The problems most often encountered with clarinets are:
- Notes won't play or the clarinet requires a lot of air to play
- Corks on the tenons (joints) have gotten loose or fallen off
- Keys are stuck or won't return to their rest positions
When notes won't play it's almost always due to air leaks. Those white pads under the keys are supposed to seal the air from the tone holes. If a pad doesn't seal well, the clarinetist has to blow harder or squeeze the key until it seals. If a leak is big enough, the note won't play at all.
Sometimes leaks are due to keys being bent out of position; when that's the case, the technician can usually make some quick adjustments and fix it.
But sometimes leaks are due to old and deteriorating pads. Pads are small pieces of white felt covered with a thin clear skin; the felt allows the pad to conform to the tone hole and the skin seals the air. As pads age the thin skin gets brittle and cracks or tears, allowing air to seep through. If you look closely you can usually see the tears in the skin or fibers of white felt sticking through; when you see this, you can be sure air is leaking there. The only solution is replacing the leaking pad, carefully "floating and seating" it to the tone hole for a good seal. (Unfortunately when one pad has deteriorated the others usually have also, in which case replacing just the torn pad wouldn't fix the problem for long. Replacing all the pads is never a welcome expense but the clarinetist is often surprised by how much better the clarinet plays and with good care the new pads will last a long time.)
Tenon corks make a tight fit between the joints of a clarinet and assure no air leaks through. As cork ages it compresses and with the friction of putting a clarinet together and taking it apart, the corks eventually tear or come loose. The technician cleans the old cork off, cuts new cork to fit, glues it into place, and then shapes it to fit snugly. With proper maintenance the new cork should last many years. (In an emergency you can apply tape or paper to the tenon to fill the gap until you can get it to the shop.)
When keys are stuck they occasionally have frozen pivot screws or rods, but usually they've just been bent out of position. The technician
realigns them to move freely. In most cases he'll also need to replace
their pads because their seats will no longer match their tone holes.
If a key won't return to its rest position, in most cases one of the springs has simply come unhitched. The springs are short straight wires mounted under the keys; when they're in place they apply pressure against the spring hook that protrudes on the bottom of the key. If the spring gets bumped off the hook, the clarinetist can often move it back into place with a pen or a crochet hook. If the spring is broken or loses its tension, a technician will need to replace it with a new one. (In an emergency you can sometimes use a rubber band to simulate the spring until you can get your clarinet to the technician.)
A good clarinet that is repaired properly should play as well as it did when it was new. And a good clarinet that is maintained correctly should last a lifetime.
Amro Can Repair Your Clarinet
Amro repairs thousands of clarinets per year for clarinet students, amateur musicians, and professional clarinetists. Amro technicians can play-test your clarinet, explain what it needs, and give you an estimate to bring it back to good playing condition. And they can typically finish the repairs in just a few days.
- Several full-time clarinet specialists on staff
- Many years of total experience playing and repairing clarinets
- You can meet your clarinet technician, discuss the problem, and often they can fix it while you wait.
- Every clarinet repair is play-tested & checked by two technicians
- Free estimates
- Some repairs completed the same day
- Free pick-up at most area schools
Bring your clarinet by and we'll check it for you at no charge and no obligation.
Ask about Amro's Maintenance & Replacement Plan.
Average # of clarinets repaired per day: 6
# of clarinets repaired last year: 1,829
Total instruments repaired last year: 14,242
Full-time instrument technicians on staff: 18
Do you have questions for our clarinet repair technicians? Give them a call at (901) 323-8888 or send them a message here.