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"It's in the details."

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Looking for Brass: Details on buying a pre-owned trumpet.

I recently had a parent bring in a trumpet they picked up at a flea market for twenty-five bucks. The problem? None of the slides moved, there were three broken braces, the bell turn was crushed, the rim folded completely over, and one of the valves was stuck. The results were the parent would have to pay a lot more to put the instrument in playing condition. Needless to say, this parent ended up not repairing as it was more cost effective to go find a different instrument in better condition.
That got me thinking that a check-list for assessing a brass instrument for potential purchase or repair might not be a bad idea. When people buy pre-owned vehicle, most of the time, they don’t walk on the lot, point to a car and say “I want that one.” You kick the tires, look for previous repairs, check the cosmetics, etc. Why not the same thing for band instruments?

Whatever brass instrument you want to get, the first step is to visually check for dents, especially in the back of the bell turn. The general rule of thumb is if the dent goes into the tubing about a third of its diameter, tuning and playability is affected. Most bell turn dents can be removed, however there is a cost to it and if the turn is crushed flat or nearly flat, best to look somewhere else. Severe bell dents at the flare can hide tears or holes, so stay away from those also. Patches can be soldered in spots where there is brass damage, but they are more of a last resort kind of repair. There are better options.

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