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 On Fixing Your Own Horn
Author: Matt74 
Date:   2017-11-19 02:54

I'm a do-it-yourself kind of guy. I'm good at fixing stuff. I've done all sorts of things, from gold leaf restoration, to contracting, to building cabinets. It runs in the family. So, it pains me when I see a guy that can't fix a toilet, mostly because I know they could. I think it's sad that most people don't do those things anymore, and I think it's a tragedy that we don't value those skills and the people who do them like we should. I think players should know more about how their instruments work.

In one way DIY is an expression of admiration for the trades, but on the other hand it reveals just how much they are devalued. Watching HGTV will not prepare you to build a house. Some people DIY successfully, but many do not. You have to know that 100% silicone caulk is impossible to paint and you can't use concrete on brick walls. Anyone can paint a room, but a good painter can do it a lot better. You can't really appreciate how good Norm Abrams is unless you have done some carpentry. Watching him use a table saw is like listening to Frost play the clarinet.

I went to Red Wing to learn Band Instrument Repair. Unfortunately I had back surgery and couldn't finish the year. I did learn to overhaul clarinets, and am doing it to supplement my income. I'd like to work in a shop, but that's a different story... Nonetheless I am happy I learned. I enjoy sharing and like to ask questions. I've made some posts here, as have some other techs (much more knowledgeable and experienced than myself). I have been a little more forthcoming than they on how to do things, and I think I know why. I think it's probably not good to encourage people to fix their own horns.

I certainly do want to commend people for seeking help, and I don't want to embarrass anyone, but sometimes I cringe when I hear what people do to their horns. I just want people to think twice before doing something. In one way horns are simple machines. In another, they are remarkably delicate instruments requiring very specific care. Tolerances are often within 0.001". Special materials are required. Now that I know how easy it is to bump the keys out of adjustment, I can't believe any of them play at all!

Your local tech is worth going to see. I assure you they are worth the money. They are doing it for love, because they are certainly not doing it for money or prestige. If they happen to work at an impersonal big box store, that may be their unfortunate lot. If they are bad at what they do, go to someone else. There are lots of good ones. If you just HAVE to fix it yourself, maybe that's a sign you could be a good tech. If so, find someone to teach you and learn to do it right. I think that the craft is important and that it would be better if people got their horns fixed more often. Music is important and making instruments work serves that end. Fine craftsmanship is a good thing in itself. It would be better if there were more shops with more techs and more apprentices. Horns would play better for sure. Techs would invent better horns. Just like having a good clarinet teacher, learning repair from a master is a special thing.

FWIW: Before I went to Red Wing I NEVER got my horns fixed. I never knew how bad they were - I thought it was all my fault as a player.

- Matthew Simington

Post Edited (2017-11-19 03:20)

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 Re: On Fixing Your Own Horn
Author: Kalashnikirby 
Date:   2017-11-19 04:32

It would seem my current post encouraged you to do this writeup  :)

Now here's the other side of the story: I, too, have been a DIY person since I can renember. My earliest memory of this was taking apart an electric miniature-MP5-BB-gun, just because I felt I had to do it. I've done RC cars, planes, helis, later on bikes, nowadays it's smartphones and occasionally instruments; studying dentistry instead of any arts was not only an economical decision, but out of my wish to both study and learn an interesting handicraft, and my choice, I'd say 4 years later now was dead right.

What I had to learn over the course of the years was that there is a plethora of people, that is to say professionals, that I would never ever trust to take care of neither my teeth, nor my bike, having gained a certain proficiency with these topics.
When I try to discuss anything beyond the basics with some bike repair shop people, I get looks of incomprehension. I renemember once mentioning that I disassembled an old Fichtel&Sachs Gear Hub and aligned the gears. I was told that was impossible, as a certain gauge was required to align them in a 90° angle to the hub shell - they weren't actually kidding, I then understood, but believed it was necesarry to use a gauge, only available through a manufacturer to align a clearly visible mark on 3-4 gears in a 90° degree, when one could just use they eyes! But to be honest, they're one of the better shops and have probably managed to equip every single one of the 7000 residents in my home village with one of their bikes, which I commend them for, they're just not what I'm after.

A far worse example is the smartphone repair business - mostly because it doesn't require any sort of official training. Around 30% of the smartphones repaired by one of the bigger shops in town show severe mistakes or even damage to internal components, which is a totally inacceptable rate. None of them strive to use original parts, which is possible, but difficult.

At the recent concert, a co-player showed me a huge scratch that a rather well-known repairman put into her clarinet because he probably slipped with the screwdriver.

Dentists? Don't get me started. I was just recently offended in a most aggressive way by an assistant doctor because she wrongly diagnosed caries as an opening of the pulp chamber (in other words, it could've been BAD), uttering all kinds of threads, only to be proven wrong a few days later. One of the daily struggles in this study... but only 2 more years to go!

Now, what is the point of all this? With the aforementioned assistent doctor in mind, who does handle patients quite well, but fails on a technical level, not only in my case - what is MY guarantee that I get a better clarinet repair than I can do on my own? I don't know any good and affordable repair person, nor could anything I've seen so far persuade me, unless it cost a fortune. To be honest, my current post-experiement (not the one on the internet, but on a certain bass clarinet) goes a bit too far, but I yet have to ruin an instrument, so I'm sorry, but I'll keep going.
Also, I might have a somewhat unconventional approach sometimes, but there are some methods which I simply prefer over what is perhaps the standard, most notably that I don't use an alcohol torch, but an hot rework station, which has proven far superior over time and yes, I do have access to high quality torches. But can you for example use them to adjust a pad with the key mounted, provided you use a piece of thick aluminium foil as insulation? No, at least not as easily. Yet, most people (here in Germany) strictly oppose using anything other than an alcohol torch, because that's just what you use. Same with hot glue - if only they knew what Buffet and Schreiber put in their clarinets...

I hope this all doesn't sound like I'm offended by your post, I just wanted to point out why I'll hardly ever send my clarinet in for repair. There are many excellent repair people out there, but I could probably afford none of them right now.

Best regards,

Post Edited (2017-11-19 04:34)

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 Re: On Fixing Your Own Horn
Author: Matt74 
Date:   2017-11-19 05:10

I wish I had a gear hub!

- Matthew Simington

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 Re: On Fixing Your Own Horn
Author: dorjepismo 2017
Date:   2017-11-19 20:11

Had an overhaul by Brannon once. Boy was that worth it. Had a couple instruments overhauled by Buffet Japan with similar results. In both cases, the instrument was gone for a couple weeks. Had some pretty indifferent work done by "the local tech" where I was at the time, and started doing my own work except when one of the first two options was available and I could go without the instrument for that long. The Ridenour video is a big help, as has been watching one or two folks who knew what they were doing. The problem is frequently standards. Top orchestra principals don't accept mistakes, and top techs don't accept the horn not being the way a top principal would expect it to be. "The local tech" quite possibly doesn't even know what that standard's like, let alone insisting on meeting it. As for becoming a tech, the town has the techs it can support, the hourly is a whole lot better at my day job, and I'd rather spend my free time playing.

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 Re: On Fixing Your Own Horn
Author: Kalashnikirby 
Date:   2017-11-20 03:24

"The problem is standards"
Or the lack thereof? When researching different bore oils currently after talking with a chemist about this topic, it became pretty clear that one shouldn't use mineral based oils, yet there's even instrument makers recommending it, because there is about 0 empiric foundation for any use of bore oil. There are other examples for this.
Perhaps it was Moennig who established a tradition of resourcefulness that we in Germany don't always have, though the Zoom barrel is a great invention, we don't have some Ridenour making high quality ebonite clarinets, but people who firmly believe the German system to be superior in tone. Their idea of what a clarinet (and working on it) looks like is too definite for my taste. There'd have to be much more evidence for some methods, whether they're long established or not.

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 Re: On Fixing Your Own Horn
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2017-11-20 03:56

Got to study with Hans Moennig and I learned so much. So many stories about him to share. It is best to not mess with your horns. But we should all know some basics, such as replacing a pad, replacing a cork, things like that which take about 10 minutes or so. When the need to start making cork pads for the upper register this now becomes an art. Bending keys, spring tension, key height, all of this comes with experience. Tuning the horn is probably one of the hardest things to do, because of the 12ths. This is when barrels can make a huge difference in solving some of these tuning issues.

Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces

Yamaha Artist 2015

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 Re: On Fixing Your Own Horn
Author: richard smith 
Date:   2017-11-20 21:08

Motto of a local musical instrument repair shop : " We will fix your repairs " (And yes they do lots of business )

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