You and Your Instrument

By Mike Vaccaro
(from Mike's Musings #6, our newsletter)

Your instrument is an important part of your success in music. How well do you take care of it?

I was reminded the other day, after Paul Rabinov spent 3 hours on my instrument, and when he handed it back to me,  he said something like “ you must have been working hard to get the low notes.” 

Well, yes, I was, and when I played the instrument and realized how easy it was to play, it reminded me yet again, that our horns are so important to our success. After all, when it sounds easy it usually is easy.

So many times, if you are like me, we blame ourselves first. Why can’t I get that note? How come that phrase is so difficult? It’s my reed. It’s my headjoint. It’s my mouthpiece. What do I need to do to make this music sound better? Well, sometimes the problem is us and sometimes the problem is our instrument.
If playing is not fun anymore, or you seem to be losing your touch, your repair person should be your 1st stop.  In addition you should just figure on a once a year getting a total cleaning, oiling, and adjustment on your instrument.

Other times the instrument is in particular peril for adjustment, is any time there is a radical weather change. Pads dry out or get wet, wood instruments swell and contract, and corks can start to crack, making it prime time for possible adjustments.

Find the best repair person you can. If you don’t know who to go to ask your teacher. You want a woodwind specialist, not just a store where the repair person repairs everything that comes in from tubas to piccolos. It is possible that the music store repair person can be good at everything, however an expert on one instrument, your instrument, is the best person to look for.

Don’t be afraid to drive a little farther, or pay a little more for expertise. You will be happy and your instrument will be happy, and all those musicians you play with will be happy.

There are many types of new pads and resonators available for all woodwind instruments, especially flutes. Be sure to ask your repair person if they are experienced with any new type of pad system. If not, call the instrument or pad company and find a authorized technician.

Make friends with your repair person. Watch them work as you can learn a lot and get into some pretty engaging conversations too.

You may even develop an interest in repair work yourself. It is always a good craft to know, even if it is just to get you horn going in an emergency. In addition, with the music business in such a transitional period these days with recorded music taking over where live music has been used, having extra marketable skills can be useful.

Synthesizers are replacing musicians not only in film, documentaries, and television but in live music performance like Broadway pits, churches, and any venue you can think of.  The improvement on the sounds available to synth composers are so impressive, that occasionally I can’t tell myself whether the music is created by a synthesizer of a group of single musicians.

The more musical skills you have, in addition to the ability to perform on an instrument, the better chance you have of staying close to music for a lifetime. Repair work is certainly one of those areas that is in need of experts all over the country. A musical sideline never hurts your understanding of music.

So, keep your horns in shape and play better and have more fun.




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