If you just got a piccolo, you may wonder what the tube of grease is in the case. What is cork grease and how can it help you with your piccolo?
Cork grease is a vital tool for most (though not all) piccolo models. Before you toss the tube that came with your piccolo, consider why it’s so important and how to use it.
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What Is Cork Grease?
Cork grease is what you use on woodwind instruments to moisten the cork on the instrument body. When it comes to the piccolo, you’ll find a cork on the part of the body that connects to the headjoint.
But if you play other woodwinds, you’ll also use cork grease on your clarinet, saxophone, oboe, and bassoon. The grease keeps the cork from drying out and cracking, requiring a new cork and the money (and time) to replace it.
You can get cork grease in a tube that looks like lip balm. Sometimes, it also comes in a flatter pallet, so you need to use your finger to apply the grease to your piccolo’s cork.
Why Use Cork Grease
Using this grease should be a standard part of your piccolo maintenance routine. If you never use any of it, the cork will dry out, which may not seem like a big deal.
However, it could keep you from assembling or disassembling your piccolo.
How to Use Cork Grease
When you take your piccolo out, you can use cork grease before putting the instrument together. If you have a tube of grease, I’d apply it to the cork like you’d apply lip balm to your lips by rubbing the tube directly on the cork.
For cork grease that comes in a flatter pallet, you can use your finger to dab a bit of grease. Then, rub your finger on the cork so that the grease gets on it.
Now, you only need a little bit to get good results. If you use too much grease, you could make it slippery. The inside of the piccolo headjoint may get too greasy, and it won’t stay in place.
So consider letting the grease blend into the cork a bit before you assemble your instrument.
Best Cork Grease Options
When you buy a new piccolo, it may come with some grease. Most of my piccolos did, anyway. Now, the one used piccolo I bought didn’t come with any.
Even if it did, I wouldn’t have used it. You never know where the tube has been, so it’s better to buy more grease to protect your piccolo’s cork.
Here are some of the best options on the market.
Vandoren is one of the top brands for woodwind accessories, so it makes sense that they would make a good cork grease. The grease is supposedly for clarinets, but it works on any woodwind.
Another option to look at is Rico, yet another woodwind accessory brand. I like how you can get one tube or a bulk order of a dozen tubes. If you’re a teacher, you could hand out cork grease tubes to your students from that bulk order.
D’Addario is a sub-brand of Rico, so the products are very similar. It’s nice how the grease is all-natural, so you don’t have to worry about a bunch of random chemicals.
A less common brand but still a good option comes from Selmer. This is what I currently use, and it works great. I’ve had the same tube for years, so it can last you for quite a while.
Yamaha is yet another amazing woodwind instrument and accessory brand. Their grease is synthetic, and it works well in all temperatures and climates, so you can use it before any rehearsal or performance.
When to Use Cork Grease
Whether you’re new to playing the piccolo or have played for years, you may need to use some grease. There are multiple times in which it’s either useful or straight up necessary.
Here are some instances where I’d say you should use it.
Make Sure You Need It
First, I want to clarify that not all piccolos require cork grease, and it could even hurt some models. For example, the Armstrong 204 and other all-metal models don’t feature a cork on the body tenon.
Before you buy any grease, make sure your instrument has a cork. Sure, there’s a cork in the headjoint near the closed end, but I’m talking about the opening of the body.
If your piccolo uses a metal tenon, you should avoid grease. It may seem like the grease can help, but it can stick to the metal and attract dust, making your problems worse.
Apply It to a New Piccolo
You may also want to use the grease on a new (or new-to-you) piccolo. Especially for new piccolos, the cork may not have had much (or any) grease applied to it.
Part of breaking in a new piccolo can involve adding a bit more grease than you otherwise would. That way, you can keep the cork in good condition along with the rest of your instrument.
On the other hand, it never hurts to use the grease on a used piccolo. You may not know how often or recently the seller used cork grease.
Use on a New Cork
Whether you never used it before or for some other reason, you might need to replace the cork on your piccolo. After the replacement, you should get into the habit of using grease.
Then, you can put off having to replace the cork yet again. Taking better care of your piccolo can also help the whole instrument last longer, so you can save money on unnecessary repairs and upgrades.
Add Grease Before Storage
If you have multiple piccolos, odds are you have one that’s your main piccolo. Before putting any of your backup piccolos in storage, you should give it a nice layer of the grease.
Depending on where you store the piccolo, it may not have the best climate control (though it should have some). But also, not touching the piccolo for a while means the cork could dry out on its own.
Adding some grease before you store the piccolo can keep the tenon in good condition for longer. Then, when you need to use the extra piccolo, it should be in playing condition.
Cork grease is what a lot of woodwind players use as part of regular instrument maintenance. If you have a wood or plastic piccolo, most of them have a cork on the tenon where the body connects to the headjoint.
You should use a layer of the stuff on a new piccolo or whenever the cork starts to feel dry. That way, you can make sure it doesn’t dry out and break too soon.