Brr! If you are reading this from anywhere in the Midwest, I sure hope you are somewhere warm as the outside temperature continues to drop. In saying that, I thought this would be a pertinent time to talk about how to care for your instrument during the cold months. By following just a few simple rules of thumb, you can avoid any winter-related issues with your band (or orchestra) instrument.
“If you’re uncomfortable, your instrument is uncomfortable.” I have heard my colleagues in our Encore Orchestral Strings shop say this many times, and it definitely holds true for band players as well. Just as hot or wet weather can wreak havoc on wood and metal instruments, the same is true for cold weather. As the temperature drops, the tubes of metal instruments contract, then expand when it is warmed up again. This process happening repeatedly can cause alignment and adjustment issues, as well as cause any pads to begin to shrink and leak. Wooden instruments during the winter months are extremely susceptible to cracking. If the instrument is cold and you immediately start to play without warming it slowly, the inside of the instrument will heat faster than the outside causing it to expand and crack. Indoor environments can also be very dry while the heat is running during the winter months. This is especially concerning, again, for wooden instruments. Make sure that you have some sort of humidifier or are at least checking the instrument every few days to be certain that it does not dry out.
So what happens if you do need to play and you are stuck with a cold instrument? First, never leave an instrument in the cold car for long periods of time. Also, if able, put the instrument (in its case) inside your coat to and from the car. Once inside, you can remove the instrument from the case and hold it close to your body giving it gradual body heat to slowly warm to room temperature. Finally, take some extra time blowing long notes in your normal range and dynamic to continue to warm the inside of the instrument slowly.
If your instrument is having problems during the cold winter months, don’t hesitate to bring it in to Paige’s Music, where our full-service repair shop can take a look at it and bring it back to perfect playing condition!