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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I struggle going from low C# to B and Bb on my 1960 Com III tenor. Naturally, I blame the horn, rather than my own deficiencies, thinking the gap in the middle of the key palette is wider than it should or could be, making the move between keys a bit awkward. Here’s mine:
Wood Musical instrument Hardwood Watercraft Metal

Does this look about standard? The gap seems to vary on the horns on sax pics, and is smaller on my mate’s Com III bari - the only other Comm III I’ve seen in real life. Was this variation characteristic of Com IIIs when new? Or does it develop over a lifetime of repairs and adjustments?
My real question, of course: is it easily fixed?
Thanks.
 

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Yours does look quite spacious.
But I believe it has happened over the years through various adjustments etc, rather than from the factory.
I think most competent techs could reduce this spacing for you without too much of an issue.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks, B Flat, that’s reassuring. The gap’s big enough to require lifting rather than sliding from one key to the other, while it looks like the palette is designed for sliding even where there isn’t a roller. But so far it’s only been a bother with exercises rather than anything I’ve had to play in real life, so something for the next service not an urgent fix.
 

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A: 1939 king Zephyr A+T: Martin HC 1 B: 1934 Martin Imperial 1973 Buffet SDA low-A
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I would depress the c# and look how much space there is then. Ideally the C# should be as close as possible to the B Bb keys when depressed. The angle should be conducive to slide over to the Bb and B without getting stuck. The gap when B or Bb is depressed is not as big of a concern because you are not sliding with the tip of your finger.
 

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I struggle going from low C# to B and Bb on my 1960 Com III tenor. Naturally, I blame the horn, rather than my own deficiencies, thinking the gap in the middle of the key palette is wider than it should or could be, making the move between keys a bit awkward. Here’s mine:
View attachment 114307
Does this look about standard? The gap seems to vary on the horns on sax pics, and is smaller on my mate’s Com III bari - the only other Comm III I’ve seen in real life. Was this variation characteristic of Com IIIs when new? Or does it develop over a lifetime of repairs and adjustments?
My real question, of course: is it easily fixed?
Thanks.
It looks a bit out of whack but that can easily be fixed by carefully bending the keys. But this may not solve your issue, practice will, eventually :cool:

The biggest issue about adjusting the keys to their correct alignment is that it's a bit like a 3D-puzzle, where just trying to adjust one key can make things even worse because now you introduce an angle in addition to the spacing. I would start using the G# as reference (based on the photograph, move the C# "out" and bring the other two "in" (but that's only based on the picture where I can't see the z-height too well). When in doubt, find a good tech and let him or her handle it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks for all the responses! Yes, RoarII, it’s the tip of my pinky getting stuck going C# to Bb, the other way isn’t as bad.
Interesting to see there are similar gaps out there and particularly that it wasn’t considered a mandatory fix by Matt Stohrer. It is definitely one I’ll leave to my tech.
 

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Yours does look quite spacious.
But I believe it has happened over the years through various adjustments etc, rather than from the factory.
I think most competent techs could reduce this spacing for you without too much of an issue.
Hmm. I think I'm going to have to disagree with you. but I'd like to remain friends :)
Unless the posts for the C# key and the B/Bb keys have been knocked around a bit, I'd say that the touches for the B, Bb, and C# keys weren't soldered into place with the precision necessary. I'll never proclaim to be a Martin expert, but I have seen plenty of variability in the spacing on these keys across tenor, alto and bari "The Martin" horns even when the body was straight and the posts were upright. It all comes down to how accurately the touches were soldered to the key arms.

So, now agreeing with Mr B Flat, a tech just might be able to adjust both the B/Bb and C# posts to reduce the gap. That's touch and go on a Martin because the posts may just pull loose with a little tweak and need to be soldered back down. Been there, done that.
 
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Interesting, Jorns. Is re-soldering the key touch in better alignment a viable approach in your opinion?
I’ll still ask my tech when the time comes, but given the cascading problems that you and lostcircuits foresee / have experienced, I’ll be cautious since this is a minor concern on an otherwise good horn.
 

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Hmm. I think I'm going to have to disagree with you. but I'd like to remain friends :)
Unless the posts for the C# key and the B/Bb keys have been knocked around a bit, I'd say that the touches for the B, Bb, and C# keys weren't soldered into place with the precision necessary. I'll never proclaim to be a Martin expert, but I have seen plenty of variability in the spacing on these keys across tenor, alto and bari "The Martin" horns even when the body was straight and the posts were upright. It all comes down to how accurately the touches were soldered to the key arms.

So, now agreeing with Mr B Flat, a tech just might be able to adjust both the B/Bb and C# posts to reduce the gap. That's touch and go on a Martin because the posts may just pull loose with a little tweak and need to be soldered back down. Been there, done that.
You are probably correct that there is a lot of variability in spacings throughout the ranges.
My the Martin baritones were quite tightly space with minimal gaps.
One of them had been meticulously overhauled but the other was quite the opposite, it was a well used and slightly abused ex school horn.
I haven’t owned or had much experience the altos an tenors, so can’t really comment on those.
Perhaps I just got lucky with my two baritones.
Certainly worth having a tech look at it to see if they can close up those gaps for you.
Phil Noy would be the man here in Melbourne.
 

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Thanks again B Flat. With any luck it will be of interest to Phil. I lurk on the Melbourne Saxophonists Page on FB, I’ll try catching him there.
I’m pretty sure he’s still playing a the Martin Baritone and he was responsible for the overhaul of the one I owned.
He knows these horns backwards.
 

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Here's another thing to look into, is the angle of the keytouches to the pad cups. With the kind of setup there, where the keys are on two different pivots, the gap may change as the keys are depressed. So, the gap you see there may be larger, or smaller, when all the keys are pushed down. If that's the case, it may be a matter of twisting the long rods to improve the angles of the keys. Obviously it's something that requires some careful study, but the actual adjustment itself is easily done.
 

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That gap that I left on that horn looks a little wider than I'd like personally, and I think in the intervening years I have learned a little more about this adjustment and perhaps would be less scared of trying to close it if I could do so without harming the playability. It is worth being cautious though, and the "at rest" position doesn't give you a great idea of what the experience is of using it.

In my experience they are variable from the factory, with those tall posts being just slightly different at the base leading to major differences by the time the geometry works its way to the keys- not to mention the differences of different pad and adjustment material thicknesses and the accumulated geometry "adjustments" over the years by repairers trying to shoehorn thick pads in where they don't belong. And on top of all that, the touchpiece locations on the arm and the key arms do not seem to be the same horn after horn after horn. Sometimes they start out super close, sometimes not. I've seen horns with original pads that had large gaps and also ones that were very close, including to the point of being problematic.

Regarding the deciding what gap can work on these horns, the first thing to watch out for is the C# bumping up against the B/Bb on the way over and down (and it is very much over and down). Depending on the geometry, a wide gap as pictured can end up where the C#, when actuated, moves over and closes the gap to make the C#/B transition very easy. And since your finger is coming from across the C#, the B or Bb to C# transition is easy almost regardless.

The second thing to watch out for is the C#, once actuated, being well below the B in the C#-fully-open/key-fully-depressed position. Since actuating the C# from the at rest position is easy regardless, and since your pinky can easily slide from Bb/B to C#, it is more important that the C#, once actuated, is not so far below the B that your pinky can't roll over/up the gap (once actuated) to B or Bb than it is that they start out that way.

All that said, the Martin left hand pinky table is one of the more difficult to get both functionally correct and aesthetically perfect, but once there it is both highly usable and very beautiful.


Looks just like mine. Tenor and alto both have a decent gap there. It's never bothered me, though. I guess I have fat fingers. This horn was overhauled by Matt Stohrer in 2014. View attachment 114340
 

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Alto: Buescher Aristocrat 1937, Tenor: Yanagisawa T880, Bari: Martin Committee III 1948
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The things a new song on the set list can provoke.

I didn’t notice that my gap had been assessed.

we are hoping that the alto players new 51 comm iii will arrive this week so we can do further palette assessments (while becoming an extremely geeky Martin comm iii ATB horn section
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
JacobMW, your orthodontist has been watching 😄 but ’let the good times roll’ isn’t the cause of this enquiry.

Abadcliche, there’s an entire sax repair course in your answer, thanks for sharing so much knowledge!
 
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