A customer came to us recently expressing concern over her headjoint. She felt that it just was not playing the way it used to, and her sound was "spreading"and unfocused. We took a look at her headjoint, and a very usual culprit emerged -- a dirty riser.
Risers can accumulate build-up of all sorts of particles from the air you put into the flute. Remember, your air stream has microscopic particles from what you eat and drink, so it should be a rule of thumb to brush your teeth before you play. However, it's not just what is inside your mouth that can create residue -- it's also what is outside. Do you like to wear lipstick when you play? Lipgloss? It looks very nice, but it's not so nice to your flute. In fact, the customer who had fallen out of love with her headjoint and felt that it was no longer focusing her sound had a buildup of lipstick on the riser. Once it was cleaned, there was a huge, very noticeable difference. But, alas, it's not just the ladies who should heed these words of caution. Gentlemen, if you wear chapstick or lip balm and then play your flute, these products can create a residue on the riser as well. So, both men and women should wipe off their lips before playing -- make sure they are clean so that you are not blowing these products into your flute (and onto your riser!).
Our customer service manager tells us that even if you have completely clean lips when you play, everyone breathes -- and everyone has to eat. Brushing your teeth and cleaning your lips are helpful preventative measures, but you should still clean your riser regularly. How often should you do this? Every week or so? Well, it actually depends on how much you play. If you are playing a lot, you may need to clean it more often. Just take a look at it -- visually inspect it, and use a magnifying lens (or the zoom feature on your camera) to see how it looks. This can also help you pinpoint areas that really need to be cleaned.
So, how do you clean it? It's quite simple. You just need a Q-tip and some alcohol. Dip the Q-tip into the alcohol and gently swipe it around the riser. Try to get under it as much (and as carefully) as possible. You can also use water on a Q-tip to clean the riser. Whatever you choose, just make sure that you never clean the riser with anything sharp that could scratch it. We're guessing everyone has some Q-tips and rubbing alcohol at home, and if you don't, they are both very inexpensive and easy to find. And remember, if you find yourself having difficulty getting notes to speak or feel that your headjoint is just not cutting it for you anymore, try cleaning the riser...
|Close-up on residue.|
|The thick black line you see is residue!|
|A clean riser.|
|Cleaning it is easy -- Q-tip and alcohol.|
|Gently swiping Q-tip around riser -- carefully getting underneath.|
|Large Q-tips work really well!|