Monday, April 18, 2016

Getting Your Inventory Ready For Summer Break
by Bridgett Randolph

The end of the school year is fast approaching and as you are gearing up for your three-month vacation, (yeah, right!) it is time to start cleaning up the rehearsal room and storage spaces and preparing that check out list. For my article today, I want to talk to you about storing your instruments over the summer. (This article was written with the help of Palen Music Center's Master Repair Technician, Walker Carter. Please check out his bio below!)

Temperature and humidity affect brass, woodwinds, and strings. If it is humid and hot, then goes to cooler and dry, or vice versa, it wreaks havoc with pads, valves, cork, and tuning slides alike. The core of most pads consists of felt, which is made of cotton. Humidity can cause the pad to swell and become uneven, therefore not sealing as it should. Also, hot temperatures can cause the glue under some pads to become slightly elastic and shifting the pad to a position that causes it to leak. High humidity can also cause condensation inside brass instruments that rapidly cool then heat. This puts moisture back in the horn and leads to corrosion. So the most important thing for all instruments is to make sure that your administration understands the importance of keeping them in a temperature-controlled environment. Don't let them turn the air conditioning off in your room in order to save a few bucks! (If you don't have AC, I'm so sorry!)

Guitars, Violins, Violas, Cellos, and Basses

These instruments are extremely susceptible to temperature and humidity. Their wood is prone to expand in head and humidity and contract in cold, dry conditions. Make sure that the instruments stay in a consistent temperature/humidity ratio, the best is 70 degrees and 42 percent humidity. If you are not 100% sure that the temperature will remain constant in your storage area, it is a good idea to tune the instrument an octave lower, taking care to keep enough tension to hold the bridge and soundboard in place. Loosening the tension of the strings will prevent broken strings and warped necks in the event of a temperature/humidity fluctuation..and don't forget the bows! Bows should be loosened after every class, but at the end of the year, it is wise to make sure they are all loosened prior to the summer months. The instruments should be stored inside of their cases. If extreme dry/humid conditions occur in your room, consider talking with your road rep about options that could be used to protect the instruments!


Make sure that the instrument has been completely dried out and that the case is also completely dry before storing the instrument. Swabs and pad savers that are used to collect moisture from the instrument should be stored in a different area, not in the case. Store the instrument in its case in a cool, dry place.

Clarinet and Alto Sax

Make sure that the instrument has been completely dried out and that the case and any reeds worth keeping are also dry. Place the reeds in a reed guard. Remove the swab and or pad saver from the instrument case in order to keep moisture out. Place a thin layer of cork grease on the instrument's corks in order to protect them from drying out. If your clarinet is wooden, make sure that it will be kept in a humidity-controlled environment.

Trumpets, French Horns, Tubas, and Baritones

Make sure that the instrument is completely empty of all water. Oil the valves with a petroleum based oil like Al Cass to prevent evaporation during the summer months. Grease the tuning slides with tuning slide grease and push the slides all the way in for the summer. Oiling and greasing the valves and slides prevent the metal from corroding over the summer. Store the instruments in their cases and make sure to store the cases on their spine (where the hinges are) instead of on the bell! This is to prevent the oil and slide grease from moving into the valves/rotors/valve caps and causing a buildup and then sticking. If a buildup does occur, simply knock lightly on the valve cap with a rubber mallet to loosen the grime and enable the cap to be opened.


Make sure that the trombone has been emptied of all water. In order to protect the metal of the inner slide, it is important to put a lubrication onto the slide, run it up and down both inner slide tubes and then lock the slide for the summer. At the start of the new school year, the slide will need to be cleaned off and re-lubricated before playing. For the tuning slide, clean it off and then put on a fresh application of tuning slide grease. (Again, this protects the metal from corrosion during the summer.) Move the tuning slide up and down and then end with the tuning slide pushed all the way in for the summer. Store the trombone in its case, laying it flat on the case spine.

Percussion instruments

Dust them off thoroughly before leaving for the summer. If you have cases for the instruments, use them. Protect instruments that do not have cases from administrators, custodians, summer school kids, etc. by blocking them in and putting a barricade around them so they are difficult to get to and "bang on". (I wouldn't mention this if it hadn't happened to my percussion repeatedly in the summers!)

I hope you have had a great school year and I hope that you have an even better summer!

Bridgett Randolph
Palen Music Center -- Columbia
[email protected]

Bridgett Randolph received her B.M.E. from Central Methodist University and her M.Ed. from William Woods University. She has taught instrumental music for the last 18 years with the latter 10 years in the Columbia Public Schools. Bridgett also taught high school and middle school at Orrick R-IX, Mid-Buchanan R-V, and Southern Boone R-I school districts. Bridgett is a member of MMEA, NAfME, MNEA, MBA, and Phi Beta Mu. Bridgett has performed with the Columbia Community Band, Columbia Civic Orchestra, Memories Dance Band, Capitol Kicks Dance Band, Ray Auburn Big Band, and Kerry Strayer Big Band. She is active as a clinician and adjudicator and enjoys playing in big bands and community ensembles so give her a call if you need a trombone player! Bridgett currently resides just outside of Columbia, MO with her husband Mark, and their two wonderful children Olivia and Logan.

Walker Carter
Palen Music Center -- Springfield
[email protected]

Walker began his career as an instrument repairman in 1997 while attending Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree, he taught band in Texas for four years before returning to the instrument repair field full-time. In the summer of 2002, Walker and his wife, Michelle, began their own band instrument repair business in Abilene, Texas. At the end of 2010, they sold their business and moved to Missouri. Walker joined the Palen Music repair department in January of 2011. When he isn’t adjusting flutes or overhauling sousaphones, Walker enjoys fishing and spending time with his wife and seven children (Yes, seven kids!).


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