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What to do if your instrument gets damaged.

Posted by Anton Krutz on

I Just Had an Accident! Help!

Damaged Instrument

If you just had an accident with your instrument it can be scary and you might not know what to do next. Here are a few steps to help you when something goes wrong and you need to bring your instrument in for repair. Being prepared before something happens, and knowing what to look for when it does, can be very helpful when bringing an instrument to a repair technician or luthier.

1. Try to remain calm.

Accidents happen and if you have been playing for awhile, you may have a deeply emotional connection to your instrument. It is important to try and remain calm so that you can assess the situation and take action in order to help your instrument be prepared for repair and keep it from having additional damage occur before your instrument gets to the shop.

2. Check to make sure you have all the pieces.

Many parts of your instrument are held on by tension and are interconnected. It can look really scary if your bridge and tailpiece fall off or if a string breaks and then the peg falls out. Some of these can be pretty easy fixes, but you will need the part or parts that fell off. This is also important when there is true breakage. A part that is still intact can significantly lower the cost of repair (in the case of some parts, such as a soundpost, an intact part is reset free of charge). In addition to this, be gentle with the instrument and keep it in a safe and secure place until you can get it to a repair specialist. Because certain parts of the instrument are held together by tension, it is common for the loss of a part to cause the loosening of other parts.

3. Check the seams.

Sometimes an instrument might fall to the ground and seem to be in good shape in the moment, when later it begins to have issues. This is likely due to an open seam. A seam is the point at which the top or bottom of the instrument meets with the side part (called the “rib”). These separate pieces of wood are held together by a specific type of glue that comes apart if the instrument experiences a sharp blow, weather-related structural changes, or melting heat. This design element makes it more likely for an instrument to survive various forces without cracking the solid wood pieces. Instead of cracking, the pieces pull apart and require regluing. Regluing a seam is much cheaper and faster than repairing a crack and doesn’t significantly affect the tone quality or monetary value of the instrument.

4. Loosen the Strings.

Strings produce a lot of tension on an instrument in order to sound properly. If you have an accident, it is a good idea to loosen the strings enough that the bridge could easily slide out but tight enough that the bridge does not fall over. If you have a crack on the top or back, especially if it is near the bridge, it is important to immediately loosen the strings as much as possible in order to help keep the crack from becoming longer because of the pressure caused by the string tension.

Instrument Repairs

5. Find a trusted source for repairs.

Because of the very specific materials and measurements needed to keep an instrument sounding its best, it is important that you take it to someone who specializes in orchestral stringed instruments and knows what they are doing. If you are renting an instrument, take it to the place from which you are renting. They will likely have a repair staff and will at least know where you should go to have repairs done if not. In many cases, rental plans include insurance. If you own the instrument and do not know where to go in your town, it is worthwhile to ask other musicians or music teachers before going to a shop. To get the best estimate of what is needed for a repair, you will need to take your instrument to a shop in person and have it properly assessed. If you are concerned about the estimates given at a particular shop it can be good to get a second opinion.


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