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Care and Maintenance of Your Flute

Assembly

* Always consult your teacher if you are not sure how to put together your instrument.
* NEVER force the parts of your instrument together.
* When assembling the flute only hold the non-keyed parts (the barrel and the bottom of the foot).
* NEVER use lubrication of any kind.

Maintenance

* Wipe off your fingerprints after every use. A clean, non-treated cotton cloth will work the best. If you do choose to use a treated polishing cloth be sure that it is for a SILVER finished instrument. Using the wrong cloth could cause scratches.


* Clean out the moisture from your instrument with an absorbent cloth or swab after every use. Clean the inside of all 3 sections of the flute. Removing the moisture from your flute before putting it away each time will prolong the life of the pads.


* Always store your instrument in its case with the lid closed when not in use. This will prevent any excess tarnishing and lower the risk of damage.


* Do not put anything (including sheet music) inside the case with your instrument that does not belong. Closing the case with extra contents can cause damage to the delicate keys. Also, make sure that all the latches are securely closed before transporting your instrument.

Flute Care tips

To keep a new flute in perfect condition, please take note of the following care tips:


 

Flute Care tips 

If you suspect that the flute is not working properly, even in the smallest way, immediately locate a reputable flute technician (ask the top teachers and flute professionals in your area whom THEY trust with THEIR flutes for repair.). Many new flute owners assume that the flute is in perfect working order when they buy it. Over time they also may assume that playing problems they're experiencing (notes that sound fuzzy, buzzing noises coming from the mechanical parts, difficulty playing quickly etc.) are their own fault, not the flute's. Flutes are like swiss watches, with many tiny moving parts, and very delicate mechanisms. They are not as forgiving as other woodwinds. Often difficulties 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.) It is VERY normal to take a flute to be inspected and oiled every six to twelve months. If you play the flute two hours or more a day, every six months is normal. Repairs done regularly, and the regular care by a flute repair professional make playing the flute well MUCH easier. Do not assume you can fix it yourself, and do not assume that you are the problem. Often it is very inexpensive to make frequent short visits to the repair shop, rather than wait until there are multiple and more severe problems with the flute.

Read more on this topic in an article called "Is it the flute or is it me?" so you can learn more about testing your flute prior to a repair visit.

To prevent unecessary repairs in a brand new flute, read on:

1. Always swab the flute out to dry after playing. This protects  the pads from wear, and allows them to last up to 10 years between  re-paddings.

 2. Always handle the flute only by the smooth sections and never grip the moving parts.
Twist the flute together, or take apart holding the smooth sections where your  hand pressure will *not* bend the mechanism and keys.

 3. Polish skin oils off with a micro-fiber cloth. (sold in music shops, can be laundered/ironed. Wicks up oils.)
Note: excessive polishing can wear off gold and silver plating over several years, so polish gently. Avoid the use of special flute polishing cloths (polish dust impregnated) more than once or twice a year. Remove all residue with clean cloth so it cannot travel to pad surfaces.

 4. Do not use household silver polish as it will gradually destroy pad surfaces  and the mechanism inside the rods and levers.
 The flute can be re-polished and dipped remove tarnish every 1-2 years when you send it to an expert technician for a "Clean, Oil and Adjust". Keys and mechanism must be removed to clean tubing.

 5. Always put the flute in its case when not practicing or playing.  Laying the flute on a soft surface such as a bed or couch, where it can get sat on, or leaving it on a chair or in
an area where others may knock it down accidentally can lead costly repairs.

 6. Avoid scratching or denting the embouchure area especially!
Other areas can be un-dented or buffed, but not the embouchure area.

 7. Avoid leaving the flute in a hot or cold car. Both heat and cold can  affect the mechanics and pads, and cause mechanical playing problems.

 8. Avoid polishing the flute roughly and accidently buffing and abrading the pad surfaces beneathe the keys. Pad skins are very fragile. To read more about how to prevent pad problems see below under
"sticky pads".

9. Avoid trying to clean between the keys where springs and corks can  become unhooked or caught during zealous cleanings. Use blown air to remove dust or fibers from under rods and between keys or a soft string, or tiny paint brush.

10. Avoid animal hair where you place your flutecase or flute. A professional flute company that cleans and oils hundreds of flutes a year (Cincinnati Fluteworks) published a care sheet once that claimed that 90% of what they find binding the moving parts of the flute's rods was "pet hair". The fineness of the hair is what allows it to wrap around the inside of the rods so well as the keys go up and down If you *do* get pet hair inside your flute case, vacuum it out and then blow air to clean between the keys of your flute.

 11. You can put pieces of anti-tarnish strip in a flute case, replacing them every 3-6  months for maximum silver whiteness. The black paper strips are called: 3M Anti-tarnish strips and should be available in hardware stores; sold for household silverware protection. They absorb the sulpher that turns silver black.
If you can't find them, order from
www.fluteworld.com A 10 year supply is about $5 Cdn.

 12. Always place the flute with key work uppermost. The weight of the flute's body CAN warp the rods overtime and the moisture from the tube CAN drip onto the pads causing them make sticky noises, and to eventually harden unevenly, causing pad leaks, finger clenching and fuzzy tone.

13. Keep your touch light: Finger all notes lightly and the pads will  not become compressed, and will seal well and evenly for years.

14. A readjustment of the flute's pads(new pads are noted fortheir delicate ability to seal without additional  finger pressure) is a normal procedure after the first 3-8 months of playing a new flute. The flute will have 'settled' and need minor final adjustments. This should be covered in any warranty, and costs about $40 to $80.

15. Do not leave the flute unattended in public places.

Take a photo for insurance purposes, if you like, and write down the flute's serial number (found on the strapping nearest the trill keys or on the barrel)

16. Always value the flute at replacement cost with insurance companies.
Get a valuation receipt from your repair person every year when you take the flute to be oiled.

17. Second hand flutes need to be fully cleaned, repaired and oiled before being played. If you don't know there are leaking keys, you will press harder and harder over time, and possibly develop hand and arm pain after long bouts of practicing.

18. New flutes need to go to the repair shop for a "Clean-Oil-Adjust" every six to twelve months. Over the longterm a well-serviced flute will cost less to keep in good repair.


 

Dealing with tarnish 

To have tarnish professionally removed is a normal procedure.

You take the flute in, the flute technician removes all the moving parts, and then dips the flute's body into a cleaning solution, and then cleans, oils, and puts back everything in perfect working order.
It's not that expensive if there are no repairs to be done on the flute.
 

It's good to get it oiled at the same time, to avoid wear and tear on the interior moving parts.

Once your flute is perfectly spotless, you go to the local hardware store or Home Depot-type-store and ask for carbon-paper strips (called "3M strips" in some places) that people use to put in their silver-ware drawers to keep their silver from tarnishing.

These look like 1x5 strips of carbon-blotting-paper.


Lay one of these in your flute case (or cut it into smaller pieces to make it fit in the case.) and put your flute down right on top of it. 
Apart from that, you CAN buy a special cloth impregnated with silver polishing chemicals that is sold in the retail stores that deal with flutes. However these should be used very sparingly. Maybe twice a year, and all trace of silver-polishing chemicals must be buffed off
with a clean cloth.

The problem with trying to clean the flute only by the use of a silver-polishing cloth is that you can't get between the keys and under the rods, and so these areas will naturally stay dark, anyway.
Avoid poking about in this area in case you accidently catch on some of the springs and sharp pins.

To keep finger marks to a minimum, on a daily basis, you can use a micro-fiber polishing cloth also sold by flute dealers. (these can be laundered and ironed and are very smooth.)

General tips:
 Avoid any other household silver-cleaning products as they can destroy the flute's pads.
Also: to remove dust and fibers from under rods and moving parts, just blow air at them sharply.
 Avoid pet hair in the flute case.
Avoid over-zealous cleaning. (some tarnish is fine and is normal on professional flutes.)

Preventing & Treating Sticky Pads

You can prevent sticky pads by:

- having flute regularly maintained so any pad surface wear-and-tear is dealt with (sticky noises on a single pad can indicate a tear or abrasion on the pad skin)

- brushing teeth/rinsing mouth before playing

- drying flute out after playing

- avoiding any kind of chemicals on flute (especially 'treated cloths', silver polish of any kind, or use of powder treated pad papers, all of which CAUSE sticky noises from pads.)

A small amount of noise from pads is normal on certain flutes during humid times of year, or if playing in a cold room (air-conditioned etc.)

Most pad noises go away themselves if they are barely audible and simply the result of moisture.

To blot up moisture that's causing loud pad noises, blot with a gum-less cigarette paper, or hairdresser's curl-end-papers from beauty-supply company.

To remove dirt and sticky substances (sugar from the mouth) from a sticky pad, blot with a cigarette or end paper doused in Isopropyl Alcohol (from drugstore.)

Use the paper as a blotter,only, and NEVER drag the paper out from under a closed key.

There are all kinds of myths around sticky pads, as a google hunt will still show---but the expert repair technicians assure me that all the above suggestions are correct.

Never use pencil rubbings.
Never use talcum.
Never use any product that will ADD dirt and contaminants to the pad surfaces.

If you haven't taken your flute for a "clean oil adjust" in the past year, it may be time to do so.
The technician will replace any pads that are wearing or waterlogged, and re-seat them to prevent leaks.

But be SURE that the noises are not caused by silver polish use.  A student once  had to get ALL her pads replaced because of silver polish travelling to the pad surfaces, inadvertently; and I had another student once who polished his flute with a cloth so much that he abraded all the edges of his pads without knowing how delicate and easily abraded the pad skins can be.
Get expert advice from your repair person.

 

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