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Instrument Repairs in India

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Greetings!

  I am teaching strings in a private school in India, (Woodstock International School) and we have so many problems with our school instruments!  Many of our violins, violas, cellos, and basses, and bows are barely playable.  I don't know if it is better to try to individually fix all of our instruments or order new "student" level instruments.  Some of the problems we deal with are monsoon weather--humidity that does some surprising things to the instruments.  We have bridges that don't fit properly, sunken fingerboards,  improperly set up instruments, badly-fitting tail pieces, stuck/broken pegs, bows that have never been re-haired, open seams, cracks,  things made from strange materials,  and more.  I have a budget to order supplies, but without a reliable repair person, I don't know how to get these things fixed.  

 I need advice advice on what kinds of pegs/bridges/tailpieces I should order (I'm trying to get them from shar).   I need a repair person who can come here, and I might need someone who can provide playable string instruments at a medium price range.  Bonus:  Does anyone know reliable resources in India/Asia for instrument orders or repairs?

 

Thanks you so much,

Larissa Brown-Sah

 

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I'd be willing to come there for maybe two weeks per year, and could probably put together a really good team of people who would be willing to do something similar.

Quite possibly a better resource, and one with much more experience doing things like that: https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Product-Service/Luthiers-Without-Borders-Luthiers-Sans-Frontieres-190815634269238/

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Thank you so much for all your replies!  I also have my personal instrument (an excellent Erdesz cutaway viola) and my husband's Alf viola that need some tender loving care.  I have never had the responsibility of caring for 100+ student instruments before, and I am at a loss for making them more playable when there are obvious things wrong with them.  I can put new strings on them, of course--but while I wait for an opportunity to bring in a repair person or luthier (thank you SO much David Burgess for the generous offer--and I will communicate with you more about that) I was wondering what else I can do?  I looked at bridges that I can buy from different places--Aubert and Teller--is what I can find.   It seems I can even buy "finished" bridges".  Is it worth it at all for me to buy those things?  If I were to bring in a repair person, what are some supplies that I should have on hand for fixing our problems?

I have also already sent a message to "Luthiers sans Frontieres."  Thank you for that suggestion Fiddle Doug.

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I think that a person who is a bit handy can perform setup and minor repairs, especially if the instrument is not something of great value. I started doing setup because my first cello (an ebay special) was so cheap the music store basically laughed at me. Maybe you can find a local craftsperson who would be up for it if you aren't yourself.

For tools and supplies, as a hobbyist/hack I just get cheap blanks for bridges and nuts from ebay or amazon, and I don't have any specialized tools. A good carving knife, small block plane, sandpaper, etc, and then palatte knifes or thin spatulas for separating pieces or for getting glue into open seams. The pros can probably give better advice, but I think for repair work you can get by with simple tools. 

Then again it may be worthwhile to look into some new beginner instruments. They will still need setup, but should at least be structurally sound. It sounds like some of your instruments are in pretty bad shape. 

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14 hours ago, woodstock said:

Thank you so much for all your replies!  I also have my personal instrument (an excellent Erdesz cutaway viola) and my husband's Alf viola that need some tender loving care.  I have never had the responsibility of caring for 100+ student instruments before, and I am at a loss for making them more playable when there are obvious things wrong with them.  I can put new strings on them, of course--but while I wait for an opportunity to bring in a repair person or luthier (thank you SO much David Burgess for the generous offer--and I will communicate with you more about that) I was wondering what else I can do?  I looked at bridges that I can buy from different places--Aubert and Teller--is what I can find.   It seems I can even buy "finished" bridges".  Is it worth it at all for me to buy those things?  If I were to bring in a repair person, what are some supplies that I should have on hand for fixing our problems?

I have also already sent a message to "Luthiers sans Frontieres."  Thank you for that suggestion Fiddle Doug.

Hello and welcome!

If David Burgess and/or his team come to visit, you’ll have world-class service. I’m hoping for your sake that that project comes to fruition. 
 

As far as buying parts, I would focus on finding a luthier first. There are some very good resources available for fittings and bridges, etc., but a capable luthier can help you pick out what you need. As for fittings, India is a major producer of good quality options that are inexpensive. Many of the wholesalers that offer fittings purchase them (excluding the luxury sets) from India. Getting orders set up across the planet can be difficult and shipping is considerable, so if you can get the same things at home, you’ll be able to get great prices. 
 

I would suggest a wholesaler like International Violin when it comes time to purchase bridges or soundposts. The staff are excellent and can be very helpful in fulfilling your needs. DON’T buy the “finished” bridges if you can avoid it—they don’t often fit for a given instrument and are more likely to cause trouble.

While you’re waiting to find help with repairs, you might be able to get some instruments to use in the interim that are set up well and will be ready for immediate use. Bigger shops may have more resources to help. 
 

Best wishes!

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I obviously don‘t know the exact situation from personal experience, only from Silke‘s anecdotes after she had worked there some months. The reality seems to be mountains of crappy violins in dreadful condition and no money. I doubt Mr. Burgess would make much of a dent in that, even if he stayed till next Christmas. Even if he did, they would be back to the original situation a few months after he left. As I said above, Sisyphus.

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Maybe setting up some kind of donation/fund for carbon fibre instruments might be best in the long run?

But that won't be of immediate use...

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3 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

I obviously don‘t know the exact situation from personal experience, only from Silke‘s anecdotes after she had worked there some months. The reality seems to be mountains of crappy violins in dreadful condition and no money. I doubt Mr. Burgess would make much of a dent in that, even if he stayed till next Christmas. Even if he did, they would be back to the original situation a few months after he left. As I said above, Sisyphus.

For this reason it seems important to get some local resource to service them as best as can be on a continuing basis. Perhaps even come up with some methods of repair that work better in that environment than what the usual methods. And maybe sometimes it comes down to "you would never do this with an instrument of any value" but you try it anyway because there is nothing to lose. 

And literally the choice seems to be either not-great instruments with slapdash repair and setup or nothing at all, and in that case I always go for trying to keep an instrument alive no matter what. 

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3 hours ago, Rue said:

Maybe setting up some kind of donation/fund for carbon fibre instruments might be best in the long run?

But that won't be of immediate use...

That's definitely an ideal use for carbon fiber, and might make sense as a good PR move for one of the manufacturers.

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Oh yes, Violadamore, there we are. ;-)

I appreciate everyone's thoughts so far, and I think there are some more great ideas that I can explore.  I messaged luthieres sans frontieres, and they were interested in being able to teach someone, maybe us, how to do the basic repairs.  The main problem it seems is we have a bunch of crappy instruments in crappy condition.  If you looked at the links to the school, you can see it's a quite fancy international boarding school... so we do have a budget to deal with this.  The problems that will reoccur are monsoon and mountain weather.  If I get everything fixed up nice, all it takes is another monsoon and winter--and everything might be destroyed again.  Monsoon is a serious condition here in India.  I should show ya'll some photos of what has happened to instruments...

I will explore the carbon fiber instrument possibility.  Every student at the school is required to be in a music ensemble--so the string program is definitely here to stay.  (The school is 160 years old, and it has always taught western classical music)

I think we really need a temperature/humidity controlled storage room to keep instruments in too.  That would be a priority before really investing in new instruments.

 

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If someone comes in to do some of the work, and you have a local person (who will remain local) who is willing to learn at the same time, that might be the best long-term approach. Or if you have the budget, you might send such a person to one of the summer setup/repair courses. They could also learn quite a bit on Maestronet.

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3 hours ago, woodstock said:

Oh yes, Violadamore, there we are. ;-)

I appreciate everyone's thoughts so far, and I think there are some more great ideas that I can explore.  I messaged luthieres sans frontieres, and they were interested in being able to teach someone, maybe us, how to do the basic repairs.  The main problem it seems is we have a bunch of crappy instruments in crappy condition.  If you looked at the links to the school, you can see it's a quite fancy international boarding school... so we do have a budget to deal with this.  The problems that will reoccur are monsoon and mountain weather.  If I get everything fixed up nice, all it takes is another monsoon and winter--and everything might be destroyed again.  Monsoon is a serious condition here in India.  I should show ya'll some photos of what has happened to instruments...

I will explore the carbon fiber instrument possibility.  Every student at the school is required to be in a music ensemble--so the string program is definitely here to stay.  (The school is 160 years old, and it has always taught western classical music)

I think we really need a temperature/humidity controlled storage room to keep instruments in too.  That would be a priority before really investing in new instruments.

 

Yup, but sooner of later, they leave the air conditioning, and the fun starts all over again.  I'm in a semi-tropical area here, with wet and dry, hot and cold seasons, and I only stay ahead of the problems by being able to do my own maintenance, especially neck resets.  Then there's bow rehairs, splining tip breaks, etc.   It never totally lets up.

IMHO, given the permanence of your string program, you guys need a staff luthier, perhaps teaching violin care as well.  If such a position could be created, MN would be an obvious place to solicit applicants.  :)

 

 

 

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Here is a photo of our typical views around here in the mountains of India--so taking offers on who wants to film the documentary now.  We have some award-winning film directors near-by :-0

All joking aside--we are remote, but not without resources :-)

In other news, we have the same issues with pianos.  There are Steinways and Becksteins dying a slow death here.

 

 

Photos_Library.photoslibrary.zip

view.jpg

Edited by woodstock
I uploaded the wrong file (first picture)

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Last October the school hired a repair person from India--who was paid quite a bit--and yet we still have badly fitted bridges/unplayable  instruments.  He didn't bring his own supplies, and we didn't have all the parts that he would have needed to fix our problems.   It was a surprise to me when he showed up.   I want to make sure the next round of repairs goes better. 

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