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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I’ve used some of the most well-known techs that have mail-in services when I’ve been able, and been lucky to usually always be keyed in to who the best local people are wherever I’ve held a home base over the years. I’ve also been very fortunate in having some spot repairs on the road done really quickly and well…a couple times on recommendations from folks in this forum! . I decided to try someone new and local because I need a C.O.A. and a neck fit shored up.

When I dropped it off he glanced over it again as it had been a few weeks since we set up the appointment, and being a basic servicing it was only an overnight drop. When we talked about the neck fit and my articulating C# mechanism I had reservations. I should’ve just walked away, but I did not.

My sax has super fast action and light touch seats everything because Everything’s perfectly level. Every tech that’s worked on this thing (until this guy) says it’s a beast of a player, holds regulation quite well, and everyone who’s played it wants to know why it’s so great.

Well.

I picked it up the next day and it played okay on a quickie in-shop test. Played it on two tunes on a gig that night and knew I needed to check it out more closely. I was blowing through leaks before, but I could feel inefficiency in the mechanism Bis/ F#/ G# and the lower stack just wasn’t right. Low C # is also bouncy on release now. Played it on my gig Tuesday night and it was worse…almost went home and got my alto on set break. Definitely added to the frustration noted in my other post about Tuesday’s gig 🤦‍♂️.

Played a bit yesterday and grabbed the leak light…yikes, lower stack and bell keys are worse than when I brought it in.

The neck fit is better but still not true, played it three times since picking it up and I can see exactly the two raised rings where he didn’t do enough finishing work to make it a smooth and consistent fit. He also didn’t clean or oil my springs, and whatever he used to clean my pads…I have sticking issues for the first time ever. On any horn I’ve owned. ***…Bis, G#, Eb, palm F
I have the tools and ability to tinker and fix all the problems myself, even the adjustments to the mechanism…but I really wanted that fresh snappy, this thing’s going to play like a dream for at least 6-8 months feeling I usually get. I’m also still very much a beginner at making my own adjustments and pad work, so I don’t feel as sure of myself fixing bad work. I’m usually just knocking out a few leaks to extend the life of my last superb tech job.

When I went in to the shop today he took a look and knew that everything I said was right on when I showed him the timing issues and he stuck his light down the tube.I asked if he played it and what he thought. He said he didn’t play it at all. He also revealed he really doesn’t know much about playing saxophone, he made it seem like he was a player when we’d talked before. I was already wondering if I even wanted him to try to fix things before I went back in there today…I think he realized I was looking for a higher level of skill and attention to detail than he’s able to provide. I was super relieved when he offered two options: we could make a list and he could try again, or he could give me a refund. I chose refund and there was no hard feelings either way.

Now I need more work done than I did a week ago, but it still all falls under a typical COA. I could do the whole job myself…I doubt he took the time to oil all the pivots and rods if he didn’t even do the springs. Scared to try the other local shop because none of the locals recommend it, but shipping it off is more bread than I want to spend right now.

Less-than-stellar work, but got a refund without asking…not sure what to do 🤷‍♂️
 

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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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5,059 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I learned to to maintain all my instruments - best time I ever spent. Currently battling a piccolo. At least the repairer in question didn't argue or dodge. That's something anyway.
Yes! I had originally titled the thread bad tech experience, but had to change it because it wasn’t a bad experience overall and he certainly owned it.
I’m sure that I’ll bite the bullet and take the time to make it better over the weekend. It is rewarding to do my own light work in the bits I’ve done to prolong time between paid services, but it’s nice to pick up a well-tuned sax from a top-notch service job and just let it rip!
 

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Its a problem and most of us are right there with you. I finally found a tech (an hour's drive on the interstate) who was happy to adjust my necks snug like I want them. I picked up a 'new to me' horn that was also basically new although made in '94, and I naturally took it to them to re-fit the neck. Its usually a fast job but it was taking way too long - finally they came out and said the collet for the neck machine had failed. I had to bring it back in about a month after they got the new part but it did turn out fine. Other than that, I've had major problems with techs for the last 30 years after the really good guy retired early because of eye problems. I don't want to go over all of it in detail but here's an example; one guy, who I had known for many years, did a re-pad/COA on my MK VI tenor. When I went to get it, he told me that he had taken it to a sax player we both knew to check out his work before he gave it back to me. I was mildly annoyed that he took the horn out of his shop but I understood that he was trying to do the best he could for me. Okay, then I picked it up out of the case to blow a few notes, and there was a row of major dents in the body from the clothes guard up to the octave key - I flipped, and he was trying to say it was like that when I brought it in.
Long story short, I took it downtown to a shop with the greatest dent man I've ever seen, and he left no sign of any damage. But that kind of thing has not been unusual with me over the years. BTW, I took all the keys off before taking it to the dent guy, and on the re-assembly I took my time and fixed a lot of goofy stuff the 'tech' had done. That has become the norm with me. I don't want anything fancy, I just want a factory-type job; real cork and felt just like original.
But to the point, I don't know what to tell you or myself, for that matter. Sometimes you need pro help with your horns and it is damned hard to find.
 

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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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5,059 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Its a problem and most of us are right there with you. I finally found a tech (an hour's drive on the interstate) who was happy to adjust my necks snug like I want them. I picked up a 'new to me' horn that was also basically new although made in '94, and I naturally took it to them to re-fit the neck. Its usually a fast job but it was taking way too long - finally they came out and said the collet for the neck machine had failed. I had to bring it back in about a month after they got the new part but it did turn out fine. Other than that, I've had major problems with techs for the last 30 years after the really good guy retired early because of eye problems. I don't want to go over all of it in detail but here's an example; one guy, who I had known for many years, did a re-pad/COA on my MK VI tenor. When I went to get it, he told me that he had taken it to a sax player we both knew to check out his work before he gave it back to me. I was mildly annoyed that he took the horn out of his shop but I understood that he was trying to do the best he could for me. Okay, then I picked it up out of the case to blow a few notes, and there was a row of major dents in the body from the clothes guard up to the octave key - I flipped, and he was trying to say it was like that when I brought it in.
Long story short, I took it downtown to a shop with the greatest dent man I've ever seen, and he left no sign of any damage. But that kind of thing has not been unusual with me over the years. BTW, I took all the keys off before taking it to the dent guy, and on the re-assembly I took my time and fixed a lot of goofy stuff the 'tech' had done. That has become the norm with me. I don't want anything fancy, I just want a factory-type job; real cork and felt just like original.
But to the point, I don't know what to tell you or myself, for that matter. Sometimes you need pro help with your horns and it is damned hard to find.
I recall a couple of your posts and a few others folks have made and honestly was like, really…this happens? Now I know. I’ve been pretty lucky. Perhaps it’s just another sign I should just dive in and get better at the basics. I’ve gotten a few solid leads on people to call that are only a couple hour’s drive away. I’m glad you’re digging that Guardala tenor…I know there’s bad feelings attached to the name, but those models like yours are fantastic instruments!
 

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I need a good Portland tech who isn't booked into next year as well. I had an almost identical experience to the op here in Vancouver Washington at my local music store. They completely hosed a $1000 overhaul on my Conn soprano. I took it back to them and showed them how blatantly bad the pads were not even closing and they said they'd have him look it over again. I got it back and it was worse. At that point I just had to suck it up and that gorgeous gold plated Conn is still sitting in the case unplayable. 😭 I've got at least 8 or 9 overhauls to be done.
 

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I recall a couple of your posts and a few others folks have made and honestly was like, really…this happens? Now I know. I’ve been pretty lucky. Perhaps it’s just another sign I should just dive in and get better at the basics. I’ve gotten a few solid leads on people to call that are only a couple hour’s drive away. I’m glad you’re digging that Guardala tenor…I know there’s bad feelings attached to the name, but those models like yours are fantastic instruments!
'Bad feelings' :) Yep, that's what keeps the price down on these. Its too bad that some players would let a great horn like that get past them because of the name on it.
Getting your feet wet on the basics of sax repair/adjustment is definitely the thing to do. I started taking my tenor apart for cleaning at the age of 19 - it was a Selmer Buescher 400 I had bought in '64. Now I use internal stuffers in body, bell and neck so they never develop a build-up inside, and using Pledge for cleaning the exterior does not require disassembly.
You'll need a set of screwdrivers and a spring hook at the minimum. I use a straight pin in a handle a lot for positioning corks, etc. for gluing. You can buy decent cork and there are many You Tube vids on sax repair.
 

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I’m in Eugene, Oregon.
I need a good Portland tech who isn't booked into next year as well.
Isn't Miguel Maldonado still in business in Portland ? He did very thorough work, I'd be sad to hear if he wasn't still in biz.....matter of fact, Jace, it was YOU who led me to him, 12 years ago !!

@swperry1 the next closest guy who I recommend would be Anthony Bigham at Anthony's Woodwind Corner in San Rafael CA (Marin County). That'd be around 8-1/2 hours away from you....a bit closer than 14 hours I guess (?)

Perhaps suggestions in either Sacramento or Seattle areas would be the next closest major municipalities if Miguel is truly gone from Portland and Bay Area is too far for you....
 

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It's tough. Honestly in general I've had pretty good experiences with saxophone repairs, but there have been a few stinkers. There was the guy that stole all the little set screws off my Conn tenor, for example. Or the clarinet that came back from a repad less playable than it went out.

I think the only solution is word of mouth and lots of conversation beforehand. I have, more than once, told a tech "Look, I'm not a kid. I'm not made of money, but I have some money. I will pay a little more and wait longer for you to do the job right. I don't need it day after tomorrow, I don't have to keep the cost below $20." or some variant of that. I think that for many repairers who start out with good intentions, the constant stream of middle schoolers bashing the crap out of horns and then expecting them to be fixed up to play, sort of, for the game tomorrow night, and Daddy won't pay more than $20 just sucks away their ability to do a meticulous job, and everything gets the "how can I get this thing to make a sound with the absolute minimum labor hours?" treatment.

I mean, there are the incompetent, the malicious, the cheats, and the incompetent malicious cheats, but I think there are a lot more who've been turned into hacks by the commercial pressures of the gig.

I was just in a big local music store that services numerous local school districts. No kidding, they had something like 40 baritone sax cases in there, 100 tenors, 100 altos, clarinets and flutes out the wazoo, and a whole section of the sales floor maybe 40 feet square was completely filled with tubas. Their objective is to get every single one of these checked out and "playing" before school starts about August 15th. I don't know how many guys they've got on that job, but I can guarantee there's no way they can do anything other than the most cursory check, bend some keys to make them sort of seal, replace some pads that have actually fallen out, make sure the thing can honk out a low Bb with some effort, make sure there is a mouthpiece ligature cap and lyre in the thing, and shove it back into the case and toss it into the truck.

But I suspect the only way to make a living (and it's probably not a real good living) as a band instrument repairman is to get on with an outfit like that, or to be a high-dollar sought-after tech with wide reputation. In between, I suspect, isn't happening. Thus the horror stories.
 

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Tenor, alto, Bb Clarinet, Flute
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It's tough. Honestly in general I've had pretty good experiences with saxophone repairs, but there have been a few stinkers. There was the guy that stole all the little set screws off my Conn tenor, for example. Or the clarinet that came back from a repad less playable than it went out.

I think the only solution is word of mouth and lots of conversation beforehand. I have, more than once, told a tech "Look, I'm not a kid. I'm not made of money, but I have some money. I will pay a little more and wait longer for you to do the job right. I don't need it day after tomorrow, I don't have to keep the cost below $20." or some variant of that. I think that for many repairers who start out with good intentions, the constant stream of middle schoolers bashing the crap out of horns and then expecting them to be fixed up to play, sort of, for the game tomorrow night, and Daddy won't pay more than $20 just sucks away their ability to do a meticulous job, and everything gets the "how can I get this thing to make a sound with the absolute minimum labor hours?" treatment.

I mean, there are the incompetent, the malicious, the cheats, and the incompetent malicious cheats, but I think there are a lot more who've been turned into hacks by the commercial pressures of the gig.

I was just in a big local music store that services numerous local school districts. No kidding, they had something like 40 baritone sax cases in there, 100 tenors, 100 altos, clarinets and flutes out the wazoo, and a whole section of the sales floor maybe 40 feet square was completely filled with tubas. Their objective is to get every single one of these checked out and "playing" before school starts about August 15th. I don't know how many guys they've got on that job, but I can guarantee there's no way they can do anything other than the most cursory check, bend some keys to make them sort of seal, replace some pads that have actually fallen out, make sure the thing can honk out a low Bb with some effort, make sure there is a mouthpiece ligature cap and lyre in the thing, and shove it back into the case and toss it into the truck.

But I suspect the only way to make a living (and it's probably not a real good living) as a band instrument repairman is to get on with an outfit like that, or to be a high-dollar sought-after tech with wide reputation. In between, I suspect, isn't happening. Thus the horror stories.
The shop I take my horns to does a lot of schools trade. They take appointments for pro horns separately from the school horns. I'm not sure but I believe they have different techs to do the pro horn setups vs. the school ones.

I use the services of Tim's Music in Sacramento. I believe the owner, Scott Mandeville, did the overhaul of my tenor back in 2007. After all this time, with only a couple of clean, oil and adjusts, it's still the easiest to play of my horns. I believe he did my Buffet Crampon R13 repad too. That was about 10 years ago. Tim's is pricey and they'll try to sell you a new horn if you bring in an old dog like my 1970s student Yamaha flute but I've had no complaints about the quality of the workmanship. Scott has even done some quick fix single pad replacement type stuff for me for free a couple of times. Nice guy. He's a salesman too. That's just part of the deal. He can't force you to buy that new flute. The only thing I don't like is when they give you that sad look before they tell you that you're going to be putting more into the sad old flute than it will ever be worth. Ha.
 

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The dilemma is that the time one spends repairing is time spent not playing. If you are a pro, time is money. If you are a part timer or amateur, this does not matter so much. Patience and care are also crucial, because you are often dealing with what I term, 'functional antiques' - the mark vi someone wrecks will not ever come back from the dead. Having said that I enjoy all aspects of repairing and the satisfaction one obtains from getting things done just right. My last task was a full overhaul of a Haynes commercial flute I bought at a garage sale with 2 other 'old saxophones'. It is a pleasure to play. If you do find a tech that is skilled and trustworthy, give them some love, because they earn it. And if you do some of your own work, you'll know why.
 

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Yep, time is money. That’s why I do my own repairs. Takes less time than driving the horn to/from the shop, gets done right, and I don’t lose my horn for a week.
 

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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Yep, time is money. That’s why I do my own repairs. Takes less time than driving the horn to/from the shop, gets done right, and I don’t lose my horn for a week.
except the 3 times I’ve shipped saxes to shops in NC and IA, I’ve never had a service take more than a day. Your shop won’t let you make an appointment to drop it off on the day/ day before they’re going to work on it? Why drop it and let it sit on their pile for days to weeks until they get to it…that’s for rental fleet jobs.
 

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Contact Kyle Stolz out of Los Angeles. He’s actually from the Redding area. I have no doubt he would drive his mobile van to your region for services. This guy is a seriously talented tech.
Verified by Terence Martin just for starters. Also a pro player, USMC Vet player. The dude could take the biggest POS and make it sing. Ask @olds1959special
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