John Packer Blog

Welcome to the John Packer blog. Here we’ll keep you updated on all the latest happenings at John Packer Ltd, all the latest music news, musical instruments and competitions.

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A repair that sends our repairers round the bend!

by Administrator 4. July 2011 15:11

THE repair shop at Packer's has seen all sorts of instruments over the years that have been through a variety of misdemenours; been sat on, taken into the bath, mauled by animals! Some repairs are a quick fix and others a conundrum that they can't always be solved without stripping the instrument back down and re-building it.

Happily this doesn't form the majority of our working day; however, there are some very common repairs that come in most weeks which can be easily avoided!

Keys on instruments are easily bent. Bends are caused by too much pressure being placed on the keys. This can also cause the regulation of the keys to come out of adjustment - the keys don't shut properly making the instrument harder to play. Repairs like this are easily avoided and can be costly.

Quite simply by making sure that any cork joints on the instrument are adequaltey greased is enough to help prevent this from happening. We sell a variety of cork greases, lipstick style, liquid, and pots. All easily applied and easy to store.

Of course, something this easy also has a flip side - too much grease is a very bad thing and with excessive build up can create a seal between the joints making it difficult to put the instrument together and be a harbourer of dust and grit which you don't want getting into the mechanisms of your finely tuned instrument.

To prevent grease build-up every week use a piece of kitchen roll to remove all grease on the cork joints and then re-apply. Easy Peasy!

How to find a good reed

by Andy 5. May 2011 11:21

MOST single reed players will agree that the number of different makes and variations of reed available today is quite comprehensive, with a new one appearing almost on a monthly basis it seems, so choosing a reed can sometimes be a case of trial and error.

Are you looking for a reed suitable for Jazz, Big Band, Rock, or are you playing more Classical, Symphonic Wind Band? This should certainly influence your choice of reed brand.

Once you have made your choice of reed strength and brand, what do you look for in the individual reed? Here are a couple of suggestions.

  • Visually, check that the tip of the reed has been cut symmetrically and there are no splits or other damage by gently running your finger along the underside tip of the reed.
  • Next, by holding the reed to a light, check that the fibre or grain of the reed runs parallel to the cut of the reed, also the heart of the reed is central to the face of the reed and not to one side.

A few words regarding a subject close to my heart, Reed Management. On occasion I have heard people say “I bought a box of reeds and had to throw half of them away because they didn’t work!” Remember, reeds are made of an organic material and will change over a period of time. Also, humidity can influence the way a reed performs.  So, don’t throw those reeds away, you may come back to them at a later date and find that they play fine.

Customising your reeds, i.e. scraping and clipping, is something that a lot of players, understandably, approach with a certain amount of trepidation. There are various items on the market, such as reed clippers and re-surfacers that are designed to help you make the most of your reeds. I would suggest experimenting on old reeds to discover what effect adjusting the different areas of the reed might have.

Finally, I am often asked what reed I would recommend, very difficult to answer as there are so many factors that would affect that choice. Among them are the physical make up of the player, the genre of music and also the mouthpiece, including tip opening etc.     

Whatever reed you decide to play, it’s a good bet that you will always be looking for a better one! Good luck!


How to...

How to find a good teacher

by Administrator 5. May 2011 11:10

Yo Yo Ma, Jonny Dankworth, James Galway… these musical stars are united by one common thread - excellent teaching. Having a good teacher is instrumental to the success of the pupil. An inadequate teacher can put the initially enthusiastic novice off for life. 

A teacher should be always enthusiastic, empathetic and inspiring - making the student feel that anything is possible with dedication and lots of practice!

We’ve put together these guidelines to help you find the perfect teacher. Remember you should be trying to find the best teacher - not necessarily the cheapest. And, if you’re not happy leaving your child with a stranger, don’t!

  • Meeting a teacher for a first time could be like going into the lion’s den. Remember they are a stranger, so you need to take some precautions. By contacting a prospective teacher by phone first you can get a quick idea of whether they will be suitable. Email correspondence will never fill you with the same confidence as a proper conversation. In your discussion don’t be afraid to ask about their teaching credentials! Ask questions like:
    • How many pupils do you teach - could you get a reference off any of them?
    • How long have you been in the teaching business - have you had a CRB?
    • Can the lesson be attended by a parent/friend?
    • Do you offer a consultation lesson before committing to learning?

No teacher should object to these questions. If you decide to pursue references before committing to lessons explain this to the teacher; if they are responsible they won’t mind.

  • When you do meet the teacher - preferably in a free consultation - be clear about what you expect from them. If necessary have a list of questions prepared beforehand. Questions such as:
    • How do you approach instrumental technique?
    • What type of music do you teach?
    • How do you teach music theory?
    • Do you encourage pupils to study for exams - if so which examining boards, or why not?
    • How do you develop sight-reading skills?
    • Do you encourage pupils to participate in public performances?
    • What expectations do you have of your pupils?
    • Will you provide progress reports and make notes during lessons?
    • What qualifications do you have and what is your professional background?
  • Of course the teacher will also want to know about your intentions; your musical aspirations and commitment to lessons and practice. Be honest! There’s nothing wrong if you just want to play for fun at home - not every pupil has to become a West End pro. By being open about your expectations and ambitions, the more beneficial the consultation will be.
  • Don’t get caught up in the moment! You shouldn’t feel obliged to make a decision there and then and hand over your well-earned money. If may be advisable to have a consultation with more than one teacher. If you do feel confident about the teacher, make sure you understand the tuition fees and how and when they are to be paid. Also clarify the teacher’s position on cancellations and who is responsible for providing learning materials and music.
  • And finally! After successfully finding the perfect teacher, make sure you maintain the same level of interest in the music lessons. Discuss with the teacher what progress is being made and how you or your child should practice at home. Sitting in on lessons or having a recording of them can be really helpful for both the parent and the student when you’re at home trying to recall what was said.

Things to think about when buying an instrument

by Administrator 5. May 2011 11:06

The most important thing to remember when looking at new instruments is that - with practice - your playing standard will only improve. If you buy an instrument that is perfect for you now, you will probably need to change it again quite soon. Most respectable student instruments will comfortably allow for the player to reach at least grade 5 or 6 or even higher in some cases. It is usually the next, ‘step-up’, decision that is more difficult, particularly if you are progressing well and may be considering a career in music. It’s a bit like buying a pair of shoes for feet that haven’t finished growing. In general terms, the more you pay, the more time you buy. If you want to ‘go pro’ a mid-range instrument may not cut it; being honest about your playing expectations and aspirations is more important than just evaluating how you currently play.


Always consult experienced players and get independent advice. Some instruments that appear to be bargains may be absolute disasters and it is usually best to stay with instruments that have achieved a good reputation and have a proven track record. This will not significantly affect your breadth of choice, but will focus your selection and reduce disappointment trying the wrong instruments. Remember, you may have little come back if your privately purchased ‘bargain’ ends up needing a complete overhaul a few weeks later.


How you test an instrument is also very important. Most instruments will give a reasonable level of performance in middle register and dynamic. It is often the case that you will find out more about their real playing characteristics if you test their extremes where weaknesses and strengths may be much more apparent. These areas should always be explored in depth before you play through your favourite pieces! Don't forget that an instrument that can play Mozart beautifully, may struggle with the very different technical requirements of Prokofiev.


When you buy an instrument you are creating a team - you and the instrument. The ‘perfect’ instrument has yet to be made and the ‘perfect’ player has yet to be born. The instrument’s strengths should compliment your weaknesses and vice versa. It is therefore particularly important for more able players to have a clear idea of what they are looking for before embarking on instrument trials. Don't be afraid to have a long reconnoitre of what's on the market before making your decision. There will likely be a lot of money at stake and - more importantly for the player - you will have to live with the consequences of your decision for a long time!


As independent specialists we carry a broad range of makes and models in stock to try. We never try to encourage you to buy an instrument which is most beneficial to us. We always endeavour to enable you to make the most informed choice.


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