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Diagnosing and Repairing Common Saxophone Problems
This is an excerpt from a repair clinic prepared for a music teacher's convention. For the entire handout see attached file below.

If the instrument will not play in the lower octave
∙ Check to see that there is at least a 1/16" gap between the neck octave key ring and the post extending from the body. Place your thumb between the ring and the body of the neck and then gently push down on the octave key. Should you go too far, place a pad slick or tongue depressor under the pad and carefully push back on the ring until the desired gap is achieved.

If the 4th line D does not play or goes to a higher note (overtone)
∙ Press the thumb octave lever hard without pressing any other keys and see if the neck octave key opens. As in the previous case, make sure there is a gap between the ring and the post. On some saxes with a “spongy” cork stopping the thumb octave lever a wider gap may be necessary. *

If the notes down to low C respond but low C#, B, and Bb do not
∙ Keeping the bottom hand fingers down press the G# key to see of the G# pad opens slightly. Using your leak light or feeler gauge to check, turn the adjusting screw above the G# key cup until both the F# and G# pads close completely when the F key is pressed with the G# lever held down. Once the correct adjustment is found, turn back two full turns, add a small drop of purple thread lock, and then quickly readjust and recheck.

If the neck will not tighten
∙ First make sure the tightening screw is inserted into the unthreaded side first. If the neck still turns when the screw is tightened take it to the shop to have the neck tenon expanded and refit. Many saxes play stuffy because the neck leaks.

If all the notes work except G which is stuffy or won’t play
∙ Check to see if the G# pad is closing completely when the G# key is not pressed. While holding down the G# touchpiece press down slightly on the lever that closes the G# pad. There should be a slight “lost motion” when the low B and low C# keys are pressed before they touch the tabs on the G# touchpiece. If there is too much motion, bend the lever back up with your fingers or pad slick.

If the neck cork is broken or missing
∙ Wrap with enough blue masking tape to allow the tuned mouthpiece to fit snugly. Take to repair shop for new cork.

If key guard screws are missing
∙ Use plastic twist ties to secure guard. Do not force screw with wrong thread or metal tapping screw into hole.

If a key spring is broken or missing
∙ Try to hold the key open by rigging a ponytail elastic to the key arm. Do not use ordinary rubber bands. They will quickly mar the finish. This can be done on other woodwinds as well.

If keys are out of regulation (not closing together) because a cork is missing between the key foot and back bar
∙ First remove the guard or any side keys that are in the way. Then glue the appropriate thickness of cork to the top of the key foot using contact cement, or make a small patch the thickness of the cork by layering blue masking tape and cutting to size. Music Medic's Half Sheet Assortment of Tech Cork is great to have on hand for such repairs. Check the adjustment with a leak light.

If all of a sudden some notes are not playing properly

∙ Check to make sure all pivot screws and screw rods are tightened all the way. Tighten with the correct size quality screwdriver. Check to insure keys still move freely. If a key binds, back the pivot screw out till the key releases and apply purple thread lock to keep the screw in place.

*To test the octave key adjustment---finger G and forcefully hit the thumb octave key several times watching the neck octave pad. It should not move if in good adjustment. Then finger from G to A while pressing the thumb octave. The neck and body octave keys should alternate opening and closing completely.
 

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If instrument isn't playing easily, first check your reed seals well against the mouthpiece. Leaks along the side rails are a common problem - especially on bari and also tenor, so check for leaks first. A suction test will determine this once the reed is wet and it won't damage the reed or mouthpiece.

Then a visual check can be done by looking through the facing to the inside, checking along the rails for any light getting in. Either the reed is warped (which is most likely with tenor or bari reeds) or the side rails could be worn or damaged.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Those are excellent tips Chris. When I revise the handout, I will be sure to add those ideas on how to diagnose mouthpiece problems that I somehow overlooked. :faceinpalm:

For those times when it is difficult to tell whether it is a mouthpiece reed issue or a problem with the instrument, I advise my students to try playing just the "tone producer" which is the mouthpiece and barrel on the clarinet, or the mouthpiece and neck on the sax. If this part blows freely and makes a clear sound, then that part can be ruled out pointing to a problem with the instrument itself.
 

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I'd be wary of advising teachers to tighten screws and apply threadlock. Not that this is wrong, but from my own experience the following scenarios occur all too frequently.

1) The teacher will not have the correct size screwdriver and will use one that is "close enough." Then when i have to service the instrument, I have a stripped screw or a damaged screw slot. Also with threadlock, I don't know about over in the US but certainly here, Red and Blue Loctite are readily available at most hardware stores. Purple Loctite I've never seen on the shelf anywhere. I can envisage a scenario where Betty Bandmistress grabs the Red Loctite because it's stronger and therefore works even better than the Purple stuff. "Hey Billy Ray, we won't be losin' no more of them damn screws now! Those suckers are stayin' put for good!"

2) The students see the teacher adjusting screws and then every time little Johnny or little Jane can't get a note out of a sax, clarinet or flute, they take the instrument to Daddy because Daddy can fix everything and before you can blink, daddy has ruined the instrument. Even worse, older students will attempt this themselves.

3) It encourages "tweaking" ie; rather than address the underlying problem, teachers will keep turning those adjusting screws until they strip out. This occurs so often on flutes it ain't funny.

I think you've done a great job here, but I'd add a warning about letting the kids see the process lest they take matters into their own hands.
 

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Great tips! I'm personally a bit clumsy when it comes to art, crafts, fixing stuff around the house, etc, so I'm a bit weary when it comes to fixing something as delicate as my beloved Mark VI. At the very least, these are great tips I could use when I'm pressed for time and need to have my horn working for a gig later that night.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I think you've done a great job here, but I'd add a warning about letting the kids see the process lest they take matters into their own hands.
Thanks for the complement. A careful reading of the entire clinic handout will reveal that those concerns have been addressed including where good quality screwdrivers and purple threadlock can be purchased. I found as a teacher that it was a simple matter to teach the students which are the pivot and rod screws and which are the adjusting screws on flutes, clarinets, oboes, and saxophones---and to leave the adjustment screws alone!!!

Most of "my dad fixed that" problems were with brass instruments where a pair of vice grips were used to try to remove a stuck mouthpiece, or a half a roll of solder was used to resolder a loose brace.
 

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a little help asap? I'm not sax veteran but I'm pretty solid, but I've never really been responsible for servicing my instrument. I currently have my SA80 SII alto sitting right here, and as of 20 minutes ago, it wont play. I made sure that th reed and mouthpiece are all working fine, there is no issue there. There are no loose screws, as far as I can tell. I've looked over the sax, making sure the keys that are meant to be closed are closed, and open well when they are suposed to. My octave keys are both fine, and I've checked the pads a few times already to make sure that they are sealing right. The metal resistance pieces that bring certain keys back to resting position are all fine. I cannot find where the underlying issue is, but between my sax slipping out of my hand and falling a few inches and me driving home, there seems to have been a good amount of change. as referance, i played my yamaha for a bit, and yes, the selmer is definately in need of some repair... but the question is WHAT repair is needed.

I really would appreciate fixing this today, but its sunday and the stores are closed.

Heres a description of how the sax is playing now. everything chromatically was working fine 20 minutes ago, as ive said... any suggestions on what could be wrong are appreciated.

F#-E: Coming out fine. I doubted that there was any issue with these keys anyways
D: taking considerable effort to pop out... thats unusual.
C#-A: The B is taking a lot of pressure to pop out, definately being forced.
A-D: All coming out fine, maybe requiring a bit of unneccesary exertion
C#-A: coming out fuzzy even with a heavy tongue and tons of air

the problem areas:
G#-G: Only popping out an octave above where theyre meant to be. Ive tested holding down the side octave key for the g, and its not making a difference. I've tested holding down the key that goes down when i push down my third finger, and that also doesnt help.
F#-low Bb: only coming out in the above octave. therefore, this is porbably an octave key issue. the only problem is that from what i know about the octave keys, its not an octave key issue. HELP
 

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Check the high D, Eb, E, F and F# pads are closing - if one (or more) of these keys got bent, that can cause the pad to leak making the sax behave as if the lower 8ve vent is open.
 

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This is a very nice, comprehensive list.

If key guard screws are missing
? Use plastic twist ties to secure guard. Do not force screw with wrong thread or metal tapping screw into hole.
Also, maybe a note that reattaching guards with rivets is not advisable...
 

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This is a very nice, comprehensive list.



Also, maybe a note that reattaching guards with rivets is not advisable...
As are soft soldering, glueing or welding. If in doubt, do nothing - that's much better than doing something which could make things worse.
 

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This is my first post/response so I don't know if this is the right place but I can hope.
It's common for various notes on the saxophone to "quack" or make a weird sound if you play them with too loose of an embouchure but for me the high g (not altissimo high but the regular octave high g) "quacks" with my regular embouchure. Almost everytime I play the note the beginning doesn't come out smoothly and I have a simmilar problem with the surrounding notes however, the further away from high g I get the less of a problem it is. I have an audio clip as an example but I don't know what the best way to include that would be.
I use a:
-cannonball big bell stone series
-selmer C* mouthpiece
-Vandoren 3.5 reeds
Hopefully, that is enough to get some answers and hopefully, this is the place to get them from.
 

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Hi Clayton and welcome to the Forum.

Probably not the greatest thread to post your query on - you could have started your own thread and entitled in "quacking G" or something ;) but I understand why you chose this thread based upon its title.

Assuming the issue used to not occur and now it does, or assuming it occurs even when you move to a different reed, your horn likely has a leak somewhere, and it's quite possibly not the G that is leaking but something someplace else.

Unless you have a leak light, a visit to a tech is in order....
 

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This is my first post/response so I don't know if this is the right place but I can hope.
It's common for various notes on the saxophone to "quack" or make a weird sound if you play them with too loose of an embouchure but for me the high g (not altissimo high but the regular octave high g) "quacks" with my regular embouchure. Almost everytime I play the note the beginning doesn't come out smoothly and I have a simmilar problem with the surrounding notes however, the further away from high g I get the less of a problem it is. I have an audio clip as an example but I don't know what the best way to include that would be.
I use a:
-cannonball big bell stone series
-selmer C* mouthpiece
-Vandoren 3.5 reeds
Hopefully, that is enough to get some answers and hopefully, this is the place to get them from.
I agree with JayePDX that "Quacking G" would make a good title for a thread. :) To post a sound file one way would be to open a Sound Cloud account, upload the recording, and then provide a link in your post. I for one would like to hear the sound in order to better diagnose the problem.
 

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It could be a leak (most likely further up than the G Key), or octave vent blocked or octave mechanism not behaving as it should, or reed, okr embouchure.

However if you are not an experienced player, it could just as likely be that you are not making the appropriate slight breath pressure (and hence lower lip support) adjustments when you go into the second octave.
The octave key assists to go up an octave but it does not do all the work. (Otherwise we could easily tremolo fast between octaves.)

If you you are inexperienced, then see if a more experienced player has the same problem, or spend a little time with a good teacher.
The problem could be both sax and yourself. Good technicians can help sort that out.
 

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(if your horn plays increasinly stuffy from E down to D, and lower notes don't speak at all, and you've checked the movement of all the keys, washed the MPC, tried another reed, re-greased the cork, tightened the neck, wondered whats wrong with your embouchure etc etc and nothing helps.... see if you have a portable sax stand like this inside the bell. if so, gently remove it. been there done that)
 

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Or a mouthpiece cap jammed inside the sax.
 

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On some saxes---especially tenors, the high G can very easily overblow to the next harmonic high D. Another scenario also more common on tenor is the the high G when played loudly will also generate the G an octave lower creating a "multiphonic" effect. This is why it would be helpful to hear a recording of the "quack" to further diagnose the problem and offer a solution.
 

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Thank you to everyone that has responded!
https://soundcloud.com/clayton-wiedemeier/saxophone-problem Here is the SoundCloud link. I switch between F# and G a couple of times because the quack doesn't always happen. Also to answer a few questions (some that haven't even been asked) I have been playing for 8 years or so in school but in the last year I have really begun to take the saxophone seriously (practicing long tones and other things that aren't "fun" but make me a better player). A large part of my practicing time has been dedicated to improving my tone. To Recap:
-I have recently switched reeds (I will try the other reeds I have and see if that solves the problem)
-I have recently been changing my embouchure ever so slightly. (striving for the Paul Desmond sound)
-I have the most minor of leaks on the side octave key. (but that is the octave key that is open when the G note is played)
Once again thank you all, and hopefully, the sound cloud link helps.
 

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How sure are you that there are no other leaks?
And what happens if you play both notes with more breath pressure?
Are you able to find out if the octave vent is partly blocked?
 

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On some saxes---especially tenors, the high G can very easily overblow to the next harmonic high D....
I have heard that before. However I have serviced a wide range of saxes, and never encountered this problem when I play test them after servicing. Therefore I tend to think that the issue is embouchure, breath pressure, mouthpiece, reed, or leaks, or a combination of those.
 
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