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Frequently Asked Questions about Woodwind Instruments

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Can I buy the parts and supplies to re-pad my instrument?

How long should a pad set last?

My woodwind instrument has been sitting in a closet for many years, how much work will it likely need?

What are pad bugs? Why are chunks missing from my flute/clarinet pads? Do I need a new case?

What kinds of pads do you use and how are they different?

What are Straubinger flute pads and do they affect the sound?

Why do pads/cork wear out?

How do I get rid of sticky pads?

Do you recommend using a pad saver in my instrument?

How do different sax resonators affect the sound?

What should I use to polish my flute?

How much does it cost to have my flute cleaned and polished?

Is it okay to clean my woodwind instrument myself?

My instrument has a crack in it, can it be repaired?

How do I oil my wood instrument? How often?

Should I be oiling my own key-work?

My child’s flute is bent! How does that happen?

Will dents in my Saxophone or Flute affect the way it plays?

My woodwind instrument has not been serviced in a long time. I thought it was almost playing okay, but I was told it needed an overhaul! Why does it need that much work?

How does an instrument play/feel after a play condition repair verses an overhaul?

Why do certain notes or registers play out of tune? What can the repair shop do about this?

Why does my student need new reeds so often? Is it okay if the reed has a little chip in it?

What do the numbers on the reeds mean?

What adjustments are safe to make by a player?

If a part comes undone can I just use glue to put it back together?

It looks like the plating is wearing away where my fingers touch the keys. Is there anything I can do to stop this? Can you make it look new again?


Can I buy the parts and supplies to re-pad my instrument?

Not from our shops…Supplies such as pads, corks, springs, etc. are not available for resale at our shops. All pads, parts, and supplies need to be custom fitted to the parts of your particular instrument and require specific technical knowledge and skill to install properly. Pads are not that easy to properly replace. They must be carefully fitted and installed in the key cup in a very specific manner. They then must be adjusted to seal the tone-hole 360 degrees at the same touchdown moment. The tolerance for pad air leaks is .0005″ or less and pad installation requires special tools and supplies as well as experienced skill to install.
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How long should a pad set last?

That varies widely and depends on several factors: 1. What repair shop does the work and what type pads are installed. Improperly installed and/or inferior quality pads do not last long. 2. How well the player cares for the instrument. With proper care and handling we have seen our new pad sets last 10 years. Student instruments typically need new pads sooner than that. For student line instruments, in normal school use, pad life may be around 5 or 6 years. That also varies with the type of instrument and how often, under what conditions, it is being played. One of our pro sax player customers blew through the upper stack pads on his sax every year simply because he played 6 nights a week and drank beverages while playing. We strongly advise that you do not drink anything other than a little water while playing you instrument.
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My woodwind instrument has been sitting in a closet for many years, how much work will it likely need?

Your instrument may likely need an overhaul. Most pads are made of natural materials and only last a certain number of years before they need to be replaced. Even if the pads were in good condition when the instrument was first stored away, they can go bad if they are not stored in the proper environment. It is best have one of our technicians inspect the instrument to tell you in what condition your pads are.
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What are pad bugs? Why are chunks missing from my flute/clarinet pads? Do I need a new case?

Pad bugs (also known as carpet beetles) sometimes infest the cases of stored woodwind instruments. The lay eggs (up to 40 at a time) in the linings of the case, which then hatch larvae that feast on the felt innards of the pads on the instrument. You can spot this damage on the pads as there will be large chunks missing. Usually this is evident on the sides of the pad, but sometimes they crawl inside the instrument and eat the pad from the inside through the center of the pad. You may also find little dried skin shells in the case. When the infestation is particularly bad you will find a white powdery residue spread throughout the case.
Once your case has been infested, there is no way to guarantee that there are no eggs in there waiting to still hatch. Thus we always recommend a new case when pad bugs are discovered. The best way to prevent any future infestations is to keep your instruments in your home, not in a storage room or basement.
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What kinds of pads do you use and how are they different?

Besides using the highest quality pads the most important aspect of pad life is the installation process. This requires a well-trained experienced technician. Even the best pad will not last long when not installed with the best skill.
We have researched; dissected, installed, field tested, and compared all the different pads available on the market today. We always use only the best quality pads so that our customer gets the best quality and longest lasting repair job. The extra cost of high quality pads is not much compared to the extended life of these pads. In most cases it cost only a few dollars more, per complete overhaul, to use the best quality pads available.
Most all the cost of pad replacement is in the labor of proper pad installation, key refitting, tone hole leveling, and regulation of the instruments mechanisms. Using best quality pads, installed by the best quality technicians, assures our customers of long lasting repairs, easy playability, best response, and a rewarding musical experience.
For more information about our professional flute pad options, please contact our Woodwind Pro Shop at 425-885-3076 and ask for Damien Hall (Straubinger Certified Flute Technician).
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What are Straubinger flute pads and do they affect the sound?

For a detailed consultation regarding Straubinger pads please contact our Straubinger Certified Flute Technician, Damien Hall at our Woodwind Pro Shop – Phone: 425-885-3076.
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Why do pads/cork wear out?

The materials they are made of wear during normal use. Some pads are made of natural materials and some of longer lasting synthetic materials. But even synthetic pads tend to collect dirt and debris over time that will affect the air seal and deteriorate the pad.
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How do I get rid of sticky pads?

That depends on the instrument and pad type. It is best to have one of technicians inspect your instrument.
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Do you recommend using a pad saver in my instrument?

We recommend only HWP Pad Savers and only for saxophone and flute. HWP pads savers use a patented material that wicks the water away from the tone holes and pads therefore increasing the life of the pads on saxophone and flute.
We do not recommend pads savers of any wood body instrument. Retention of moisture inside a wooden bore can only serve to damage the bore. Use the traditional pull through swab to clean the water out of your wooden instrument bore.
We do not really recommend pads savers for any type for soprano clarinet, even if it is plastic or composite bodied. It will not hurt a plastic clarinet but it tends to develop an unpleasant odor if the pad saver is not washed and dried regularly. Simply put, the traditional pull through swab is the best way to clean the water from any soprano clarinet.
You can clean pad savers by hand, washing them in a mild dish washing liquid solution, rinsing them well with warm water, and letting them air dry.
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How do different sax resonators affect the sound?

Sax resonators reflect the air vibration coming out of the tone holes. Different resonators produce a different sound.
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What should I use to polish my flute?

You should not attempt to polish your flute yourself. The pads are very easily damaged and pad replacement is expensive. Do NOT use a silver polishing cloth or silver polish. The chemicals can and do damage pads very easily. When you feel the need to have your Flute polished please bring it into the shop for an evaluation.
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How much does it cost to have my flute cleaned and polished?

That varies widely depending on the make and model of flute and how detailed you want the cleaning and/or polishing to be. We only hand polish silver or gold flutes. We do not machine buff silver or gold because a machine buffing process removes some of the precious metal. The best thing to do is bring your flute into our Woodwind Pro Shop and one of our flute technicians will discuss your needs and options.
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Is it okay to clean my woodwind instrument myself?

We advise you against trying to do deep or detailed cleaning or polishing on your woodwind instrument as the pads are very easily damaged. We advise that you should keep your instruments surface clean by wiping the fingerprints and water off of it with a clean soft cloth every time you finish playing.
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My instrument has a crack in it, can it be repaired?

Yes… In most cases cracks can be repaired very effectively. Cracks should be repaired immediately as a crack in the body has a great potential to spread unless it has been repaired by a technician. A crack in the tenon (the part where the two joints go together) is also very serious and should be addressed, as this is the weakest part of the instrument structurally. There are a variety of methods to repairing cracks that are appropriate depending on the particular circumstance. Most of these methods leave very little sign that a crack was ever present.
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How do I oil my wood instrument? How often?

Please call to discuss your particular instrument and oiling needs: Damien Hall, Repair Dept. Operations Manager: 425-885-3076
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Should I be oiling my own key-work?

The best answer is no. Your instrument will not need to have the key-work oiled until it needs a deeper repair. Over oiling can do more harm than good. Proper oiling of the key work requires dis-assembly of the instrument, cleaning of the hinge tubes and rod screws, and a special oil specific to your type of instrument and the specific parts.
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My child’s flute is bent! How does that happen?

This often happens when the flute is “leaned on” or accidentally sat on. Instruments are delicate and require careful handling. It is always recommended that your instrument be put in its case when not in use.
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Will dents in my Saxophone or Flute affect the way it plays?

In most cases the head joint on a Flute and neck/mouthpipe on a Sax are most critical when it comes to dents affecting response. Small dents in in the main body of the instrument do not usually affect playability. It is really a matter of physics and sound wave disruptions caused by bore changes in various areas of the instrument. It all depends on the type of instrument and the location and depth of the dents. It’s best to have one of our technicians take a quick look at your instrument and advise you.
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My woodwind instrument has not been serviced in a long time. I thought it was mostly playing okay, but I was told it needed an overhaul! Why does it need that much work?

If a few pads are bad it is likely that many more are ready to go at any time. And over the years of play the key mechanisms wear at all the contact points and need refitting. Instruments reach an age where they need a mechanical overhaul. Our mechanical overhaul process will restore them back to new, and even better than new, playing condition. Our workmanship and warranty is the best in the industry.
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How does an instrument play/feel after a play condition repair verses an overhaul?

In most cases the will play the same and feel very much the same. Good playing condition is just that…the instrument is playing easily, feels good, and is responding as it should. The reasons we would offer or recommend an overhaul is that it would be your best economic value, or, it may be the only way we can arrive at good playing condition. We often see instruments that can be made to play well but will need on-going play condition repairs to maintain that playability. We feel that this is a frustrating experience for our customer and we know for sure it is not the best economical solution in the longer run. Over time, repeated play condition repairs add up to far more than an overhaul or restoration. Those are the ones for which we recommend or offer the option of an overhaul or restoration.
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Why do certain notes or registers play out of tune? What can the repair shop do about this?

It varies greatly on an instrument by instrument basis. First of all, your instrument must be in good playing condition and have no air leaks. From there small adjustments can be made to improve the tuning of certain notes or overall intonation. However, there are some instruments that were poorly designed and cannot play in tune without expensive modification. This most often occurs with unknown or uncommon brand names. One of our technicians can help to diagnose your problems. Please try to be specific about exactly what you believe is playing out of tune.
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Why does my student need new reeds so often? Is it okay if the reed has a little chip in it?

Reeds are very delicate and do wear out. If your reed is chipped or cracked it cannot respond properly and should be replaced. Reeds are more economical when purchased by the box.
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What do the numbers on the reeds mean?

The numbers indicate the strength of the reed. Beginning students normal start on a #2 reed (soft) and as they advance will increase reed strength to # 2 1/2 and then # 3 (harder).
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What adjustments are safe to make by a player?

For most players we do not suggest that you attempt to make your own adjustments. Attempting to do so is more likely to make the problem worse, and increase the cost of the inevitable professional repair. Some experienced players (usually college or above) are comfortable with making fine adjustments to their instrument in between repair shop visits. These players have been tutored by a private instructor in these methods. If you notice an issue with your instrument, it’s best to let us diagnose the issue.
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If a part comes undone can I just use glue to put it back together?

NO! Never use glues on instrument parts. The subsequent repair, eventually needed, will cost you much more money.
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It looks like the plating is wearing away where my fingers touch the keys. Is there anything I can do to stop this? Can you make it look new again?

Yes we can re-plate your keys and refinish worn through lacquer. All people have some acidity in the natural oils from their skin and also in their saliva. Over time this will wear through plating and lacquer. The best way to slow down the process is to wipe down your instrument with a clean soft cotton or microfiber cloth after every use.
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