How To Care For Your Band Or Orchestra Instrument In Cold Weather

Changes in temperature and humidity can cause the materials that make up your flute, violin, double bass, etc, to expand and contract. Because of this, extreme changes can have the potential to be quite damaging. No need to worry though, with some simple precautions, preventative care, and regular maintenance you can keep your instrument playing great for years to come. 

How To Store Your Instrument

Always store your instrument indoors in a protective case, ideally at a consistent, moderate temperature. You should not leave your instrument outside in the cold for extended periods of time. One place in particular to be careful with is your car. Try to bring your instrument inside with you if you are going into a store or class or work etc. Don’t store instruments in an unheated garage or porch. If left in cold or freezing temperatures for long periods of time materials will contract. For Brass instruments this can affect the movement of valves and slides. For instruments made of wood, there is an enhanced risk for cracking. Adhesives like the glue holding together the body of a violin or holding in a woodwind tone-hole pad can dry out and loosen. 

Warm Up A Cold Instrument

Extreme changes from hot to cold or cold to hot pose the most risk for damage. If possible try to avoid such drastic changes. This why leaving your instrument in the car for a few hours and then starting to play and heating it up quickly is such a bad idea. For wood clarinets or oboes especially, gradually warming up the instrument with long tones can help prevent cracking which can occur when the inside of the instrument warms up faster than the outside can.


Too little humidity can cause wood to splinter and crack. Therefore, monitoring humidity levels for wood instruments should warrant some special attention.

Orchestral players can purchase a humidifier for their case such as these Dampit humidifiers for violin and for cello.

Dampit Violin Humidifier

Dampit Cello Humidifier

Reed players may see and feel the effects on their reeds. In humid weather reeds may feel soft, in dry weather that may become stiff and prone to cracking. This will shorten the life of the reed. One solution to extend the life of your reeds may be a humidification system like this one from D’Addario

D'Addario Reed Case / Humidification System

Preventative Care

Some Preventative care can go a long way. Some of these suggestions don’t only apply to cold weather. They are good habits to adopt in general for your instrument.

Wind Instruments: 

  • Wipe any moisture off the body of the instrument before storing
  • Woodwinds: Swab the inside of your instrument, including the body, neck (saxophone), and mouthpiece to remove any moisture before storing.
  • Saxophone: Take the mouthpiece off the neck when storing,
  • Saxophone: Disassemble the mouthpiece, reed, and ligature and store the reed in a reed holder when storing.
  • Clarinet: Dissemble the clarinet when you are done playing and don’t store it for long periods of time assembled. This will slow the compressing of the corks that connect the 3 sections of the clarinet (tenon corks).
  • Brass instruments: Make sure to empty any water before storing.

Orchestral String Instruments. 

  • Purchase a humidifier 
  • Clean off rosin dust when finished playing before storing

Regular Maintenance  

Regular maintenance is crucial to keep your instrument playing its best. An experienced repair technician will be able to spot many small issues before they become large problems. We recommend a minimum of twice a year to bring your instrument in for service.

For Students, the summer before school starts and the winter prior to or just after holiday concerts can be a great time to bring your instrument in for service. 

( Band and Orchestra rentals from the Music Den include a ‘Maintenance and Repair plan (M&R Plan) which covers the cost of regular maintenance and repairs. Visit our rental page for more information )

Happy music making!

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