When cared for properly, a bamboo flute can last for decades. Here’s what you need to know to keep your bansuri in great shape.
The most common problem encountered is cracking. Bamboo comes from the rainforest, so it’s used to a humid environment. When bamboo dries out, it shrinks a little bit. This increases the risk for cracks to form. When you play into a dry flute, the moisture in your breath is absorbed, thus causing the bamboo to rapidly expand, which is when it cracks.
There are preventative measures you can take to decrease the risks – predominantly by oiling the inside of the flute. You can use any vegetable oil. I use walnut oil and have used olive oil as well with good results. Oil the flute at the change of seasons, and perhaps more during winter if you’re going to be playing a lot or are from a cold climate (heating dries out the air – so a humidifier can help too). The oil is there to take the space where the natural moisture used to be, thus blocking the absorption of the moisture from your breath for two reasons; because there is no space for the water to enter, and because oil and water do not mix.
Should your flute crack, it’s not the end of the world. Two of my favorite flutes have rather large cracks (because i didn’t follow my own advice), but they are both perfectly playable, as binding the cracks correctly does keep them airtight. Remember, it’s the air inside the flute that makes the sound, not the bamboo itself. No leak, no problem. If you don’t know how to tie the thread around your flute, you can try covering the crack with common electrical tape. DO NOT try to put glue into the crack, as this will only hold it open and make it more likely that the crack will spread. You should try to get the flute back to its original shape as much as possible and keep it there.
If you have any questions feel free to contact me.