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Discussion Starter #1
I might get kicked out of this forum for asking this question, but here it is.
What percentage of people who call themselves "horn technicians" are competent? I'm asking for a rough estimate here. Is it one in five, one in ten, one in a hundred? What do you think?

My estimate (from very limited experience) is one in ten.
 

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It probably depends on what area you are in. If there is a good one in the vicinity then it is more likely that he/she will lift the standard of the rest in that area.

Where I am the work in general is average to very good, and that is reflected in the general standard of second hand instruments sold in "Trademe", the local equivalent of Ebay.
However when guys here buy instruments from USA through Ebay the servicing work reflected in them is unfortunately almost always much lower. Perhaps the instruments with good workmanship do not reach Ebay.
 

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I don't know about the forum, but you would get kicked out of statistics class.

To meaningfully say "one in ten" you should have experience of almost a hundred technicians - hardly "limited experience".
And "competence" is, first, a matter of degree; and second perception.
Someone may be very competent at changing pads, but not in removing dents, or spotting unusual problems or what ever. So what does "component" meant?
And often people judge the competence based on their personal perceptions and issues....
 

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In my experience, 100% of the people who have worked on my horns are competent.

Some are better than others in that they have more sound or creative ways of addressing problems, but they all do a good job. (Although one--who was a friend of mine--was wokring on my bassoon two hours before concert time and he accidentally broke the low Bb key! (He didn't realize it was made of pig iron.) Anyway, he did an efficient spot-weld job and got it ready just in time. He warned me, though, that the low Bb key might fall off if I try to play that note. Well, I went for it and it held together just fine.)
 

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Not to be flippant, but I only have horns worked by the big guns so to answer your question, 100%.
But that's because I've never, usually (never say never), have dealt with technicians with good reputations, excluding the others.
 

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I suppose that proficiency and competence are variable concepts

All the people that I have met with a shop are competent technicians. It they wouldn’t be they would quickly go out of business.

If they manage to stay in business is because they are good technicians (and business people).

That doesn’t mean that their competence might slightly vary in the quality of the competence. I would certainly use the services of some technicians and wouldn’t use some others.

Even though they are all competent, some I like and some I don’t. The reasons might be different. I have met and refined technicians who do very nice work way past the mere functionality and I have met people whom get a horn closed and don’t disdain a shortcut even if not beautiful.

But there are technicians who do superb undenting work or soldering work which is almost invisible and have been requiring more than a visit when it came to repadding and adjusting a horn. Other techs might be better at repadding and adjusting than they are at soldering or undenting . But there are some who are very good at everything but might for example not own a ultrasonic bath to clean horns when they do an overhaul.

Home based technicians are a different matter.

There is very good, good, passable and terrible among them.

I have seen an exponential growth among the self declared technicians working from their home.

Whilst there are a couple well established in the business which use to work in shop or have a shop in the past, some have been just turning to this as a hobby or an alternative way to make money after becoming pensioners or having been laid-off or next to their normal occupation.

I have seen very good, good and passable techs among this category but the majority are really bad.

What’s the point of bringing your horn to someone whom is going to get the horn nearly closed but not quite?
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I used to teach statistics and one method used by all statisticians is ball parking a result. For instance I told a college administrator that they shouldn't blow their money on a "Workplace Shooting Seminar" because a faculty member is more likely to get killed in a crash while driving to the workplace shooter seminar than he is getting killed by a workplace shooter. And yet I had no statistics to back this up. When you study statistics, you sort of learn how things go. My guess concerning techs is that only one out of ten can set up your sax so that it pretty much plays well for a reasonable amount of time. And you are right, it does depend on where you live. If you live in Hawaii, the doctors do house calls and good techs are probably waiting line to fix your sax.
 

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So you've taken your saxophone(s) to......let's say 20 repair tech's (ones that actually have shops) and only 2 were "competent" in your opinion? Dude, refrain from buying lottery tickets, okay?
 

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So you've taken your saxophone(s) to......let's say 20 repair tech's (ones that actually have shops) and only 2 were "competent" in your opinion? Dude, refrain from buying lottery tickets, okay?
I'm not really saying anything. I'm asking. I didn't attend that "Workplace Shoooter" seminar, BTW, for the same reason I don't buy lottery tickets.
 

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As a member of NAPBIRT who has attended dozens of conferences, clinics, and workshops and rubbed shoulders with scores of techs who do saxophone repair I can state unequivocally that there are many top level saxophone repair techs in the country that most if not all of the members of this forum have never heard of. They quietly do work of the highest quality in their local area and have more than enough business that they don't need to advertise on the internet. If you want to know who they are, ask a few professional players in your area who they take their saxes to, or ask the saxophone teacher at a local university the same question.
 

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I've only had one tech, now retired, that I trusted not to do really stupid things, especially after being told expressly to not do those things. One thing that drives me bonkers is long neck corks, especially sanded to a taper. I show them the existing cork and say 'Don't make it longer than this' and they do anyway. I don't trust them with my mouthpiece to size the cork unless I prepare it first so WHEN THEY DROP IT I don't lose $1600. The last guy that worked on my MK VI tenor gave it back to me with large, serious dents along the body in the open area between the palm keys and pants guard. I about passed out. He swore I gave it to him like that - I was speechless. Fortunately I knew a great dent guy who fixed it for $20 and you cannot tell anything ever happened. I had also told this guy 'Do not use any abrasive material or tool anywhere on this sax without express approval.' guess what - he proudly told me that he had 'leveled' the tone holes because 'he had to'. He also sanded the neck during cork replacement which is why he put on the long cork - to cover it. I have been plaqued with incompetence like that my whole life. I took my alto to a local place (with their own storefront and lots of work) for a pad job and they basically destroyed the sax. They did something when they polished the keys (after being told 'no buffing') that left strange gouges in the lacquer. I could not for the life of me figure out how/why they did such a thing, plus everything else they did was awful. Another time the place I had trusted in years past no longer had a woodwind guy so they were sending their work to another shop 70 miles away. I went to that shop with my Martin baritone to get it washed, some dents out, the upper loop brace re-soldered and a few pads here and there. I agreed to the price and left the horn. After picking it up, weird things started happening and when I sat down with it to take a look, I found all kinds of crazy cork placements, loose screws, etc. I had to take it apart and re-do the set-up myself.
So I really have to say if the sax is not worth paying the high prices of the 'elite' shops, sell it and get a new one. I believe 90% of saxes existing in America have profound issues induced by incompetent repairs, either by owners, others or 'certified' techs (NAPBIRT). These guys I mentioned were all NAPBIRT. When I see that sign, I run the other way.
Oh, I forgot a good one (there have been so many incidents) - the guy that dented the MK VI also worked on my Selmer USA alto, which he did first. The pants guard on this horn screws directly onto the two posts for it rather than slipping into a slot in the ball of each post like the MK VI. So, when he assembled the MK VI, even after taking it apart himself, he stupidly did the same thing, rather than putting the guard in the slot and then tightening the screws. A small matter, you say? Okay, when he tightened the screws he closed the little gaps by over-bending the brass, setting them up to break off at some future time. I was actually surprised that they didn't break when I corrected what he did. So imagine having to find these posts and them having them soldered on, destroying precious remaining lacquer on a valuable horn - that's why it bothered me. Oh, I forgot to mention how I found that particular problem - naturally, I had to tear the whole horn down and fix stupid things he had done to it, so that's when I found the clothes guard problem. Why did I go to this guy? Well, I had known him a long time and knew that he worked on saxes around town and I never heard anything bad about him, so I took a chance. Bad move.
I think this is a sufficient response to the question although if I really were to think about it, I could relate many more examples. If I have to take a sax somewhere, if it can still be played when I get it back and it has not suffered significant damage/value reduction, I consider myself fortunate.
But there is hope; I recently took saxes to the local Music & Arts which has full-time techs now, just to get some necks sized-up. The guy did a great job and was very thoughtful in what he did. Now I'll try him out on some dents and pads, etc. to see how it goes - this might be a really good thing.
 

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I live in Australia and do all of my own repairs now. Having said that, I do not do them for anyone else. And I do not play in public any more. But when I was gigging around, I had one good to repairer who was very good. Of the three others I'd used in a pinch over the years, two were what I consider competent. The other one was either incompetent or didn't care. So competent, 75%, incompetent 25% in my experience. Granted that is a small sample. Gordon's comment though was interesting. I don't think the US sold horns on Ebay are a fair reflection on the standard of that country's techs but reflect a growing trend for amateurs/ lay people buy horns from one place or another and after doing the work themselves resell them as repadded/refurbished. Very often these instruments will need further work to be playable.
 

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I believe 90% of saxes existing in America have profound issues induced by incompetent repairs, either by owners, others or 'certified' techs (NAPBIRT). These guys I mentioned were all NAPBIRT. When I see that sign, I run the other way.
By way of a point of information: This is from the NAPBIRT website.

The mission of NAPBIRT is to promote the highest possible standards of musical instrument repair service by providing members with a central agency for the exchange of information and continued education through the administration of programs that benefit its membership. We do not provide certification, testing, or endorsement of any individual member's abilities.
As a national association, NAPBIRT has members at all levels of training, from those just entering the profession to the "master" technicians with 30 or more years of experience. All of the members in this broad spectrum of experience have one thing in common, and that is they are all actively involved in trying to take their skills to the next level through education, hands on clinics and workshops, and networking with others in the profession.

Another point to consider when discussing saxophone repair techs that I forgot to mention is that just as in medicine, there are "general practitioners" who work on all instruments including brass, woodwinds, and percussion, and there are "specialists" who work only on saxophones. Simply by doing more complete overhauls every year than the all around techs, the specialists are able to hone their skills and develop more effective techniques. As with physicians, it would be unfair to compare one to the other because their job descriptions are so different.
 

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By way of a point of information: This is from the NAPBIRT website.




Another point to consider when discussing saxophone repair techs that I forgot to mention is that just as in medicine, there are "general practitioners" who work on all instruments including brass, woodwinds, and percussion, and there are "specialists" who work only on saxophones. Simply by doing more complete overhauls every year than the all around techs, the specialists are able to hone their skills and develop more effective techniques. As with physicians, it would be unfair to compare one to the other because their job descriptions are so different.
I like the medical analogy. The problem with most saxes is that they seem to always be in critical condition. I'm lucky to have found a good tech even though I have to drive a good distance to see him. I even bought another sax so I would have an instrument to play when one was in the shop. After I bought it, I sadly realized that I have now have two instruments that won't play. However, my new tech got both saxes going and things are looking up.
 

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I see myself as carrying out this role while working:
1. Work out the function of a particular part, and its context on the instrument.
2. Analyse whether it is doing its job well and reliably.
3. If not, what are the options for correcting that. What is likely to be the best option.
4. Do I have the skills/knowledge/equipment/stock to efficiently and effectively carry that out. If not, get them.
5. Am I aware of what could go wrong while carrying out any operation?
6. Do I have the skills/knowledge/equipment/stock to correct that.

Does that make me a GP or a specialist?
 

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In responce to the OP would you go to a dentist that is not qualified but has pulled a few teeth in his time. I guess the answer would be no. So why would you take your instrument to someone also untrained and not qualified ?? so you should really distinguish between trained and qualified engineers and crafts persons and the self taught player that now offers his services to others. Probably why I am prepared to do a 200 mile round trip to use my Tech.

In the UK there are specialist university and colledge courses that are specifically for those people wishing to become competent and qualified instrument repairers, it is true that the length and quality of the courses may vary and it is down to the individual to check that they are handing over an instrument to a person who is not only qualified but also has the necessary tools and workshop to carry out effective repairs and modifications.
The Tech I use and recomend has this "trained at the prestigious City of Leeds College of Music and after gaining the diploma with distinction (the only distinction awarded that year) and being awarded the coveted friends of C.L.C.M prize for Instrument Technology" as his credentials as well play testing every instrument he works on, he does things in front of you in fact his workshop is in full view and not hidden away, thus this also gives an added amount of reassurance.
That is not to say that certain people have not learned to replace a set of pads or tweek the odd spring but in my mind that is a long way from understanding the way metal works to remove dents the mechanisms work to set them just so and whole lot more like repairing a split in the wood of a 90 year old clarinet or oboe.

I guess it comes down to whom you choose to do business with, someone unknown, unrecommended and unqualified is unlikely to grab my attention, I am lucky I have a wizard who is highly qualified who was also highly recommended when I first met him, within minutes he had put me at ease with his obvious knowledge and skills about my instrument, I have got to know Dean pretty well over the last ten years and now consider him amongst my friends.

Kenny
 

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Most Dutch technicians have been trained as apprentices by other technicians and there is no instutute of learning (in the whole of the Netherlands) to become a technician, however this is not a reason not to trust a technician!

Reputation and results in this trade are everything and count way more than a piece of paper (*and a few letters after your name) hanging on the wall.

One of the best Dutch technicians (who has trained many others in his wake) is Nico Bodewes who was originally a goldsmith (and still solders like few others in the saxophone repair profession) who, as far as I know, learned by himself and then trained scores of other technicians.

Similarly David Crane, owner of Matthews, flutist, was shown the ropes of repairing by his father Arnie and then he became a technician, he has taught scores of technicians too.

The only way to learn at a school , at least at present and for many years now, is to go to the UK or Germany.

The video is in Dutch, the title says “ Emperor of the saxophones"

 
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