How to care for your Woodwind instrument

Some of the composers and moderators who worked on our new Woodwind syllabus give their tips on how they care for their instruments:





  • The box is the safest place to keep your instrument, however it doesn’t have to go back in its box every time; once cleaned, leaving it put together can encourage practice, as long as it is not left somewhere where it can get accidentally damaged.

Setting up

  • Your teacher will show you how to put your instrument together when you begin to play.
  • If you are learning the saxophone, bassoon, contrabassoon or bass clarinet, you may consider purchasing a neck strap, speak to your teacher about this. They help to spread the weight of holding the instrument.

Packing away

  • Your instrument needs to be cleaned after every time it is played, to remove the moisture. It is perfectly normal for condensation to gather in the instrument whilst playing. The teacher will show your child how to remove this from the instrument, and this should be done regularly whilst playing and after.
  • When placing your child’s instrument back into its case, make sure it fits all the correct indentations. Do not force your case closed, as it most likely means the instrument isn’t properly placed.


  • A service is needed every 2-3 years, or sooner if the instrument under-performs.
  • Your teacher will show your child how to use the cleaning materials. The teacher will get in touch and recommend products or services if they detect any instrumental faults or missing equipment.
  • Specific advice for flute: If the instrument tarnishes – or if the joints become stiff – a silver cloth should be used to rub the outside, and both sides of the joining parts of the instrument; never add lubricant to flute joints, unlike other woodwind instruments. If the keys start to sound sticky, moisture has got into the pads, so they need to be cleaned and dried using papers; it can be a good idea to also leave the box open overnight in case the environment of the box cushioning is also moist.

This article first appeared on ABRSM.