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Heatwave Advice for Woodwind Players & Instruments

7th July 2022

Over the next few days we could be in for temperatures exceeding 30 degrees! This kind of environmental change affects our bodies, and the same goes for your woodwind instrument. Here are some ‘hot tips’ from the Dawkes Workshop to help your woodwind instrument keep its cool in hot weather.

General Advice

Tuning Issues: Sound waves actually travel faster through higher air temperatures. As such all wind and brass instruments will play sharper. Be sure to make adjustments as necessary when playing in ensembles and relax your embouchure if required. Use a dedicated instrument tuner such as the Korg CA-50, they are far more accurate than mobile phone apps.

Instrument Storage: Never leave your instrument in a hot car or in direct sunlight. Always store it somewhere with as neutral and consistent temperature as possible. In your home there will be internal rooms which see more sun and are much hotter than others. Keep your instrument in the coolest room of the house.

Cleaning Advice: Wipe down instrument bodies and keywork after playing – our Windcraft Microfibre Cleaning Cloth is ideal. Excessive sweat eats away at external finishes over time and it’s likely we’ll all be sweating more than normal in hot weather!

Playing Advice: Blood vessels expand during hot weather making your body work harder just to function normally. Be aware that your lips and embouchure will fatigue more quickly. You’re more likely to get exhausted and endurance won’t be at full capacity. Be sure to drink plenty of water and keep some close by when practicing as your reed and mouth will dry out more quickly.  

Wooden Instrument Specifics

You may find during spells of warm weather that wooden doors in your house can become stiff inside the frame. This process is called thermal expansion and causes wood to swell due to the increase in humidity. Wooden Clarinets and Oboes are no different and can easily get stuck together during heatwaves. Here are some tips for dealing with swollen tenon joints:

Keep it Cool: If your Clarinet went together easily but will not come apart after playing, try popping it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes. The cooler temperature will encourage the wood to relax a little. Probably not enough to fully resolve the issue, but hopefully enough to allow you to dismantle the instrument and safely put it away. If it’s too tight before you start playing it needs professional adjustment in our workshop.

Careful Handling: Remain mindful of hand position when dismantling – avoid sensitive, exposed keywork on both joints. It’s easy to lose focus of these details when struggling or having to apply excessive force. Use cork grease regularly to moisturise the joint corks. But please note – if the wood swells then cork grease is not the solution.

Need Help?

We are here to help! Book a repair consultation with our workshop in Maidenhead for professional technical support. We are experienced in safe disassembly of seized instruments and providing solutions going forward. An adjustment can be made in the tenons to allow them to fit properly again, and this repair is typically carried out free of charge. If you are unable to visit us, or have any questions please use our contact form.