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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
What is it with the lack of respect for Martin horns from so many techs?

Just got my treasured 153xxx Martin Comm III back from a local tech who comes highly recommended from some very good players and from an excellent tech in another city. He has done some tweaking on a couple of Mark VIs and really did great, and he is just a really good guy. So I decided to have him due a long overdue complete repad/ anything else it might need on my Martin. It still had many of the original pads and some obvious leaks, but even so it had a robust rich sound that was really great. It was time to get it back to its full glory. I asked the tech to use pads similar to the original riveted pads and told him I preferred the feel of a firmer pad.

He ended up using a medium-soft pad because he said these old Martins have such big thick tone holes the needed that to seal. He said the old Martins really weren't that good of a horn, and that I expect some trouble getting the low notes out. He further said the tone of the Martins tended to be thin...

I've owned three Martin Comm IIIs including this one and know that the tone of a Martin is anything but thin. But this horn sounds just awful now; the most anemic, pathetic thing you've ever played. it is no wonder there is so many differing opinions on vintage horns.

I've talked to several other techs over the years when I was considering getting the horn redone and so often when I said it was a Martin, they would sort of laugh and give the air of "yeah, send that old thing here and I'll fix 'er up." I would tell them that I realize that the resale value of Martins is less than many other vintage horns and all that, but I wanted just as careful meticulous work on this one as any high dollar pro horn, but it didn't seem to register with any of them.

I'm not sure I want to take it back to him at all. I'd really like to send it to somebody who loves, knows and respects Martins, and feels they are just as deserving of a meticulous setup as a MarkVI or any other excellent horn. I'd be happy to hear of any suggestions.
 

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I just overhauled my The Martin Alto with the same treatment everyone of my overhauls get. Eliminating key play. Leveled tone holes. Firm pad etc. I tried some gold plated resonators from Music Medic and the thing is amazing. I';m having a hard time wanting to play my SML and I love that saxophone.

Too bad you';re not in the Kansas City area I love bringing vintage horns back to life. Even student model horns. It';s amazing how well some of the cheaper saxophones can play when set up correctly and by cheaper I don’t mean your Martin.
 

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Selmer Balanced Action Tenor Saxophone, Powell Flute
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Martin's are GREAT horns. I've owned 5 or 6 and still own one that I will not sell. I've always had Thomas at Tenor Madness set them up. Caveat, I now work there, BUT I sent Thomas my Martins before I worked there because I knew he was a fan of them and he always did a fabulous job setting them up! He owns a great Martin himself.

They require specific key heights and they really need thinner pads as the pad cups are thin themselves. They are quite special horns when set up right. It does take a tech familiar with them and one that respects the horns though.

I'm sure you'll get plenty of suggestions on this thread, but if you decide you want to talk about it more, feel free to PM me or call the shop and ask for Simon. I'd be glad to talk with you about the horn even if you decide to go elsewhere!

Don't quit on the Martin and forget that tech ! His statements are false. Tell him he can call too if he wants to talk.

Sent from my SM-N950U using Tapatalk
 

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I am sorry to hear of your negative experience. Martins are certainly very fine instruments. I have owned alto, tenor and baritones, and they all were very nice. I still have a "The Martin" bari. I guess some techs are snobbish about what kind of horns on which they like to work. I think you are right when you say you need to find a tech who will take you and your horn seriously.
 

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I don't think it is specifically Martins, really. A lot of techs....face it, 95% of the saxes they work on are either contemporary asian instruments or French Selmers. A lot of techs don't seem to know sh#t about the classic vintage American, German, Italian, and 'other' French horns.

The guy is an idiot. Besides everything else, he has put you in a bad situation by installing soft pads w/o first informing you that this is what he 'does' on Martins.....
 

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I don’t own a Martin, but can vouch for the service at PM woodwinds in Chicago. These guys really love all vintage horns and are very knowledgeable and helpful. They are also pretty close to O’hare so when I need an adjustment I can fly in and fly back out quickly, and I’m sure they can do a delivery setup for you too. I’ve seen plenty of guys there bring Martins and Conns and other American horns and leave happy. Would suggest going in if you can because it is a very cool store with lots of horns to try!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kqmuAuvQFqs
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks guys- I really should have checked in here first- If you'll pardon the very long post, here is a history of the horn:

The Martin (153xxx) was purchased in 1946 by my piano teacher's late husband at a shop in LA when he was playing violin with the LA Philharmonic. He had played saxophone for the Navy Seahawks dance band, and violin in their symphonic band. In his archives is a typed letter with Harry Truman's signature thanking him for his performances on the ship to take him to Potsdam. After Thor Johnson recruited him to play in the Cincinnati Symphony, the moved to N KY, and he really didn't play the horn any more at all. It simply stated in his music and lesson room as part of the clutter/decor. I visited his wife twice a week for 18 years for classical piano lessons for my kids (grades k-12 for both). Pretty cool seeing a five year old sit at a 6'6'' Steinway B (she played the smaller M grand). After my youngest went off to college, she embarked on teaching me piano as we had become pretty good friends.

Her husband died about ten years ago, and I asked if could get his sax fixed up and maybe learn to play on it. She was hesitant; they had no children and seeing his stuff leave was like seeing more of him leave. (shoo-whee he had a lot of stuff- at least 40 various violins, mandolins, violas, cellos etc). She said the case stunk so bad she was embarrassed and all that, but she finally relented and the local tech put in a pad or two to get it playing and I started in on lessons. It played so sweetly even then, and the four digit Great Neck Tonalin, cork grease, warranty card, sandpaper, reed trimmer and soap case filled with reeds was still in the case. My saxophone teacher- a bit of a hardass retired Army band player -didn’t care for it and kept telling me to get a Yamaha, so I finally did get the obligatory YTS23 fixed up beater. I hated that horn.

After a year or two, we were at dinner and she said she had thought it over and said she supposed I could be the sole custodian of the Martin, with the proviso that I take it out at midnight on NewYear's and give it a blast just he had done every year.

After a long layoff and much life I've been back at it hard playing for the last few years while the horn has sat in its case, the pads leaking pretty badly, hence the trip to the shop.

Betty remains a dear friend and often no longer has the energy to use her three different walkers it takes for her to get to the pianos. So on those visits we sit and chat while she nods off occasionally. I'll never stop being the custodian of that horn as long as I'm alive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I don't think it is specifically Martins, really. A lot of techs....face it, 95% of the saxes they work on are either contemporary asian instruments or French Selmers. A lot of techs don't seem to know sh#t about the classic vintage American, German, Italian, and 'other' French horns.

The guy is an idiot. Besides everything else, he has put you in a bad situation by installing soft pads w/o first informing you that this is what he 'does' on Martins.....
Well I don't think he is an idiot, just not the right guy for this particular job. He did tell me he wanted to use the soft pads before he started, but I have this idea that as a client I should tell the professional my preferences, and then rely on his/her expertise to try to meet them. It didn't seem to be a good match in this instance, so I'll take my lumps, do better research and move ahead.
 

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Well, there was a long period from the 1960s through the 90s roughly when pretty much everyone involved in saxophones firmly believed that Conns, Martins, Bueschers, etc. were nothing but piles of junk and the one true saxophone was a Selmer; and pro-level Yamahas were kind of let in on sufferance since they were basically copies of the Selmer. Buffet, too, but hardly anyone in the USA had ever even seen a Buffet sax. This was of course total BS, but that was the conventional wisdom. (That's how I was able to buy my Conn 6M for $130 in 1978, and it was sitting next to a perfect, pearls on the side keys King Super 20 tenor for sale for $400 that I was an IDIOT not to buy.)

Really, it wasn't till the mid 90s that vintage saxes were considered usable by anyone but a small fringe like me.

It appears that there are still a hard core of techs who believe that.

Obviously you need someone different. And the business about "thick tone holes" is utter nonsense.
 

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Pity your not over here in Melbourne Australia.
Phil Noy does fantastic work on Martins.
In fact on any saxophones really.
He overhauled my The Martin Comm III Baritone when it was still with its previous owner and it is still a terrific horn today.
He recently overhauled my Selmer Super Series Tenor and did an equally excellent job of it.
He also owns and gigs on a The Martin Bari himself.
 

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Bruce hit the nail on the head.

Unfortunately, this technician doesn't know what he's talking about. If he thinks Martins sucked, or sounded thin, he has zero experience with them. Stay away from this guy at all costs. If your tech can only work on vintage Selmers or modern horns, it means he isn't skilled enough to handle any meaningful repairs.

Find a guy who was trained properly and take the horn there.

- Saxaholic
 

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Exactly my experience for 20 years - my Martin Tenor would get the short shrift as the tech oohed and awed over Selmers right in front of me and my Martin Tenor. However, SoTW led me to Les Arbuckle and Matt Stohrer and both of them treated my Martin Tenor royally...also, a later bought a Martin Tenor overhauled by Ken Beason and that horn could shred!
 

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Well, we don't visit an ophthalmologist with a toothache, right? If you are happy with your tech's job on your Selmer, bring your Selmer to him but maybe find someone else who has a soft spot for Martins for your Martin Comm III.

I found my 'Martin tech' after weeks of searching the net, reading reviews, asking recommendations and e-mailing. I trust him with my Martin. If I had any, I might also trust him with my other saxophones. But would I ask him to overhaul my basset horn? Definitely not. I would go to my 'basset horn tech' who has plenty of experience with playing and repairing basset horns. They are both great techs and could likely do a decent job on the other instrument as well, too.

And I realise that the difference maybe smaller between a Selmer and a Martin sax than between a sax of any make and a basset horn. I just think that aknowledging and appreciating these tiny differences between saxophones is what can separate a decent repair job from an excellent one.
 

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Thanks guys- I really should have checked in here first- If you'll pardon the very long post, here is a history of the horn:

The Martin (153xxx) was purchased in 1946 by my piano teacher's late husband at a shop in LA when he was playing violin with the LA Philharmonic. He had played saxophone for the Navy Seahawks dance band, and violin in their symphonic band. In his archives is a typed letter with Harry Truman's signature thanking him for his performances on the ship to take him to Potsdam. After Thor Johnson recruited him to play in the Cincinnati Symphony, the moved to N KY, and he really didn't play the horn any more at all. It simply stated in his music and lesson room as part of the clutter/decor. I visited his wife twice a week for 18 years for classical piano lessons for my kids (grades k-12 for both). Pretty cool seeing a five year old sit at a 6'6'' Steinway B (she played the smaller M grand). After my youngest went off to college, she embarked on teaching me piano as we had become pretty good friends.

Her husband died about ten years ago, and I asked if could get his sax fixed up and maybe learn to play on it. She was hesitant; they had no children and seeing his stuff leave was like seeing more of him leave. (shoo-whee he had a lot of stuff- at least 40 various violins, mandolins, violas, cellos etc). She said the case stunk so bad she was embarrassed and all that, but she finally relented and the local tech put in a pad or two to get it playing and I started in on lessons. It played so sweetly even then, and the four digit Great Neck Tonalin, cork grease, warranty card, sandpaper, reed trimmer and soap case filled with reeds was still in the case. My saxophone teacher- a bit of a hardass retired Army band player -didn’t care for it and kept telling me to get a Yamaha, so I finally did get the obligatory YTS23 fixed up beater. I hated that horn.

After a year or two, we were at dinner and she said she had thought it over and said she supposed I could be the sole custodian of the Martin, with the proviso that I take it out at midnight on NewYear's and give it a blast just he had done every year.

After a long layoff and much life I've been back at it hard playing for the last few years while the horn has sat in its case, the pads leaking pretty badly, hence the trip to the shop.

Betty remains a dear friend and often no longer has the energy to use her three different walkers it takes for her to get to the pianos. So on those visits we sit and chat while she nods off occasionally. I'll never stop being the custodian of that horn as long as I'm alive.
Great story, thanks for sharing.

I've had a somewhat similar experience, I took a 10m for an overhaul with a tech who had done really great work on my old Yanigasawa 901 horn, and came highly recommended.

As already pointed out I think tech has been used to working on Selmer, or selmer-ish designs, for a lot of their professional life. Now with vintage Selmer prices getting stratospheric lots of players around me are switching to Conns (with the odd Martin, Buescher, or King about).
 

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I hate seeing fat squishy pads on a horn. Sizing and correct pad selection is such a critical issue for optimum response.
As to Martins, they sound so damn good. Dave Liebman kept a Martin in his stable for many years before giving it to me to sell for him. He found a sound in them that no other horn had, well maybe the BA he bought from me in its place. The guy who bought his Martin has pared down from a stable of tenors and now that is I think currently his only one. He liked it better than his VI's , 10m's and several other fine horns.
 

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I'd say overall its more the performance and the response that are impacted. Play a super 20 which needs thin pads with those marshmallow type and it is just a frustrating experience.
 

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First, I can't understand why any pro tech would have difficulties with Martins. There are no special mechanisms, set screws or rolled edges requiring skills that differ from modern saxes - except for soldered tone holes. Look carefully for signs of corrosion. A leaky solder joint on a TH could make the sax play as you describe.

I don't think the softness of the pads is that much of a consideration unless they are too thick. I used MusicMedic thick/soft flat on my Handcraft Standard and Committee 3 tenors. They are thinner than competitors pads at .175 rather than the standard .185. Perfect for the set up of the former but the lower stack was challenging on the C3 which had typical leaking at the back of the pad. One day, I will swap them out for the thinner pads. The softer felt makes for a more quiet feeling horn.

Good luck getting your issues resolved.
 
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