Many diseases like measles, chickenpox, and staphylococcus infections are often spread by saliva. Since there is no casual way of knowing whether or not someone has the disease-causing germs/virus, we are all responsible to protect ourselves and take these proactive steps to reduce the spread of disease. Regarding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and recent developments as it pertains to clarinetists, there continues to be a lot of speculation surrounding this coronavirus. One thing is not a mystery: Clean your instrument! You are responsible to remain cautious and meticulous in maintaining a virus-free, safe instrument and healthy environment.
Table of Contents
You may have many questions about your instrument care and the best practices for cleaning and sanitation, and so, we have gathered the following for you. Please remember that this is not a full and comprehensive list. We will update this as we understand more about this virus. The information here is not intended to provide you with health care advice. Please look to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for confirmation on health and current practices to effectively prevent or kill coronavirus.
Regularly clean your clarinet
- Clean your clarinet meticulously before and after each and every use, preferably with anti-bacterial wipes.
- Keep all gear surfaces clean.
- If you have two clarinets, your expensive one and your cheaper one, it is time to use that cheaper one.
- If your clarinet is made of wood or wood composite products they can probably withstand an occasional wipe down or spray but they are definitely not designed to survive extensive repeated chemical cleaning. The wood of a clarinet is not sealed for that kind of treatment; it will possibly absorb liquid and may begin to swell. Even finished surfaces of a clarinet without a thick polyurethane coat may become discolored.
- Using water or soap can actually damage the pads, causing your clarinet not to play at all, and it will actually accelerate mildew growth. Yuck!
How To Sterilize A Clarinet Mouthpiece
It is becoming more clear that not regularly cleaning your clarinet mouthpiece is a health hazard. A slew of studies have come out on the mold and bacteria inside of uncleaned woodwind instruments. Now with the advent of the coronavirus (COVID-19), we need to pay attention to this even more. The International Journal of Environmental Health Research and Tufts University let their scientists test 20 instruments, clarinets among them. All were hiding living bacteria, yeast, and mold! Mouthpieces with wooden reeds were the most contaminated. If not cleaned properly, this will increase your chance of coming down with a nasty infection.
So now that you have horrible nightmares dancing in your head, make sure to clean that mouthpiece at every time you use it. Don’t wash your whole clarinet. Washing everything may damage the pads that cover the holes. You should remove the mouthpiece to clean it separately. All you need to do for the body of the clarinet is drop an absorbent cloth down the interior length of your clarinet a few times. This will not make your instrument safe, there is no way around the fact that your clarinet body will not be safe and there is no good way to sanitize it due to its body construction and pads. So make sure you wash your hands each time before and after using it.
I highly recommend you use more than just water. You can buy Sterisol or go with a less expensive disinfectant mouthwash. If your mouthpiece is plastic or rubber, you can soak it in a bowl of mouthwash and then wipe it dry. Use a soft cloth to make sure it is dry before using your clarinet or packing it in the case.
For more on this:
Time to get a synthetic reed
There is no way to really sanitize your traditional natural reed. But you can sanitize your synthetic/plastic reeds! There is no way we have room to fully analyze the pros and cons in this article.
But for the love of reeds in the age of coronavirus (COVID-19) switch to a synthetic! Little known fact: Artie Shaw used synthetic reeds all the way back in the age of swing. He said ‘the sound is not in the reed it is in your head.’ So if synthetics are good enough for the king of the clarinet it is good enough for you!
Clarinet Students and the coronavirus pandemic
While this pandemic is shutting down schools, businesses and daily life for a season it is a gift for you. You can practice your ass off and get really good while everyone else is vegging in front of the TV. Double, triple, quadruple your practice times each day. This time spent locked away from the world is a gift to you and your practice if you choose to see it as thus. Brush up on your music theory or pick up another instrument!
I recommend finding a teacher online to help you in your accelerated season of clarinet growth.
Coronavirus hygiene advice for performing clarinetists
What is wrong with you? Stop it!
If for some reason you still have a gig and for some unknown idiotic reason you are still going, here’s some basic advice.
- Don’t share your mic and do keep them clean! If at all possible, please use a personal mic instead of a venue supplied one. Whatever the situation, all the mics need to be sanitized, most ideally by using an anti-bacterial product, before and after each use.
- It may seem overboard but if there are mixers, cables, speakers, and more, remember, the most crucial thing when handling any of the stuff at the venue is to wash your hands and do try avoiding touching your face with your unclean hands.
- As anti-social as it seems, now is not the time to be high-fiving the PR guy, shaking the sound engineer’s hand, and of course, crowd surfing is right out.
- Stay away from the crowd and the other performers by six feet minimum! This is not a drill! Not a time to be cool.
If you are performing online to entertain the masses that are hibernating in their homes, please follow all the advice above and stay safe!
Advice for clarinet teachers
If you are a teacher and for some reason have not already switched to teaching on Skype or some other online service, do that today! Stop risking spreading the virus! The virus is transmitted through water droplets among things and a wind instrument is not safe! If you can’t escape being with students, then I begrudgingly give this advice:
- Avoid sharing or passing clarinets between the students.
- Allow for a minimum of 6 feet of space between yourself and the student(s) and avoid sitting or standing directly opposite in front of each other.
- Air out the teaching room in between your lessons where possible and make sure that yours and the students’ hands are washed when they enter and exit.
- Call each student before the appointment and confirm that they are symptom-free and their household is symptom-free. If a student presents symptoms while in the lesson, ask them to leave and communicate with them by phone. If either you or the student is sick with any potentially contagious symptoms, the lesson most definitely should not go on. More than likely you will, for the safety of other students, need to self-quarantine for 14 days. Have I asked you why the hell are you still holding in-person classes?
- I know I have already said this but you must investigate your options for remote teaching. Facetime or Skype can easily be used for one-to-one or your small-group teaching. Get yourself a cash app so the student can pay you at the start of the lesson. When you confirm you have received their payment start the lesson!
Coronavirus and imported instruments
It is kinda silly but some people are freaked out cause their clarinet came from China or France or Germany. On the official website of Buffet-Crampon it states their factories are only in France and Germany. However, there are also significant occurrences of coronavirus there.
Let us just use common sense here. Clean your instrument when you get it and you will be fine. Though there are reports of the coronavirus surviving on surfaces for over two weeks, it is doubtful that the instrument you received has any surviving virus on it.