Quick Tips On Clarinet Care

Daily care and maintenance of your instrument is very important to how well your instrument performs. Watch this quick video below for a few, quick tips on caring for your clarinet.

Rico/D’Addario Alto Sax Reeds


A few months ago we talked about how important it is for a reed player to have a good, well-made reed.  It is one of the most integral parts to their set-up to get the sound they are looking for.  At that time we discussed all of the different reed cuts that Vandoren makes.  This time we are going to look at the other major reed brand, Rico/D’addario.

D’addario purchased Rico in 2004 and in that time they have worked tirelessly to provide the reeds that players need to get their “voice”.   They have invested heavily in new technology to make the reeds better and more consistent than they ever have been before.  D’addario grows 100 percent of their own cane which gives them control of the materials throughout the entire process.  Below we have laid out the different models of Rico/D’addario reeds that we stock and the features of them.

Rico This is the standard orange box that we have seen for years.  This reed is unfiled and has thinner profile and blank.  They are cut from the most flexible grade of cane.  They vibrate easy which make them a great reed for Jazz players and students that are just learning how to play.

Rico Royal– This reed combines the features of the standard Rico reed with a French File.  The filing gives it an increased response, especially in the lower register.  This is designed for an advancing player as it offers an even response across all of the registers. 

Hemke– The Frederick L. Hemke reeds are filed and have a thinner tip and shorter vamp.  This gives the player an easier time in getting a good response out of the reed.  They shorter vamp also provides the player with a darker tone which make it a favorite of many classical players. 

Reserve– A premium, filed reed with a thick blank that provides a rich, warm tone.  It features a heavy spine that promotes dynamic flexibility and exceptional tone in all registers.  It also has a traditional tip thickness for ease of articulation.

La Voz– La Voz reeds are similar to the Rico cut.  It is unfiled and has a thinner profile and blank.  They have a deep powerful tone, due to the stronger spine, which gives greater resistance.

Select Jazz– This reed offers the thickest spine and blank of the D’addario reed line.  They have a traditional tip as well.  A well-defined heart and longer vamp gives the Select Jazz great projection, focus, a vibrant sound, and fast response.  They are offered in both filed and unfiled models.

Cracked Oboe and Clarinet Tips

Most wooden oboes and clarinets are made of granadilla wood. It is a very dense and stable wood and is very carefully aged and treated before it is made into an instrument. However, it is a piece of wood and therefore is subject to the will of a natural organic product.

It is often commented on in professional circles that it is not a matter of “if” your instrument is going to crack but a matter of “when it will” crack. More so with oboes than clarinets.

At this point the instrument is not ruined ordefective, it just needs repaired. Something we do all the time. We seal the crack up using one of several different methods and that usually takes care of the problem. However it is also important to note that sometimes a crack will re-appear after it has been repaired at which time we would repeat the same process.

What can you do to prevent a crack (Remeber, expect it to crack sooner or later. It’s wood.)

  1. Take precautions. Do not keep wood instruments in extreme cold or hot conditions. (Mostly talking about your car here.) When getting ready to play, let the instrument adjust to the room temperature. Then blow some warm air through the instrument before starting to play it.
  2. Proper maintenance. Swab the bore out after playing every time. Use a good quality absorbent swab and do not leave it inside the bore of the instrument. Have your instrument checked annually for need of bore oil. Special note: too much oil is worse for the instrument than not enough. It is used very sparingly.

Here is an excerpt from Yamaha on care of your Yamaha clarinet or oboe. It pretty much applies across the board on all brands and types of wooden instruments.

Wood care for your Yamaha clarinet or oboe

Yamaha clarinets and oboes are made from African Grenadilla, carefully aged and treated, then crafted into fine musical instruments. Grenadilla is one of the hardest, most dense and stable woods available and is the wood of choice for manufacturing the best clarinets and oboes. Yamaha employs a combination of some of the most innovative, modern machinery and traditional hand craftsmanship to make woodwinds that are highly regarded for their consistent quality, tone and intonation. Beyond maintenance procedures used for plastic oboes and clarinets, these are some steps we recommend to properly "break-in" and maintain your carefully crafted wood instrument.

1. Avoid playing the instrument when it is very cold to the touch! It needs to warm up to the air temperature of the room or outdoor environment, gradually if possible, before warm air is blown through it! Holding the instrument under a jacket, or just opening the case 20-30 minutes in the room before playing can be helpful.

2. When playing for longer periods of time, swab out more frequently a "handkerchief-type" swab can often do a better job than other types. It is important that the swab is not overly tight when pulled through. Any attempt to force a tight swab through should be avoided before the bottom end of the swab disappears into the joint, so that it can be carefully backed out.

3. Generally, the treated wood of a new Yamaha instrument or joint doesn’t need further treating, but if the bore (interior surface) gets a very dull, dry look, careful application of bore oil can help seal the wood to prevent excessive moisture absorption-another potential cause of cracking. An overly dry bore, with many open-grain surfaces can actually play like the bore was a bit oversized, changing tone and intonation characteristics. A conservative approach to oiling is recommended-both in the amount of oil applied, and the frequency. Excessive oil can gum-up pads and affect tone. Apply a few drops of good quality bore oil on a soft stick-type swab, or a handkerchief swab (just for that purpose) and draw it through the joint, repeating the process until the bore has a uniform sheen and is not overly wet. If a stick swab is used, open any closed keys and blow a focused airstream into all tone holes to blow out any excess lint. A dry bore can be treated a couple of times in a six month period, and then once or twice a year if needed. Some instruments have a more highly polished bore that needs little or no oiling. Some players have the bore polished with beeswax or furniture wax-although this can affect tone, as can excessive oiling.

These steps will provide proper maintenance for your wood Yamaha oboe or clarinet, and help prevent surface cracking. In the unlikely event that a crack develops, it is not as serious a problem as you first might think. Many artist/performers and teachers play on instruments that have properly repaired cracks-some even feel that it "frees-up" the sound, and causes the instrument to play better!

Fine wood instruments should be treated with respect, but also played and enjoyed for the warm tonal characteristics they yield. It is very important that good care and maintenance is provided. In addition to owner care, this involves regular visits to a reputable woodwind technician-much like what is involved in maintaining a car. This can be several times a year for some students and frequent players, or as little as once every few years. Worn pads should be replaced with quality pads as needed, to ensure good tone hole covering. Key openings and adjustments (key regulation) need to be checked/adjusted periodically. With these things in mind, your Yamaha Woodwind instrument will both provide years of musical use and enjoyment, and also maintain its value.

Summer Time Playing Tips

paiges-music-private-teachers14As we are closing in on the end of another school year, we have a tendency to want to take the summer off from anything school related. When it comes to playing an instrument you have to resist the urge to do that.   You should make a plan to practice and stick with it so that you don’t lose any of the skills that you have taken the whole school year to learn.

The great thing about doing this is that you, as the player, get to decide what you want to practice and play. If there is a popular song you have wanted to learn, get the music for it and teach yourself. If there are scales that you need to know, you can learn them at your own pace. The beauty of setting your own practice schedule in the summer is that it is all about what you want to do and learn.

If practicing by yourself is not your thing, then take the opportunity to take a few lessons from a local private teacher.   Here is a link to our private teacher list: https://www.paigesmusic.com/paiges/run?id=6&_tid=418&lvid=485. You may find someone that will challenge you and help you learn more in just a couple of months than you could teach yourself in a year.

Ultimately, you just need to make sure you get your instrument out and play. Whether it is by yourself, with friends, or with a private teacher, you just need to keep your chops up so that you will be ready to go as soon as fall rolls around. And if you have time, make sure you stop by and see us at Paige’s Music!

Oiling Rotary Valves

rotor-valve-cleanRotary valves require thicker oil than piston valves. The same reasons for using synthetic oil on pistons also apply to rotary valves. The oil we use comes in a bottle with a syringe type applicator. Unfortunately, even this is not very helpful. To properly oil them they need to be taken apart. If you play an instrument with rotary valves and are not handy with a screwdriver and mallet, tiny screws and bits of string, your ability to oil the valves is pretty limited.

The pictures will help you understand why.

A rotor valve has two bearing surfaces. Both must be lubricated for the valve to work properly. The bearing surfaces of the rotor are underneath the bearing plate (underneath the cap) and buried at the bottom of the casing just under the stop arm bumpers. Right away, it is easy to see that getting oil into those places is not for the feint at heart. Without taking the valve completely apart, it is possible to put a few drops of oil on the bearing surfaces. Take the cap off and moving the finger lever, you will see the rotor moving. Put a few drops of oil there.


Then, turn the instrument over and put a few drops in the crack between the stop arm (the part that moves and holds the string) and the body of the horn. Wiggle the valve lever to spread the oil.


That is all you can safely do. There is a third place that oil is needed: between the rotor and the casing. This area is not reachable except by putting oil down the slide tubes. Dirt and grease sliding down into the rotor ports will bind the valve just as it does with piston valves.

As you can see, this is a bit difficult and at best is not all that effective. Getting the oil to where it is needed is quite a challenge. The truth is, it is best to leave lubricating rotor valves to someone confident in taking them apart.

If you’d like to schedule your instrument for servicing, we’d love to help.  Please contact us at repair@paigesmusic.com or by calling 1-800-337-0471.  As always, please let us know if you have any questions.

Summer Is Almost Here – Go See A DCI Show!

Summer is almost here and school is almost over. If you’re looking for some awesome entertainment that will blow you away, you should check out DCI or Drum Corps International.

From modest beginnings more than three decades ago, Drum Corps International (DCI) has developed into a powerful, nonprofit, global youth activity with far-reaching artistic, educational and organizational influence. Through the annual DCI Tour and more than 35 World Championships in 17 North American cities, Drum Corps International provides entertainment to millions through live performances and nationally-televised events. Drum Corps International is Marching Music’s Major League™.

Student’s ages 13-22 travel from all around the world to participate in DCI every summer. Each year more than 8,000 students audition for about 3,500 positions in the top-tier member corps and participate in about 100 events all across North America.

Fortunately for those of us living in Indiana, there are a couple of shows hosted here every year. Including the DCI World Championships hosted by Lucas Oil Stadium on August 6-8. If you get the chance, you should try and make it to one of these shows.

June 15 – DCI Dress Rehearsal – Ben Davis High School, Indianapolis

June 17 – DCI Tour Premiere – Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis

June 24 – Drums On The Ohio – Reitz Bowl, Evansville

June 26 – DCI Central Indiana – Ball State University, Muncie

June 27 – Pageant of Drums – Ames Field, Michigan City

July 8 – DCI Fort Wayne – Fort Wayne

August 3-4 – DCI Open Class World Championships, Ames Field, Michigan City

August 6-8 – DCI World Championships – Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis

View the complete schedule.

The 2014 World Champions were the Blue Devils from Concord, CA. You can view a short clip of their winning show below.

For more information about Drum Corps International, please visit their website.

Have a great summer!


Oiling Piston Valves

That your valves need oil is not in question. If it moves, it should be lubricated. Today we’re talking about piston valves (like on a trumpet) and the different types of valve oils. Let’s get started.

There are hundreds of brands of valve oil available. Some are synthetic others are petroleum based and each has its own advantages. For many years petroleum based oils were the standard. They smelled bad and stained your clothing, but worked fine. Some were more refined than others and some had added smells – everything from chocolate to cinnamon! Some even had additives to make them smoother and slicker. However, all petroleum based oils have a tendency to dry out and leave the additives behind to foul your valves.

For the majority of our school music instrument repairs we have chosen to use a synthetic oil. It does not smell, does not stain your clothing, is long lasting and works fine. Unlike petroleum products, it comes in thin (for new valves) regular (for student instruments) and heavy for instruments that have worn valves). We think for most players and students that synthetic oil is the best choice. We use Hetman and Accent oils in the shop for this reason and is what is provided in our starter packs.

You might be wondering if there is a right or wrong way to get the oil from the bottle onto the piston. There are many ways to do this: Some right; some not so right.

Generally, the best way to oil your valves without taking the undo risk of dropping them is just to lift them part way out of the casing and apply a liberal amount of oil to the part with the holes in it (called ports). Then you can turn the pistons around a few times and put them gently back into the casings. (See video below) If you are careful, the guide will “click” back into place and you are ready to go. If you were not careful and the valve stays misaligned, air will not go through the horn. If that happens, there is no need to panic. The valves are in the right casings, you just have to turn them half way around and again listen for the “click”. The secret is not to take the pistons out and lay them on a table or you lap. This is when pistons can get damaged or out of order and when re-installed, the instrument will not play.

Our advice is to stick with taking them half way out and applying the oil exactly where it is needed on the pistons and casings.

If you have any questions about caring for your instrument, please call 1-800-382-1099.  We’d be happy to help!

May Year-End Sale

yye-web-banner-landing-2015Our annual Year-End Sale is going now though the end of the month. If your student is going to continue in band or orchestra next school year, then this is a great time to bring in your student-level instrument and exchange it for an advanced-level instrument.

We’re offering a FREE month on all “step-up” instruments as long as you make the exchange before May 30th.  This means you’ll get to use the new instrument for an entire month for free and your first payment will be due at the end of that time.

How do I exchange my beginning instrument for a step-up instrument?

There are 2 Convenient Options:

1. Visit Our Store
By visiting our store in Indianapolis, you can complete the exchange in a single visit. This is certainly a very efficient method, allowing you to carefully audition the model your director recommends.

2. Call Our Store
If visiting the store is not convenient for you, please call the store at 1.800.382.1099. Our retail staff will do their best to provide other options.

Learn more about our Premier Rental Program here.

If you have any questions about the exchange process, please call 1-800-382-1099 or email our sales staff at sales@paigesmusic.com.