The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of common services for flutes – keep in mind that the price of these services varies greatly based on instrument level (ie student flutes and handmade flutes), region, time between services, service requested, etc. Let’s start with some general terms*…
*You should consult your local repair tech if you are unclear of what their services cover – these things vary greatly by region!
COA: Clean Oil Adjust
This is a very common phrase because it is a regular flute service. Just like you would get an oil change or keep up the fluids for your car, the flute requires oiling, cork replacement, and minor adjustments. Many service shops recommend getting this service once a year, however, the cost of service as well as how often the instrument is used can impact the specific interval between recommended services.
Pads are the money sucker when it comes to flute repair. One of the reason why student flute repair costs are so much lower (among a plethora of other reasons) is that the pads are made of a cheaper material, commonly felt pads.
Many handmade/professional flutes have Straubinger pads. However, there are flute makers and repair technicians that are use other high quality pads; two that come to mind are the Muramatsu pads and JS Gold pads.
The reason repadding is expensive is because of the time of service for the pads to settle in the cup as well as the number of pads that may need replacing. Two trill keys, Bb key, G# lever, all the body keys, D level, and all foot joint keys… depending on if you have a C# trill key, a B foot joint, etc. the total cost to replace the pads on a flute can add up if not maintained.
Depending on the interval of when you bring your flute in for a service, whether that be a COA or otherwise, the pads require some level of care: Whether that’s removing dusty/grime build up, minor repairs like leaky pads (another common issue), and torn/warped pads.
You can help offset the expensive of replacing pads by being mindful of rinsing out your mouth before playing. Just like vocalists have to avoid certain beverages/food before singing such as sodas, dairy, sugar… a good rule of thumb is to brush your teeth (if possible) or rinse your mouth out before playing to prevent the pads from deteriorating more easily, getting sticky, etc.
Overhauls are less frequent that the first two services since it’s meant to bring your flute back to “new”. Depending on the usage of your flute these could be done between 5-10 years of use. Likewise, flutes that have been sitting (those back of the closet flutes) would require this service; when it comes to student flutes, the cost of the overhaul exceeds the value of the instrument so it is worth getting the instrument appraised before going through with this type of service.
Sometimes you might notice something is just slightly off about your flute. That could be a key being sluggish, tuning/cork issues, noisy keys, etc.
Anytime you notice something not quite right, check in with your trusted repair tech and see if it is a DIY type of fix or if it’s worth bringing in urgently – depending on the pricing, the tech, and the severity of the service needed it may be worth getting adjustments done inbetween regular services like COAs.
Finding a Repair Tech
Trust is important when it comes to finding a person who you are handing over your flute to. Word of mouth is one of the most reliable ways to find a local repair tech that you can trust. If you’re a university student ask your flute faculty or colleagues; if you’re outside university you can ask your flute instructor for recommendations or [with a dash of caution] use ‘reliable’ community forums to sleuth out the most promising tech.
In the US – especially metropolitan areas – there tends to be clusters of repair technicians rather than having an even distribution across an entire state. That’s another factor to consider is location. Are you willing to travel x-amount of miles, even through state borders, to get a service? Or is shipping your instrument to a trusted technician a better option?
Another consideration when narrowing down a repair tech is specialization. In the NJ/NY area there are plenty of flute-specific technicians (going one step further even Straubinger-certified technicians), however, there are also woodwind techs or people who are still certified in flute, but also handle with other woodwinds instruments.
Straubinger Certified Pad Technician List by State
Anne Pollack – NY / Luke Penella – NY /
Carolyn Nussbaum – TX
Flutacious – CA
Any other flute repair terms or services you’d like to know more about? Have any resources you want to share on this topic? Let me know in the comments!