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Almost every teacher, expert, and book has informed me that I should disassemble my (clarinet / recorder / saxophone) each time after I practice.

However, it is difficult for me to see how this would prevent damage to the instrument, after I regularly grease the cork in the fittings, swab out the moisture, and remove the reed.

On the other hand, although it may seem trivial, I am much more likely to practice if my instrument is assembled than if it is in the case.

What is the basis for the advice that an instrument should be disassembled?

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3 Answers 3

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As long as you are following good maintenance practices, then no, the only added risk of damage comes from the instrument not being in a protective case. (Hopefully the instrument isn't sitting on a stand long enough for it to collect dust.)

Of course, on a clarinet, part of good maintenance practice is swabbing out the moisture after every playing session, and many clarinetists do this separately for each joint so they don't miss any moisture collecting near the corks. Leaving a reed on the mouthpiece for extended periods of time will get you a moldy mouthpiece. But as long as you are properly caring for the instrument and not putting it in harm's way, then leaving it assembled should be fine.

The reason most teaching resources recommend that one puts away their instrument back into the case is that it's far too easy to not follow good maintenance practices. The simple act of, say, taking your mouthpiece out of your trumpet after you play helps to ensures that the mouthpiece isn't going to get stuck in.

Similarly, if you do decide to leave your clarinet out of the case for extended periods of time, every few days you should give it a quick once-over to polish any dust off and make sure all of the corks/joints move satisfactorily.

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+1 for maintenance procedures - this is undoubtedly why many teachers hammer the after-practice routine when they get a starting student. Taking care of your instrument is extremely important, but easy to neglect. –  Michael May 3 '11 at 21:55
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Taking apart the instrument and putting it in the case lessens the probability of someone knocking off a table...or tripping over it on a floor stand...or playing with it...you get the picture. Also, in the case of wooden instruments, placing it in a case with a hydration device will help prevent the wood from drying out and cracking.

When I finish practicing my flute (scheduled practice), I take it apart, clean it, and then put it back together and leave it on the desk since I am the only one using that room. I often pick it up and play a bit at random times. I nearly always put my trumpet back in its case, though, since it's easy to drop the mouthpiece in and take it out of the horn.

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+1: Excellent point about wood instruments. Hopefully OP isn't practicing in a meat freezer. –  NReilingh May 3 '11 at 21:51
    
Putting away your instrument is also good advice for a string instrument, especially in wood. They do not need to be disassembled, most of the time (except sometimes shoulder-rest that do not fit in the case), but they are better off in a case, without dirt, with slowly varying humidity (for all parts), without light (for the varnish), in company of their bow (which is fragile, can spread rosin on cloths and furnitures and should not be left alone). Also most accidents I have seen for pupils' instruments involved it just a few minutes before being put on a chair or on a bed. –  ogerard May 4 '11 at 11:40
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For me then putting my flute away involves me cleaning it out (removing the moisture). If I leave it out then I don't do this, because you need to dissemble a flute to clean it. And if I am cleaning it, therefore dissembling it, then why not put it away...

But if you're doing as you say, taking care of your instrument, then I see no reason to put it away. As long as you're careful not to knock it over, etc (it can happen so easily) then you'll be fine.

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Is it only required to remove the mouthpiece on a flute? Otherwise, why is taking the entire instrument apart required? –  David May 3 '11 at 21:10
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@David The transverse C flute has 3 sections: Headjoint, body and footjoint. Basic cleaning of the flute involves separating the three sections and running a cloth through them, and wiping down the outside. –  Michael May 3 '11 at 21:45
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