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Sax FAQ & Technical Info
1923 Buescher Curved Soprano
1919 Conn C Melody
Before and After
is it so difficult to take small leaks out of an older
pad? The truth is, it’s not difficult if the pad was
installed properly to begin with. Unfortunately many of the
pads I see where installed with only a small amount of glue.
The only way to adjust the pad is to shift the whole pad cup, and it’s
almost impossible to remove small leaks by moving the cup
alone. A “solution” to this is to get the pad wet, clamp it
down really hard, and let it sit overnight...that’s how 99% of the pads
are installed at the factory. The horn will play great the
next day! And maybe even for a few weeks. But when
the pads start to “relax” they’ll go out of adjustment.
The proper way to install a pad is with LOTS of glue. The pad
cup is shifted so it’s level with the tone hole, then the pad is
adjusted by heating the glue and literally floating it into
position. When there’s lots of glue behind a pad it’s
possible to come back months, or even years later and float the pad
back into position.
Sax pads have a heavy cardboard back, and that makes the pad very
stiff. When you make an adjustment on one side,
often the other side also moves. In theory, if you have a
perfectly flat tone hole (easy to do) and a perfectly flat pad (not so
easy), they should match up perfectly. In actual practice
there are always small imperfections in the pad. To overcome
this problem and make the pad more flexible, I make cuts in the
cardboard from the center out to the edge.
first step to replacing a pad is to remove any excess key motion (side
to side, or “wiggling” around). To test your horn, simply
push on a key to see if it moves side to side, or “wiggle” it to see if
its moves around right next to the post. There is a procedure
to correct this problem, and that must be done when doing an overhaul
or replacing just one pad. Warning! Some
inexpensive saxes have keys with so much excess motion it’s almost
impossible to make adjustments without doing an extensive amount of
work. You might save a little when you buy the horn, but it
will be more costly to get it fixed. Loose keys is the first
thing you should look for!
Another common problem with keys is NOISE! Excess motion (as
above) can contribute to key noise. Using the proper oil will
help reduce some key noise (I recommend Hoppe’s Gun Oil). I
do NOT recommend putting a drop of oil at the end of the keys while
they’re still on the horn! That just makes a mess, and very
little of the oil goes where it’s needed. If the proper oil
was used in the first place it’s not necessary to add more even after
years of use. Note there are two types of pivots on a sax:
pivot rods (use Hoppe’s Gun Oil), and pivot screws. I prefer
to use a heavier oil for the screws, especially on the long rods like
the low C#, B, and Bb. Selmer’s Tuning Slide and Cork Grease
works very well for that.
I’ve tried many many materials to reduce key noise, and found that felt
works the best. There are many types and grades of felt, so
it’s important to use a felt that’s very dense (like the kind used to
make hats). Even with the very best materials available, the
keys of the right hand get noisy after a year or two of playing, so
it’s necessary to replace the felt from time to time. The
middle G is another very noisy key, and it’s usually necessary to raise
the pad height to make it possible to replace the original cork with an
adequate thickness of felt.
I’ve worked on
thousands of saxophones, and I always take at least a few minutes to
clean and fit the neck on even the cheapest student models.
It always makes the horn sound better. It can take an hour
(or more) to get the fit just right on a Pro horn, but when the neck is
fit for optimum balance and maximum tone, your instrument can sing
better than when it was brand new!
Please read my article under the Technical Section entitled “The Art of Fitting a Sax Neck” for
a more detailed description of this procedure. In general
here are a few things I look for and correct:
the neck to tight or too loose?
there any lacquer on the tenor or the receiver? If yes, that
MUST be removed.
there any solder inside at the bottom of the receiver (where it
connects to the body)? If yes, that MUST be removed.
there a coating of green oxidation? Soft powdery oxidation
can “absorb” some of the vibrations as they move through the neck to
the body of the horn. First, YES, the metal does vibrate and
it does effect the resonance and tone color. The proof of
this is very simple: a lacquered horn sounds different than a
silver plated horn, and silver sounds different than gold.
first question is “why is there so much oxidation on the
neck/tenon?”. It might simply be that the tenon is too loose
and needs to be expanded. Or it might be that the tenor
and/or receiver are out of round, or one has a dent, or a high or low
spot. Simply using 600 grit sandpaper to clean off excess
oxidation will make a huge difference in the resonance of the horn.
Properly fitting a neck is not just a matter of how “tight” it
fits. If there is too much contact at the very top or bottom,
that tends to reduce the resonance. Very very often there’s a
high point at the adjusting screw caused by one side of the slot
pulling in further than the other side. When tightening the
neck screw, if you have to screw it down really hard to stop the neck
from moving around, it needs to be properly fit! The correct
procedure is to tighten the screw just enough to keep the neck from
moving side to side. Over tightening the screw will cause the
receiver to go out of round.