Flutes, like most musical instruments, are delicate and require looking after. If you are unsure about how to best care for it, please consult with a reputable repair technician who can offer you with the best advice to suit your instrument.
- keep your instrument dry. This means wiping any moisture from the inside with a clean cloth like a man-size handkerchief.
- wipe finger marks off with a non treated cloth. You’ll need to do this usually within half an hour of using the flute otherwise tarnish will start to occur. Repairers love working on clean flutes and hate working on dirty ones. Most manufacturers now supply these cloths with instruments.
- leave to a competent repairer, cleaning parts of the flute that you cannot reach and are not absolutely certain you can clean without damaging the flute.
- wash your hands before playing.
- clean your teeth before playing so you don’t get bits of food in the flute embouchure hole or through the flute and onto the pads. Your breath speed is at least 100 kilometres per hour when playing the flute, so anything left over after lunch will soon end up in the flute.
- develop your finger technique so that you use light finger action.
- have your instrument serviced by a competent repairer every one to two years. Make the booking well in advance as good repairer technicians are in high demand. Flutes & Flutists has a service division headed by Angus McEwan which is the best in Australia, with all work guaranteed and with a complete money back guarantee for either 3 or 6 months.
- assemble and dismantle the flute properly by holding it without bending keys.
- clean the moisture out of a wooden instrument as moisture will quickly swell the wood and cause it to split.
- When traveling in a car, place your instrument on the floor or in a secure bag in case of a collision or having to stop in a hurry. Your instrument can become a projectile which can injure the occupants of the car or damage the instrument.
- put the damp cloth back inside the case as it will just be leaving moisture with the instrument.
- subject your instruments to sudden temperature changes, especially leaving them in a parked car when it might get very hot. If you have to leave it in the car put it in an empty esky in the boot.
- use chemically impregnated silver cloths on the flute anywhere near any part of the mechanism or pads as the fine chemicals in the cloth potentially abrade the moving parts or pad surfaces.
- clean the flute using silver polishing powder. It’s made for cutlery, not flutes!!
- ever leave the flute on a couch or bed. Sooner or later someone is sure to sit on it and make it look like a banana and it’s very difficult and expensive to fix. In fact it may not be repairable.
- use vaseline on the joints. It attracts dust and causes the metal surfaces to grip. If they become too tight work some candle wax on to the surface of the exposed tenon, put the two parts together thereby working the wax into both surfaces, take them apart and then wipe the wax off both surfaces with a tissue. This will leave a small film which will stop metal surfaces binding together (especially silver).
- use cigarette papers to clear moisture from the pads. They usually have an ingredient which slows burning but which also damages the skin of the pads, and they can get stuck to the skin of the pad and tear it off. Use the cloth you use for swabbing the moisture out of the flute (man sized handkerchief) but don’t press hard, only enough to soak up the moisture.
- lean on your flute. A common cause of flutes becoming slightly bent is when young students are at band or orchestra practice and they lean forward to talk with their friends. Without realizing, they put pressure on the flute which is across their legs or lap and this slightly bends it.
- slap the keys if you want your flute to keep working well for you. Hitting the keys does not get any more sound from the flute and causes early loss of adjustment.
- oil your flute. If you have it serviced regularly, it should not need oiling until the next service. However, if you absolutely must oil it yourself, use Mobil One oil. To apply the oil use only what you can pick up on the eye of a needle and touch the join where the rods move. The oil should soak into the crack. Remove any excess with a tissue or cloth as you do not want any oil to contact the pads or run onto the rest of the flute and collect unnecessary dust.