Click to visit the Palen Music Center website

Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, March 26, 2007


The PMC Quick Note is a weekly service provided to all area directors.  It is part of our mission to support the lives of band directors across the Midwest.  The weekly Quick Note contains helpful tips and suggestions from area directors, spotlights on area college and university band programs, calendars of upcoming events, advocacy articles promoting music education, links to helpful web resources, and much more.  Comments, suggestions, ideas, and articles are always welcome.


Looking for help on a particular topic? Be sure to check out our Quick Note Catalog of back issues.

An Ounce of Prevention by Jerry Rowden
Including a simple maintenance schedule into your curriculum will save in repair costs and keep your students' instruments playing well. Assigning the following maintenance tips as homework or incorporating them into a weekly part of your warm-up routine will save money and down time.

Brass instruments:
1) Move all tuning slides.
Most slides become frozen from lack of use. Moving and lubricating them regularly keeps them from getting stuck. Also, stuck slides are a good indication of an instrument that is not being cleaned.
2) Unscrew the valve caps.
Again, lack of use will cause them to seize up and is an indication of a dirty instrument.
3) Oil large instrument valves even if the valves move.
Older brass instrument valves will often work pretty well even with no oil on them because they fit so loose. Dry, loose valves may work but will leak. Oil not only reduces wear but acts as a gasket to seal air leaks. Air leaks can cause some notes not to center or produce a fuzzy tone. Oiling the valves can often dramatically improve the way a brass instrument plays.

Woodwind Instruments:
1) Check tenon corks for easy fit.
Cork grease wears off tenon corks gradually and kids often don't realize they are using more and more force to assemble their instruments. Once a week they should think about if their instrument is getting hard to put together. If so, a little cork grease will make assembly easier and help preserve the corks.
2) Check flute head corks.
Many flute students carry things like pencils inside their head joints when in the case. When the case is jostled around the pencil can tap on the head cork and may move it. Use a flute cleaning rod to check the position of the head cork. If out of position, correct it. If the cork moves easily it should be replaced next time the instrument goes to the shop for adjustment.

All instruments:
1) Check for a clean mouthpiece.
Cleaning a mouthpiece at home is a good homework assignment. Be sure to grade the homework.
2) Visual inspection.
Give the instrument a good looking over. Look for loose screws, loose braces, loose parts, torn pads, or anything that doesn't look right. It may be best for the student to check with their teacher before tightening any screws because some screws are for adjustment.
3) Clean out the case.
Anything loose in the case can get lodged in an instrument or cause dents or bend keys. A quick trip to the trash can reduce the risk of having to send the instrument to the shop.

Of course, many instruments need more extensive care than listed here, but these quick and simple steps can prevent many common problems.

is worth a pound of cure.

Contact your Palen Music Center Repairperson if you have any repair or maintenance questions.

Jerry Rowden has a bachelor degree in music education from Emporia State University and taught instrumental music in Hanover, Kansas. He graduated from repair school at Trinidad State Junior College in Trinidad, Colorado. He has been in instrument repair for the past 17 years. He is an active member of NAPBIRT (National Association of Professional Band Instrument Technicians) and participates in continuing education in the repair field. Jerry has been with Palen Music Center since 2002.

Click here to send Jerry email.

Contact Your Local Palen Music Center

Can we assist you with anything?  Please contact your local Palen Music Center school road representative for all of your music education needs.


(417) 882-7000
Bob Hopkins and Mike Brown
Springfield North (417) 862-2700 Burl Williams
Columbia (573) 256-5555 Robert Pitts
Joplin (417) 781-3100 Wayne Blades
Liberty (816) 792-8301 Ken Crisp


If you would like to submit material, make changes or corrections, give comments, or wish to be removed from this mailing list, please contact Eric Matzat.