We learn to play a musical instrument to become a musician. No matter which instrument you choose to play, the goal is to become a musician. A crucial and often underappreciated part of playing your musical instrument is keeping it properly maintained. The care with which you treat your instrument corresponds to the care with which you play the instrument.
Put another way, keeping your instrument clean and in working condition makes it easier to play. When your instrument is easy to play, it helps you sound better which in turn helps you practice more which makes you a better musician.
Six reasons you should maintain your instrument.
A clean, well maintained instrument sounds better. Music is vibration; a musical instrument is precisely built to emanate sound waves. Any lessening of the instrument’s ability to vibrate affects its sound. Think of a person wearing dirty glasses, or a house with dirty windows. Once the glass is cleaned, the view sparkles with clarity. So it is with sound.
Degradation is often deceptively incremental, and we are unaware of the dullness, rasp, or other changes in the sound of our instruments. Simply making a habit of wiping down and cleaning your instrument will allow it to sing as clearly as possible, which will improve the clarity of your playing.
Every instrument functions best when all of its parts work as intended. A poorly set-up string instrument, for example, usually results in high action, making it more difficult for the player to hold strings down accurately, which in turn hinders fluidity. Because the instrument is hard to play, the player is not encouraged to practice which does not foster growth as a musician.Often a simple cleaning will improve function and inspire practice time.
The same is true for brass and woodwind instruments. Dirty valves and slides which do not move smoothly make it difficult to play brass instruments. Similarly, a sticky pad or broken spring makes it difficult to play woodwinds. Poorly maintained instruments are hard to play. Humans are adaptable creatures and sometimes musicians will acquire bad habits, changing their playing style without even knowing it trying to overcome an instrument’s mechanical issues.
Age takes a toll on all musical instruments although well made wood instruments generally acquire more ability to vibrate as they get older. The trick to aging well is proper maintenance. This holds true for all musical instruments: the closer any instrument is to its original condition, the better, and this only happens with proactive maintenance. Cleaning your instrument regularly will help it last longer.
We learn to play instruments to become better musicians. Most musicians do not buy instruments primarily to ‘flip’ them in the future. Musicians buy instruments to play them although we may eventually sell an instrument to upgrade or because another instrument has captured our musical heart.
Instruments only retain or increase in value if they have been properly maintained. A working instrument has value to other musicians. There is poetic beauty to the unending circle of musicians past, present, and future, joined by instruments passed through hands and time, all made possible by proper care.
A clean and well-maintained instrument sounds better and plays better. As a result, you sound and play better, so quite naturally you are inspired to play more. It is important to buy a good instrument to begin with. A cheap, poorly constructed instrument makes playing music harder, and so does a poorly maintained instrument.
Learning to play music is challenging. Conquering learning curves, dedicating practice time, learning to play with others, finding a place to play and good people to play with is not inherently easy. Maintaining your instrument is a simple way to make playing easier which helps inspire you and those around you..
There is a universal law of maintenance vs. repair that applies equally to automobiles and musical instruments. Just as the oil in a car gets dirty with use and eventually becomes more of an abrasive and less of a lubricant, the oil inside a saxophone’s key rods gets dirty and does the same making the saxophone hard to play.
Simply adding clean oil to dirty oil will eventually damage the instrument, leading to an expensive repair down the road will cost much more than proper maintenance would have.
The same goes with brake pads on a car and tone hole pads on a woodwind instrument. If you let brake pads go bad, you will eventually have a major brake cylinder repair job, just like a faulty tone hole pad can lead to bent key levers caused by the player applying too much force.
If you keep your instrument functioning as it was intended to, you can avoid expensive repairs in the future.
Sound, function, durability, value, inspiration and expense are six reasons you should maintain your instrument. Maintaining your instrument makes it easier to play and more valuable. When your instrument is easy to play, it helps you sound better which in turn helps you practice more which makes you a better musician.
Instruments that look good and sound good are cooler. So just be cool: maintain your instrument.