This is the time of summer when we all start thinking of back to school, either with dread or excitement. If you are lucky enough to be involved with a school with a music program or are getting ready to return to lessons now is the perfect time to make sure your instruments are ready to be played again (though, we are sure you practiced an hour a day all summer). Here are five tips for a variety of instruments on how to make sure they are playable and ready to go.
1) Guitar: your guitar strings should be changed every 3 months or 60 hours of play time. When you notice the strings are starting to have little black rings where you play on the fret-board it is time to change those strings! Old strings do not hold tune very well and leave your hands smelling like metal. If you restring with coated strings they can last up to 3x the time of regular strings (9 months/180 hours) but you still have to be cognizant of how your strings are wearing because some people’s strings wear out faster than others because of the Ph of their skin.
2) Wind Instruments: your flute/saxophone/clarinet etc have pads that sit under the buttons that allow there to be a solid seal when you play the instrument. Unfortunately mites love to eat these pads. When you take your instrument out look closely and if you see little divots in your pads chances are your case has mites and your instrument needs re-padded. You can also check the seal by shining a light down the instrument in a dark room and seeing if any light escapes when the buttons are pushed down. If so your instrument needs serviced.
3) Brass Instruments: with most all you need to do is grease the slide and oil the valves until they move without sticking. If after this the trumpet still feels “off” and you can’t see any dents in the instrument the best thing to do is bring it in for repair. The issues brass instruments can have are much more difficult to diagnose than those of wind instruments so I have no easy guide for you. But grease and oil it and you should be good to go!
4) Piano: most people in our region can get away with tuning their piano twice a year. Piano teachers and people who live in older houses may find them going out of tune with each change of season. The reason it is important to tune your acoustic piano when you are learning, even though you may not be able to hear that it has gone out of tune, is that you are training your ear. If you train your ear with an out of tune instrument it will be very difficult as you become more accomplished to hear with accuracy. Piano tuning usually cost $100-$150 to have done and is well worth the expense. The strings will settle for a few days after a tuning so it is important to keep that in mind as well. Digital pianos never need tuning.
5): Stringed Instruments: again you will want to be cognizant of your string age. The recommendation is double that of guitar strings so every 120 hours of playing or 6 months which ever comes first. Changing your strings can be tricky if you haven’t done it before so we recommend you get a teacher to show you how to do it so that you don’t lose your intonation. Also if the bow has been left in the case for a while you will want to check it for mites, they like bow hairs almost as much as they like saxophone pads, so if your bow has loose hair you may want to check for mites.