Expert Advice - Keeping Your Instrument in Shape
Based on our years of serving the flute community, the Carolyn Nussbaum Music Company repair team has put together the following Expert Advice on flute service and repair as an informational aid to our past and future customers. Years of servicing and repairing thousands of flutes has given our team a chance to compile and answer those most common inquiries about what to expect when it's time to take your flute to the shop. As always, we are available to answer any of your flute related questions. Explore the topics below to learn from the experts.
You just discovered your flute needs an emergency repair. Now what?
Our in-house repair staff will be glad to take a look at your instrument and discuss any repairs or maintenance issues that you are having. In most cases simple repairs or adjustments can be diagnosed while you wait and an estimate provided for both the cost and time to perform the work required. Sometimes the repair or adjustment can be made while you wait, or by the end of the same day, however this is highly dependent on the amount, and type, of work to be performed along with the pre-existing workload in our shop. Whether you bring your instrument into our store, or if you have shipped us your instrument for assessment/repair, you will always be contacted before any work is performed to obtain authorization. Our goal is to return your instrument to you as soon as possible while executing the exceptional quality of work that has been a hallmark of our company. Also note that beyond repairs, we offer regular or annual maintenance services on an appointment basis that ensures your instrument is returned in the shortest time possible. Call us today to schedule your annual servicing appointment at 972-985-2662. Always be sure we have current and complete contact information on file so we may effectively communicate with you during the time we are working on your instrument.
We recommend that you insure your flute.
It's possible that your instrument is covered under your homeowners/renters insurance, but not guaranteed. We suggest you contact your insurance agent or company and review your policy. If your current policy doesn’t cover your instrument or doesn’t provide the type of coverage you are looking for, you may want to look into adding a floater or rider to your policy. An insurance rider can often be added to an existing policy to add specific coverage for personal items (i.e. jewelry, heirlooms and instruments). We recommend choosing a policy that covers replacement or repair value. The instrument needs to be insured for instances of abuse, accidental damage, or in the chance that it is lost or stolen. If you prefer not to or can’t modify your existing insurance policy, we would recommend looking into obtaining a policy from an insurance company that specializes in insuring musical instruments. Examples of companies we recommend are Anderson (anderson-group.com) and Clarion (www.clarionins.com).
Are you servicing your flute often enough?
We recommend getting your flute serviced (also known as a “clean-oil-adjust” or “COA” or annual maintenance) once a year assuming normal use (how much it is played) and care (environment, and if you clean it each time you play it). Getting your flute regularly serviced will make it possible for it to function at its optimal level. Over the course of a typical year, pads will develop leaks and the headjoint cork will wear out. The amount of play will affect the condition of the oil inside the mechanism. Bringing your flute in every year for servicing will ensure that we find anything that is causing you difficulties while playing, and it lessens the chance of major repairs needed on your instrument in the future.
Here's a breakdown of your repair cost calculations.
The cost to repair your flute and bring it back to optimum playing condition can only be assessed by our trained in-house repair staff once they are able to physically inspect and play your instrument. It would be irresponsible for us to try and accurately quote repair costs either over the phone or via email without the opportunity for this physical inspection process. That said, given your description of circumstances surrounding the repair and/or symptoms our trained repair staff may be able to establish a minimum starting cost for the repair work.
For regularly scheduled maintenance/service (also known as a “clean-oil-adjust” or “COA”) we can quote minimum starting costs based on the level of instrument, manufacturer and our predefined scope of work. Should our repair specialists discover additional work is required or recommended beyond what is covered by the standard maintenance scope, we will contact you with a cost estimate for approval prior to performing additional work. Always be sure we have current and complete contact information on file so we may effectively communicate with you during the time we are working on your instrument.
We don't recommend the use silver polish on your flute.
Never use any kind of polish or abrasive compound on your flute - no matter how gentle the product claims to be. Such products can remove the silver-plating on beginner flutes and will remove the valuable precious metals (silver, gold platinum) from professional instruments. Regular cleaning of the outside of your flute to remove oils, acids, chemicals, and small areas of oxidation can be accomplished with a quality external cleaning cloth which will keep your flute shiny. A flute repair professional can often remove heavier oxidation, tarnishing and minor abrasions or scratches during regular maintenance and servicing. Bear in mind that a mild amount of tarnishing on a precious metal flute in non-critical areas typically has no bearing on the performance of the instrument and can often add a degree of unique beauty as in the case of a fine patina.
This is the best way to keep your flute clean.
You should clean both the inside and outside of your flute after every time you play. For cleaning the inside of your flute, use a highly absorbent cloth designed and sized for this purpose along with an approved cleaning rod or a specialized cleaning tool. Avoid using any kind of cloth or swab that is too bulky since it may result in damage to your pads and never leave any swab or cleaning cloth inside your instrument because it traps the moisture resulting in mold, mildew, and ruined pads. Our personal favorites are the highly absorbent microfiber pouch swab or Valentino flute wands, both of which do an excellent job of removing moisture especially from around the headjoint cork, thereby helping prolong its life. Remember, the goal when cleaning out the inside of your flute or piccolo is simply to remove moisture and the frequency should be no less than each time you play or as often as every 20 minutes of playing whichever is shorter.
When cleaning the outside of your flute the goal is to remove the acids, oils and other substances that come from contact with your hands and lips/chin (e.g. lotions, makeup, perfume, lip balms) before these chemicals can interact with the finish and metals of your instrument. For cleaning the outside of your flute we recommend a durable, soft, lint free and absorbent cloth. Never use any abrasive material, polish (polishes can actually remove the precious metals from your flute), wax or oil on the outside of your instrument. The outside of your instrument should be wiped down after each use. Use firm and controlled pressure to rub off any marks left by contact with your body. Pay special attention to the lip plate, tops of keys and the flute body where you rest your hand or handle the instrument. Be careful not to rub the underside of the keys where you could damage the sensitive pad materials. We highly recommend the use of the Carolyn Nussbaum Music Company Ultra Suede Cleaning Cloth w/Anti-Tarnish treatment. These cloths are specially treated to help inhibit the tarnishing of the silver on your flute and are what we use here in the store to wipe down hundreds of flutes each day. When trying to keep the outside of your flute clean remember that each person’s chemical make up is different. These differences may call for a more rigorous wiping down of the flute in order to remove fingerprints.
You need cleaning cloths for the inside and outside of the flute, as well as something to keep the pads dry.
Proper and regular cleaning of your flute requires attention be given to three main areas of the instrument: outside, inside and pads. Each area is exposed to different sources of contaminants and different environmental conditions that necessitate they be cleaned and maintained in different ways with different cleaning supplies. We will be glad to instruct you on the proper cleaning regimen for your specific instrument and type of playing at length. In a more general discussion we can offer the following guidelines regarding the cleaning of your flute.
First, the outside of your instrument (tubing, embouchure, keys) in addition to being exposed to the natural surrounding environment is exposed to the chemicals of your physical person including but not limited to the naturally occurring oils and acids of your hands, lips, face and other chemicals that may come from lotions, cosmetics (including lip balms), and even things you recently ate. It is therefore important to use a cleaning cloth on the outside of your flute capable of removing and absorbing these contaminants while not being abrasive in anyway that can damage the finish of your instrument. Materials such as ultra suede, cheesecloth, fine cottons, and other soft durable fabrics are ideal (light rubbing is often required). Remember...NEVER use any kind of polish on your instrument as these products contain sand based polishing elements that will damage the finish as well as the pads of your flute.
Second, the biggest contaminant for the inside of your instrument (including all body tubing and the headjoint) is the moisture from playing. This moisture must be removed regularly; during and at the end of playing- and some say as often as every 20 minutes when playing. Removal of the moisture requires a gentle but highly absorbent material configured specifically for cleaning your instrument. Cleaning supplies are specifically designed for this purpose to avoid the cleaning tool or cloth from contacting the sensitive pads or doing internal damage. There are many configurations of these internal cleaning cloths mostly made from extremely fine natural silk, ultra suede, cottons and flannels. Remember...NEVER leave any internal cleaning cloth or tool inside your instrument when it is stored as this will trap the moisture in your instrument and can result in mold, mildew, and ruined pads.
Finally the pads, made of very sensitive natural or manmade materials, should never be rubbed by any cleaning cloth or material. Instead, moisture that will build up on the pads must be removed by specific blotting techniques using very thin but highly absorbent materials such as disposable woodwind cleaning papers or reusable cloths specifically designed for flute pads.
How to manage sticky pads.
Sticky flute or piccolo pads are caused by excess moisture on the pad material. Sticky pads often make a sound similar to someone walking through mud or lips smacking when the pads open and close. The goal is to remove the excess moisture without harming the sensitive pad material. To accomplish this, several specific highly absorbent, very thin products are available on the market such as Caccini CleaningEssentials Pad Drying Paper and BG France Pad Dryers. To use these products, insert the end of the dryer under the pad and blot (close the pad) gently. Never hold down your key and pull out the dryer because this can ruin the sensitive pad materials. Also, we do not recommend using dollar bills or cigarette rolling paper to clean your pads since the bills are typically very dirty and too thick and the rolling papers have an adhesive. [Note: In the U.S., cigarette papers can be considered contraband in some school systems.]
We will service your flute even if it wasn't purchased through us!
The Carolyn Nussbaum Music Company is an authorized repair center for most brand name, quality instruments and will be glad to work on any flute you own whether purchased from us or not. Limitations may apply if the instrument is being rented or on loan through another company, institution or school. (In these cases you do not own the instrument.) Other limitations may apply when it comes to manufacturer warranty repairs/service on instruments not purchased through Carolyn Nussbaum Music Company. Manufacturer warranty work must be conducted through the company/retailer from which the instrument was purchased. In special circumstances manufacturer warranty repairs/service can be performed as long as Carolyn Nussbaum Music Company can obtain written authorization from the original retailer. Carolyn Nussbaum Music Company must receive guarantee from the original retailer that they will reimburse us for the work performed. This authorization cannot come from the customer. For these reasons, we highly recommend that you purchase your flute from a reputable retailer with the necessary resources (preferably in-house) to address any warranty work or issues you may encounter.
Yes, we perform warranty repairs.
The Carolyn Nussbaum Music Company is authorized and manufacturer-certified to perform manufacturer warranty work on all instruments that are purchased through us. Manufacturer warranty work must be conducted through the company/retailer from which the instrument was purchased or in special circumstances can be performed by us, as long as we can obtain written authorization and guarantee from the original retailer that they will reimburse us for the work performed. This authorization cannot come from the customer.
Don't panic, dents can be repaired.
Depending on the severity and where the dent is located, we can repair your flute. Dents around the lip plate, tone holes, and on the keys will most likely not be able to be removed. The materials used in the construction of the flute (i.e. silver vs. nickel-silver alloy) can also influence the degree of the potential dent repair due to the malleability of the metal. Finally, although our professional repair technicians strive to make it appear as though a dent was never there, it is not always possible. Therefore, sometimes dent repair will leave behind a slight appearance variation when compared to the surrounding material.
No, you should not repair your flute on your own.
Even when it comes to tightening a screw, it is not recommended you do this yourself because there is a specific level of tightness for each screw on each flute, which varies from make and model. A quick and simple repair for a trained technician can turn into a repair that takes longer, is more difficult, and more costly if you or a non-certified repair technician tries to repair your flute. In lieu of allowing a band director, a friend, or yourself to perform a “simple” repair on your flute our advice is that you first contact your repair technician. At Carolyn Nussbaum Music Company, repair consultations are always free.
If you haven't played your flute in a while, it may require some maintenance before it plays again.
Whether or not an instrument will require work after not being played for a period of time depends on many factors including but not limited to: length of time stored (are we talking 2 months or ten years?), condition/cleanliness at the time it was stored; environmental conditions during the time it was stored (temperature, humidity, local contaminants) and how it was stored (case, cover, etc.). Finally, there are some inherent construction elements that may affect the instrument’s playability after extremely long periods of storage including the spring adjustments and the natural aging of the oils and pad materials. Therefore, if you plan on storing your instrument away for an extended period, consult with an instrument repair specialist to make sure you are doing everything you can to protect it and do not be surprised if it still requires some adjustment and basic cleaning after it has been in the top of your closet for five or ten years.
Why your wooden piccolo or flute should never go outside or be exposed to extreme temperatures.
Extreme temperature changes can cause wood instruments to crack because of the way the wood interacts and changes with its environment. We encourage all flutists NOT to leave their instruments (especially wood piccolos) in environments where the temperature is significantly hot or cold. Instruments should be kept at room temperature at all times. Should you find that your flute or piccolo was exposed to extremes of temperatures, it is best to bring it back to room temperature slowly and always bring it back to room temperature before playing the instrument. This can be done by sequentially removing any protective/insulation materials (backpacks, bags, case covers, hard cases, etc.) from around the piccolo or flute and letting it sit for several minutes after each layer is removed.
Never use cork grease or oil on your flute.
On metal instruments (flutes or piccolos) grease or oil will only attract dust and dirt that will eventually scratch your tenons (the internal part of the flute joint) thereby creating places for even more dirt to accumulate. Try wiping down the inside and outside of your tenons, using a fair amount of pressure, with your outside cleaning cloth instead. If it appears that you have a dent in your tenon, contact your technician. Always remember that the proper way to assemble your flute is using a single twisting motion, in one direction (choose either clockwise or counter clockwise and stick with it!), while bringing the parts together in a straight on motion with no scooping action. On piccolos with cork tenons, you may use a small amount of quality woodwind cork grease. If your instrument ever requires a large amount of force to put it together... STOP... and contact your repair technician. It is easier to affect a repair without having to figure out how to get the instrument apart first.
If something you were curious about wasn't covered, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will answer your inquiry as well as add it to our expert advice here for other customers. Check back often as we will be continuously updating our expert advice columns!