Emergency Woodwind Repairs
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It is advisable, as a band director, to maintain an
emergency repair kit in case instrument problems develop prior to a
performance. Some companies put together pre-fab kits that are
convenient for this purpose. Otherwise, a tackle box works
well. Your kit should contain: (1) an assortment of
various-size pads for each of the woodwinds, (2) a Bic-type lighter,
(3) an assortment of springs, (4) needle-nose & regular pliers,
(5) a small set of jeweler's screwdrivers, (6) a spring tool, (7) reed
clippers, (8) sheet cork and super glue, (9) single-edge razor blades,
(10) tweezers, (11) clear fingernail polish, (12) key oil, (13) velcro
tape, (14) duct tape, (15) rubber bands, (16) cigarette paper, (17)
leak light, (18) string, (19) small file, sand paper, (20) sharp
probe, (21) plastic food wrap.
Needless to say, you
probably do not want to go into the instrument repair business.
Therefore, the repairs listed below are best saved for
emergencies. Normally, you should recommend that the student
take the incipient hunk o' junk to a qualified repair person.
Test for leaks with a leak light on saxophones.
With flutes and clarinets, test one section at a time: stop the
bottom end of the joint with your hand, close all the keys and blow
with significant pressure into the top end. Listen for
leaks. You may also use a small strip of cigarette paper to test
for uniformity of pad tension. As a last resort, close off the
joint as described, and blow smoke into the instrument to see where it
escapes. This works quite well, aside from the remaining aroma
left in the pads ...
GLUED PAD BECOMES LOOSE:
Caution--not all pads are glued. Due to age, or sometimes cold
temperatures, the shellac glue which adheres the pad to the key cup
make break its bond. Often, all that is necessary is to heat the
key for a few seconds with a lighter in order to melt the glue
and reinstate the bond. Be sure to first place the pad in its
original position in order to maintain the "seat" on the
pad. Be careful not to heat the metal for too long, or
discoloration will result. A light soot residue may be left on
the key which normally will wipe off. (Ha. What a
joke. You've just ruined the kid's instrument. Better get
a good lawyer.)
PAD LEAKS IN GENERAL: Sometimes a
pad will develop a leak due to pad shrinkage, causing the pad to sit
in the key cup unevenly. Briefly heat the key with a lighter and
lift the edge of the low side of the pad with a sharp probe. Be
careful not to tear the pad. Then, reheat the key applying light
pressure on the key to seat the pad evenly.
LEAKS: If a pad becomes frayed, obviously, it must be
replaced. However, in an emergency situation, simply cut a piece
of plastic food wrap, stretch it tightly over the pad surface and
secure it with tape or a rubber band on the outside of the key.
Although lacking in aesthetic appearance, often this makeshift repair
will allow the pad to seal and get the player though a concert.
STICKS: Pads often stick because of high humidity. We
won't go into other possibilities (such as what the student may have
consumed for lunch). There is a product on the market called
"No Stick." Try to avoid this, except possibly on
saxophone pads. The best approach is to use cigarette paper,
which is chemically treated, to remove any residues. Place the
paper under the pad, depress the pad with a moderate amount of
tension, and slowly draw the paper out from under the depressed
pad. Repeat this process several times. If cigarette paper
is unavailable, try some other coarse paper, such as a dollar
bill. Be careful not to use too much tension with delicate pads,
such as those on the flute, clarinet or oboe.
Adjustment screws/felt bumpers (sax)
ADJUSTMENT SCREW IS LOOSE: A helpful tip with
fine adjustment screws is to put a drop of clear fingernail polish on
the screw heads to keep them from unscrewing due to instrument
Some saxophone key guards have
adjustable felt bumpers. These may be adjusted so as to lower or
raise key height, which affects intonation. The closer the key
is to the tone hole, the flatter the pitch of the note above it.
The farther away the key from the tone hole, the sharper the note
Adjustment screws on some instruments affect
the closing of the keys involved, and perhaps other keys. If a
pad is not fully closing, check for an adjustment screw.
BUMPER CORK IS MISSING: Bumper corks not only
silence the sound of metal against metal (sax.), but they also affect
intonation in regard to key height. These should be
replaced. Normally, this is simply a matter of cutting a small
piece of cork to the appropriate thickness and installing it with
super glue using tweezers. Apply pressure to the cork until the
glue has set.
CORK JOINTS LOOSE: Clarinet cork
joints and saxophone neck corks occasionally contract, particularly
during cold weather, causing a loose fit. Applying heat to the
cork with a lighter will cause the cork to expand. The flame
should be moved quickly over all areas of the cork, as it will burn if
left in one place too long. Afterward, apply cork grease.
SPRING IS DISCONNECTED: This is a simple
matter. A spring tool makes reinstalling springs an easy job
because of the notched ends for pushing or pulling a spring back into
its intended position.
SPRING BREAKS: If a flat
spring breaks which involves only one key, the key may be carefully
removed and a new spring screwed on. If a needle-type spring
breaks, this is a job for a professional. In an emergency
situation, a rubber band may be used--attaching it in the best manner
possible--to create enough tension to hold the key closed until a
proper repair can be made.
LIGATURE BECOMES UNUSABLE: If a ligature is
missing a screw, or becomes bent, it may be unusable in that the reed
will not be held on the mouthpiece securely. By using velcro
tape, an emergency ligature may be made which is of excellent quality,
similar to many high-performance ligatures on the market.
make an emergency ligature, cut two lengths of velcro tape
approximately 2"-3" long, depending on the size of the
mouthpiece. Attach the two pieces of velcro together with an
overlap of one inch. Place the overlapped portion on the table
of the mouthpiece, where the reed will go. Then, snuggly wrap
the velcro around the mouthpiece, fastening the other ends together on
top of the mouthpiece. Next, slip the ligature up to allow the
heel of the reed to be slipped into place. Finally, when the
reed is in position, snug the ligature down over the heel of the reed
into place. The added thickness of the reed will create enough
tension on the velcro to hold the reed securely in position.
A major performance distraction is key noise.
Surprisingly, simple key noise, including roller key noise, can be
virtually eliminated with the use of oil. Key oil is fine;
however, the use of heavier weight oil, such as 30w motor oil, is
recommended (for larger instruments, such as the saxophone) in that it
evaporates more slowly. Use only the slightest drop on each
moving part, wiping away any excess with a tissue.
to say, the above list of repairs is not comprehensive by any
means. There are simply repairs which you should know how to
make in an emergency situation.
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