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Estate Sale Tips: Band Instruments

Estate Sale Tips

Five Things To Consider When Purchasing A Saxophone, Clarinet, or Flute From An Estate Sale!

Estate sales are great places to find used band instruments! If your child is starting band, or you are wanting to learn a new instrument, you can find deals at estate sales. The key is knowing what to look for. Check out our tips below:

 

1. Is the instrument missing pads?  

 Used Clarinet and Flute

Pads are found under the keys on clarinets, saxophones, and flutes. They seal the holes in the instrument, allowing you to create a note, and are usually constructed of felt, rubber, leather, or wool. You will want to check to make sure that the pads are intact on the instrument you're purchasing, since pads can be hard to come by for certain instrument brands. If the instrument is not a common brand, or the brand has been out of production, you may have a hard time finding the replacement pads you need to get the instrument operational. Don’t let missing pads be a deal breaker though- you may have found an instrument for which pads are readily available. If the instrument is a Conn, Bundy, Yamaha, or Selmer, you should be able to get missing pads replaced at a local music store.  Something to keep in mind, though, is that repadding an instrument can get expensive pretty quickly. If  you find an instrument that's missing more than just a couple pads, you may want to do research into the value of the instrument in relation to its repair cost.

2. Are pieces of the pads missing?

Pieces of pads partially missing is usually a sure sign that you should run fast. The culprit in this situation are called "pad bugs," which are carpet beetles in the larval stage. The pads will look slightly disintegrated and will be missing chunks of the pad material. This can be a very expensive fix, as you usually have to repad the entire instrument. Often, the cost to repad an instrument will be quite a bit more than the instrument's worth. Check out this great blog post by MICNAP Band Instrument Repair that goes into more detail and shows examples of what to look for. 

3. Missing Pieces:

In many cases, if the instrument is missing any parts, like a saxophone with a missing neck or keys, you many want to reconsider making the purchase. Some parts can be very hard to replace, especially if the instrument is out of production. Luckily, replacing the mouthpiece is an exception to this guideline.  Most mouthpieces are common and easily replaceable. You'll want to keep the cost of this, or any other piece in mind before you purchase an instrument. You may want to contact your local music store for pricing on a new mouthpiece before you make the decision to buy.

4. Dents and bents:

If the instrument has extensive dents, it would probably be better to look elsewhere. It isn't uncommon to find small dings and scrapes on an instrument, but you'll want to make sure that the dings aren't close to any mechanical parts such as keys. (See #5) Smaller instruments like flutes should't have dents. Dents on a small instrument may cause key alignment issues, which will not allow the note to sound properly when played. Clarinets are generally made of wood or plastic, which means that they may chip, rather than dent. Usually, it's a good idea to stay away from any clarinet with visible chips or cracks.

5. The Keys:

When pressing an instrument's keys, they should be very smooth and unrestricted. Check to make sure the keys push the key pads down to effectively seal the holes in the instrument. You can test the seal by shining a light into the instrument with the keys depressed. If light leaks out from any gaps around where the pad should be touching the instrument, it may either need a new pad, or a key alignment. If the key is bent out of place by only a few millimeters, it may be able to be carefully bent back into place by a technician. If the key has been bent more than a few millimeters, the damage may be too extensive. Be very careful if you decide to try to bend a key back into place yourself, as you can easily break the key or other mechanical parts. Most of the time, it's is better to take  an instrument into a professional before trying a repair on an instrument.


I hope this helps you in your search for a clarinet, a saxophone, or a flute while you're out estate sale shopping. Here is a short list of popular band instrument brands that you may come across while you're at a sale:  Bundy, Selmer, Yamaha, Conn, Buffet-Crampon, and Gemeinhardt.

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