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Breaking in a new clarinet
How to perform a successful clarinet breaking in and
avoid wood cracking
You became the proud owner of a brand new grenadilla clarinet and you are eager to play and test your new
instrument. However there are some rules which must be applied.
The wood is a noble, organic living material and it must be treated with care and respect. The wood respond to
different environmental, climatic and atmospheric conditions. It can swell as water sorption happens and it can
shrink as it dries up and lose water. Breaking in your clarinet will
help the wood to handle those variations and to adapt gradually. The fact is that the loss of water is much slower
that its uptake.
So, if you play with your brand new instrument for long and non spaced sessions, the wood will absorb a great
amount of water without having the possibility to desorb it, thus swelling quickly and dangerously.
This is why it is very important to breaking in. It allows the wood to adapt slowly to the increased amount of
sorbed water and avoid the stress due to quick swelling.
The basic rules for a successful breaking in are:
First allow the clarinet to warm up at room temperature, never play a cold instrument out of the
- For the first week no more than 15 minutes playing a
- For the second week you can play two session of 15 minutes each day
(morning/evening) or if you cannot play twice a day increase the playing time gradually ( by 5 minutes more
- Then play everyday increasing the playing duration and
- Don't forget to thoroughly swab your clarinet after each playing
These rules of breaking
in apply to a new instrument and to an instrument which has been stored for a long period of
Anyway, cracking is dreadful, but it is not the end of the world. A good clarinet
repairman can do miracles. If you have the slightest doubt about wood cracking, don't procrastinate and drop by
your local woodwind workshop.
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