Monday, May 7, 2012
Flute Care and Maintenance in Transitional Seasons
Ahh. Spring. Here in Delaware, our spring is always lovely. Lots of blossoming shrubs, trees, tulips, iris, all my favorites. April Showers do bring May flowers (although this year it seems May and April have switched places in the showers department.)
And of course the temperatures and humidity fluctuate wildly. One day the heat is on in your house, the next the AC. Just as this stresses you, it stresses your flute. And in the end of spring we have all those concerts, recitals, and auditions. Again, more stress for your instrument.
So how can you avoid the last minute trauma of the flute not working well (or at all) at the big concert? Here are some tried and true tips.
As always, swab out your instrument whenever you play it. If you are practicing for hours, swab it out every 45 minutes or so-just at the time you should be taking your break. Swab the flute out if condensation begins to drip out the end. That much moisture is not good especially now. I make a practice of drying the pads at the end of the day as well. I use the BG France universal pad dryers because the nap on the material seems to cut through that film that can build up and cause noisy pads. This additional maintenance really pays off with much quieter pads.
(There has been a big discussion on the flute list lately about what kind of cigarette paper to use on flute pads. Here's my thought on the matter: You know how when you have a cold and you use lots of tissues and your nose gets raw and red? That is the paper pulp fiber from the tissue irritating the skin. Cigarette paper is also made of paper-just think what it does to the surface of the pad??)
Put your flute in its case and case cover at the end of the day. Remember the heat/AC scenario mentioned above? You don't want your flute to suffer the wildly different atmospheres because that is just what causes problems. You also protect the headjoint cork by storing your flute overnight in its case and cover.
Please don't store your cleaning swab in the case with the flute! That's why case covers have external pockets. Placing the moisture back in the case that you just removed from the case is contrary to what you want to do.
Take the time to gently wipe down the outside of the flute with a microfiber cloth so the flute stays shiny and also dust/dirt free. It is also much more comfortable to play on a clean flute, free of finger prints. The best thing to take that salty residue from sweaty fingers is a slightly moistened tri-fold white paper towel. The old fashioned kind. When I find them, I always help myself to several.
Of course regular maintenance will head off any major problems, especially if you have noticed problems occurring in specific times of the year. I have a flute that always has a problem with the Bb mechanism in the early spring. Knowing that, I have David Kee, the, FPS flute specialist, gives my flute a check up in April, and I end up avoiding a problem.
As always, if your flute is acting strangely, take it to be repaired. The problem will never "just go away." Better to be safe than sorry....