How to break in a new clarinet by Lisa Canning

Breaking in a new clarinet properly is important to ensure that your new instrument does not crack.

Practicing on your new clarinet

It is best if you practice for 30 minutes and then let the clarinet rest for 30 minutes. Swab the clarinet completely out and make sure the tenon sockets are completely dry after each use. You can play the clarinet as much as you like but only for 30 minutes each session and giving the instrument and equal amount of time to rest. This process is best done for the first two weeks of its use.

After the two-week period, use the instrument at whatever length of time you desire. However if you notice that the instrument does not fit easily together or does not come apart easily it must IMMEDIATELY be taken into a repair shop and be adjusted. This is a very minor fitting adjustment and is not costly. However if you do not do this you are encouraging the instrument to crack. Additionally when there are weather changes- Summer to Fall/ Fall to Winter etc. sometimes rings on the barrel and bell come loose. If so you also need to take the instrument in to have the rings tightened to ensure the wood stays properly banded. Usually the keys also need to be swedged at that time as well due to the shrinking of the wood because of the change of climate. It is important to keep the clarinet keys tightly in place and properly aligned at all times.

Managing Moisture in the first year

The instruments I sell are very newly made and as a result the wood is very porous. This is a good thing because it allows for the instrument to have the maximum amount of resonance and ring but also naturally causes the instrument to swell more easily. As a result, I highly discourage the use of a “dampit” (sometimes called a snake) or anything else during the first year that will increase moisture in the instrument case.

Playing on the instrument during the first year provides enough moisture for the wood and allows for the instrument to find its proper points of expansion and contraction. After the first year the instrument knows its boundaries and will now not expand beyond its learned limits, so you may use a humidifier like a dampit at this time. Adding additional moisture will only cause the instrument to increase its expansion and contraction and potentially cause significantly more repair work to need to be done and/or the instrument to crack.


Things you should know about clarinets that crack

A crack always starts at the top of a tenon section and goes through a tone hole. There are

Cosmetic blemishes in wood just like in your skin so do not be concerned about marks or grain lines you see in the wood– these are normal. A crack also goes through the clarinet usually appears on the surface of the clarinet and will go through the bore of the instrument. Sometimes surface cracks can occur and those also need to be treated to make sure the instrument does not continue to crack and wind up cracking through the bore.

It is important to know that a clarinet cracks because the individual tenon section expands more than it can without cracking. Clarinets crack mainly due to overuse and moisture being left in the instrument or being subjected to extreme temperature change and put to use. So by taking care of your instrument and not allowing it to expand to quickly in its first few weeks of use, by completely and thoroughly drying the clarinet out in between its use as well as not using it in any extreme temperature or after use leaving it in any extreme temperature, you are ensuring that you are doing your part to assist the clarinet in not cracking.

It is possible however that you can do everything correctly and the instrument can still crack. If the instrument is going to crack it is going to do it in the first year. If the instrument does crack, Buffet, through my shop, offers a warranty for one year. The instrument will be either pinned or the section replaced as needed. It is best if this occurs that we discuss the option that feels right for you.

If you have any questions about caring for your new clarinet feel free to contact me. I hope you find this information helpful and you enjoy your new instrument for many years.

Just so you know very few instruments I buy crack because I am selling them soon after they are made. This should not be a huge concern to you that this will happen however it is always better know what to do and how to care for your new clarinet to help ensure that it does not.

Happy music making!


Lisa Canning

773.756.2163 ext 773

847.774.2938 cell