Replacing clarinet pads is a common repair that is easy to perform. A good way to see if your clarinet pads need replacing is to do a visual inspection. If the pads are tattered, discolored, or old, it is usually a good time to replace them. Another way to check to see if the clarinet pads need to be replaced is the suction test for the clarinet’s top and bottom joint. If the clarinet does not seal properly, this means that the pad is leaking air. Loose pads can be reinstalled temporarily by heating the key cup with a cigarette lighter and slipping the pad back under the key cup with a pin. Apply light pressure to the pad so that it remains in the key cup until you are able to properly replace the pad or until you are able to schedule an appointment with a professional technician. The following is a do-it-yourself guide on how to replace pads on your clarinet.
Remove the clarinet keys from the clarinet. Be sure to be working on a flat surface and that you have either a towel or a piece of cloth to place the keys on as you are taking them apart. You can also place the keys in a cup. You will need a screwdriver, flat nose pliers, nylon pad pliers, and a spring hook tool.
Remove old clarinet pads from the keys. The tools you will need to perform this next step include an alcohol lamp or heat source, cotton balls (for large pad cups), cotton swabs (for small pad cups), rubbing alcohol, fire safety equipment, and goggles. First, warm up the clarinet pad cup, and stick the pad with a pin or needle to remove it from the key. Clean the leftover adhesive residue from the pad cup with a cotton swab or cotton ball. Once clarinet key has cooled, use rubbing alcohol and allow the pad cup to dry.
Dry fit new clarinet pads. For this step, you will need a clarinet pad prick to make sure the pad fits well into the key cup. Make sure that you set the new clarinet pads next to the key it belongs to. This will make it a lot easier and faster to reassemble the clarinet. Use the clarinet pad pick to puncture the side of the new clarinet pads to allow the air to escape.
Apply new clarinet pad adhesive to the pad cup. The tools needed for this step are an alcohol lamp, clarinet pad adhesive, and fire safety equipment. The next step is to apply clarinet pad adhesive to the pad cup. Common adhesives include shellac and hot glue when installing new clarinet pads. Once the clarinet cup is heated, gently insert the new clarinet pad in the cup. Let the weight of the pad settle in place. Do not push the pad in the cup. Let the key cool and repeat the steps for the rest of the keys on the instrument.
Re-install the clarinet keys and adjustment. The tools needed to reassemble the clarinet include a micro torch, pad slick or aluminum foil, pad leveling tool, and fire safety equipment. When re-installing each key, use a feeler gauger and check each pad to make sure it is leveled perfectly on the tone hole. If you need to adjust the new clarinet pad, apply heat to the pad cup using a micro torch. Protect the body of the clarinet from heat by using a pad slick or aluminum foil to cover the body around the area you are applying heat. Soften the clarinet pad adhesive by heating the pad cup and make any adjustments that you may need. Afterwards, allow the cup to cool again and check the pad with the feel gauge. You can repeat this process for each clarinet pad.
Now you have the tools and knowledge to replace your own clarinet pads! If you are uncomfortable taking your clarinet apart, or working with new pads and heat, you can always schedule an appointment with a repair technician.