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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm starting to learn alto saxophone. I just got mine from a pawn shop. Its a E. M. Winston Boston? Are these any good? It won't really matter I guess since its what I'm going to learn on. However, I believe they are called bell keys? The two that are below the horn if your holding the saxophone as if your going to play it, its loose or wobbly. The internet calls the keys used to play them "spatula keys". One on top is oval or round. Below it are two square shaped ones...with little rollers? And like a half oval or circle key below them also with a roller(whats up with the rollers?) Well if you press on the first key i mentioned. The full oval one on top of the two side by side, that bell key, the second one down from the bell kind of lags behind when other keys are pressed. I notice you can press the left square key to the two side by side keys, that makes the key below the two bell keys open up and closes the bell key above it that I'm talking about. The key closes fine but the bell key above kind of seems to have alot of slack and falls closed like its loose or something. Is it supposed to be this way or how do you fix this? And the pad for the bell key above the one I mentioned has fallen out. What kind of glue can you use? I can reuse the pad right? This saxophone has sat around for three years so who knows what needs done to it. I'm a guitar person lol. This is new to me.
 

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Hi and welcome to the forum!

If there are pads falling out, chances are your horn needs an overhaul. I wouldn't recommend you do anything yourself since woodwind instruments are rather delicate to maintain. Maybe some pics would help for the more experienced guys on here to help you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
No its just one pad. I've checked all the rest. And besides, the only shop nearby can do an overhaul but its for like 400 bucks. Thats more than I paid for the saxophone so I am better off learning to do it myself, as is with anything in life.
 

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$400 really isn't that much in the sax world. It's about the norm. for a small(er) town shop. Some of the high-end places charge as much as 1K (or a little more) for an alto overhaul.

But there's also a chance your sax doesn't need a complete overhaul. In which case, it would be very worthwhile to take it into the shop and have them put it in playing condition. If you're serious about learning how to play...that should come first and repair as a secondary objective once you progress enough. Learning a new instrument can be a handful all by itself...and you could very well be doing yourself a disservice by playing an instrument you repair yourself (it's worth it to pay a tech who has years of experience to make your first instrument as playable as possible).

As far as DIY repair, it's a great thing to learn how to do...but there's more to it than just sticking a pad into a key cup (btw, the generally accepted adhesive is shellac). And generally you don't re-use pads...if it's still soft enough, you could re-use it but the cost of a replacement pad is so little that it's not worth messing with (just a few bucks).
 

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Seriously, listen to the advice of VintageSaxGuy. Take the horn to a tech, ask him to check it over, ask about a "play condition" price. This would get the horn in a playing condition, you can get an overhaul later if it is needed. You need to spend your time on learning to control your axe, not worry about whether it is you or the horn that isn't working right (been there, done that and wasted weeks wondering what was wrong). You can learn to change a pad very quickly, but making other adjustments is not so easy.
Welcome to the forum and enjoy the ride
swingmanstan
 

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I think you should take it to a repair-tech. A total overhaul may not be necessary.

To nomenclature . . . there are two large tone holes at the end of a saxophone (almost all saxophones, straight or curved, vintage or modern, save for the VERY few that are not keyed to low Bb and those that are keyed to low A - they will have three tone holes on a longer bell). The two tone holes are closed by pads (also called pad-cups). Those two pad-cups are operated by what is called the left pinky table, a cluster of spatulas operated by the player's left pinky finger.

If those two pad-cups are not operating precisely, or the operating spatulas are loose and unresponsive, you need to have those fixed. It could be as easy as re-attaching a spring somewhere, bending a spring for more tension, or replacing a spring. But such a task, for a new saxophonist, is best left to someone who knows the systems involved.

If something needs repair in that area, I'm guessing that something else may be wrong, too. Maybe not, but if you ever hope to learn how to play it, all of the pads need to seal and the interconnected mechanisms need to be - interconnected.

About the horn itself (you asked), probably Chinese made, maybe Taiwanese. Not the best saxophone in the world but if it is tight (meaning no leaks from bad pads or faulty mechanisms), then it will suffice for your early learning efforts. Good luck with it. DAVE
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Yeah I noticed the springs everywhere. There are more little springs on there than inside my car engine but its a 4 cylinder haha. After having read all these comments I think I will take it to get checked out. I'm used to guitars. You can buy a good sounding guitar for 200-300 bucks. How do you know if you have a beginner, intermediate, and whatever else there is.
 

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You asked how does one know if they have student, intermediate . . .? That is a subject that has been discussed a lot and there may be no correct answer. A good student saxophone (like, for instance, the Yamaha YAS23) can be used in professional settings, and I'm sure some are. A good new pro-alto saxophone like the Selmer-Paris Reference 54 is probably being used by a high schooler somewhere.

Mostly, it depends on the quality of construction, the brand names, and the price one pays, but there are some terrific pro-saxophones out there that can be had for under $1K - vintage horns from the '20's, '30's, '40's, etc. I think you just have to be patient, read many of the threads here and absorb the info. Pretty soon, the pro vs. student issues will become more clear to you. Basically, there are the big names in saxophone manufacturing - Selmer-Paris, Yamaha, Yanagisawa, Julius Keilwerth, and Rampone-Cazzani (sorry if I left out anyone's favorite). From the past, there was Conn and Buescher, but they no longer exist, at least in the high-quality form they were once made. And even in some of those brands, there are lower-level instruments. Just gotta know the territory. DAVE
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
So I got my saxophone set to play for about 200 dollars. I have learned of embouchure and as a beginner to start with basic exercises of air. I'm just blowing and increasing the air I blow in and hold it for a bit and then decrease. Can I get 3 basic notes that are easy to do? I wanted to have some kind of basic note changes while working on my lungs.
 

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Fingering chart First Octave Fingering Chart for all saxophones

Start around the middle of the horn like at B4 and work your way down the basic notes, B4, A4, G4, F4, E4, D4, that will get you used to using main three fingers of each hand. The really low notes (below D4) and really high notes (above C6) will take a while to be able to sound clearly, so don't get discouraged, and work the long tones.

When I first started, my teacher had me do chromatic long tones for 10-15 minutes each practice session. For example, start your tone on B4, and halfway through the tone finger Bb4 to finish the tone. Start your next tone on Bb4 and switch to A4 halfway through. Look up the fingerings before starting so you know what keys to press. Keep this up going both up from the middle notes and down from the middle notes, adding a couple of notes each day. Eventually you will know all the notes and their respective fingerings.
 

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Yes . . . also known as open tone holes and closed tone holes. Generally, the longer the air column, the lower the note, so as you open tone holes from the Bb bell pad to the top, the tones will rise in pitch. Then, you "split" the air column by pressing the octave key and start all over again from D fingering. It is more complicated than that but all of this should get you started - at least help you understand it.

I'm not sure of what PridgeNYC is writing about . . . B4 etc. (Took a break to check the link). Oh, NOW I see the chart PridgeNYC referenced. I've never seen notes numbered that way. Many of us use numbers that begin at the lowest note on the horn and that is Bb1 (the first Bb on a saxophone; or A1 if you have a low-A alto or baritone), then as the octaves come into play, the next higher Bb would be Bb2, etc. The highest keyed Bb would be Bb3 (the third Bb on a saxophone; octave key depressed and Bb fingered). I suppose there are different ways to do it but that chart sure would confuse me (and I suspect many others here) before figuring it out. Doesn't make sense to me. One more thing - beware of some things you see on the Internet. I've found mouthpiece charts that were in direct conflict with other charts. It takes time and experience to sort out the truth of it all. DAVE
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Why is it when I hold all 6 of the keys down and blow its pretty easy to make a noise. But if I start with the first key at the top and every second or so press the next key, going down the instrument while not releasing any keys, just holding down the next one with the rest, it becomes increasingly harder to make a sound. In fact it seems if I stop, release all the keys, then press them down at the same time and blow its much easier.
 

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Sounds like insufficient breath support, or just plain running short of air by the time you work your way down. :dontknow:
What if you start at the bottom and work your way up?
 
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