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  • Writer's pictureQueen Reed

How To Break In A New Clarinet

Ah, a new clarinet! There’s nothing like it -- that gorgeous wood, perfectly bored, beautifully grained and glowing from within. That silvery sparkle of the keys - just begging your fingers to flutter and pop up and down. You’ve promised yourself that you will play it every single day and you’ll be an absolute saint about taking care of it.

Taking care of your new barkystick (puppystick? babybarky?) starts with breaking it in carefully. I recently got a new little monster of my own (Buffet R13 Prestige from Lisa’s Clarinet Shop), so I searched out advice from the genius repair tech, Melanie Wong & the folks at RDG about this and I wholeheartedly subscribe to what I learned.

There are many opinions online about how to break in a clarinet, but much of the time, sources of information don’t give me enough backstory. It’s very important to me to understand the WHY of everything - especially when comparing different methods of getting to the same result. So, here are a couple of basic principles that guide the ideal breaking-in process. As Melanie puts it, “the wood moves a lot” in the beginning. And we want to help the wood go from fully moist —without going into the “too-wet” zone where you have water dripping and gurgling in the tone holes — to fully dry. And it doesn’t take very long for a clarinet to move from fully moist to a water factory, so . . .

Here is your well-thought out and careful method of breaking in your babybarky!

Week One - do the following every day:

Play 15 minutes solid. This will do a good job of getting the bore fully moist without tipping you over into the splash zone where water is entering tone holes.

Dry it out completely. Swab from the top down, not through your mouthpiece. Repeat until dry. Don’t forget to dry out the sockets.

Leave it alone.

Do this every day. You can do more than one 15 minute session in a day, as long as the clarinet dries out completely in between and is allowed to return to environmental stasis.

Week Two - Same as before, but now you are up to 20 minute sessions.

Week Three - 25 minute sessions

Week Four - 30 Minute sessions

You get the idea. Go all the way up to 60 minutes. At that point, your babybarky is all broken in!

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