Repair FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Between us we have over 100 years of repair experience. We've seen a lot, but we still see something new almost every day. Here are some questions we do hear a lot!

1. What do I do when my mouthpiece is stuck?

Run, don't walk, to someone who knows what they are doing. Do-it-yourself options frequently mean expensive repairs, so don't do it! Bring your instrument into the shop. We never charge to pull or remove a mouthpiece, and can often do it while you wait. Your band director might also have a special tool called a "mouthpiece puller" designed to correctly remove the mouthpiece without trashing the instrument. We'll know if you tried the old vise grip trick (and so will your wallet), so don't do it! (Oh yes, don't forget to bring in your case so we have someplace to put your horn and mouthpiece after we separate the two.) With brass instruments, the mouthpiece often binds because of dirt and crud in the bore. Another frequent cause is the habit of "popping" the mouthpiece into place with the palm of the hand.

2. How often should I get my instrument looked at?

We suggest at least once a year. Just like a car or any other machine, preventive maintenance is important in keeping it in top working order and repair bills to a minimum. Also, young players often do not know when an instrument's performance is degraded due to neglect and will spend months "fighting" with it. Our annual maintenance will wash out all those peanut butter sandwiches, realign the pads and keys and put the horn back in top playing shape. We've got an ultrasonic cleaner that we often use to gently dissolve mineral deposits and other hard to clean gunk. Finally, our trained staff "play tests" every instrument to make sure the instrument is performing as well as it should.

3. The rings on my clarinet are loose. Is this a problem?

This often happens on wood clarinets and it is important that this be corrected the right way. The rings give structural integrity to the thin wood at the joints. If they're loose, you will often have problems with cracks. Cracks are expensive to fix and take a great deal of time. Fixing loose rings is a simple correction, and much less costly. Also, loose rings may indicate that you need to pay closer attention to humidity issues regarding your instrument. We can advise you in this area.

4. How old is my instrument?

Good question! Locate your instrument's serial number and then check out one of these links to help you find an answer:

  Armstrong Flutes
  Artley Flutes
  Besson Brass
  Buescher Saxes
  Buffet Saxes
  H.N. White
  H.N. White - Kohlert 1910-1925
  Holton Horns
  Holton Saxes
  Keilwerth Saxes
  Martin Saxes
  Selmer Paris
  Yanigisawa Saxes
  Saxophones, All -
  Saxophones, All - Vintage Sax Gallery
  Music Trader Serial Numbers

5. I'm pretty handy, I'd like to try repairing things myself...

OK, this is not a question, but it creates a ton of them. First, don't try it on your kid's horn when they need it for school the next day. We see this a lot—dad (usually it's dad) thinks he'll save money by putting in the pads himself, or replacing the bridge, or pulling the mouthpiece (remember the mouthpiece bit?). Hey, we think its fun, but then we've been doing it for awhile and we also know how to do it right! Be advised that pads don't just plug in, bridges on violins are custom fit for EVERY instrument (nope, they're not one-size-fits-all). Oh, and this one is most important: Never Ever Ever use Super Glue on an instrument. Still game to give it a try? OK then, visit our Repair Textbook page. There should be something there to get you started.

Just remember: Don't believe everything you see online! (—Abraham Lincoln, 1952). The web is full of advice written by folks who, shall we say, are somewhat under-credentialed in the field of professional instrument repair. Say no more...

Interested in Instrument Repair as a career? If you are serious, we'll be happy to talk to you. Just drop us an e-mail at

6. How much will it cost to fix?

Every instrument is different, but check out our price guides at Woodwinds, Brasses, Strings, Fretted, Percussion or Electronics to get an idea. For everything except electronic instruments, we will give you a free estimate (but only when the instrument is here in front of us!) and we'll always tell you if we think it will be better to turn it into a lamp. Electronic instruments have a non-refundable deposit for estimates which will be applied to the cost of the repair should you decide to have the work done.

7. How long will it take?

Our stock answer is 10 days to 2 weeks. Longer during the summer, shorter during the school year (except during school holidays when everyone brings their instrument in and thinks we should have extra time).

8. How much is my instrument worth?

For this one you won't like the answer: We will not give values on instruments without seeing them in person. So, don't ask, don't beg, don't beseech, please. We won't do it, we won't do it, and by the way, we won't do it. There are simply too many variables. Something that you don't notice may make all the difference in the world as pertains to value. Or vice versa. Maybe it is an original Stradivarius worth millions. Or maybe it's a Strato-Various - junk best used for kindling a nice evening's fire. Bring it in, let us see it, then we'll tell you. By the way, verbal estimates of an instrument's value are free. We only charge when you want it in writing.

9. How do we find you?

For directions to the store from anywhere, check out our Directions to Hickey's page. We're a genuine, real, live music store that you can visit in person (our address is below). If you'd like to ship us an instrument, please send it (well boxed and fully insured) to:

  Hickeys Music Center - Repair Shop
  104 Adams Street
  Ithaca, NY 14850

Be sure to include DAYTIME phone, E-mail and text/cell info so we can contact you.