Folks, in the past couple of months I have seen three clarinets, at least one flute, and a trumpet purchased on EBay and/or Craig’s List advertised as “ready to play.” I’ve seen these instruments because they were not, in fact, ready to play and they were brought to me to make them playable. I just had another come in this week.
The clarinets, late 60s early 70s, came with no bottom tenon cork to attach the bell (because it can be played without a bell), badly done pad replacement using either glue not appropriate for clarinet pads (and not enough of it) or no glue at all, and pads that are still barely serviceable, but are certainly on their last toodle. But, hey, you can get the open G so that makes it “ready to play.”
Ditto with the flute (also late 60s early 70s) ─ pads improperly installed, or barely serviceable with no life expectancy beyond being able to get a sound out of it in the easy note range, tenons that are out of round (making the low notes rather difficult to get), and foot corks that are raggedy or missing. But, hey, you can get the open note so that makes it “ready to play.”
The trumpet has sticky valves, with the piston on the first valve out of alignment, a couple of seriously stuck tuning slides, the bell and bell crook are out of alignment as well, and the bell flare is somewhat flattened ─ okay, mashed, there is a dent in the bell crook, and the finish is that dark gold laquer that was popular at the time (kind of like buying a used 70s avocado-colored fridge.) But, hey, you can get the open tones so that makes it “ready to play.”
Buying a used “ready to play” instrument on the Internet is not going to save you much. Yep, I can get the clarinet or the flute back into playing condition ─ re-pad, replace foot corks and regulate for $160 (includes the cost of parts).It’s a bit more if I have to replace tenon corks on the clarinet or if I have to get the flute tenon(s) back in round.
At least on the clarinets and the flute, the instruments were made by a major manufacturer so I can get parts as needed (although some of the pivot screws have by now been discontinued) and, yes, the instruments were fairly decent instruments once upon a time, in their day.
The trumpet, I don’t know. It’s an off-brand which was popular in its day but the company no longer exists, didn’t actually manufacture the instrument anyway (being a distributor which had the instrument made by other manufacturers) and parts are not easily available (if at all).It will have to be completely stripped and re-finished and, unfortunately it has sections which were either chrome or nickel plated (to look like silver) and getting that re-plated will be pricey (unless I simply strip it and re-laquer on clean brass).
If you decide you are going to get a cheapie on the Internet, at least make certain that it is a major brand, and even then, plan on spending some extra dollars on repairs. It turns out that “ready to play” isn’t really ready.