Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Where Not To Go for Musical Instrument Repairs

As important as positive recommendations are, its also important doubt places you shouldn't go. In the past, I've written positively about Ross Hill (luthier), P.J. Tan's Violin Shop, and the String Emporium(e.g., here and here). Given the recent grief me and friends of mine have run into lately, here's a couple of warnings.

  1. Guitar Connection: This used to be the place for amplifier repairs. Boy, how things have changed. A friend recently brought in a Fender Reverb for repair. Whenever the amp was turned on, all that came out was very loud white-ish noise. He was told a week for the repair. After a week, still not ready. Second week, still not done. Finally, after three weeks he decides he's just going to go pick it up and take it elsewhere. After calling the store, he's told it will be ready that day. Goes in that day and is told by the owner how great it sounds, how he had been playing it for a couple of hours to check it out. As compensation for having taken so long, the owner tells him the repair is free. My friend gets to rehearsal, turns it on, and once again white noise.
    Exasperated, my friend takes it to Long and McQuade and gets it repaired in an hour. Turns out the guys at Guitar Connection (if they did anything) used the wrong types of wires and failed to replace a bad power tube.

    Lesson: Avoid the Guitar Connection for amplifier repairs.

  2. V.A. Hill Strings: The stories from this place about. Basically the stories revolve around the staff at Hill Strings not really knowing much about instruments. My favorite (recounted to me by a luthier in Edmonton) is someone who bought a cello for $800 in Edmonton and was told by V.A. Hill Strings that the cello was worth $3,000. She then sold the cello to V.A. Hill for $2,000 and went back to Edmonton to buy another cello for $800.

    My experience with Hill Strings is equally odd. I brought in a 1920's King double bass to get some cracks repaired and the fingerboard planed. I was going to sell the bass in order to get the funds to upgrade to a carved bass. After a couple of days, I got a call from the owner telling me that they didn't think the bass was worth fixing and that the cost of the repair ($650) was more than the instrument was worth. I told them to to ahead and repair the bass. When I picked up the bass, they had put a new bridge on the bass without having fit it appropriately. The fingerboard and cracks were repaired adequately and I paid for the repair. After cutting the bridge myself, I sold the bass the following week for $2,500.

    Lesson: Be wary of the repairs and prices at V.A. Hill Strings.

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