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Thread: Not safe for lunch...

  1. #1
    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    Default Not safe for lunch...

    I've recently been reading on-line about maggots, etc in wind instruments...

    Recently many of our woodwinds have discovered maggots thriving in their mouth pieces.... (ewwww.) Has this ever happened to any of you? if so, what did you do about it?
    answer: Toss out reeds, clean mouthpieces very well, and keep them dry. Also, check cases and the storage room. Hopefully the pads are safe, but let everyone know that woodwinds have a lot of areas that promote maggot and bacteria growth due to lack of care.

    Also, you can soak reeds in a half-listerine half water solution (use alcohol-free to reduce fumes) to prevent this (and to make reeds taste better)
    Haha, my band director once told me that when one of his students opened up her saxophone case for the first time in a good while, they looked at the neck and the mouthpiece and there were maggots crawling in them.

    Then he said there was another time when they came back after Christmas break and there was a dead rat in one of he school sousaphones. It doesn't have a case, so it was easy for something to get in it.

    Then this past year, I had a classmate that was eating while playing her clarinet, and I guess she had left her case open at some point, because when she opened it back up after about a month, there were cockroaches crawling around in it.
    I was at my local music store last night - a mom came in with her son's tenor mpc complaining that the reed wouldn't come off!!!! Can you see this one coming?

    Her son had played that reed for more than a year without removing it. Needless to say, after it was pried off, bits of cane remained stuck to the mpc. The disgusting mess...

    I can't continue.
    A friend of mine was teaching jr. high, and had a similar situation, except that when the reed came off ( it had to be removed because the student couldn't get any air to go through the m/p) it revealed a colony of maggots. Said friend lost his lunch.

    One of the teachers here at U of North Florida actually calls this buildup "tone maggots." He doesn't loan his mouthpieces out very often because he's afraid they might come back clean, with all the "tone maggots" gone! Ugh.
    When I was in junior high school, many, many moon ago, I played a school horn which was stored in the band hall, and I kept my mouthpiece in my locker. One day when I took the mouthpiece out of the locker, a squishy plump earwig crawled out of it. Since that day I have washed my mouthpiece both before and after I play.
    A friend of mine was teaching jr. high, and had a similar situation, except that when the reed came off ( it had to be removed because the student couldn't get any air to go through the m/p) it revealed a colony of maggots. Said friend lost his lunch.
    Reminds me of grade school and junior high, where my band director would periodically hold mouthpiece checks. He would make all the clarinet and sax players remove their reeds and show him the back sides of the
    reeds and insides of the mouthpieces. When he found one lined with greeny-browny-yellowy slime,with one hand he would hold it up at arm's length for the entire band to see and with the other hand he would hold his nose, while shrieking "Bleagh! Yllggghhh! Feh! Feh! Feh!" and other noises of Horror Unspeakable at the top of his lungs (excellent lungs; although short, stout and not athletic-looking, he was a walking one-man-band who could play any wind instrument), to the great delight of the kids. Alas, his scheme backfired somewhat, because some of the boys started competing for the honor of the most disgusting mouthpiece. They got very, very good at it.
    I was teaching at a junior high school south of Dallas and had a female student with the absolute worst tone. Upon removal of the reed (which she had played as long as she had the horn) I found that the mouthpiece was almost entirely full of bright red LIPSTICK! There was a tiny hole letting air through. It took a while to get it all out but man, what a difference. I gave her some reeds and told her to wipe her lips before playing in band.
    She eventually moved to first chair that semester.
    After being out of town for a couple of weeks I assembled my horn to practice. I usually leave reeds on the mouthpiece, so before I warm up I saliva up the reed on the mouthpiece, then warm up. After letting the reed soak up the moisture I started playing and sounded very stuffy. A couple of seconds later I find my mouth full of FIRE ANTS. They apparently were fond of the cane but then quickly evacuated the premises when the reed started vibrating. I spit most of the ants out before they sung me, but a few managed to get me...
    When I was in junior high school, many, many moons ago, I played a school horn which was stored in the band hall, and I kept my mouthpiece in my locker. One day when I took the mouthpiece out of the locker, a squishy plump earwig crawled out of it. Since that day I have washed my mouthpiece both before and after I play.
    When we moved to our new house I packed my clarinet away in a brown moving box which I thought was thoroughly sealed. It took me a while to unpack everything... and since I don't play my clarinet as often as I used to it was one of the last things I unpacked. So when I finally opened up the case to look at the
    instrument... my jaw dropped in disgust. Little dried up maggot carcasses were inside the case. Not only had those little suckers invaded my precious instrument they had eaten away the cork. Of course I did not play the instrument that night, and took it the next day to get it cleaned and repaired. I realized later that the maggots may have invaded the box which was sitting out in the garage.
    I've heard horror stories from conductors about beginning clarinet players leaving the mouthpiece, barrel, and reed assembled all the time, and finding mold / gunk / maggots inside the horn as a result.
    One girl in my county left her reed on all the time and one day she couldn't play at all. When they finally pried the reed off (it was stuck on there pretty good) she had maggots living in her mouthpiece. Fair warning! You have to stick the thing in your mouth, so keep it clean.
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Jeez, thanks. I just finished supper.
    kv466 likes this.
    Experience teaches you to recognize a mistake when you've made it again.
    - anonymous

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    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    NSFL or D.

    edit: supper at 5:30? How old are you?
    Last edited by Lunasong; Oct-10-2012 at 00:37.
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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    Senior Member Ramako's Avatar
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    I don't know whether to 'like' this or not. I have done so mostly because it is a fair time since I have eaten anything I think . It was certainly entertaining. My favourite is:

    A friend of mine was teaching jr. high, and had a similar situation, except that when the reed came off ( it had to be removed because the student couldn't get any air to go through the m/p) it revealed a colony of maggots. Said friend lost his lunch.

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    Thanks Lunasong - you've made me squirm at the thought of playing anyone's instruments other than mine

    I guess students aren't the best people to care for their instruments. I take meticulous care of mine, maybe because I take them seriously. Like who eats sandwiches in between Bach's Partitas?!!

    I do drink coffee in between playing, but always carry a toothbrush and paste to clean straight away before playing. I guess that's just the way I was taught. Nowadays it wouldn't surprise me if young flutists learn to play and pick their nose during the glissandi techniques lol

  6. #6
    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    As a band director I come into contact with many mouthpieces, and always disinfect my hands promptly after practice. Mouthpieces can get bad , but it's the reeds that are a petri dish to some strange life forms. I'm sure if you put one under a microscope it would look like the locker in "Men in Black 2," full of extraterrestrials.
    As a repairer I have seen some of the more complex biological experiments of history inside the mouthpieces that come with school horns. I throw them in the bin, supply a new mouthpiece, and bill them. I have had few arguments when I show band committee people. Just ask them to put the mouthpieces in their own mouths, it soon shuts them up. School kids, and some adults, seem to eat immediately before, after and during playing. Women often use lipstick whilst playing, remember girls, nobody really ever died of dry lip syndrome. Soft drinks leave a curious film on reeds, in mouthpieces and down the guts of instruments, particularly saxophones. I wash all the mouthpieces I use weekly, wipe them down gently but don't pull swab through and I have got 20 years + from my alto and tenor mouthpieces and at least 15 from my clarinet mouthpieces. The maggot issue is probably myth, filthy mouthpieces are all too common.
    I actually did have a student a long time ago (when I was an undergrad) who had constant colds and runny nose...

    I eventually looked in her mouthpiece and she had green fuzzy mold in it...guess that explains the illnesses.

    I taught her that very day about cleaning mouthpieces out the proper way!
    I've had the same reed on since around 2000. Now I've got a really beautiful dirty sound, and it has the advantage that no-one asks to "have a blow" on my sax. The creamy slimy "tidemark" around where my lips come to on the mouthpiece puts them off.
    Several years ago I gave a bassoon clinic to a local school district for their bassoon students and band directors. One of the topics in my outline was to talk about the need to use a bocal brush to periodically clean out bassoon bocals.

    I had two containers. One was filled with dishwashing detergent and hot water. The second container was a large Pyrex bowl with clear water. My plan was to first soak a bocal selected at random from one of the players in the hot, soapy water and then do the scrubbing into the bowl of clear water to hopefully show what might get scrubbed out of the bocal. I would then pass the bowl around so everyone could see what got scrubbed out.

    When I put the brush in the corked end and started to push the brush into the bocal, a long white worm of puslike residue about five inches long oozed out of the reed end of the bocal. It was if I had squeezed good and hard on a full tube of toothpaste. Wow! My demonstration was a huge success. The girl who had been playing the bassoon ran out the room and her band director went as red as a beet. Needless to say, I made my point.
    ..........
    Last edited by Lunasong; Oct-10-2012 at 21:30.
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    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    Are you willing to have the inside of your instrument cultured?
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/s...ryId=129725678

    Dr. Mark Metersky, a professor at the University of Connecticut Medical School's division of pulmonary and critical care, asked several professional musicians if he could culture the insides of their trombones and trumpets for a pilot study.

    "Things plopped out," Metersky says. "It was disgusting. Imagine the worst thing you've found in your refrigerator in food that you've left for a few months, and that was coming out of these instruments."

    Metersky stopped testing after 10 instruments, because they all were contaminated.

    He grew a mold called fusarium, and a type of bacteria called a mycobacterium, sort of a cousin of tuberculosis.


    Dr. Mark Metersky took this picture of what's living in Scott Bean's trombone. The pink rods are Mycobacterium chelonae-abscessus species organisms. The round blue things are cells from the mucus membranes of Bean's mouth.
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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    Senior Member Kopachris's Avatar
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    That's disgusting. String instruments FTW.
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    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
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    Possibly the most interesting tales I've heard about what lurks in reed instruments since I read about Hawkwind's Nik Turner stuffing bags of drugs into the bell of his saxophone whenever there was a border crossing to be made.

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    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    A few years ago a student of mine was struggling uncharacteristically during a lesson. After some discussion I decided he might need to clean his instrument out. The discussion went like this:

    Teacher: “Your sound is real stuffy. When’s the last time you cleaned your horn?”

    Student: “Clean my horn? You’re supposed to clean your horn?”

    When I attempted to look through the mouthpipe, I couldn’t see any light. He was a high school senior and had gotten the horn as a sixth grader.

    You should have heard his sound ten minutes later…or better yet, his volume. He sounded like a foghorn. I’m surprised he had not given himself an aneurysm trying to blow through that horn. It turns out that blowing against all that resistance had really developed his ability to blow. From that time on the band director was constantly yelling at him to quit playing so loudly. The above story really happened.
    One of my former professors told me that twice in his life he has seen worms crawl out of a student’s instrument. Neither of those times was I the student, by the way.
    Today I decided I wanted to play my clarinet. It's been in my closet with my book shelf, and there is no closet door (So it's like a cubby hole). So I take it out and I open my reed case. I saw something really small which I believe is a bug. It's see-through, and it has antennas. I only see one so I hope it's the only one. Does anyone know what this bug is? And how to get rid of them? By the way I'm not going to use the reed again, but I want to know what the bugs are if anyone knows.
    Also the bug is as small as a flea, and it's see through. It might be book lice which I hope it's not.
    So my bass clarinet mouth piece is a little more than raunchy! HOLY cow I didn't even notice but you know how calcium builds up on the top half of the mouth piece. Weeeeeeeeeell I play so many different instruments I didn't really watch. So my mouth piece is green!YES It's green. OMG I have been scraping it now trying to get it off and to make it worse the plastic is now permanently the most disgusting looking thing ever!
    UGH ewwwww,ewwwwwww,ewwwwwwww!!!
    ..........
    Last edited by Lunasong; Oct-11-2012 at 23:32.
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    More culture...

    Researchers at Oklahoma State University bravely examined 13 instruments that belonged to a high school band. Six of the instruments had been played the previous week and seven hadn't been played in a month. Swabs were taken of 117 different sites on the instruments, including the mouthpieces, internal chambers and even the carrying cases.

    The results scored high on the yuck factor. The researchers found 442 different bacteria, 58 types of mold and 19 types of yeast. Many of the bacteria were species of Staphylococcus, which can cause staph infection. Most of the bacteria can cause illness, the authors noted. Mold spores can contribute to the development of asthma. Even the instruments that had not been played recently harbored germs galore.

    "Furthermore, this study also found that many of these microbes are highly resistant to some or most of the antibiotics normally used in general practice, including methicillin," the authors wrote.

    The study showed that reeds and mouthpiece ends were more contaminated than bell ends, but even the midpoints of the instruments and bell ends contained plenty of toxins. Woodwinds tended to be germier than brass instruments. Even the woodwind cases were more contaminated than the brass cases. Clarinets were the filthiest instruments. The germs in the instruments can be easily transferred to the students' hands, which in turn could contaminate other instruments, other students or the band room, the researchers said.
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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    But surely a nice bit of biscuit stuck in an oboe reed improves the sound of a beginner, especially if the reed is completely blocked?
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    Bass recorder FTW!



    Removable,sterilisable bocal. Just dip in alcohol after use

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    The study showed that reeds and mouthpiece ends were more contaminated than bell ends, but even the midpoints of the instruments and bell ends contained plenty of toxins. Woodwinds tended to be germier than brass instruments. Even the woodwind cases were more contaminated than the brass cases. Clarinets were the filthiest instruments. The germs in the instruments can be easily transferred to the students' hands, which in turn could contaminate other instruments, other students or the band room, the researchers said.
    ...and the moral of the story is for us to watch our mouths when cleaning our bell ends..>?!

  15. #15
    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    ^^After cleaning MY bell end, I always wash my hands!
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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