The cost of servicing your musical instrument
Here at Leisure Coast Wind & Brass, we always strive to keep our prices as reasonable as possible, but fact is that servicing a musical instrument is not a cheap endeavour. To give you a better understanding of the world of musical instrument repair, which is often a bit mysterious, I would like to take you on a little tour around the workshop, to explain how much of an investment it is to operate a business like this.
As you would know, setting up any type of business comes with a price tag. Not only do you need a place to operate from, but there are numerous other ongoing expenses as well: internet, phone, office setup, point of sale software, electricity, water, website design and maintenance, business insurance, business registration, accountant fees…
Unlike builders, electricians or plumbers, musical instrument repairers do not need to be licensed (in fact, we can’t be, because licensing doesn’t exist). Anyone can basically pick up some tools and start a repair business. Those who take it more seriously, however, will train to become highly skilled in this trade. This training takes time and again, carries a pretty high price tag. Not only do you need to spend a considerable amount of time learning the various skills, you also need to invest in some instruments you can use to practise on.
As well as this, training never ends: instruments are updated all the time, and there are always particular jobs you haven’t done before or skills you need to improve. This means you may need to take master classes or extra training courses from time to time.
To repair and service musical instruments, specialised tools and equipment are required, and this is a very considerable investment. Not only do these tools carry a pretty decent price tag, you often need different versions of the same tool to be able to work with different instrument brands and models. As well as that, every few years, instrument builders update their instruments with the latest technology, which means repairers need to be set up for that as well.
The photos show just a few examples of the equipment required to service woodwind and brass instruments.
The image above shows just some of the tools required to take dents out of various woodwind and brass instruments, and to soldering work.
These tools don’t just hang there, they have to be polished and oiled regularly to stop them from going rusty (although some need to urgently undergo that process!)
The photo on the left shows our buffing wheel, used almost daily, as well as our bench motor, vise, Dremel drill press jig, grinder, hand drill and a few smaller implements and tools.
Featured next is our wash basin (and yes, it’s a bath tub so we can easily wash large instruments such as baritone saxophones, trombones and euphoniums).
A hot water system is attached to allow for hot and cold water, depending on the instrument. Behind the wash basin is our small ultrasonic cleaner, used mainly for flutes and trumpets. One day, we hope to be able to invest in a larger ultrasonic cleaner.
Then there is the “small” matter of parts. Without parts, your musical instrument won’t work. It’s that simple.
The photo below shows just a fraction of the parts we have to keep on stock to be able to service your various instruments. These boxes are filled with mainly pads, some screws and some other supplies. What you don’t see here are the larger and less commonly used parts, stored elsewhere in the workshop.
The investment to have all these tools, all this equipment and all these parts readily available is considerable.
As in any business, we too like to make a profit, and that is why our prices are what they are And look at it this way: I often compare musical instrument servicing with car servicing: both are essentially finely tuned and well oiled machines.
A standard car service will set you back approx. $200 + the cost of parts, if any, every 6-12 months. A standard clarinet or flute service will set you back approx. $180 + the cost of parts, if any, once a year.
If you have your instrument serviced every 12 months, like we recommend, there should be no reason at all why in 10 or 20 years time, it won’t still be working as well as it does today. Will you still have the car you drive today in 20 years’ time?
If you purchase a fridge, washing machine or even a car these days, you know it will only “live” for 5-10 years. Musical instruments are – in my opinion – one of very few items you can buy nowadays that will live on for a very long time, given the proper care (here are plenty of exceptions to this rule, like those red or green instruments you can purchase online for less than $200, but that is a discussion for another time).
Do yourself a favour – protect your investment and service your instrument every 12 months.