Flute Care in Extreme Weather! January 11 2018
Flute Care in Extreme Weather!
Here in Delaware, we are enjoying a few days of a January Thaw. Welcome relief from two weeks of very cold weather.
The winter months are especially difficult for our flutes because of the frigid temperatures and the very low humidity in our homes and work places. Did you know that the average concert hall, with the lights up, has the same humidity level as Death Valley? As the lights remain on, the temperature rises, so that high heat and low humidity wreak havoc on the pads. Conversely, in frigid temperatures, some of the glues used to hold corks, felts, and shims in place can become brittle and fail, which will put the flute out of regulation. Keeping your instrument insulated from drastic temperature and humidity changes can significantly lessen emergency trips to the Flute Doctor.
How to protect your flute from this devastation? Invest in a good case cover and insulated "gig" bag to reduce the impact of dramatic atmospheric changes. Think of it as the same kind of layering you would do for yourself in winter. I recommend the Wiseman case as both case and cover because of the insulating properties it offers. For those of you with French Cases, the Altieri case covers afford wonderful protection. Fashion minded? Dome makes beautiful case covers and an elegant City Bag. It easily converts to a back pack. Your flute(s) and piccolo are stored in chutes, music is stored vertically in a separate space. Elegant!
For a more economical and practical gig bag, you really can't beat the Altieri Deluxe Double bag, which can be used as a back pack, or with a shoulder strap. These bags are superbly insulated and will keep your precious flute and piccolo free from the stress of difficult weather conditions.
Now we are going to talk about flute hygiene. The flute must go in its case at the end of the day. Make sure you swab it out frequently during your practice sessions, at least every 45 minutes, which is the frequency of breaks you should take to protect yourself from injury. Thoroughly swab it out before putting it away at the end of the day, cleaning up against the cork plate with your swab. Flute Serviettes and the new Helix Wand are superior in this area. As carefully as you clean your flute, don't worry if droplets remain in the headjoint. They will help keep the humidity at the right place while the flute is inside the case. If you are like me, and practice throughout the morning, and teach in the afternoon, keeping the flute out is a very practical way to go.
Let's talk about the cold and flu season and your relationship with your flute. When you have recovered from whatever nasty bug you have picked up, take a few minutes to rinse your headjoint out with Listerine. Avoid flavored or sweetened mouthwashes!!! You want good, plain old-fashioned Listerine, like my Granny used. (Really) Rinse out the headjoint over a sink, run warm water through it, and then swab it out carefully. Take a Q-tip, dip it in the Listerine, and very gently swab the Riser (the piece of metal that attaches the lip plate to the tube.) Is your Riser 14 or 18 Karat Gold? DO NOT use any pressure from the Q-tip on the riser. The metal is very soft, and you don't want to alter its shape in any way.
Another valuable addition to your flute maintenance program is a flute peg. Not only will you avoid scratching or denting the flute by lying it down on a surface (reducing its value) pegging your flute is the best way to keep moisture away from the pads and at the same time keeping it available for you to pick it up on an as-needed basis. Find a studio peg that has a weighted base and a solid peg, lined, like the Lyricraft pegs. These pegs are decorative as well: they multi-task! Hercules makes very sturdy pegs with heavy weight legs as the base. Both companies make alto, base, and double/triple/quad stands.
Maintenance by a qualified repair technician on a regular basis will ensure your flute will remain stable during weather events. Make sure this person is your friend! You want them to respond immediately if the unthinkable happens. Here is a simple formula for maintenance: 1 hour or less daily practice, once a year maintenance will be fine. 2 hours a day=twice a year maintenance. 3 hours=3 times and so on until 4 hours. This way you will avoid the last-minute disaster right before the big concert or audition. Think of it this way: if you are under stress for an event, so is your flute.
Just wait till Spring! Lots of advice for that seasonal change will be forthcoming....
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