Cleaning the oboe is loving the oboe. Oboes need love too.
Cleaning the inside of oboe after every playing session is a “must do” task whether you are a beginner or a professional oboist. Oboe cleaning is not difficult, but it is very important therefore it should always be done. We oboists blow air into the oboe that contains a lot of moisture. Our hot air can collect inside of the oboe as condensation. Insert your favorite ” oboists are full of hot air” joke here =>”………..”
We must remove the moisture in some way or it can lead to problems. Moisture that is not removed has the potential to:
- collect in the tone holes, which can make gargling noises
- corrode cork pads
- seep into the grain of the wood which increases the oboe’s chances of cracking
You may also notice these qualities in oboes that are not cleaned regularly:
- They may have a filmy interior
- They may smell bad… yum
- the playing quality will decrease… The oboe is hard enough already
- sometimes even intonation can change due to sentiment being left inside…. yep pretty gross
I have seen my fair share of school instruments that look as though they are acting as a petri dish substitute. Unless you are performing some sort of science experiment on the oboe, please clean it out after each use. I care about your health and your oboe’s wellbeing, so clean your oboe…love your oboe
What tools can I use to clean the oboe?
Warning, Glass cleaner should never be used to clean any part of any oboe. The picture I used for this post is a joke.
There are generally three accepted tools used for removing moisture from the bore of an oboe, they are ;
A swab is a piece of fabric, usually silk, cotton or microfabric attached to a string. The swab is pulled through the oboe by the string and collects the condensation as it goes. Swabs will come in different sizes dependant on brand, though the size is not usually advertised.
The swab will either have a metal or plastic pin on one end that is dropped into the larger side of whatever joint is being cleaned. It may also have a pull cord, sometimes called a rip-cord. This will allow the oboist to pull the oboe swab back out if it becomes too tight or stuck.
I suggest a silk swab with a metal endpin and rip-cord. I find cotton swabs can become stuck easier than silk swabs. The metal end allows the swab to be dropped into the oboe with less fuss.
I have not tried a microfiber swab so I cannot speak of how well they work.
A sterilized turkey or quail feather can be used to clean the oboe.The feather is inserted into the oboe and then swished around to collect moisture.
oboe cleaning mops.
an oboe cleaning mop is a rod surrounded by fabric which is inserting into the larger end of the oboe. They usually come in two different sizes or are double sided. One size is for the top joint, one size is for the bottom joint and bell. I feel the mop is the least common method for cleaning the oboe, at least in my neck of the woods.
Pros and Cons of the swab, feather, and oboe cleaning mop.
I don’t want to confuse any new oboe students, so if you are not familiar with the information I have provided to this point you may like to skip to the next section.
Each of these tools has its advantages and disadvantages. There are oboists that swear by one tool and condemn the others. I suggest Students talk with their teachers about what tool they would like them to be using for oboe cleaning. Below are some of the “positives” and “negatives” that a teacher or another oboist may express.
Oboe cleaning mops
Any professionals reading this will likely have their own ideas, so feel free to leave your thoughts and arguments in the comments. I am always interested to discover what other oboists think.
What should I use for oboe cleaning?
For students, I suggest using a silk swab with a rip cord. Like this: silk oboe swab They are easy to obtain and will store the easiest within the oboe case. Student instruments are usually made of plastic, therefore they are slightly more durable than wooden oboes. I do not feel the same precautions need to be taken to protect the bore, in fact, I feel a little friction along the inside of the bore can be a good thing because it can help to remove built up gunk.
How do I clean the oboe with a swab? a step-by-step guide for beginners
- Take the oboe apart and put it into the open case
- take your oboe swab out and unravel it.
- Examine the swab for knots. Remove knots if there are any.
- Take the top joint of the oboe in your weak hand.
- Insert the metal end of the swab into the larger opening of the top joint
- gently shake the swab until the metal part of the swab comes out of the end of the oboe
- Gently pull the swab until it starts to become tight in the oboe
- use the ripcord to pull the oboe swab back out.
- repeat steps 7 and 8 a few times, then remove the swab by pulling it through the large end.
- look into the oboe. Has the moisture been removed? If “yes” continue to the next step, if “no” return to step 6
- Return the top joint to the case
- Take the middle joint from the case with your weak hand
- Insert the swab into the larger end of the middle joint and pull it all the way through
- repeat step 2-3 times.
- look into the oboe. Is there any moisture? if “no” move to step 5. if “yes repeat step 2 and 3
- return the middle joint to the oboe case.
- Take the oboe bell from the case with your weak hand
- Take the cloth part of the swab and gently wipe any moisture from both ends of the bell
- return the oboe bell to its case
The most important precautions to be considered while using a swab for cleaning the oboe
- Make sure there are not knots anywhere in the swab. The know can easily get stuck int the bore, the tighter it is pulled the tighter the knot will get, and the more it will resist being removed.
- do not pull the swab all the way through the top joint, it may get stuck. This is even more important if the swab does not have a ripcord.
- When a swab becomes old or has any holes throw it away and get a new one because you do now want a piece of swab getting stuck inside your oboe
- avoid getting the string caught on keys. The keys may bend, but also the swab may pull the oboe off a table or chair if it is tugged on while caught.
I hope this information is helpful to all the aspiring oboe students out there. Please feel free to leave your questions related to this topic in the comment section. Happy oboe-ing