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I have taken horns to a tech a few times in my life. The first sale they always attempt is a repad job for $600 + on my $400 horn. They remind me of used car salesmen. When I decline, they offer to replace the one pad that is a problem for $20-$40. Is this typical in your experience?
 

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No, not my experience. In the last 4 or 5 years I have had only one re-pad job recommended by a tech.....after struggling with that horn for months and months, I finally gave in to a full overhaul. The tech was completely right. The symptoms I had prior to the repad were: inability to control volume well (could only play loud), highly inconsistent intonation, and inability to consistently play certain notes.

Generally with the techs I have used (Good and bad ones), I have explained the specific problem, (i.e. my G# is jumping an octave every time I try to play it) and they look for leaks and usually simply replace single pads or make some other adjustment.

When I bring my horn in for an annual servicing, normally only 1 or 2 pads are replaced.

In short, if you have had multiple techs recommending a full repad job and you are consistently having problems with your horn, your horn might actually need it.......but $600 for a repad (excluding other aspects of a full overhaul such as new corks) seems a bit expensive. You should be able to get pretty close to a full overhaul for $600 - $800. I seem to recall the going rate for a repad is $350 - $400.

The fact that your horn could be sold for $300 or $400 really has very little relevance as to whether you should get a repad. It is hard to find a sax in top condition (fully refurbished) for $400.....this is just the cost of maintaining any instrument.
 

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In my 28 years of playing, I've never had a tech recommend a full repad.
 

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this is very common in my part of the world.

Fewer and fewer technicians are willing to do partial work.

More and more horns are no longer repaired because they are not woprth a repad but may very well do with a couple of lads and some work.
 
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I know of several techs in my area who will state that pads don't wear out all at the same time, and replacing the pads that won't seal is the correct course of action. And one well-known music store locally who will always suggest a full re-pad regardless of the overall condition of the instrument. Guess who I (don't) take my saxophones to for a play-condition check-up?
 

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I've gone primarily to one sax tech and one clarinet tech for, at this point, most of my life. Both are premium-priced, but always give me a range of options from "bare minimum to get it playing" to "full 20+ hour overhaul" and we talk through the options and land somewhere in the middle. I've never gone for a full overhaul, though someday I would like to. I've never gotten my horn back from either of them and regretted spending the money. I've since expanded to two other sax techs in my area, both of whom are very good and have a similar approach. I guess I assumed this was standard?

My feeling is that you should have a collaborative relationship with your tech and be able to be straightforward about what you are feeling as a player and trust that they will be able to work with you on addressing your issues. If you can't trust them, find someone else. I know the techs I go to really bank on having a high level of trust with their customers. They don't normally recommend major work and have often come up with clever solutions to get me rolling for not much money when I was totally broke. I trust that if they think I need a repad, they mean it. So far, they haven't.

Also, I'd get away from the idea that the value of your horn has anything to do with the cost to fix it. The cost of labor is the overwhelmingly largest part of the expense. I've spent $1000+ on sax work twice and both times I think the parts were only about $75-$100 of that. Unless you are doing shoddy work on inexpensive instruments, it takes the same amount of shop time for a cheap horn as for an expensive one, at least for comparable work. At some point, your $400 horn will need new pads. Same as a $4,000 or $14,000 horn. Cost of the horn has nothing to do with what it should cost to fix it.
 

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Happiness is a leak-free horn. I would much rather get the horn in top playing condition, and enjoy it, rather than limp along on a mediocre setup. A vintage horn is going to need new pads sometime in its life - why not enjoy it?

This is one place where a car analogy works. If you buy a tired old car, you should anticipate that it will maintenance - and that starter or fuel pump will cost the same regardless of how old the car is.

You say in another post that you have a comfortable 6-figure salary, and are looking to buy a horn. $2000, for example, will buy you: a shiny new cheap horn (that may not be in good adjustment), a used modern horn that may need some pads and corks, or a vintage horn plus a complete fresh overhaul.
 

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At some point, your $400 horn will need new pads. Same as a $4,000 or $14,000 horn. Cost of the horn has nothing to do with what it should cost to fix it.
If you are cheap, the morale of the story is to buy an expensive horn so you do not feel guilty about putting money into it when it needs a full overhaul.

I look at this way.l: A repaded saxophone will have a few thousand hours of playing time on it. If you actually play the horn a lot you are looking at a 20 cents an hour for a hobby. What hobby is cheaper than this?
 

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If you are cheap, the morale of the story is to buy an expensive horn so you do not feel guilty about putting money into it when it needs a full overhaul.

I look at this way.l: A repaded saxophone will have a few thousand hours of playing time on it. If you actually play the horn a lot you are looking at a 20 cents an hour for a hobby. What hobby is cheaper than this?
If you are cheap but smart, buy an affordable horn and understand that the cost of upkeep is pretty comparable regardless of what you initially spent.

I agree with you about the value of the work, though. Spread that out over the years between work and it really seems silly to me to be willing to accept lower quality work to save a few hundred bucks. You'll probably save that much or more on your water bill cutting your morning showers a minute shorter for a year. As with most things, there's a quality threshold below which I think it just doesn't make sense to bother spending any money. Better to save a little longer for something actually worth paying for.
 
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I have taken horns to a tech a few times in my life. The first sale they always attempt is a repad job for $600 + on my $400 horn. They remind me of used car salesmen. When I decline, they offer to replace the one pad that is a problem for $20-$40. Is this typical in your experience?
What type of horn are we talking about? Bari's are obviously more expensive than smaller sizes. Vintage horns cost a bit more. Professional horns require more hours. etc etc.
 

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What type of horn are we talking about? Bari's are obviously more expensive than smaller sizes. Vintage horns cost a bit more. Professional horns require more hours. etc etc.
1951 Pan American alto
Pads are 25 years old but only 300 hours of playing time which has been incurred in last 3 years.
 

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Still might be dried out unless you live somewhere with perfect woodwind humidity year round like San Francisco.
 

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I have taken horns to a tech a few times in my life. The first sale they always attempt is a repad job for $600 + on my $400 horn. They remind me of used car salesmen. When I decline, they offer to replace the one pad that is a problem for $20-$40. Is this typical in your experience?
I had to do a full repad for someone just a few weeks ago- I've been here since October and it was the only time I've ever recommended one to someone. That said, he absolutely needed it, and an overhaul.

A repad depending on the horn is probably $400-$500, depending on the area. An older horn like yours might need some special TLC, so labor is probably around $50-$100. I promise a tech isn't itching to do a full repad on a PanAm.

If your tech says that the instrument needs a full repad, fixing a small problem is not going to help when every other pad is going to have the same issue in a matter of weeks or months. Just bite the bullet.

Can/should pads be treated with some kind of moisturizer to extend their life?
Also... for the love of G-d, please no.
 
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1951 Pan American alto
Pads are 25 years old but only 300 hours of playing time which has been incurred in last 3 years.
That price isn't outrageous. If you're having trouble with your horn you might look into it. It'll feel brand new again.
 
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I'm sure that complete repads are very often unnecessary - you should start to notice issues long before all the pads are shot. In fact you'll rarely have all the pads totally shot.

But there are reasons you or the tech may think a repad is best. If you are using it a lot and this is your one chance in a busy year to be able to be without it. And of course a repad by itself mostly makes little sense as it should have an overhaul while it's dismantled.

Or maybe the tech disgnoses that even though some pads still work, they probably don't have much life left so it could be false economy to not just do the lot while it's dismantled this once.

Or maybe they are just making work for themselves. (Hope not!)
 

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1951 Pan American alto
Pads are 25 years old but only 300 hours of playing time which has been incurred in last 3 years.
Is this a horn you already own? If so, how does it play now? Are the pads supple or crusty/hard?
 
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