Maintenance and Emergency Repair Tips
(Geared Toward Beginners)


Maintenance: Always run a swab through the instrument after playing. Most pads are made of felt (wool or cotton) covered with a seal made from fish skin (clarinets and flutes) or glove leather (saxophones) with a cardboard backing. Swabbing removes the moisture from the pads to prevent hardening, rotting and cracking.
Clarinet and saxophone pads are adhered to the cup with a hot glue or a shellac based glue. Flute pads , except for 3, are fitted to the keys with ether a tiny snap or screw with a washer and are shimmed out with paper washers of different thickness.

Reeds should be removed from mouthpieces, wiped dry, and slid into a flat reed storage device that allows  for proper air circulation to avoid getting moldy and warped.

Mouthpieces should be carefully swabbed out. Avoid scratching the inside and protect the tip at all cost. A chipped tip of a woodwind mouthpiece is like a broken or chipped reed and is useless. High end woodwind mouthpieces can be reground but are never the same as original.

  • Missing pads: if on a usually closed key (like a palm key on a sax or clarinet) a piece of masking tape can be used either over the tone hole or in the key cup till a repair can be made. For octave keys a piece of cork, if available, can be wedged in the key cup.
  • Missing tenon or mouth piece cork: a layer of masking tape can be used till a repair can be made.
  • Broken springs: an elastic band can many times be looped over the key stretched around the body of the instrument and the other  end looped back over the key till a repair can be made.


Maintenance: Vaseline can be used on all TUNING (not trombone playing) slides (I have double checked with (Bach-selmer) although I prefer Selmer tuning slide grease. This costs little compared with the cost to unsolder and replace the tubing after it corrodes together.

Cleaning : Frequent soap and water cleaning will preserve the metal from rotting away. This should be done in the very least once a year. More often as the use increases and after colds and lung infections. Use a few drops of liquid dish soap in a dish pan of water. Pour cupfuls in the instrument after disassembly. Run a long flexible brush called a cleaning "snake" through the lead pipe and rinse well with clean water. Note the exception is the roatery valved instrument such as the french horn. You can still remove the main tuning slide and clean out the lead-pipe (the tube that the mouth piece goes into) but the average person should see a repair shop  to clean the rotor valves themselves.
And of course you never wash out a saxophone in spite of it being made of brass as this can lead to ruined , moldy/musty pads and rusting of the springs and piviot screws that attach the keys to the instrument!

Valves are numbered with #1 closest to the mouth piece and #3 closer to the bell end. Most currently made trumpet valve guides only allow the player to insert and lock the valve in only one position, but some older piston instruments can be inserted 180 degrees out so look in the valve case and match the wider groove with the wider side of the valve guide on the piston.

  • Water key: (spit valve) If you  loose the cork or the key comes off the instrument a piece of tape can be used till a repair can be made.
  • Stuck mouth piece: Please don't use pliers or vice grips. Most shops won't charge for using a mouthpiece puller which pulls the tapered mouthpiece shank from the lead pipe without damaging the braces. The problem with pliers is that they twist the braces sometimes even breaking them. This becomes a costly repair to replace and solder the parts together again.
  • Loose braces and tubing: Masking tape or any other tape can be used till a repair can be made. Please don't use any form of glue. It doesn't hold well and exposes the repairman to toxic fumes when heat is applied to solder the parts together.

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