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I just moved to the Bay Area about a year ago and now work has settled down I'm starting to play regularly again. I would like new pieces for alto and tenor, but have no idea where to find either a quality inventory or someone who does custom work.

I've been a Meyer/Link kind of guy for years, just sifting through several mouthpices off the shelf, picking the best one, and making it work for me. But now I would rather spend the money and the time to get the RIGHT piece.

I've been getting by on Meyer Tenor 7 that produces a sound that just turns heads--it's one of those rare birds that I found after going through more than 20. It's not perfect though, and not suitable for every situation. On alto I have a Vandoren V16 7 that plays respectably well, but basically I was too lazy to spend an entire day again trying dozens of Meyers and Links and went for something consistent.

Back in Indiana there was Prowinds or WWBW, and I was familiar with some of the midwest mouthpiece men. But now I'm out here by myself, away from the studio and I have no idea where to start. I imagine there MUST be something up in Berkeley or San Fransisco...where do I go?

Thank you.
 

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As Pgraves said, Eric Drake is great. He refaced and opened up my Link, and now I'm not even interested in buying another tenor mouthpiece. I've thought about it, but always come back to the same conclusion: My Link does everything (except classical, but I never play classical). Why would I need anything else? He's good.

Plus, if you want to buy a new mouthpiece, he's got a ton of mouthpieces in his shop, vintage and modern, all perfected by him, in a variety of tip openings and styles. They're not cheap, but they're certainly not as expensive as some of the vintage Links and Meyers you see on eBay, and these are guaranteed to play great. I went there with my brother to help him find a good jazz tenor mouthpiece (his C* wasn't cutting it in big band), and Eric gave us about 8 or 9 mouthpieces to take to the back room. We both played all of them, and every single one of them was great, and distinctly different from the others. He left with a really nice Link 7 (probably early Babbit) that his teacher won't stop raving about. He couldn't get over how much it sounded and played like his Florida 7*. I bet if you went there, you would find something that would make you happy.

If you want a good, honest, friendly, old-fashioned music shop (not that Eric isn't good, honest or friendly), then I would reccomend Union Music on Market St. in San Francisco. They're good people who really want to help you. They usually have a decent selection of Links, Meyers, Bergs, Dukoffs, Selmers and Jody Jazzes (don't know what the plural of Jody Jazz is...) as well as Yamaha (I think), Yanagisawa, Selmer and Cannonball saxes. They also have student level horns from various brands, but I suspect you're not in the market for a student horn. I really like all the people who work there. They've always been patient and helpful. They're really the only store in San Francisco that sells wind instruments that's even worth mentioning.

There's also Bronstein music in South San Francisco, but whenever I'm there, everyone seems more eager to sell me stuff than help me. A lot of people like them, but I'll never forgive them for talking my parents out of starting my brother on a YTS-23 and convincing them to buy the more expensive, shoddy as hell, Chinese-made house brand saxophone: Jean Erik. Say that brand name out loud. My brother and I shared that tenor for a year, and it set us back more than anything else. Try building confidence on a new instrument that even your teacher (a professional of almost 40 years) can't play in tune! The palm keys were over a quarter step sharp and the neck was completely loose, even when the screws as tight as we could get them. The salesman at the store (who claimed to be a saxophonist) said that that was how it was supposed to be. Imagine my shock when I first got my YTS-62! To be fair, they let us trade in the Jean Erik for credit towards the Yamaha, but I still feel like they shouldn't have sold us a horn like that in the first place. They're a small, independent, mom-and-pop local music store, so I wish I could reccomend them, but it's hard to overcome something like that. They do stock Vandoren mouthpieces, though.

I hope that there are more music stores in the Bay Area, but these are the only ones that I know about.
 

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All of the above are great, and I also know what you mean about Bronstein's, dirty! However, it seems like they have gotten better over the years, and they no longer stock that brand anymore. However, stay away from their house brand, it is Amati's "Image" line, and about a step above the Jean Erik (generic) models they used to carry. In other words, its pure cowpie. I have nothing but praise for Best Music Co. in Oakland, CA, and the close proximity to Eric Drake is a huge bonus!
 

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Great to hear what Eric is up to. Even though I'm just across the Bay I never seem to get over there when he is open.
I glad to hear that Eric is carrying on the mouthpiece business that his old partner Jay Clark had for a long time before his unexpected passing a few years ago. Eric's a great guy.
 

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SaxColossusJR said:
Does Eric have a website because I have looked for saxcraft and saxology and got nothing.
There used to be a website, but it's been taken down in the last year or so. You'll have to give him a call. His rate was, as of December 2006, $75/hr. for mouthpiece work. I don't know about for repair work, though.
 

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I don't think Fred Lamberson works on other people's mouthpieces but i could be wrong. He does carry his own though and you can go visit him in Point Reyes. Just email through the website.

I think the above posts pretty much have the Bay area covered though. Aside from Eric there's Bronstein's which often has a few Ponzols and other unique stuff , Best in Oakland which isn't too bad , and Union Music in SF. You can also find a few things at Lee Krampka's repair shop in SF (Lee's Sax Worx- he's the greatest) but they tend to be the familiar staples though he always has a few cool horns on consignment. There are a few other music shops but they don't have many options.
 

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I forgot about Lee Kramka! I love that guy. He's absolutely a magician of a repairman. Your horn works like magic and your money disappears from your wallet! Seriously, though, he's expensive, but worth every penny. I go to him once a year with my tenor and it's cheaper than going to a lesser repairman a few times in a year.

He's got a few little drawers of ligatures and mouthpieces. I've never really looked at what he's got, but I would imagine it's fairly high-quality. His consignment horns can be a really good deal if you're in the market for a vintage horn. You'll definitely know it's playing at its absolute best when you buy it from him.

On top of all that, Lee's a friendly, funny dude.

http://www.saxworx.com
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Awesome! Thanks y'all!

Hmmm...one more reason I should have gone to Cal. I miss having the horn shop right across the street. =~)
 

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Eric completed an overhaul on a SBA tenor. Did a great job.
Also, turned out another mouthpiece refacing/opening marvel for me.
 

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Pgraves said:
Eric completed an overhaul on a SBA tenor. Did a great job.
Also, turned out another mouthpiece refacing/opening marvel for me.
Are Eric's repair rates lower than Lee Kramka's? I just got my horn back from Lee. It plays flawlessly, no doubt, but having to write a check for $150 is pretty difficult when you work for minimum wage. I don't regret spending the money, but I would like to have an option for the times when I don't have the money to spend on Lee's work.
 

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I'd never heard of Lee Kramka or Eric Drake before now. Good To know.
As an aside, Union Music in SF, A & G in Oakland and House of Woodwinds in San Ramon, plus Best Instrument Repair are all owned by the same two guys. They will ship inventory around from one store to another if you're a serious buyer so that you can try out everything at one location.
Best Intrument Repair can run hot or cold depending on the time of year. They tend to get overwhelmed with student horns during the summer, so that's a good time to look for someone else if you need more than a minor repair.
Best Intrument Repair and Best Music Company have the same name and are near each other, but are not otherwise related.
 
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