Repair Posts

Does Your String Instrument Have An Extra Buzz?

tom-may

From time to time we get string instruments in with a complaint about a buzzing sound or vibration. Sometimes a buzz is a simple matter to correct. Sometimes it can be a long process of elimination that proves very frustrating. There are some simple causes and corrections that need to be considered before anything is taken apart.

Some simple causes are loose fine tuners, fingerboard position tape, the chinrest vibrating against the tailpiece, unsecured chinrest tightening screws, unsecured string sleeves, low nut notches, objects inside the instrument, defective or fraying strings, open seams, and glue or varnish in f holes. With cellos and basses the endpin rod will cause a buzz when it is not secured or even when it is not pulled out.

It is often a combination of the above problems, which leads to a process of elimination that can take time. This can be quite frustrating when the answer is simple but elusive. Sometimes it is a judgment call if or when a string that looks fine is actually false or has loose winding. It is a bit of relaxed humor in our shop that the bass bar is sometimes considered first when it is almost never the bass bar causing the buzzing.

Stopping a buzz is almost always simple. Always check the simple things first. If it proves elusive, our shop is happy to help.

The Challenges With Rotor Valves

There are many problems with rotary valves. Maintaining them requires skills in tying knots, gentle tapping with special hammers, not to mention all those little screws and bumpers. Then after they are completely apart, they must be cleaned off all the dirt and debris on the valves and inside the casings. Lubricating and returning them to their proper casing and reassembling are the next hurdles.

This first picture here shows valves from an instrument that the valves were barely working on. You can see the oxidation and staining on the valves from lack of lubrication turning them almost black. Prolonged lack of lubrication along with dirt and debris caused this build up inside the casings and prevented the rotors from turning smoothly. Sometimes it is so bad we have to forcibly, but gently, drive the valves out of the casings. We then have to clean the valves and the body of the instrument in our ultrasonic cleaner to get them back to new condition.

In the second picture you can see the valves after they have been cleaned just before they are re-installed in the instrument. Proper lubrication will keep your valves looking this way and prevent sluggish action due to oxidation and build-up. Even when you instrument is not being used for prolonged times it is very important to keep lubrication on the valves, and slides, to keep them from freezing up.

In the Repair Shop we use Hetman’s Oils. They are a synthetic oil that lasts much longer and therefore does not need to be re-applied as often as petroleum based oils which dry out faster.

If you have any questions about our blogs or need more specific information please don’t hesitate to contact us here in the Repair Shop.

There’s A Cork In My Flute. What Does It Do?

cork-and-headjoint

A common complaint when a flute or piccolo comes in for repair is that “it is just not playing like it used to” or that “it sounds airy”. The first thing we check is the position and the fit of the head joint cork assembly. If it’s not in the right place, or if it’s too loose, the intonation and tone quality of the instrument will be affected. Proper placement of the head joint cork assembly is crucial. Use the following steps to check the placement of your cork assembly.

cleaning-rods

On the end of your cleaning rod, you will notice a line. This is actually a measuring tool to check the placement of your cork assembly. Place that end of the cleaning rod into the open end of your head joint until it makes contact with the head cork plate. rod-open-endLook into the embouchure hole (blow hole) and locate the line on your cleaning rod. It should be in the center of the embouchure hole. rod-holeIf the mark is down toward the open end of the head joint, you should tighten the head crown to pull the cork assembly back up the tube. If the line is too close to the closed end of the head joint, loosen the crown slightly and push on it to move the cork assembly down. The goal is to get the mark in the center of the embouchure hole. In rare instances, advanced players may find the need to move the cork assembly in order to bring the different registers of their flute in tune with each other.

A common mistake young flutists make is moving the cork assembly for general, every day tuning. Instead, for general tuning simply pull the head joint out of the receiver if you’re sharp, or push it in if you’re flat. Don’t make a habit out of moving the head cork assembly.

The cork part of the assembly will need to be replaced from time to time. The cork dries out and shrinks causing air to leak around the cork itself causing problems. If you notice that your cork assembly moves too freely, it’s time to have the cork replaced.

Quick Tips on Trumpet Care

Daily care and maintenance of your instrument is very important to how well your instrument performs. Watch this quick video below for a few, quick tips on caring for your trumpet.

Scrubbing Bubbles

ultrasonic-front

Below is an excerpt from an article we wrote when we first installed the ultrasonic cleaners in the shop.

Wow 1997! A whole brand new year and a whole brand new piece of equipment in the repair shop. A scrubbing bubbles machine! Technically known as an ultrasonic cleaner.

Over the past years, manufacturers have been forced to come up with methods of cleaning that are environmentally friendly. We have strived to become as chemical friendly in our own shop as well. Unfortunately, the safer the chemicals have become, the less effective they are at getting the grunge, grime, hot chocolate, Coke, Mountain Dew, and lime build up off/out of the instruments.

Fast forward to 2015…As it turns out we were the first ones to use ultrasonic equipment at our level. While industrial equipment had been around for years the equipment needed for our level just did not exist. After working closely with Omegasonics, a manufacturer of ultrasonic equipment in California, we have developed machines over the last 18 years that are now widely used around the world for specifically cleaning musical instruments.

In fact, in order to keep up with ourselves we have recently replaced both our floor model units with the latest developed models. In addition we also have two other table top units that we use for small parts. So we actually have four machines in use daily for cleaning of your, and our, instruments.

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ultrasonic-small

Why? Because they simply do a superior job and without the need of toxic chemicals. Which is good for you, us and the environment. The instrument is totally submerged in a liquid solution and the “scubbing bubbles” go to work on every square inch inside and out. No longer concerned about getting cleaning brushes stuck inside or wondering if you got “it” all.

So the next time you might have your instrument “cleaned” elsewhere you should ask "What process do you use?"

The video above shows the ultrasonic cleaner in action. Pay attention to the red grime coming off of both the bell and the valve casings.

Contest Season Is Almost Here. Is Your Instrument Ready?

Scott Hayden - Repair Shop

It’s not too late, but time is running out. Contest Season is almost here!

January through April is a really busy time of year for school music students. Many of the annual contests and festivals happen during this time of the year. These include:

  • Solo & Ensemble Contest
  • Jazz Band Festival
  • Junior/Middle School Organizational Festivals
  • High School Organizational Festivals

Your performance level and the success of your organization depend on a properly playing instrument. If your instrument has not been looked over by a technician in the last 6 months you may be overdue.

Send your instrument in for proper maintenance to help avoid small problems from turning into something larger at an inappropriate time. It could help you get to the next level during the upcoming contest season.

If you’d like to send your instrument in for us to check, we have a step-by-step guide on how to do that right here.

As always, please give us a call if you have any questions.

1-800-382-1099

That Brittle Time Of Year – Tips On Caring For Your String Instrument During Winter

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Winter is approaching with its cold, snow, and low humidity. This scares the bejabbers out of any self-respecting stringed instrument. Can’t you just see or hear wood shrinking, pegs loosening, cracks splitting a top rib in two … These are sights and sounds that one might think would bring a smile to a repairman’s face. Winter time does create special problems for the violin family instruments, but good common sense care will reduce the number of unnecessary repairs.

In most circumstances, instruments kept from sudden extreme changes in humidity and temperature stand an excellent chance of not cracking or coming unglued at the seams. Now, take the same violin in the same well-balanced conditions. If you bang it on a wall, floor, a friend’s head, etc., that violin (not to mention your friend’s head) will come apart somewhere.

An instrument taken from one environment to another, i. e. from a warm room to a much colder outdoors, will also suddenly be subjected to less humidity in addition to lower temperatures that can stress the instrument to the breaking point. Keep the instrument closed in the case for a more gradual exposure to the change.

Cold weather makes wood, plastics, leather, and metal more brittle. Avoid blows to the case, bag, or any accessories.

Peg compound used sparingly can be a good thing. Using too much will cause well-fitting pegs to slip.

Dirt on a violin, viola, etc., is unsightly and detracts from the sound. Keep it wiped off. A soft rag used appropriately is enough to keep rosin, perspiration, or fingerprints from accumulating on an already clean instrument.

Sometimes accidents are unavoidable. Paige’s repair shop is here to help whether general maintenance or major repair is needed.

It is a fairly sure bet that everyone has heard the joke about the difference between the violin and the viola. The punch line is, of course, the viola burns longer. It is an old joke but serves to illustrate that violin family instruments are made of mostly wood. Instruments made of wood can and will wear or even break, but they will, with good care, last for many years of enjoyment.

Top 10 Tips from our Repair Shop

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  1. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. It is best to have your instrument serviced regularly in order to keep it in good playing condition. We recommend at least once a year but twice is better. Especially for woodwind instruments. With all their intricate key work and pads/corks that wear out from just regular use they need a little more TLC.
  2. The hole in the bottom of a brass instrument piston IS NOT for a screwdriver or a pencil! It is a vent hole and sticking anything in there is liable to damage the port in the piston and cause a more expensive repair.
  3. We pull stuck mouthpieces for FREE. However, we do charge to re-install mouthpipes. When in doubt…..let us do it. (Pictured above)
  4. When wiping off your flute or piccolo to keep it nice and shiny be careful to not rub the edges of the pads. The pads are covered with a thin membrane which tears very easily leading to an earlier than normal complete repadding.
  5. Bari saxes do not bounce! Not really a repair tip but more along our amazement of the condition of the bari saxes that come in for repair.
  6. When an instrument gets wet from one of Mother Natures surprises just carefully wipe it off and then let it air dry completely before putting it back in the case. Putting it back in the case wet can lead to mold/mildew and major problems
  7. Never use alcohol to clean an instrument. It can damage the finish on string, brass and woodwind instruments.
  8. One UN-repaired solder joint…… leads to another.
  9. Extend the life of your bow hair by releasing the tension on the hair after rehearsals and concerts.
  10. Completely filled out repair tags are our umbilical cord to the customer. Without a telephone number we can not call. Without an address we can not send a postcard. If specific problems are not notated we may not find them.