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When to Take Instrument to the Repair Shop

Your child tells you his/her instrument will not play, or the band director has told him/her to tell you that it needs to be taken to the repair shop.  Dad says that he can fix it because all you need to give him is a hammer and duct tape!  First of all, do not let dad anywhere near that instrument!  Send him to Home Depot instead!!  He can do more damage to an instrument in two minutes that your child can!  This is especially true of stuck mouthpieces on brass instruments (trumpet, trombone, French horn, baritone and tuba). Never use a pair of pliers to remove a mouthpiece!  The force of the pliers will most likely cause the lead pipe (that is the pipe the mouthpiece goes in) to tear like paper and you will end up with a $100 plus repair.  There is a special tool that most band directors and all instrument repair shops have.  It is called a mouthpiece puller (real technical name, isn’t it?).  It is designed specially to hold the mouthpiece in the proper places and provide even, steady force to remove it without causing damage.  If your child has a stuck mouthpiece, please take it to your band director or a music store to have it removed!

Back to the instrument won’t play:  When your child tells you his/her instrument won’t play, the first step to getting it fixed is to have your child show the instrument to your band director.  Many times, the problem can be fixed by a minor adjustment to the instrument.  Most band directors are able to make these minor adjustments in a few minutes and the instrument will play as good as new.  So please do not rush to the instrument repair shop at the first sign of instrument trouble – let your band director look at the instrument first.  However, there are times when an instrument needs a major repair and the band director may not have the time, tools or ability to make those necessary repairs.   This is when he/she will tell you to take the instrument to your local music store or instrument repair shop.  The director will be able to give you suggestions on which local stores perform instrument repairs and may be able to provide a list. Click here for a list of Metro Atlanta music stores.

Many repair shops do good work, however, many stores now send instruments off to a centralized repair shop outside of the local store.  Many times the turn-around time for instrument repair is from two to three weeks (more, if it is a really major repair).  That means your child misses out on a significant number of band classes while waiting for the instrument to come back from the repair shop.  There is a solution - - maybe.  Some music stores will offer a “loaner” instrument for your child while the repair is performed, especially if you have a instrument rental contract with them.  Always ask for a loaner instrument.  If they say no, ask if you can rent an instrument for a short term of two or three weeks.  Some stores may do that.  If that doesn’t work, write a note to or email your band director to see if there is a school instrument available to borrow. You may be required to complete paperwork on a school instrument to assume responsibility for care and repair.

Another possibility is to find an independent instrument repair person.  There are some instrument repair specialists who have decided to go into business for themselves.  Many will work out of their homes and have a repair shop in the basement or the back yard.  Many times these repairmen have years of experience and can often perform a minor to medium difficulty repair while you wait.  Your band director is a great resource for referral to an independent music repair specialist. In the North Metro Atlanta Area, Mac McKee is an excellent repair person

Now that your child’s instrument is back from the repair shop, it is a good time to review with your child the proper care and maintenance of a band instrument.  Have your child go to the Many repairs can be avoided with proper attention to keeping an instrument in good working condition.  Children should know to never put water on any part of a woodwind instrument other than washing out the mouthpiece.  This will destroy the “pads” (those are the little white or brown things under the keys.  Trombone players should know to avoid bumping the playing slide against anything and to be very careful with it at all times.  You would be surprised at how little a bump will cause a repair of over $125.