Everyday thousands of brass players around the country head off to their local brass band, big band or orchestra. When doing this lots of thoughts are probably going through their heads, from difficult passages they have to play to what event they may be practising for. But I can guarantee that very little if none at all will be thinking of the cleanliness of their instrument. I am sure that not so long ago many of you heard about the Scottish piper that died from a condition known as “bagpiper's lung” but not so many of you may know that the same condition also goes by the name of “brass player's lung”.
As a brass player myself I know how much we all joke around about the condition of some players instruments, but joking around is not what we should be doing. Generally speaking most players don't own their own musical instruments, as they are most likely owned by their local bands or in the case of children by their local school or music service. This then presents it's own set of problems, because they don't own the instruments that they play there is no incentive to keep it in a good condition. What we have then is people playing on instruments that have been played by so many different people that they possibly haven't been cleaned in years or sometimes even decades!!!
While you may just think its just “gross” to think about, it isn't just a bad thought. Having your instrument cleaned regularly isn't just a cosmetic improvement. When you blow into your brass instrument you are not just blowing air through, your are creating a warm, moist environment on the inside of it. This type of environment is perfect for germs, mould, bacteria and microscopic organisms to grow and thrive. This can lead to the player experiencing severe health problems, anything from a deep cough and Asthma to Severe inflammation of the lungs known as hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Doctors have actually found bacteria growing in some high school instruments in the U.S called Mycobacterium, which is very similar to Tuberculosis!! The only comparison I can make to that would be leaving food in the fridge for 6-8 months and then pulling it out and serving it to you. Would you eat it? Of course you wouldn't.
The issue of not cleaning your instrument has affected many wind and brass players all over the world. In rare cases the inflammation and scarring of the player's lungs is so bad that they have been unable to recover from the disease. I have not written this post to scare anyone, but I have written it as a warning to players old and new, more of a wake up call that playing an instrument that hasn't been cleaned is not good for your health. Either have your instrument serviced by a repair service such as Parker's Music Services or take some time out of your evening or weekend to clean the instrument yourself, the B# cleaning kit is one of the best as it contains a bottle of instrument soak which is a powerful liquid soap that kills germs and removes the bio-film inside your instrument. If you are unsure of how to clean you instrument yourself I am hoping to show you how on next weeks post, fingers crossed with a video how to guide, if my technical prowess can handle it.
So, to finish up this weeks post I ask of you, please for your own health keep your instrument well maintained. Thank you for reading.
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