Like any other musical instrument, recorders require a good bit of maintenance to keep them in good playing condition. In this article, I’ll go over some of the common maintenance concerns you might encounter, and what to do about them. Of course, it almost goes without saying that the advice given in this article is applied specifically to wooden recorders. In most cases, any repairs done on a plastic recorder would not be worth the investment. Because plastic recorders are so inexpensive, it usually makes better sense to replace rather than repair.
One of the most common areas for wear on your recorder that might require professional attention is the thumb hole. Unlike the other finger holes, which are covered by the soft pad of the fingers, the thumb hole is covered near the nail. To achieve notes in the second octave, recorder players physically drag their thumb nail down over the whole to achieve a “half hole”. This repeated scraping frequently causes the top edge of the thumb hole to become worn down or grooved. Once a significant portion of the wood has been worn away, high notes don’t speak as easily, and the tone and pitch can become distorted, especially in the high register of an instrument like a Yamaha bass recorder.
The solution for this problem is what’s called a “bushing”. a bushing is a small ring of ivory or plastic, which your repairman can install, bringing the surface of the thumb hole back to it’s original edge. This is done by drilling out a quarter-sized hole on the back of the recorder- a circular disk is inserted into the hole, and then sanded down to match the contour of the original wood and bore. A new thumb hole is then created in the center of the disk. One tenor recorder Aulos makes comes with the bushing already installed, which is a tremendous help to the longevity of the instrument. If your recorder doesn’t come with a bushing pre-fitted, it’s relatively inexpensive to have it done. Most qualified repair men will charge between $25 and $40 to do the job.
Another are where you may see wear on your recorder is the block. The block is the cylindrical, cedar plug that sits inside of the mouthpiece. The purpose of the block is to absorb moisture from the windway, so that it does not affect the instrument during play. Over time, and with enough use, the block can begin to degrade or warp, obscuring the tone, and making some notes extremely difficult to play.
Replacing the block is very easy to do. Using a long dowel and a rubber mallet, a repair person will gently hammer out the existing block (the block is never glued in place, it is simply fit snugly against the walls of the bore). A new block is hammered into place, and then the outside is cut and sanded to match the shape of the mouthpiece. This is an extremely simple procedure, and can usually be completed in an hour or so, and should cost you no more than $15.