The Flute Show - flute expert

Taking Care of Your Flute

Learn how to take care of your flute

In this video, Florence talks about taking care of your flute, avoiding accidents, and how to have your instrument in perfect condition at any time.

Released on August 5, 2015

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Robert: Hi, and welcome to The Flute Show with Florence Estrin here on I'm Robert Estrin. Today's subject is how to get optimal performance out of your flute. Boy, this is a great subject for anybody who plays the flute, and I wonder how much of this applies to other instruments. We're gonna find out that and a whole lot more today. Welcome, Florence.

Florence: Thank you. Well, one thing I wanted to start with is that when I would play in orchestras and break time would come, the first thing I would do is take my flute, put it in its case, clean it out, and then do whatever I was going to do during the break. And many times somebody would see me and I'd usually have the flute with me, it's pretty light, you can carry it around. They'd say, "Oh, are you not here for the second half of rehearsal?" and I'm like, "Of course I am," and they're like, "Well, why is your flute in its case?" And I'd look at them like what am I gonna do, am I gonna leave it on the stand?

Never. Never put a flute on the music stand. Some of these stands tend to flip down, especially in schools, in public schools they get worn. And never leave it on a chair, cuz what do people do on chairs? They sit on chairs, and I have heard of people who have actually banana'd their flute by forgetting they had put it on the chair behind them and then sitting down. So that's just, you know, that's kind of my flute teacher mentality. Don't do that. But I wanna show you also, when you put the flute in the case and clean it out, how to do it so that you don't hurt the flute.

Now, notice I said the first thing I do is actually put it in the case. Not take one piece, start cleaning it with it on my lap. Because I've seen people do that, and I've seen pieces of woodwinds roll across the stage. And it's a very sad moment when that happens, especially when they're wooden instruments because they could have even cracked them, not just bent the keys. But anyway, notice that when I grab the flute, I am not holding it over the keys. Because the keys are very soft, they bend. You want to keep them in beautiful adjustment. I am also not grabbing over the embouchure plate. That also can be knocked out of place, or bent. And that has to be exactly what it's meant to be.

So notice I take it apart, I take the head joint out, and I put it in the case. Then, carefully switch how you are holding the flute, so I am still gripping without touching the keys. I grab down here, and sometimes you have to go back and forth, and there we go. And then I put this in the case. And when I put this piece in the case, and I want to point this out for people who haven't been playing the flute very long, notice where the A flat key is, right? That should be, in 99% of all cases, that should be in the middle of the case, not this way, because the case is gonna close, and that key could get popped right off. You could bend it right off. And there we go, now it's in the case, so it's safe.

Now I can do this with the case on my lap, but I did it so you could see what were doing here. Everybody has seen all sorts of doohickeys and whatever to help clean the flute, and a lot of these things are not actually to help clean the flute, but people use them incorrectly. There's this fuzzy stick that I don't own, and the idea is that after you clean out the flute, you can put that in the long piece. And then whatever extra moisture is on the pads or in there, it's supposed to soak it in. It's not supposed to clean the flute. Because if you take that, it's just this fuzzy stick. You stick it in there, and you haven't actually cleaned the flute. You just shove it in there. Then you're actually holding the moisture inside there. And then that's not good for the life of the pads.

So again, I grab the piece without touching the keys, without touching the rods, and all I need is a men's handkerchief, it's very simple, and your cleaning rod. And I put it through, push it in, pull it out the other end. Notice one end of the cloth has to be longer than the other so it's not too thick. If you have a cloth, and it seems like it's not gonna go, don't push it through. Make it less dense. And then make sure you push it through, because you don't want to get something stuck in there. That can be a nightmare.

Robert: You push it through once, generally?

Florence: I, yeah, but just because I changed.

Robert: Yeah, yeah.

Florence: And then, again. Take this piece, hold it where there are no keys, and push it through. Now, for the head joint, because a head joint doesn't go all the way through, I take the thicker end, the longer end, put it over the top so it can get into the end of the head joint, and I swirl it around a little bit.

Robert: Um-hmm.

Florence: Okay, and I wipe down the mouthpiece. And I'm done cleaning it.

Robert: Voila!

Florence: And then I can close it, and then my case has an outer case, which is nice to have. And what I do is I don't just stick this in there because then it doesn't dry very well. But I take it off, and fold my cloth. That way, your flute is safe. And whenever you're not playing your flute, I encourage you to keep it in the case. The case is its friend, it protects it. Nobody's gonna sit on it, and if they do sit on it on the case, it's likely to survive.

Robert: Um-hmm.

Florence: And I think that is just very sage advice.

Robert: So this is just good flute maintenance, basically.

Florence: Right, right. And then the other thing is see your technician frequently. If your flute's not operating optimally, bring it in because the more often you bring it in, the better it's going to stay in adjustment too.

Robert: Like tuning a piano.

Florence: Exactly.

Robert: Gets too far out ...

Florence: Right.

Robert: ... and the next tuning doesn't hold.

Florence: And you'll get used to a much higher level of playing, because your flute will perform better.

Robert: You can also play with lighter fingers, they cover ...

Florence: Absolutely

Robert:...the pads. They cover the holes ...

Florence: Exactly.

Robert:... all that.

Florence: Right.

Robert: It's hard enough to play when everything's working perfectly, right?

Florence: That's right. That's right.

Robert: So how to keep your flute in optimum health. This has been a real eye-opener. I'm sure a lot of this applies to other woodwind instruments, specifically.

Florence: Absolutely.

Robert: And we can get into brass instruments sometime. All right, well this is a great subject. Thanks so much, Florence Estrin, here on The Flute Show. I'm Robert Estrin. We'll see you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Elizabeth * VSM MEMBER * on August 5, 2015 @7:42 am PST
Nice presentation on flute care. I wish you had also talked about wiping off finger prints. Too many flute pads have been ruined by well-meaning efforts to remove finger prints & tarnish. A micro-fiber cloth works well with nothing added.
Yes, please do a similar basic maintenance of valved brass instruments.
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