Brr! If you’re reading this from anywhere in the Midwest, I sure hope you’re somewhere warm–the mercury is dropping as we speak! 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 snafus with your flute or piccolo.
“If you’re uncomfortable, your instrument is uncomfortable.” I have heard my colleagues in Encore strings say this many times, and it definitely holds true for woodwind players as well. Just as hot or wet weather can wreak havoc on wood, metal, and pads, the same is true for cold weather. As the temperature drops, the metal tube of flutes contracts, then expands when it is warmed up again, either by going inside or being played. This process happening repeatedly can cause alignment and adjustment issues, as well as cause the pads to begin to shrink and leak.
Indoor environments are also very dry while the heat is running during the winter months. This is especially concerning for wood piccolos. Make sure that you have some sort of humidifier or are at least checking the instrument every few days to make sure that it does not dry out too badly.
So what happens if you do need to play and you’re stuck with a cold instrument? When the flute goes cold in temperature the pitch of the flute goes flat from the cold.To correct this, make sure you are prepping the instrument by into the flute slowly several measures before beginning to play. If you are still very flat, even when the flute is pre-warmed, push in the headjoint 1 mm. at a time until you can easily play in tune with the prevailing pitch, using your normal tone and dynamic range.
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!
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