I use American-made Valentino pads almost exclusively. These seem to be very dense closed-cell foam with a slick and impervious plastic surface. The reasons why I like these are:

  • They are easy to make seat evenly on the tone hole, and
  • Once they are seated, they stay that way.
  • They don't get brown, crack, or peel away like traditional bladder pads.
  • Moths don't eat them.
  • They are impervious to moisture. When traditional bladder pads get wet, they can change shape, they turn brown and then the bladder covering will flake away. Then they leak.
  • They should last and work well virtually forever, EXCEPT
  • The one thing that must not happen is that the clarinet should never be left in the back seat of a car on a hot, sunny, summer day. If the instrument gets too hot, Valentino pads will compress. They don't melt and make a mess, but there will be air leaks, making the instrument unplayable until repadded.
  • Please DO NOT push down hard on a pad cup in an attempt to make a Valentino pad seat better. This is something one can do with traditional pads with better results. But if you put a gorilla squeeze on Valentino pad, you will make deep grooves in it. A tiny groove matching the tone hole is good. But a deep groove will often leak, especially if compressing the pad takes it out of alignment with its neighboring pads and keys. The keys that need to work in combination with others are these: the throat tone A and G# keys, all the ring keys, and the three largest and lowest pads on the right hand joint. THOSE are the ones you particularly don't want to squeeze. For others, it may not matter much if you apply some pressure to see if it will improve how the clarinet is responding. If you determine you have a leak,  see below: How to re-seat a Valentino pad
I have used traditional pads in the past. I can positively state that Valentino pads hold up much longer than traditional pads. With traditional pads, after a year of use, usually 5-6 discolored and flaking pads will need to be replaced. For a clarinet with Valentino pads, after a year or two of use I will probably only need to clean everything and check key adjustment. (And no matter what kind of pads are used, one will still want to check that they keys are not bent out of alignment, etc.) Instrument repairmen would have a harder time making a living if they used Valentino pads! See more information on longevity on the Spa Treatment page.

NEWS: Valentino now have Masters Series pads with a four-layer construction. I am using these for most of my repadding now. See the PDF file attached below.

Please note: Valentino makes a repair kit which is very popular with band directors. In the repair kit are self-adhesive Valentino pads. I do NOT use the self-stick kind! I am using the “green back” pads, and floating them into alignment with hot glue. Note that the Yamaha company thinks highly enough of Valentino pads that they are factory installed on their model 250

Side note to band directors: For some reason, repair kits sold with Valentino pads always have only the thickest sizes. The self-adhesive sets would work much better if you get medium and thin thicknesses for all the smaller sizes (11.5mm and smaller).

Picture on the left: A nice, even ring-shaped indent in a pad: A joy to behold! [update 15Aug2014] Actually, the ring-shaped indent in the pictured pad is too deep! But it does show up in the picture better when it is too deep.

What do I need to do to take care of Valentino pads?
Nothing. If the pads get bore oil, key oil, or soft drinks on them, it won't effect them. It would be a good idea to clean off the liquid so that it does not attract dirt. If you have a certain hole that always seems to develop a stream of saliva, see the page on oiling the bore of your clarinet.

Wicking away moisture from pads:
This can be done if you notice a “burbling” sound on a particular note, or if you “spring a leak” during a rehearsal. At the end of the rehearsal, after swabbing, I will also wick the moisture out of holes that often leak. Roll-your-own cigarette paper (the un-gummed kind) is used by clarinet players to wick out moisture from tone holes and pads. The most common leak locations are on the top keyed joint, especially the E-flat side key and the neighboring C# key. Water left in contact with Valentino pads won't really degrade them, but just grow mold.

DON'T use “Pad Savers”!

They are really Pad Destroyers, because they destroy traditional bladder pads. Pad Savers are fluffy rods that one is supposed to insert into the clarinet after playing. I think the problem comes from students (always in a hurry after band) not swabbing out the clarinet thoroughly first. Then the Pad Saver traps moisture in contact with the pads. You want the clarinet and the pads to dry out after you play. For best results just swab out the clarinet, and let the remaining moisture dry out naturally. See the page on Swabbing.

What to do if you have a sticky pad?

There are several things you can do for a sticking pad. The person I was answering here had a problem with a sticking B-flat/F key.
  1. Make sure the problem is not in the adjustment of the set screws on either end of the Bb/F key. See if you can get it to stick down, and then loosen the screws. Does a different position free it up?
  2. Make sure that one of the posts has not been hit, so that the key is binding on the posts.
  3. Take the key off, and check if the post that has the spring is loose. If it is, then the spring tension will turn the post so that it rubs and binds against the key. This will also, at the same time, reduce the amount of spring tension. Take the post all the way out, and remember how many turns it takes to remove AND the direction it was in when the post was released from the threads. (When you put the post back in, you will want to start turning it in at the position it became free from the hole and you will want to put it in with the same number of turns as when you took it out.) Put a small amount of epoxy or Gorilla Glue in the hole and replace the screw. Wait until the glue dries before reassembling.
  4. If you think there is something sticky on the tone hole, moisten a q-tip with rubbing alcohol and scrub both the tone hole surface and the pad surface.
  5. It may be that the pad has too deep of indentations that are getting caught. This would be quite unusual, and I have never seen this, but it is possible. This probably can't happen unless the position of the key has changed due to different adjustment of the pivot screws.
  6. With bladder pads, sometimes people have dusted talcum powder on the tone hole. The idea would be to have the powder stick to whatever it is that is sticky.
How to re-seat a Valentino pad:
If you suspect that a pad is leaking, try this: You'll need a heat source and a toothpick.
  • Carefully heat the pad cup.
    • Safer method: Use a good hot soldering iron. Heat the pad cup. This method is much better for small pad cups.
    • Requiring care:  Use a butane cigarette lighter (or a bunsen burner burning alcohol is cleaner). Heat the pad cup in the side of the flame. Do this on the side of the flame, not on the top of the flame, because then you will burn your clarinet body. So heat the key cup, NOT the clarinet body.
  • It only takes a few seconds to soften the glue. Very gently using the side of the toothpick (not the point), pull the pad away from the pad cup on all sides. Wait a second or two for a bit of cooling, then gently close the key. Don't squeeze it. The pad should seat flush with the tone hole.

Usually there is enough glue in a pad cup to reseat the pad. But especially on the larger pads, if you want to cause the pad to not recede so much into the pad cup, you can add a sliver of hot glue. Regular hobby-type glue gun glue sticks are almost like the professional glue sticks that I use, and any hot glue should work fine. Use a sharp knife and shave off a little piece, put that under the pad in the key cup. Heat and allow to seat.

Phil Pedler,
Jun 24, 2011, 6:55 AM