Many of us start playing clarinet or saxophone, realize we enjoy it, and keep doing it—which means we use our instruments quite regularly. They are mechanical machines, and their parts will wear over time; inevitably, some kind of repair is eventually needed. Rather than having to find a reputable repair shop that has the time to work on your instrument, why not pursue some training in basic clarinet and/or saxophone repair?
Many repair jobs are relatively simple processes that take a few tools and a little bit of know-how. Basic repair courses teach you how to handle these problems so you don’t have to make the trip to a repair shop and wait without your instrument, sometimes for days, until it’s ready—not to mention pay the fees and labor costs. If you live in an area where access to a good repair technician means driving some distance, for example, or it has been difficult to find a technician whose work you are happy with, being able to reshape a key or replace pads and tenon corks on your own is very beneficial. Educators, too, benefit from these repair skills, when their students show them problems and they can fix them without having to take the school-owned instrument in and do all the corresponding paperwork.
Finding someone who can teach you how to work on your own instrument, however, can be challenging. In the UK, the website windplus.net maintains a list of institutes that provide repair courses. One of the organizations they list, Cambridge Woodwind Makers, has an upcoming Saxophone Repair Course that includes a description of what the students will learn and what kinds of materials they will need. For those of us who live in the United States, finding a training course can be a bit more piecemeal.
Lisa’s Clarinet Shop now offers courses in both clarinet and saxophone repair. The courses are taught by the Shop’s experienced, Buffet-Crampon certified technician, Bruce Marking. The clarinet course costs $2300 in tuition, with an additional $1200 in supplies, for a total of $3500 each year ($7000 for the entire 2-year course). The saxophone course costs $2300 in tuition and an additional $750 in supplies, for a total of $3050 for each year ($6100 for the entire 2-year course). Both courses’ costs can be paid in interest-free monthly installments over 24 months (48 months total payment time). After 9 months of coursework you will be able to safely repad an instrument and do (most) of the work required for a professional overhaul, and be able to charge $50/hr for your services; upon completion of the course you will be able to ask $60-80/hr for your services, as well as offer instrument(s) you have serviced for sale. These skills provide a valuable, needed service in the music world and create a viable primary or secondary income stream.
The ability to repair clarinets and saxophones is a useful, marketable skill in today’s economy, especially if performance opportunities are scarce. The monetary and time investment in a repair course can pay long-term dividends in terms of maintaining your own equipment and being able to offer your services in your community.