The Flute Academy

Fix a Flute

Feb 23, 2015

How to Fix a Flute

Learning how to take proper care of your flute is important to keep it in good working order. However, even the most diligent flute owners will encounter problems (both minor and major) from time to time. While some of these are easy fixes, other problems will need to be addressed by professional repair workers. Below, you’ll find information about how to fix a flute, which issues you can fix yourself and which you should seek outside help for, and how to take proper care of your flute to minimize the repairs needed.

Taking Care of Your Flute

Undoubtedly the best flute repair you can do yourself is preventative maintenance. By taking care of your instrument on a daily basis, you reduce your chances of having major things go wrong with it. This way, you shouldn't find yourself having to fix a flute too often! To begin with, you should know how to properly assemble your instrument. Many times beginning players will put it together without thinking about the pressure they put on the keys in the process - pressure that can lead bent or broken keys and flute repairs that can sometimes be very costly. So, when assembling the flute, always make sure you’re holding the instrument in a way that does not press down on any keys. On the bottom of each key of the flute is a pad - a soft cushion that makes contact with the body of the flute. These pads can be very delicate, especially when exposed to excess moisture, so it’s important that after playing the flute you swab out the body. To do this you’ll need a cleaning rod and cloth. These are sometimes provided with a new instrument purchase, but they can also be obtained easily online or at a music store. Attach the cloth to the cleaning rod and gently swab out the inside of your instrument. It’s especially important that you swab the head joint, since it is most prone to moisture accumulation. Finally, always make sure that your flute is properly stored when it’s not being played. Even though we often think of metal as a durable material, it is still prone to undesirable changes due to exposure to extreme temperature or moisture fluctuations. Properly storing your flute will go towards ensuring you won't even need to  find out how to fix a flute in the first place!

Do It Yourself Flute Repairs

Thankfully, many problems we encounter on the flute can be fixed at home. However, if you feel uncomfortable performing any of these flute repairs on your own, you can always take it to a professional repair person. Even the most consistent flute swabbers will encounter sticky pads from time to time. However, this is typically a minor problem and is definitely a flute repair you can do yourself. One of the best ways to remedy this problem is with cigarette paper. To do this, slide one sheet of paper (without adhesive!) underneath the sticky key, and use it to blot up any impurities on the pad that are causing it to stick. If the problem still persists, you can try using a fresh sheet of paper with a small amount of rubbing alcohol on it, which may help remove the stickiness. Never push a key down and attempt to pull the cigarette paper from underneath it. This can cause the paper itself to become stuck to the pad as well. The key system on most flutes is very complex and makes use of small metal springs. These are actually small, thin strips of metal that aren’t spring-shaped at all, but they do place tension on the keys to keep the tone holes closed until the key is depressed. From time to time these springs will fall out of place, but thankfully this is yet another easy and quick do it yourself flute repair. Depending on the placement of the springs and how small your hands are, you may be able to move them back into their correct position without the need for a tool. However, if you’re having difficulty doing this, a small crochet hook is your best bet. Simply hook the back of the spring and move it gently back into place.

Flute Repairs that Require a Professional

While there are lots of flute repairs you can do yourself, some are so complex or severe that they will require you to bring your instrument to a repair person. If you need to fix a flute with bent or broken keys, it should always be fixed by a professional. Attempting to fix a flute by bending the keys back into place can result in even more damage to the instrument. Gluing broken keys back onto the body of the flute is a temporary fix at best. And there’s still a risk that even this could damage the instrument even more. Thankfully, this is only an emergency flute repair. You don’t typically see broken keys as part of the normal wear and tear of flute playing. If you’re swabbing out your instrument and the cloth gets stuck in the body of the flute, this is another time it’s best to seek out the help of a professional. Attempting to fix a flute with this problem on your own can actually make the cloth become more stuck and place unnecessary pressure on the inside of the instrument, which can damage the flute even further.

Even if they never get sticky, the pads on your flute will need to be replaced as they age. Some players know how to fix a flute with pad issues themselves, but if you’re unsure, it’s best to have a repair person do it. Most players realize it’s time for them to get new pads when they have to press down keys quite hard to get a note to respond. So even though you can often fix a flute by yourself, sometimes you will need to bite the bullet and take it to a professional repairer. 

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