumental care will ensure a long and happy flute life.