When you’ve been in the music business as long as we have, you think you’ve heard it all when it comes to broken instruments. But then, someone comes in with an instrument badly in need of repair or replacement and you realize that you’re entirely unprepared for their repair needs.  For example – who in the world knows how to fix a piano that got shot? Not this girl, that’s for dang sure. Here are some of my favorite broken instrument stories:

  • Stuck on the Trumpet

In eighth grade, I had a jazz band class. Our jazz band was pretty decent and we traveled quite a bit. Now, I can’t say for sure how it happened… but on one trip, a fellow bandmate happened to get her finger stuck in one of the trumpet valves.  I’m not sure why it was there in the first place, but alas, here we were. As usually happens, the finger began to swell and this young lady had to have the trumpet cut off to save her finger. She was pretty happy to still have her finger and even happier that she got a new trumpet out of the deal.  Moral of this story… fingers do not belong in trumpet valves.

  • Hit Me With Your Best Shot

It’s a great idea for a Pat Benetar song.  It’s not such a great idea for your family piano. A young man had been out hunting with an older rifle that had some flaws in the design.  One of these design flaws was that there could still be a bullet in the chamber – and you wouldn’t know it. So, as the young man went back home, and was preparing to put the gun away, he accidentally fired a shot into the family piano.  It hit the keys and ricocheted through the fallboard and the cabinet, hitting the strings. It was repaired, but I’m sure it will never be the same. 

  • On the Struggle Bus

”I accidentally drop kicked my viola out of the bus.”

“How?”

“I am clumsy and was walking out the bus door and dropped my viola on my foot… and kicked it all the way out.  I mean, it was in a case, but it was in pretty rough shape.”

  • <Insert Banjo Joke Here>

“I reversed out of my garage over my banjo.  Luckily, it was unharmed because banjos are indestructible.”

  • Father Doesn’t Know Best

I had a kid once who never took the mouthpiece off of his trumpet and it got stuck. Instead of bringing it to a professional, his father used some vice grips to try to remove the mouthpiece and totally screwed up the trumpet.”

  • Watch Your Step

“We practice marching band in a paved parking lot. One of the marching band kids ran across the practice area with his marching baritone in hand and tripped”

  • Love Sac Mishap

“Someone left their brand new full size cello on a love sac. Some extremely bright person launched themselves onto the love sac from a balcony… sending the poor cello straight up into the air.  Because gravity is real, the cello quickly came back down and shattered on the floor.”

We’ve also heard multiple stories of guitars being ruined because they were left on the floor or the couch or in the car.  If you leave your guitar on the floor at night, chances are pretty high that someone will step on it and break the neck. And – there is a high possibility of the wood cracking if you leave it unattended in a car.

Another word of advice is to not let the littles be alone with your instrument.  One woman told me that she did just that with her violin and came back to missing and broken strings and a bridge that was pulled off.  Yikes.

So, what have we learned today?

  1. Keep your instrument in a safe place. Do not leave it unattended.
  2. Keep it in a case.  This won’t prevent all damage – but it WILL prevent most of it.
  3. Keep your instrument clean. If you don’t regularly clean it, your mouthpiece and your valves/ keys/ machine heads WILL get stuck.  I promise you.
  4. If you have a stringed instrument, keep it humidified.  I cannot stress this ENOUGH.
  5. If  you have a wind or brass instrument – invest in a cleaning kit and perhaps a neck strap of some sort.  Clean that instrument all the way out regularly to prevent icky bacterial growth.
  6. If you have a fretted instrument – invest in a stand or a wall hanger.  Instruments that are put away properly after use are much less likely to be stepped on.

At the end of the day, it’s just about remembering that your instrument is a costly investment that will give you hours and years of enjoyment.  So, take care of it and save yourself some money and some embarrassment.

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