For repairs to electronic musical instruments such as digital pianos, keyboards, floppy disc/disk drives, some recent synths and the occasional Yamaha home organ with smoke coming out (in all seriousness!)
I am a full-time, professional electronic musical instrument repair specialist.
I’m based near Guildford in Surrey and have done this for bloomin’ ages!
Over 25 years experience … well, that’s all I’m admitting to. Generally far too many years spent dealing with you mad musicians (it takes one to know one!)
Why do you nearly always get my answerphone?
I can get on with repairs much better if I don’t keep stopping to answer the phone. So most of the time I work with the phone unplugged. Also I want you to hear the answerphone message. Hopefully you will then look at this website to see what I don’t repair and don’t do.
You can ring me between certain times most Mondays (not Bank Holidays)
A Monday Bank Holiday is a holiday for me too, so please ring the following week
Sometimes I skip a Monday e.g. if on holiday or if too busy to take on any new work.
Some days I was getting 30 or 40 messages and there just isn’t time to reply to all of these. Many enquiries are about types of product for which I have never been a repairer.
So I have started only taking calls on a Monday and making a list of things I don’t repair.
The idea is that you don’t waste your time calling about things I don’t do, and I don’t waste my time calling you back to tell you this!
So from now on I’m not going to be calling back about things I don’t repair.
THINGS I DO REPAIR
Pianos, keyboards, some of the more recent synths/workstations, FDD units (floppy disc/disk drives)
Only decent makes like Technics, Roland, Korg and Yamaha.
I’m very good at fixing Technics pianos and keyboards. Don’t be put off when a shop says Technics can’t be repaired. Most shops don’t do repairs and just want to sell you something.
In the old days when home organs were so popular I went all over the place – all the South including the Isle of Wight, all of London, Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, Somerset, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and even Lincolnshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, The Midlands, Devon, Staffordshire, South Wales and North Wales! All the repairs were in people’s homes or in the shops I’ve worked for. It was often possible to get several jobs in one area and this meant the travelling costs could be shared. I used to enjoy all the driving and it was very sociable doing repairs in people’s homes. Organ repairs have become a thing of the past as most organs have been thrown away.
These days nearly all the things I get asked to repair are portable enough to be brought to me. Even the top section of most home digital pianos can be lifted into a car by two people. Things are much more reliable now so there are far fewer repairs. As a result there is very little chance of sharing travelling costs. To save people money I’ve tended to encourage them to bring their repair to me. This means there is even less chance of sharing travelling costs. Consequently I hardly ever go out to do repairs in people’s homes. This is a shame but it’s no fun any more with our ridiculous speed limits and being held up by drivers who seem to be scared to exceed 30mph in a 40 limit etc. I’m now very picky about where I go – e.g. London? No thanks!
Come to think of it … it’s “no thanks” to most places.
Strange that in Famous Five Band we’ll play almost anywhere!
It will always be cheaper if you bring your repair to me.
I live near Guildford in Surrey. If that’s too far for you to come then don’t phone me!
THINGS I DON’T DO – PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE TELEPHONING ME
I do not give advice on how to repair it yourself. I am a repairer, not a telephone helpline.
I don’t “service” products because electronic pianos, keyboards etc. do NOT need servicing . It’s wrong to charge people for something which doesn’t need doing.
I don’t do modifications.
I don’t give any sales advice.
ADVICE ON BUYING DIGITAL PIANOS
There are loads of reviews to be found on the internet but I recently found what I think is one of the most useful websites I’ve ever seen. AZPIANONEWS.com
Tim Praskins’ reviews are very detailed. He quite obviously knows what he’s talking about and I think his opinions are worth having.
See below “IMPORTANT NOTES REGARDING REPAIRS AND “SERVICING”
THINGS I DON’T REPAIR – PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE TELEPHONING ME
Amplifiers (except in pianos, keyboards etc.), P.A., mixers, effects units, DJ gear, lighting etc.
Vintage synthesisers and effects
Classical organs, church organs, pipe organs
All makes of home organs, Hammond organs, Leslie cabinets (with very few exceptions)
For sale – all of my spares and service manuals for these covering most models from about 40 makes and over 40 years of production – want to buy any?
Fender Rhodes – too old – try Alan Morrison in Scotland.
Roland “Rhodes” – yes!
Wurlitzer ep200 – want to buy the reeds I have left and my service manuals?
Early electric pianos and string machines like Hohner, Crumar, Logan
Eminent/Solina – am selling any service notes I have for these too
Celviano – a Casio product, not to be confused with Clavinova (Yamaha) some of which I do repair
Disklavier – good product but I have stopped doing these
Kawai – good product but no info for recent stuff – try www.kawai.co.uk/
Gem organs – yeurgh!! Never want to see another one. Please buy my service manuals!
M-Audio – no comment!
Any digital pianos other than the top four, in my view, Roland, Yamaha, Technics and Korg
but not doing any more Korg SP-250 pianos which I find a right pain to work on!
e.g. not Classenti, Bentley or others (possibly of oriental origin) with the smart cabinets, quite nice sounds but an absolutely dreadful keyboard action (obviously designed to be played using something heavy – like bricks??) which some distributors claim feels like a real acoustic piano … what on earth were they compairing it with? certainly no decent “real acoustic piano”
Any make or product (new or old) without readily available spares and service info e.g. where the importer/distributor has no idea what parts they have or which models they are for …. or “will have to order”
Am also selling a Conn Strobotuner which almost certainly has problems as it hasn’t been used for 20 years!
IMPORTANT NOTES REGARDING REPAIRS AND “SERVICING”
Modern electronic pianos, keyboards etc. do NOT need servicing
Is your piano or keyboard playing ok? Then it does NOT need anything doing to it.
If anyone recommended servicing my electronic piano, as opposed to just repairing it,
I wouldn’t let them. I know these products only need attention when they go wrong.
It is a waste of money to have all your piano’s contacts cleaned or changed if it’s playing normally apart from a couple of notes.
It is standard practice for me to vacuum out the muck and fluff that accumulates inside.
It costs almost nothing to do and lessens the chance of more contact problems but it is not necessary to replace contacts or contact boards unless there is bad corrosion from a spillage.
It is wrong to charge people for something which doesn’t need doing.
As the saying goes “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!”
Many of my customers have said that their music shop told them their piano or keyboard could not be repaired. Owners of Technics pianos usually get told this when trying to find an engineer or technician who repairs Technics.
Most music shops do not carry out repairs so are not really able to advise on repairs.
You would be better advised by someone like myself who is only a repairer because,
unlike a shop, I won’t try to sell you a new one!
CAN I FIX IT MYSELF? Well, possibly – but ONLY if you have VERY good mechanical skills
Most people can’t do this sort of work but unfortunately some of these people, for some obscure reason, think they can!
If you’re doing the job yourself please don’t ask me for help and advice. I really don’t have time for this. I’m busy enough with my own repairs and also with enquiries and bookings for Famous Five Band.
So please … either you do the job or I do. If you muck it up, I don’t mind taking on the repair afterwards but it’s worth pointing out that this will cost more if you’ve caused any damage!
Some general DOs and DON’Ts if you’re going to have a go yourself
DON’T RISK KILLING YOURSELF – IF YOUR INSTRUMENT RUNS OFF MAINS VOLTAGE, UNPLUG IT FIRST!!!
Don’t use WD40 or any switch cleaner or contact cleaner, contact lubricant etc. (no matter how wonderful they claim to be) as usually this will make any contact problems much worse.
Don’t use WD40 or similar for sticking key problems. Possibly short term success but long term disaster!
Don’t believe everything you read on the internet (including this, obviously!) There are loads of music forum sites, various blogging sites, DIY fix it sites etc. which between them have huge amounts of information, posts and replies about repairing musical instruments. Although some of this information is useful, unfortunately an awful lot of it is complete rubbish.
Very often you find classic examples of the blind leading the blind!
Do be honest with yourself about what you can and can’t do. In order to attempt any work on any musical instrument you MUST be the sort of person who is very, very good at taking things apart and putting them back together. If you’ve “had a go” and get in a mess it will almost certainly cost you more to have it fixed properly afterwards. Even though I’m extremely good at this it will take longer (and therefore cost more) if some well-intentioned owner presents me with a kit of parts – the result of dismantling their machine and being unable to get it back together again – usually having lost various screws, put others back in the wrong places, stripped threads, put long screws where short ones should go and screwed straight through a circuit board! Yes, these things happen all too frequently!
Some people seem to think “I’ve got a screwdriver – how hard can it be?”
FAQ: telephone calls from keen owners asking how to open their musical instrument.
Reply: “if you can’t even work out how to open it then you definitely won’t be able to fix it”.
It is worth pointing out that getting a copy of the service manual will not magically improve anyone’s mechanical ability – but it might give the Frank Spencers of this world enough confidence to “have a go”. A frightening prospect indeed (oooh Betty!)
It’s also worth noting that a service manual doesn’t tell you everything because it was designed for professionals and as such assumes a certain level of prior knowledge and experience which most laymen will not have. No disrespect intended. If you want to “have a go” it’s your machine and no-one can stop you but please (a) disconnect the mains so you won’t die in the attempt and (b) dismantle things carefully, methodically (take photos, make sketches, make notes as you go) and NEVER go beyond the point where you feel uncertain about being able to reassemble everything perfectly.
Changing a broken key – this sounds really easy on the face of it but can be an absolute pig of a job, disproportionately time-consuming and occasionally fraught with unforseen perils …
“I changed the key myself but now the note doesn’t work any more” is a regular one.
If a contact has been bent beyond repair a new contact board is required. If the part is no longer available the instrument is scrap. This is such a stupid waste of a musical instrument!
If I had been repairing it the contact would not have been damaged. Stop and think first!!
“I changed the keys ok but now some of the keys don’t play at all and I’ve got this bit of metal and all these extra screws left over” – thankfully doesn’t happen that often!
Contact problems – e.g. one or more notes don’t play at all or play too loudly. The problem may occur all the time or intermittently. Reminder, do not be tempted to use WD40 or any switch cleaners or contact lubricants (no matter how wonderful they claim to be) as this will usually make the problem much worse and end up costing more. If the stuff you’ve sprayed in there has caused more contact problems and cannot be completely cleaned off you will need new parts. If these are no longer obtainable the instrument is scrap!
Most contacts are graphite and need to be perfectly clean to work properly. I can sell you the proper stuff for cleaning graphite contacts if you feel competent to do the work.
If a group of notes is not playing this might have been caused by a spillage. If you know this to be the case you may be able to claim on your house insurance – see INSURANCE CLAIMS below.
“I had a bit of a job getting the keys out to do the contacts, couldn’t quite work out how to get the keys back in but I did it somehow but now quite a few notes don’t work” – the chap had accidentally caused unrepairable damage to a flexible circuit board which was no longer available and so his piano had to be scrapped!
There are literally hundreds of disaster stories but very few success stories.
All the above are just mechanical repairs i.e. no electronics…
and quite often no soldering either.
A word about soldering If you think you can solder, then don’t!
Okay, this sounds silly but most people who say they can solder are actually very bad at it.
If you KNOW you can solder really well, that’s great. If not, practice until you can! You should be able to tell if your soldering is good by looking at what you’ve soldered. If you’re not sure, have a look on the internet for videos of soldering so you can see what a good soldered joint looks like. Then keep practicing until your soldering is as good as what you’ve seen.
Most of the solder joints in musical instruments are either very small or very small indeed. You need to be able to solder very precisely and this needs a good soldering iron.
Lead-free solder Don’t use lead-free solder on older products which used normal 60/40 tin/lead solder. Normal solder gives a nice, bright, shiny joint when done properly. More recent products use lead-free solder and this should be used when working on these. Lead-free solder gives a dull-looking joint which looks horrible but there’s nothing you can do about it. Again, you can find videos of lead-free soldering on the internet.
When not to solder – or at least when to think very carefully first!
Technics PR603, PR703, PR903, PR1000 usually need work on the Main Board which you are strongly advised not to attempt yourself.
If you’ve never tried re-soldering surface-mount components, don’t try. You WILL make a mess of it and more than likely wreck some tracks and bend legs on some of the chips!
Classic example below:
I’m adding this note in exasperation having just inspected yet another main board (of a Technics PR603/703/903/1000 type) which someone has had a go at.
Why is it that some people think they can solder when their soldering is actually terrible?!
You would have to be more than slightly mad to attempt any work on one of these boards unless you were totally confident of making a first class job of it.
If in any doubt at all, pass on the work to someone who knows what they’re doing!
Anyway, back to this main board – having made a nasty, messy job of re-soldering one chip, any normal person would think twice about butchering any more. But no, this person carried on and made a dreadful job of re-soldering FIFTEEN chips!! Some chips have legs bent or bridged with solder and some tracks look damaged.
I do wish people would come to me first before having a go themselves or using “a friend who’s good at electronics” or a general electronics repairer who doesn’t specialise in musical instrument repairs like digital pianos but “thinks he can probably fix it”.
If people would only recognise and be honest about their abilities and limitations it would save so much trouble, time and expense!
Have since discovered that this atrocious work was done by a so-called repairer – so hopefully that should warn to you not to have a go yourself
Incidentally, I did manage to fix the board but it cost more than if Mr Bodger hadn’t made such a mess of it first … and the poor customer had paid him to bodge it and then paid me to sort it out – grrrr!!
If you call another repairer, FIRST give them the Spanish Inquisition (yes – the comfy chair!) treatment to find out how skilled and experienced they are at surface-mount work BEFORE you let them loose on your lovely piano! If they’re not bursting with confidence and ultra-keen to show you their fantastic soldering – don’t let them anywhere near it!
Most of the soldering I’ve seen done by other people really is pretty awful.
For the record, all my soldering including surface-mount re-work is excellent.
No kidding – I always check my surface-mount rework soldering with a microscope and it’s incredible to think that it’s been done by hand.
Customers who’ve been here when I’m doing their piano have said they wouldn’t have believed it possible if they hadn’t seen me do it and looked at my soldering through the microscope themselves!
Backup battery low, lost memory Some batteries are easy to get at, some are really tricky, some are soldered in, some aren’t. Some instruments lose all their sounds and settings and may need them reloaded from floppy disk (disc?) card or external data dump from a computer or data filer. If you’ve saved any songs or edited any sounds in your machine it’s always advisable to make backups on a regular basis because one day your battery will give out … and then it’s too late!
Weird behaviour, locking up, won’t turn on properly The problem may be something simple which you can do yourself. Many modern products have an “initialise” or “factory reset” procedure which sometimes can be found on the manufacturer’s web site or possibly in your owners book. IF POSSIBLE ALWAYS SAVE YOUR DATA FIRST! The initialise or factory reset may well unscramble the brain of your poor, confused piano/keyboard/organ/drum unit etc. and restore normal operation.
SPARE PARTS – if you think you can do it yourself I may be able to supply the parts you need.
Service manuals, Owners manuals – I may be able to supply these too.
All sales are non-returnable and non-refundable.
IS IT WORTH FIXING? It’s usually cheaper to repair something than to replace it – but it might not be replaceable because it’s no longer in production. If you like your old piano, organ or keyboard it’s probably a better bet to have it repaired rather than trying to find another one for sale. At least you know the history of the one you own and you may well prefer it to any of the new models. Someone else’s might have spent its life under a bird cage, be full of dog hair or had a drink spilt in it. Now that many home organs appear to be almost worthless (if eBay is anything to go by) only each owner can say if they think their instrument is worth repairing.
INSURANCE CLAIMS It is very unlikely that you are insured for cost of repairs when something just goes wrong. However your house contents insurance possibly covers your musical instrument for accidental damage e.g. spillages, fire, theft, vandalism, cat/dog/parrot attack or whatever on a replacement as new basis. This probably won’t be possible if you bought the instrument second hand.
Don’t assume you are insured – ring up your insurance company and find out. First check what the full retail price was when it was new and what it would cost to replace it with a similar new product (ask your music shop or the distributor). Then ring your insurers, tell them that you have a musical instrument worth £xxxx, ask what eventualities it’s covered for and ask if it’s covered on a replacement as new basis. It is quite likely that the new replacement cost of your piano, organ etc. is more than the “single item limit” on your insurance. In this case your insurance company will need to list it as a specified item valued at £xxxx. Depending on your insurance company this might not cost you any more than your time and telephone calls. Then at least if the instrument suffers accidental damage you know that it’s covered by insurance. Re-check this if you ever change your insurance company as they do not all operate in the same way.
Goods here for repair are at your own risk entirely as they are not insured for any eventuality.
Goods here for repair will be sold or disposed of if no word from the owner for 6 months.
Most weekends I’m not repairing but out playing bass guitar at a wedding, a party or some other event with an excellent function band. Have a look at our YouTube channel or at our website famousfiveband.com and see what you think.
Please link to our website as this might help us get more enquiries and gigs – thanks!