Why do repairs cost so much?

Here are some of the reasons why repairs are expensive:

  • Instruments are largely mass produced, repairs are necessarily ‘hand made’ (with commensurate labour costs)
  • The root cause of problems is rarely a single thing that can be quickly fixed but is usually due a deterioration in the general adjustment and condition of the instrument; multiple causes that all require attention. There are 46 possible leak sites on a clarinet, 52 on a flute, and 76 on a saxophone!
  • Musical instrument manufacture and repair are relatively small markets and consequently the specialised tools and materials are exceptionally expensive and many jobs on an instrument require a special tool
  • A stronger player can overcome leaks that a beginner or weaker player could not. It is not adequate to simply blow the instrument to see if it plays. Instead, the repairer must thoroughly and methodically check the pad seating, regulation and air tightness
  • Student instruments are of lower quality and harder to adjust. Conversely, professional instruments are easier to adjust but require working to finer tolerances

It is difficult to give definitive prices for repairs on musical instruments without a thorough examination of the instrument. However the Maintenance Guide will give you some background as to the levels of servicing/repair available and when they should be carried out, and Servicing & Repairs will give you a more detailed appreciation of what is carried at each level and how the final price for the job is derived.

What should I get done?

I can help to advise you on this after I have examined the instrument. However, I offer the following generic guidance.

Because the vast majority of instruments are mass produced and manufactured to a price, they will never play their best until they receive their first FULL SERVICE. This is when the instrument is first stripped down and subjected to the exacting standards of the repair technician. The root cause of problems will then become apparent and can be rectified.

Obviously this will require a substantial financial investment and therefore the sorts of questions that need to be considered are:

  • What is the quality of the instrument?
  • How much would an upgrade to a better instrument cost (not forgetting any servicing costs to bring to acceptable playing condition)?
  • How long do I intend to keep the instrument for?
  • How important is it to me that the instrument is reliable and plays well at all times? E.g. Do you perform publicly on a regular basis or just play in rehearsal bands or practice privately?
  • Is this your main instrument or a backup?

Think of it in the same way as a car. If you drive it frequently or over long distances, or rely upon it for work, you will probably think it a worthwhile investment to spend the money on regular maintenance and repair! When an expensive repair comes up you weigh it against the value and usefulness of the vehicle to you.

Estimates

The following tables gives you indicative price estimates for labour, materials and optional extras which may be further refined upon a (free) detailed examination of the instrument.

Labour Estimates

 CHECK & ADJUSTSHORT SERVICEFULL SERVICERE-PADOVERHAUL
Required for2 days3 days1 week2 weeks3 weeks
Saxophone£25+£100+£200+£400+£600+
Clarinet£25+£50+£100+£200+TBA
Flute£25+£50+£100+£200+TBA
Additional Labour (Padding)n/ac.£15 per padc.£15 per padINCLUDEDINCLUDED
N.B. Specific repairs to restore an instrument to PLAY CONDITION are charged at £25 per hour.

Materials Estimates

 Per PadPer Pad Set
Saxes£1.50 to £12.50c.£75 (sop) to c.£150 (bari)
Clarinet£1.50 to £2.50c.£25
Flute£2.00 to c.£3.00c.£30

The following table gives indicative price estimates for the optional extras listed at Servicing & Repairs.

Optional Extras

JobIndicative Price
Replace and fit saxophone neck cork£25
Thorough cosmetic clean and polish of all body parts and keys£50
Replace all corks and felts£50
Re-adjustment of the action (heavier/lighter)From £25
All additional work not explicitly specified e.g. dent removal, soldering etcCharged at £25 per hour plus materials
Use of special pads/resonators£POA
Use of special key pearls£POA

So, by way of an example, a short service on a saxophone requiring three medium sized replacement pads and a neck re-cork might cost £100 + 3 x £15 (pad fitting) + 3 pads @£5 per pad + £25 neck cork fitting = £185.