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Frequently Asked Questions about Repairs in general

Click on the Question, it will take you to our advice.

What are your shop hours?

What are the technicians’ qualifications? What makes Mills Music different than other repair shops that say they offer less expensive repairs?

Do you guarantee your work?

Can you give me a price quote over the phone?

How long is the wait time for an instrument repair?

I have a concert coming up soon, is there any way to expedite a repair?

Do you have a loaner instrument available while my instrument is in repair?

How often do I need to have my instrument serviced?

My instrument needs an overhaul or expensive repair. Does it make sense to invest that much money into it?

How can we make this repair less expensive? Can you do your best to make it cheaper?

Why does the professional instrument overhaul or repair cost more?

Can you just fix the one thing that I want repaired?

My student only needs the instrument for another month; can you do only a minor repair?

Does the school pay for the repairs of my student’s instrument?

Why did you recommend against getting my instrument repaired?

Are there any instruments you won’t repair (certain manufactures or certain types)?

My brand new instrument doesn’t play right, what’s wrong?

I have a very expensive instrument but I am worried about leaving it for so long. Is the workshop safe and secure? If an instrument is lost or stolen, is there insurance coverage?

Is my vintage instrument worth fixing?

How much is my instrument worth?

Can you make my instrument look brand new again?

What is the best way to keep my silver instrument from tarnishing?

How much does the mouthpiece matter?

What do these number designations on the mouthpiece mean?

I am playing in marching band and it is raining. Will it damage my instrument?

Is there anything I shouldn’t eat or drink right before playing?

Do I need an instrument stand?

Do I really need one of those cleaning kits? Is it worth the money?

A screw fell out and I lost it! Do you have a replacement?

Can I just buy some parts for my instrument or buy the parts and supplies from Mills Music to do the repairs myself?

Do you have a policy on lacquer finishes?

Can I make an appointment for repair?


What are your shop hours?

Technicians are available for customer calls Monday thru Friday from about 10 am to 5 pm. This sometimes varies. During the start of the school year we are often available extra hours. It is best to call the shop directly to check on technician available hours at your preferred shop location. Here is the link to Mills Music Repair Shop Locations – Hours
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What are the technicians’ qualifications? What makes Mills Music different than other repair shops that say they offer less expensive repairs?

Our technicians have extensive training through school and then our Mills Music Apprenticeship Program. All technicians employed by Mills Music participate in our Apprenticeship Program. This high standard learning environment provides on going educational experience for a number of years enabling technicians to attain their best and, in turn, serve our valued customers with expertise, value, and integrity. Our repair staff now has a little over 200 years of combined experience in the professional instrument repair field. That is a very deep well of knowledge and experience to draw from.
We hold all of our repairs to a high standard of excellence. Our technicians do top notch quality work as our company standard and as their own team and personal standard. Less than great workmanship is not acceptable at Mills Music. We provide the best value repairs in the region; always providing repairs that maintain the playability of the instrument for as long as possible, and we do all of this at the best value rates in the Northwest. We also stand by our work with a complimentary 90 day tune up and a 1 year warranty on pads and workmanship for all of our woodwind overhauls.
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Do you guarantee your work?

Yes we have the best workmanship warranty and follow-up service in the industry.
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Can you give me a price quote over the phone?

We are very willing to offer some ballpark advise on the cost of repair over the phone if you so desire. However, we cannot give an exact price quote without inspecting the instrument in person. We really need to see the instrument to determine what is actually needed for repair, what the real cost will be, and how long the repair process will take.
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How long is the wait time for an instrument repair?

We do repairs on a first come first served basis or by appointment. Our backlog of repairs varies during different times of the year. July through December is typically the busiest season for us and the longest wait time. Our staff is updated on the wait times for repair on a regular basis. We also have loaner instruments available at a nominal fee.
You can sometimes get a temporary repair quickly and then make an appointment for the real needed repair job thus minimizing your time away from your instrument. It is best to call our Repair Department Administrator and check on current turn-around time for repairs: Direct Shop Line: 425-885-3076. Email Repair by using our Mills Music Repair Contact Form
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I have a concert coming up soon, is there any way to expedite a repair?

We will always do our best to accommodate emergency situations within our normal schedule. We are most often able to find a solution for you. The best thing to do is call our Repair Admin, or your personal repair technician, for a consultation and we will do our best to help you. Direct Shop Line: 425-885-3076.
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Do you have a loaner instrument available while my instrument is in repair?

If your instrument is one of our current rentals, or you purchased it from us within the last year, you get a complimentary loaner based on availability. If a loaner is not available we will expedite your repair. If you own your instrument we have repair loaners available for rent while you wait for your repair. It is a one month rental fee and that will cover the duration of your repair in almost all cases.
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How often do I need to have my instrument serviced?

All wind and string instruments require maintenance on an intermittent basis. Under normal use it is a good idea to have your student’s instrument tuned up and cleaned every year or two. We have many customers who require no maintenance for two years, or even far more, simply because they have had their instrument properly set up at our shop and they take excellent care of it.
The most important time to bring it into the shop is the first time you notice any difficulty in playing it. The longer you let a problem go the more extensive, and therefore expensive, the repairs will become.
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My instrument needs an overhaul or expensive repair. Does it make sense to invest that much money into it?

We will not recommend an overhaul or expensive repair on any instrument unless it is needed and that will be the best value for our customer. We always work with our customers to find the most economical and appropriate repair for the circumstance, in many cases providing you with different cost options. We have Quality Assurance standards in place to protect not only our customers, but also our reputation as an honest and reliable repair department. Instruments can typically be reconditioned, restored, or mechanically overhauled for about 1/3, or less, the cost of a comparable new instrument. When appropriate we are happy to offer our advice on alternative options, such as a rental or purchase of a quality new, used, or reconditioned instrument.
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How can we make this repair less expensive? Can you do your best to make it cheaper?

We will not recommend repairs on any instrument unless it is needed and/or that will be the best value for our customer. The quote we give on instruments is the minimal amount it would cost to bring the instrument into good playing condition. We do not perform repairs that will not meet our minimum quality standards as that type repair will leave our valued customer unsatisfied. Your satisfaction is our first goal. If our repair quote is unaffordable for you, we are happy to suggest other alternatives available that may be more affordable, such as renting an instrument.
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Why does the professional instrument overhaul or repair cost more?

Professional level instruments are manufactured with much tighter tolerances than student instruments and require much more precise work. They cannot play up to their performance capabilities without this precision workmanship. By the time we see a professional level instrument in for an overhaul the mechanism tolerances have been worn through use and need to be carefully refitted. This takes more time to repair than a student level instrument. Professional level instruments are very valuable and we restore them back to “as good as” and often “better than new” playing condition. We always try to balance our quotes to reflect the needs of the instrument and the needs of the customer.
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Can you just fix the one thing that I want repaired?

If the “one thing” you need repaired will make the instrument play properly we will do it. However, in many cases there is far more than meets the eye requiring skilled attention. By the time an instrument does not play there are usually multiple problems that need attention.
We always work with our customers to find the most economical and appropriate repair for the circumstance. We have standards in place to protect not only our customers, but also our reputation as an honest and reliable repair dept. Our policy is that we repair instruments to good playing condition and not less than that. There are always some exceptions but good playability is always our goal.
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My student only needs the instrument for another month; can you do only a minor repair?

In most cases – Yes. If you intend to retire the instrument very soon, or bring it in very soon for the needed repairs, we can sometimes do a temporary fix for you. This type of temporary repair does not carry a warranty. In some cases more than a minor repair is needed for the instrument to actually play at all. By the time an instrument does not play there are usually multiple problems that need attention. We always work with our customers to find the most economical and appropriate repair for the circumstance… every time.
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Does the school pay for the repairs of my student’s instrument?

That varies depending on the school and class. If you are using a school-owned instrument, you will need to check that information yourself, with your student’s teacher. We need authorization from your student’s teacher for any repairs to be paid for by the school. After you confirm with the teacher that the school does cover repair costs we will contact your student’s teacher directly with a repair quote. Schools most often have a fixed budget for repairs during a given year. Sometimes the repair cost may need to be covered by the parent of the student, or require a contribution from the parent of the student. We always work with our music educators, and parents of students, to find the most economical and appropriate repair for the circumstance.
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Why did you recommend against getting my instrument repaired?

We have our customer’s best interest at heart. There are various reasons why we would recommend against a repair. The most common one has to do with the quality of the instrument. Sometimes the cost of repair exceeds the real value or replacement cost of the instrument, or we believe the repair will not hold up under normal use for various reasons. Sometimes, in the case of student line instruments, your money would be better spent purchasing or renting a new or used instrument. We have hundreds of quality new and used instruments on hand and will be happy to recommend an appropriate solution for your individual needs. We are simply advising you of your best value options. If it is a vintage family instrument that has sentimental value we will always work with you to find the best solution. In the case of a beginning student it is sometimes more economical to rent one of our quality name brand instruments. Our monthly rental price is very affordable and all of the first years rent payments apply toward the purchase of the instrument. Visit our Mills Music Advantage Page for detailed information.
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Are there any instruments you won’t repair (certain manufactures or certain types)?

Yes there are some instruments that, in good conscience, we must decline to attempt repairs on. There are now many brands of instruments available at very attractive prices that are either not repairable, or not of worthy value or quality to repair. These will typically be manufactured by off-shore companies with no USA support department and are offered on the internet or from some big box variety stores. We advise you to be very cautious of those. They often are advertised as “band director approved”. We have yet to meet the band director who approves of these instruments. These instruments are not service supported by the manufactures and replacements parts are simply not available. The parts and quality of materials used, and durability under normal playing conditions, are sub-standard. They should be considered “disposable” instruments in many cases.
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My brand new instrument doesn’t play right, what’s wrong?

Every instrument purchased from Mills Music is entitled to a complimentary normal tune up within 30 days of purchase by one of our experienced repair technicians. We will also take care of any manufactures warranties that may apply during their specified period of time. It is very common for new instruments to need a fine tuning set-up before they are playing their best. This is true from student line through top professional line instrument these days. Contact the store location where you purchased the instrument for details. We stand behind all instruments we sell and we will always be sure you are satisfied with your purchase. If you purchased your instrument from another company our normal shop rates will apply.
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I have a very expensive instrument but I am worried about leaving it for so long. Is the workshop safe and secure? If an instrument is lost or stolen, is there insurance coverage?

Our shops are very safe and our technicians extremely conscientious in handling your instrument and in keeping it safe and secure. All instruments are fully insured on our premises. There is no need to worry.
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Is my vintage instrument worth fixing?

Yes…In most cases. But it depends on the make, model, and year the instrument was made. Vintage instruments are often very good or even professional level quality. Most of them are well worth the price of repair, refurbishing, restoration, or a complete mechanical overhaul.
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How much is my instrument worth?

In all cases we need to see the instrument. You are welcome to bring your instrument into one of our stores or shops for an evaluation and/or appraisal. We offer two options for this as follows:
Repair Quotes are $15.00 and include a thorough evaluation of needed repairs and possible options for our customer. The repair technician will give you a detailed verbal explanation of the repairs needed and options or concerns regarding the instrument, and can offer you an estimated value of the instrument during that process. (The repair quote charge can be credited toward the cost of repair or replacement of that instrument.)
Written Appraisals are $45.00 and UP and include a written evaluation of the value of an instrument, including any repairs necessary at that time, for insurance purposes, or to aid our customer in the private resale of an instrument.
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Can you make my instrument look brand new again?

Yes…In most cases we can. This is often an expensive process but in many cases a great value compared to a new purchase of the same quality instrument. For a price quote you will need to bring it into one of our shops.
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What is the best way to keep my silver instrument from tarnishing?

Wipe your fingerprints off with a clean soft cotton or microfiber cloth after every use. Then keep your instrument in the case when not playing. There are also Anti-Tarnishing Strips available from several major manufacturers. These are safe for instruments, and one placed in your case can slow the tarnishing process quite a bit.
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How much does the mouthpiece matter?

The mouthpiece is critical to good sound and ease of play. The mouthpiece can be considered the sound engine. Different mouthpieces produce different sound capabilities. Beginning students most often start on an easy to play beginner mouthpiece and then graduate to a more professional mouthpiece after they have developed their embouchure. You should consult one of our staff or your student’s teacher for good advice on an appropriate mouthpiece for their skill level and playing style needs. Some professional level mouthpieces cannot be controlled by a beginner’s embouchure. It takes time and practice to graduate to that type mouthpiece.
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What do these number designations on the mouthpiece mean?

That varies by make and model of mouthpiece. The numbers and letters indicate different dimensional proportions of different aspects of the mouthpiece.
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I am playing in marching band and it is raining. Will it damage my instrument?

Yes… if you are playing a woodwind instrument you should do your best to protect it from the rain. The rain will affect the pad seats drastically. If you must play in the rain you should take extra care to thoroughly dry the instrument off afterwards. All woodwind instruments are especially vulnerable to water damage of the pads. Brass wind instruments are not easily damaged by the rain, but should still be dried off properly.
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Is there anything I shouldn’t eat or drink right before playing?

Yes. If you have just eaten it’s a good idea to brush your teeth or at least rinse your mouth out with water before playing. Do not drink sodas or juices just prior to or while you play. The sugar and acidity in soda and juices adversely affect the pads and brass.
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Do I need an instrument stand?

It is never a good idea to leave an instrument on a chair or bed. It is an accident waiting to happen. Use a sturdy instrument stand or, better yet, put your instrument back in its case when you are finished playing.
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Do I really need one of those cleaning kits? Is it worth the money?

Yes…cleaning kits, if properly used, will save you repair expenses especially on brass instruments.
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A screw fell out and I lost it! Do you have a replacement?

Yes…In most cases we will have a replacement screw on hand. We carry replacement screws for most major brands, and for all brands that we sell or rent. We will need you to bring your instrument into one of our shops as they need to be fitted precisely. This is often a quick, while you wait, process. If we do not have a screw for your instrument in stock, we may be able to order one from the manufacturer. It pays to give us a call first and know the make and model of your instrument.
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Can I just buy some parts for my instrument or buy the parts and supplies from Mills Music to do the repairs myself?

NO and YES
The No: In general the answer is no…not from our shops for several reasons. We are not a repair parts and supplies store and supplies such as pads, cork, springs, etc. are not available for resale at our shops. When it comes to trying to repair the instrument yourself, you should be advised that parts and supplies vary widely. They need to be custom fitted to the parts of your particular instrument and installed by an experienced repair technician with specialized tooling. Almost all instrument parts and supplies require specific technical knowledge, and years of apprenticed experience, to install properly.
We really do not recommend you attempt your own repairs on your valuable instrument if you do not have the training and experience. Time and again we have customers coming to us after unsuccessfully attempting their own repairs. The result is that they have wasted time, energy, and money. In all cases the repairs ended up costing the customer far more than if they had simply used our services in the first place. We do not want to be party to a frustrating and expensive experience for our valued customers. We do have emergency repair kits available for music educators and more advanced students. These kits offer a temporary repair solution.
The Yes: We are most often able to provide you with a common model replacement part for a brass instrument, such as a valve finger button, slide ring, retaining screw, tuning bit, etc., and if not in stock we can order them for you.
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Do you have a policy on lacquer finishes?

We cannot warranty your lacquer finish during repair unless it is a very new instrument with a baked on epoxy finish. We always are careful to do our best to maintain the integrity of the lacquer and do no damage to it during repair.
Manufactures offer no warranty, or only a very limited warranty, on lacquer finishes. If you have a brand new instrument with lacquer issues it will normally be warrantied for a short period of time by the manufacturer. It is important to immediately bring the instrument in for a technician to evaluate any lacquer problem.
Lacquer is a temporary, and very thin, protective coating that is not intended to last forever. It is applied to keep the brass from tarnishing and corroding. Lacquer should be thought of as a temporary coating similar to paint. It wears through with use over time. And that depends on the acidity of your hands, how well you care for your instrument, and the type of lacquer and application methods used at the manufacturing plant. Most modern lacquer is a baked on epoxy and very durable. However, some less expensive instruments use a less durable lacquer. Some professional level instruments do not use the baked on epoxy as it slightly deadens the overtone series. Some professional level instruments use no lacquer at all or are silver plated.
We cannot warranty your finish during repair unless it is still under manufacturers warranty.
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Can I make an appointment for repair?

Yes, we can schedule an appointment for your repair. In most cases you will need to bring the instrument in for a repair quote first. Then we can let you know how long it will need to be in the shop and put you on the calendar for the actual repair process.
Many times customers ask if we can call to remind them of their appointment. That is not really possible. Given the amount of customers we see, and instruments we handle, it is very difficult for us to remind you that you have an appointment. You should be sure to have your instrument in queue at our shop location the day before your scheduled repair. If you miss your appointment you will need to call your technician to reschedule. To make an appointment for a repair call 425-885-3076 or Email Repair by using our Mills Music Repair Contact Form
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