Tips and Tricks








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     Band Directors  are a very talented breed,being able to teach,administer,coax ,cajole and heck,even do repairs, making them a real Multi -Tasking  Person of the Twent-first century.It is in this last category of repairing that I am somewhat reminded of the Star Choice Viewing Packages  of Gold,Silver and Bronze  because the level of  confidence and comfort that each director has for repairing instruments so clearly falls into Gold,Silver and Bronze levels of expertise.

This group are the type who feel very comfortable tackling most mechanical repairs and, when an instrument from their programme finally comes to my shop, I know that every attempt has been made to fix it and now it really needs repairing.

Either a brass player who can do alot of maintenance work on horns but the world of woodwind is sacred,conversely a woodwind player feels happy tweaking springs and seating pads but brass reapairs  leave them breathless.

Very capable teachers but they tend to have two left hands covered with ten thumbs and freely admit their incapacity, so off to the shop with all repairs.Fear not there is hope yet.

  Because of such a wide audience I will try to provide both Gold and Bronze answers to some basic problems that arise in your band room.

Basic tools:-

Gold /Silver:  screwdrivers ( as many sizes as possible)
                      rawhide mallet
                       round nose pliers
                       long nose pliers
                       spring hook    ( made from crocheting needle)
                       small butane light from Canadian Tire
                       small watercolour brush or hypodermic needle type oiler for                                                    
                       an assortment of pads ...clarinet   10mm/17mm
                                                             flute        17mm/17.5mm/18mm
                                                           sax         9mm/17.5mm/30mm/40mm
                                             cork sheets          3/64 inch   and 1/32 inch  1/16
                                                                        (who cares if I mix measuring   
                                              water key corks

Bronze       :  small jewellers screwdriver ( as you cannot do too much damage with
                     duct tape.
                     elastic bands
                     clear nail polish
                     twist ties


 1. Water key spring is loose or weak.

Gold:Grab the end of the spring with long                         Bronze: Wrap an elastic
         nose pliers,pull and wrap end                                                band around the
          around the post.                                                                   entire 

2.   Water cork missing.
Gold:  Heat cork cup,dab of glue on                  Bronze:Wad of Kleenex in
           cork,insert and level .                                           cork cup and seal
                                                                                       tight with duct tape.

3.   Weak piston action

Gold: Good cleaning in hot soapy water               Bronze:Try pulling the spring
          if no improvement then stretch spring                      (gently) and lubricate
          by holding at both ends.                                           pistons generously.

4.Broken solder joint on anything

Gold:If it is accessible,then duct or electrical          Bronze: Same as the Gold guys
         tape it back together.                             

5.Poor Trombone slide action .
   Three reasons to diagnose.

A)   * Remove the inner slide and place the outer slide on a flat surface.
       * Then line up the tips of the inner slide with ends of the outer slide (in order to                                 
        ascertain   if the distance between the tips of the inner slide are greater or less                          
        than the opening s at the top of the outer slide.

   Gold:Grip the ends of the inner slide (that fits        Bronze:Say three Hail Marys
             into the bell section) and apply slight
            pressure to open or close the  tips,so they
            line up with the openings of the
            outer slide.   <----->

B) *Lay inner slide on flat surface and see if one of the ends is twisted up .
     * If you press either one of the slides there should be no movement....if so....

   Gold:Grip ends of inner slide that fit into                Bronze:Face Mecca and pray.
             bell section ,apply twisting movement
              and rotate ends:check  to  if the  slides
              lie flat on the surface.                  
                                                                                                                               C) *  If  the outer slide is sprung,you will see a bow or curve when you eyeball it.

  Gold:With your right hand hold slide end                Bronze: Don't go there
           that fits into bell section.Place other
           end on bench ,with left hand apply slight
           pressure along entire length of slide.

6  Sticking middle valve on trumpet
Usually caused by student putting too many books in the case,that leads to a sprung valve casing.

Gold:Push on slide with base of your palm.              Bronze:Make student do 20     
                                                                                             push-ups,and tell                  
                                                                                             them not to do it

7  Sticking valves.
    Caused by a variety of reasons such as dents or a sprung piston casing,due to removing tuning   slides without the pistons in placeand this will necessitate a shop repair.
However ,it can be simply a tight lower valve cap,so just undo it a fraction and it may release the piston.

8   Tight top cap on valve casing.
      Unable to open for oiling.

Gold:Tap cap gently with rawhide hammer                        Bronze:Tap student on     
                                                                                                     the   head and 
                                                                                                 them for not doing 
                                                                                                  regular oiling.

9. Rotary valves sticking on french horn/bass trombone

Gold:Tap the retaining screw (in centre of valve)         Bronze:This is an easy one.          
          with mallet.                                                                   Give it a try.

10.Restringing french horn
    Rather than give a lenghty explanation,I can only say that Band Directors fall into two groups when it comes to restringing a french horn.......those that can restring and those that can't.The only suggestion that I do have is that Lee Valley Tools have an excellent Utility Cord for only about $8.00 a roll of 50yd,and it works great.





1   Octave key problems.
A) Extension that  contacts the neck octave key is bent.

    Gold: Bend extension so it is                   Bronze:Give student a different horn.
              parallel with sax body.

B)  The neck octave key is bent.

      Gold:Hold the ring firmly against neck                 Bronze:Give student some
               and press down on pad cup.Press                             music that is all
              thumb octave key to see if the neck                            in the lower register.
              octave key opens.If not, the key
             was bent too much so reverse bending
              procedure,by holding cup firmly and
             pressing on ring.

3  Sticking  Bb or G# pad.

    Gold:Place thin piece of cotton cloth under                Bronze:You can easily do
            the pad ,push down and draw out                                   this.
            the cloth.Repeat if necessary.

4.  G# key not sealing when lower keys played.

    Gold: Put some tape around the extension            Bronze:Use Duct,electrical or
              arm coming off the F# key,until                               masking tape.............
              it closes without interferring                                      experiment
              with F key.                                            

5   Shrunken neck cork,will not hold mouthpiece properly.

Gold: Apply cork grease to cork and wave the              Bronze:If you want to
         cork through the flame of a propane torch.                        attempt this,check
         Move it rapidly.                                                                 you have Fire
                                                                             Insurance.Otherwise,wrap tape 
                                                                          around cork for desired thickness
6.Keys clicking on key guards  D#/C
    missing felt bumpers.
   Gold:Glue a thick piece of cork to under side         Bronze:Wad up a small piece
           of key guard.                                                               paper and attatch to
                                                                                          underside of key guard                                                                                   
                                                                                             with tape.

7   Key guard screw missing.

Gold:Use a twist tie ,but twist it tightly             Bronze:The Gold Guys are doing a
         to reduce any rattling.                                            Bronze repair.Dazzle them
                                                                                     by finding the screw and
                                                                                       replacing it.


8 Loose pivot screws
   Lubricate with oil,tighten and seal with a drop of clear nail polish.


9. Unable to play anything.
    usually some kid has fiddled around with the adjusting screw on the Ab key.

Gold:Turn adjusting screw anticlockwise              Bronze:This is the one repair
         so it is not touching the A key.                                 that will impress anyone.
                                                                                      and it is why you have the           
                                                                                            small screwdriver.

10  Cannot play low C
     check side Bb trill key as this can easily be bent.Straighten with pliers.


11.Joint corks.

   Gold.Usually 1/32" cork.Use contact              Bronze.Wrap masking tape around
            cement to attach.Trim with sandpaper                 joint,for desired thickness.
            when dry.

12.Problems with upper octave on bass/alto clarinet.
     leaking from high C and B keys.

    Gold.Replace pads if possible.                       Bronze:Put some duct tape over the
                                                                                       tone holes.

13 Loose pivot screws
    Lubricate with some oil,thighten and seal with a drop of nail polish.


14.Loose head cork

Gold:Coat cork with grease and pass it               Bronze:Wrap some masking tape
         rapidly through flame on burner.                             around cork and reinsert.

15. Loose  foot joint.
Gold & Bronze:Wrap a small piece of masking tape around end of main flute body.

16  Loose pivot screw especially D/E/F/F# key assembly.
      When you find these keys do not play,the pivot screw has become loose and the entire assembly has 'floated' up.Lubricate and tighten it ,not so tight that the keys do not move,then a drop of  nail polish,should do the trick

Oboe , bassoon ,and  piccolo.......  don't go there unless it is something obvious like                                                 
                                                         a cork joint

If a problem arises and it is not mentioned  here ,it is probably because there is not a temporary solution to the problem  and the instrument either needs a special part or tool .

      All these ideas work as I've seen them all come through the shop.However,they are only temporary and will get you through a concert,or whatever ,until you can get it repaired.

    The management will not accept any responsibility for utilizing the above information and if you would like to raise any queries ...too bad.

 Seriously,please contact me with any further ideas or suggestions.

 Piano stuff

The average medium size piano has about 230 strings

Each string has about 165 pounds of tension

The combined pull of all the strings equals approximately eighteen tons

The total string tension in a concert grand is close to thirty tons

A full-size upright piano weighs between 600 and 700 pounds

A boxed model D Steinway grand piano weighs 1400 pounds

The working section of the piano is called the action, having about 7500 parts

The name 'piano' is from the Italian: 'piano et forte' meaning 'soft and loud'

The first practical piano was built in 1726 by Italian, Bartolomeo Cristofori

The oldest piano still in existence was built in 1720.