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Teacher/Student saliva relationship. (haha)

I know that saliva and breath operated musical instruments go hand in hand. I can deal with that.
But my instrument (bagpipe) requires saliva EVERYWHERE. You lick the reeds to get them pliable, the joints are hemped (not corked) and those need to be moistened, breath moisture condenses in the bag, and your mouth is on the blowpipe, obviously.
So when I started taking lessons and my instructor would moisten things to make the instrument function, or demonstrate something and then hand it back to me to repeat, I just figured that exposure to someone else's saliva was part of woodwind culture and I should just get over it.
So my question is: Is this a part of woodwind culture, or is it just gross?
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Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
I'm going to go with "yes" and "it's gross." It doesn't necessarily have to be, though.

When teaching a student that's playing clarinet or another instrument that has a reed "mouthpiece" (I'm including double-reeds, like oboe and bassoon), sometimes the teacher wants to make sure that there's nothing wrong with the reed and/or mouthpiece that the student is using and has to play said reed/mouthpiece. However, when I was teaching lessons a billion years ago, I'd have a handy cup of not-alcohol-based antiseptic mouthwash I'd dunk the student's reed/mouthpiece in, soak for a bit, then try it. Not that I'm an extreme germophobe; I just really don't want to be swapping spit with someone I'm not married to.

I know close to zero about bagpipes. My wife, however, has a chanter and reed lying around. It's got a plastic reed and I don't recall her ever having to moisten it to play. I don't know if that's just a choice on her part or it's because of the type of reed.

There are a bunch of different mouthpiece disinfectant sprays out there that might also work. Do note that they may cause discoloration and/or break down the material they're used on, so either ask the manufacturer or try on a small area of the instrument before spraying all over the place.

In any case, anybody that has an instrument that they blow into is going to at least deal with their own saliva when they clean said instrument. Which may be gross, in and of itself. That's why most teachers say not to eat or drink immediately before playing. I'd extend that ban to smoking and chewing tobacco. Gum, before playing, isn't necessarily bad, but get rid of it before your instrument touches your lips.
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