Here are the key points I make sure I tell my students and their parents about keeping their instrument playing great.
General Maintenance for the Oboe:
1. Have a silk swab.
I have seen many students take apart their instrument and put it away without swabbing it out after playing. Please, please, please make sure you swab it out! It only takes a few seconds and it can make all the difference from preventing sticky keys and keys which get water constantly trapped in them.
2. Don’t drink soda, eat candy or eat food without at LEAST rinsing your mouth out with water before playing. This may seem like I am asking too much but any of that stuff you just put in your mouth is in your saliva which ends up in the instrument. It is even worse for the reeds!! Food particles and sugary spit are the worst culprits for sticky and waterlogged keys. Brushing your teeth would be the best solution but it isn’t always possible.
3. Use cork grease on the joints of the oboe. If you don’t use cork grease, you’ll find your corks will break apart, crumble then fall off then instrument. Cork grease helps the instrument fit together easily which means less aggressive man-handling of the delicate oboe. New corks need more cork grease. You may even have to put it on every time you put the instrument together when the corks are new.
4. Don’t leave an oboe in a hot car. I won’t leave my oboe in the car if I have to go into the grocery store, post office, or some other errand I may have to run on the way home from rehearsal or teaching. If it is 80 degrees outside, it can very easily become 100 degrees inside the car. The heat isn’t a great idea for the wood (or plastic), pads, or corks for your instrument.
5. Don’t leave an oboe in a cold car. I happen to live in a hot climate, but sometimes even here the temperature can get in the 40s. My instrument goes with me everywhere if I have to get out of the car.
6. Never store your oboe in the attic. This doesn’t just apply to oboes. No instrument should ever be stored in the attic.
7. Wooden oboes require extra special care as the wood can develop cracks. If your oboe is made of wood, you should warm it up with your hands or under your arm before playing as well as follow all the other procedures listed here. If you have a brand new wooden oboe, you will need to break it in first in order to prevent cracks. I’ll do a separate post on that another time.
8. Keep the instrument in its case when not in use.
9. Be careful not to squeeze the rods along the side of the instrument when putting it together or taking it apart.
10. Take your instrument to a qualified repairman at least once a year. They will check out the adjustment, oil the rods, replace any leaky pads and replace any damaged corks.