These storms in the Indy area this morning got me thinking about the age-old problem that flute players must deal with: how do we keep flute pads in good condition? As you probably know, a flute overhaul and repad is the most expensive maintenance cost for our instruments, and unfortunately, at some point it is inevitable on all flutes, from student to professional. Luckily, there are some simple daily maintenance tips to help prolong your pads.
First of all, the most important maintenance tip is to simply clean inside your instrument. Condensation forms inside flutes whenever they are played. Failure to remove it will cause the flute pads to absorb moisture and swell, usually unevenly. Swollen pads may not cover the tone holes properly, resulting in poorer intonation, articulation and sound quality. If you use a cleaning swab or stick, do not store it in the body of the flute; the moisture in it will be absorbed in the pads. Also, never store the cleaning cloths inside the case of the flute, as the pads could, again, absorb the moisture.
So, in a word, CLEAN YOUR FLUTE. But what if you’re doing this every day, but you still are having problems? Do not fret: flutes require regular maintenance. Flutes are like swiss watches, with many tiny moving parts, and very delicate mechanisms. They are not as forgiving as other woodwinds. Clarinets and saxes have one tenth of the repair needs compared to flutes. The frequent repair visits you make (twice a year for flutists who play a great deal) are quite inexpensive when repair visits are close together. If you wait 2 years or more, the repair bill becomes more expensive and the flute player feels more and more frustrated and doesn’t realize why. Sometimes repair problems arise gradually, and the true problem is mechanical or caused by leaking pads (made from organic materials very much affected by moisture and uneven finger pressure.). The flute player doesn’t notice this gradual problem and compensates by pressing the keys harder and harder, which is very bad for hands and arms. By adhering to a maintenance schedule this can be avoided.
Have repair or maintenance questions that you don’t see covered here? Give Erin a call or an email, or shoot us a comment below!
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