How Expert Instrument Repairs and Regular Maintenance Help Musicians Thrive.

From helping children thrive socially and academically to bringing joy, inspiration, and comfort to countless people, music makes our world better in myriad ways. It’s difficult to encounter a person who hasn’t been moved by music in some way. While billions around the world cite music as an important part of their lives, far less are familiar with how it’s made and where it comes from. Everyone knows musicians need instruments in order to create and perform, but music-makers can’t be their best without tools that are properly maintained and working the way they should. Whether you’re learning how to play an instrument for the first time or have been a seasoned player for decades, you can’t play your best without expert instrument maintenance and repair help.

Whether it’s as minor as a poorly maintained instrument keeping a professional musician from playing confidently or an instrument so badly damaged that it can’t be played at all, repairs and maintenance matter. All musicians need talent, ambition, and loads of practice to succeed, but only those with fully functioning instruments can meet their full potential, and that can’t happen without expert repairs and maintenance.

Even the best instruments don’t stay playable forever

Your instrument might be new, expensive, and made by a reputable brand, but it will still need to be maintained and repaired at some point. Strings break, pads and valves wear down, and the tone and vibrancy of instruments diminish over time the more they’re played. Similar to how cars require regular oil changes, tune-ups, and the right kind of fuel to run smoothly, instruments can’t be played for months on end without being thoroughly cared for.

All musicians play instruments that demand regular maintenance, but issues like broken or missing bridges in orchestral string instruments and stuck mouthpieces in brass instruments require repair interventions from experts. Most issues that impact instruments stem from regular use, but preventable external factors like external physical damage or cracks brought on by poor storage conditions can make instruments unplayable, and these problems can’t be remedied without being repaired by an expert. Regardless of your experience level as a musician or the quality of your instrument, repairs and maintenance are mandatory for playing and sounding your best.

Broken and unmaintained instruments make it hard or even impossible for musicians to perform

Since musicians demand so much from their instruments, it’s only fair that they take care of them the best they can. In the same way professional singers get the most out of their voices by getting a good night’s sleep, drinking lots of water, and avoiding caffeine, our instruments can only perform as well as we treat them. Whether you’re completely new to music or have been a professional musician for decades, your ability to learn, perform, and create music is dependent on the quality and condition of your instrument. An obvious example is a broken guitar string that keeps a guitarist from being able to play chords, riffs, and scales. A less obvious one is a guitar with its strings set too high above the bridge, which makes rudimentary playing much more difficult than it should be. Some guitarists can confidently change their own strings, but only experts can adjust the action of an instrument.

While broken and unmaintained instruments hold all musicians back, young students are far more prone to being negatively impacted than anyone else. Their lack of experience causes them to not be able to differentiate a broken instrument from one that works, and this could lead them to become discouraged and quit. Malfunctioning and neglected instruments make learning, the main job of students, far harder than it should be when it’s already hugely difficult to begin with. Making sure your instrument, or that of your budding music student’s, is in good condition and properly maintained is crucial for musical success.

A challenge for all musicians is to remove barriers that keep them from succeeding––not finding enough time for practice, distractions, and a lack of inspiration are examples. Playing on instruments that don’t work correctly is another major hurdle that can be added to that list. Luckily, keeping an instrument maintained isn’t difficult or expensive in most cases.

Common maintenance needs for instruments

Regular instrument maintenance is something that can keep musicians, educators, and parents from having to pay for unexpected and expensive repairs. Maintaining an instrument isn’t challenging, but it’s something that has to be regularly done. Here are examples of regular maintenance needs most musicians face:

  • Yearly professional cleaning (brass instruments) - Scale buildup is unavoidable when it comes to brass instruments that are played regularly. Oil, grime, and calcium deposits form inside these instruments over time and can’t be removed without a deep, professional cleaning. Virtually all instrument repair shops offer yearly brass instrument cleaning, but most use strong chemicals that are harmful to the environment. Music & Arts offers ultrasonic cleaning, a safe cleaning method that only uses water-based detergents. Without regular cleaning, brass instruments can’t sound their best or perform correctly. 
  • Condition regulations and adjustments (woodwind instruments) - This woodwind instrument maintenance service is recommended on a yearly basis. Your flute, clarinet, oboe, saxophone, or bassoon may look like it’s working perfectly on the surface, but there’s much going on inside that you can’t see. This service is designed to get woodwind instruments performing the way they should whether issues exist externally inside the instrument. 
  • Proper handling and storage - Moving an instrument without a case or storing it in a place that’s too hot, cold, or dry can cause major damage. Proper maintenance requires instruments to be stored safely in cases and adequate environmental conditions. In general, instruments are safe in places where human beings are most comfortable in, but it’s wise to consult with an expert to check if where you live is especially dry. Certain instruments––especially large ones––have to be moved in specific ways to prevent damage. Most instruments should be stored in cases when they’re not being played.
  • Accessory repair and replacement - Reeds, strings, drumheads, and rosin are examples of music accessories that some instruments can’t be played without. A broken drumhead is more of a maintenance issue than a repair need since it can easily be replaced. Keeping valves greased and strings coated in rosin are crucial for the performance of some instruments. This also applies to accessories like string bows, which need to regularly be rehaired. Frequent playing requires string instruments to be taken in for seam re-gluing and bridge resets and peg, fine tuner, end-pin replacements in some cases. 
  • Staying on top of wear and tear - If you, your child, or music students play regularly, minor dings, scratches, and dents are inevitable. Keeping instruments clean and taking them in for regular tune-ups will ensure they look great and perform the way they’re intended to. 

Instrument repairs musicians are likely to need

Play music long enough, and your instrument will need some extra love and care eventually. While some causes for repairs are completely preventable, others stemming from use and age are unavoidable. 

  • Part replacements - Brass and woodwind instruments are sophisticatedly constructed with many parts. When one inevitably breaks down, an expert repair technician needs to replace it to get the instrument back in working order again. For example, the clarinet can’t be played without its springs working properly. If your clarinet’s springs are malfunctioning, you won’t be able to repair them yourself because different springs require different tensions. Every instrument is different, and most include unique parts that are critical for functionality. Rather than attempting repairs on your own, you’re much better off getting a diagnosis from an expert repair technician first. 
  • Malfunctioning pads, valves, and joints - When an instrument isn’t working the way it should, it doesn’t always mean a part replacement is in order. A skilled technician with the right tools can diagnose issues causing sticky pads and finicky valves. Much of the time, instrument malfunctions are caused by preventable issues like not removing moisture correctly and consistently. 
  • Instrument overhauls - When instruments are old or have fallen into serious disrepair, comprehensive overhauls can bring them back to their original glory. Rather than addressing bespoke issues, expert technicians disassemble instruments to clean, diagnose, and repair them completely. This is especially recommended for old instruments musicians have purchased. 
  • Diagnostic services - If something is up with your instrument that you can’t put your finger on, it’s time to leave it to the experts. Taking steps like completely disassembling your instrument by yourself or altering it with information you found on the internet could result in expensive or irreversible repairs. Expert technicians have the experience to tell you what’s going on with your instrument and how it can be repaired. 
  • Electronic issues - Instruments with electric components like guitars and keyboards are susceptible to special problems like lack of sound connectivity, distortion, and power issues.

Where to take your instrument in for repairs and maintenance

While most aspects of smart and regular instrument maintenance have to be tasks musicians, parents, and educators take on themselves, repairs are a whole other story. Attempting to take on a complex instrument repair yourself could end up costing your far more to fix or even ruining it beyond repair. Only expert repair technicians have the tools and experience to be able to diagnose issues and get instruments looking and sounding great again.

The Repair Shop at Music & Arts is America’s largest instrument repair network, and it’s staffed by the most knowledgeable and passionate experts in the industry. With hundreds of Music & Arts locations around the nation, chances are there’s a location close by in your neighborhood. With all repairs unconditionally guaranteed, you can trust Music & Arts’ experts to get the job done right the first time, no matter how tough it is. And even if your instrument is working just fine but needs a new set of strings or drumheads, The Repair Shop can help you focus on your music by handling time-consuming maintenance tasks as well. Music & Arts wants you to thrive in music, and that can’t happen if your instrument isn’t working how it should, so they’re here to help. 

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More about Music & Arts

With hundreds of locations around the country, Music & Arts connects local communities with everything they need to succeed in music. Now the nation’s leading provider of private lessons, instrument rentals, sales, and repairs, our legacy began with a single store that was operated out of a home in Bethesda, Maryland in 1952. We’ve experienced a remarkable amount of growth over the years, but our core values and deep love for sharing music hasn’t changed.