When working with students who are selecting their upgraded instrument, I often come across questions or concerns relating to the care and upkeep of flutes. Some students come back frustrated after just a few months with a brand new instrument that is having problems that can be avoided with some simple but consistent care routines. Here are some of the most common questions and their answers.
1. How often should I be cleaning my flute?
Your flute should be, at the very minimum, swabbed out after every single playing session. Moisture that is allowed to remain in the instrument wreaks havoc on the key pads and can cause them to erode or become unseated very quickly. Repads are expensive–usually $250 at the bare minimum. Instruments that are covered by our rental package or our annual service policy will be repadded if a repair technician deems it necessary, but it’s better to prevent this from occurring.
2. What should I be using to clean my flute?
A soft, cotton cloth the size of a handkerchief (no bigger or thicker) is appropriate for cleaning the inside of the instrument. The flutes supplied by Paige’s and the IFS come with a cleaning rod to thread this cloth through. The outside of the flute should be polished with a supplied microfiber or soft cloth. Silver-treated cloths are not recommended, as the chemicals can harm the pads.
3. What about silver polish? Can I use that to shine my flute?
No! No oils, liquids, or other polishing or treating materials should be used anywhere near your flute. Unlike brass instruments, woodwind instruments are very susceptible to moisture damage–again, because of the key pads. If your flute has serious tarnish buildup, bring it in to our repair shop for a cleaning estimate.
4. How do I use a PadSaver?
PadSavers are a useful tool, but only if they are used correctly. I have seen instances where students are perplexed at the fact that their pads are worn and damaged, since they have been using one. It turns out that they used the PadSaver to swab out their instrument, then immediately put it back in the body of the instrument for storage. This defeats the purpose and can often do more damage than not cleaning out the instrument at all. The PadSaver should either be used to clean the instrument and then stored outside of the case, or the instrument should be cleaned out using another method, and then the PadSaver stored in the body of the instrument.
5. My chin turns black/breaks out/is irritated when I play my flute. What can I do?
There could be several different issues at play. If your chin appears black or green after playing, but there is no irritation, it is most likely the metal interacting with makeup or the surface of your skin. For example, my chin turns black when I wear makeup, but does not if my face is clean. I simply rub it away with a damp towel when I’m done playing. If there is irritation present, or the silver is beginning to come away from the mouthpiece, there may be an allergy or a skin pH issue. The IFS sells lip plate patches that are safe for the surface of the flute and provide a buffer between the metal and the skin. There are also some flute models that have a gold-plated lip plate instead of the standard silver.
What other questions do you have, dear readers? Leave a comment or email me!
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