Tips Posts

Oiling Piston Valves

That your valves need oil is not in question. If it moves, it should be lubricated. Today we’re talking about piston valves (like on a trumpet) and the different types of valve oils. Let’s get started.

There are hundreds of brands of valve oil available. Some are synthetic others are petroleum based and each has its own advantages. For many years petroleum based oils were the standard. They smelled bad and stained your clothing, but worked fine. Some were more refined than others and some had added smells – everything from chocolate to cinnamon! Some even had additives to make them smoother and slicker. However, all petroleum based oils have a tendency to dry out and leave the additives behind to foul your valves.

For the majority of our school music instrument repairs we have chosen to use a synthetic oil. It does not smell, does not stain your clothing, is long lasting and works fine. Unlike petroleum products, it comes in thin (for new valves) regular (for student instruments) and heavy for instruments that have worn valves). We think for most players and students that synthetic oil is the best choice. We use Hetman and Accent oils in the shop for this reason and is what is provided in our starter packs.

You might be wondering if there is a right or wrong way to get the oil from the bottle onto the piston. There are many ways to do this: Some right; some not so right.

Generally, the best way to oil your valves without taking the undo risk of dropping them is just to lift them part way out of the casing and apply a liberal amount of oil to the part with the holes in it (called ports). Then you can turn the pistons around a few times and put them gently back into the casings. (See video below) If you are careful, the guide will “click” back into place and you are ready to go. If you were not careful and the valve stays misaligned, air will not go through the horn. If that happens, there is no need to panic. The valves are in the right casings, you just have to turn them half way around and again listen for the “click”. The secret is not to take the pistons out and lay them on a table or you lap. This is when pistons can get damaged or out of order and when re-installed, the instrument will not play.

Our advice is to stick with taking them half way out and applying the oil exactly where it is needed on the pistons and casings.

If you have any questions about caring for your instrument, please call 1-800-382-1099.  We’d be happy to help!

Quick Tips On Flute 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 flute.

School Is Ending – What Do I Do With My Instrument?

As we near the end of the school year, one of the questions on a band parent’s mind is, “What do we do with my student’s instrument?” There are a couple of answers to this, but we can help you answer them.

First, you need to find out if your student plans to play again next year. If the answer to this is “yes” then you don’t need to do anything. Your student will bring the instrument home on the last day of school. This will give them the ability to play it all summer long. There are many online resources that they can utilize to make their playing even better while they are at home. The best part about it is that you student will be able to play whatever music they choose and they will go back in the fall an even better player than they were at the end of May.

If your student has decided that they are not going to participate in the music program next year, we make getting their instrument back to use easy as well. Here is a video that explains exactly how to get it back to us.

And as always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Quick Tips on Saxophone 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 saxophone.

You can find more care and maintenance videos for saxophone by clicking here.

Meet The New Yamaha Silent Brass

One of the most important things we can do as musicians is practice.  The more time we spend playing our instrument on our own, the better we will become.  The problem is that instruments, especially brass instruments, are hard to play quietly so it makes it even more difficult to find that winning formula of time, place, and the ability to practice. 
Yamaha is always developing ways to make playing easier from the advancements they make with their instruments to a full line of accessories to keep those instruments playing well, so it should come as no surprise that they have upgraded their Silent Brass offerings to make practicing that much easier.

First off, the Silent Brass System is a practice tool that incorporates a mute, headphones and a control unit.  When the player puts the mute into the bell of the horn, they can play unnoticed by most people as loud as they want.  They have control of the volume and all of the sound goes into the headphones, so they can literally practice anywhere.

The updated Silent Brass System, takes what was a good practice tool and made it even better.  The mute is smaller, so in most cases, it can be stored in the bell when the instrument is put away, so there is no need for a larger case with more storage, this also makes it more convenient to take it with you.  It is also vented so that it is more ‘free blowing” so there is not as much resistance.

The control module utilizes “Brass Resonance Modeling” This is unique to Yamaha.  It helps to reproduce the clear sound of playing without the sound of a mute.   In the player’s ears, it sounds like their instrument; it does not have the “muted” sound that most practice mutes have.  And the beauty is that you do not have to worry about how loud it is, as one you can hear it.

Come in today and try one out, you will be amazed at how good they sound.

Does Your String Instrument Have An Extra Buzz?

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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.

Vandoren Alto Sax Reeds – Looking For That Perfect Sound

Reed players are always looking for the perfect sound.  They have that sound in their head and they just need to go find it.  There are many factors that are in play when the musician is searching for it.  One of the most important pieces in that musical equation is the reed.  One of the most popular brands, worldwide, that players from beginner to professional rely on is Vandoren.

Vandoren is known for making a very consistent reed, so, as a player, you know that you are going to get a good reed each time you open the box. They have quite a few different options and cuts, which makes it that much easier to find the “perfect fit.” This week we are going to focus on the different styles of saxophone reeds that we stock and the features of them.

Vandoren Traditional – This is the standard blue box. This reed has the thinnest tip and the thickest heart of the sax reeds. This provides the player with crisp articulation with a full, dark sound.
Vandoren V12 – This reed has a thicker heel and are cut on a longer palette than the traditional reeds. The longer palette means that more of the reed is vibrating which results in a deeper, richer sound. It also has a slightly thicker tip than the Traditional cut reeds giving more body to the attack of the notes being played.
Vandoren Java (Green) – The Java reed has a thicker tip and more flexible palette than the Traditional reed allowing for greater vibration. This added flexibility gives the reed a bright sound with immediate response.
Vandoren Java (Red) – The Java Red is very similar to the Green, but it is a filed reed. This makes the reed slightly more flexible for the player giving them a full, rich sound with an extremely precise attack.
Vandoren V16 – This reed was designed for players that wanted the Java reed with more “wood”. It has a thicker heart than the Java (thinner than Traditional) which provides the player with a strong attack with a deep, rich sound.
Vandoren ZZ – This reed was designed by taking the heart, spine and rounded tip of the V16 and putting it with the flexible palette of the Java. It gives the player a rich, colorful sound with quicker response. The ZZ provides an immediate response without sacrificing the brightness and tone quality that is needed for playing Jazz.

If you have any questions about clarinet reeds, please contact us via email or give us a call at 1-800-382-1099.

 

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.