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I am not a pro sax player but I am an accomplished harmonica player, including chromatic. I've been messing around with sax for about 6 years and have been able to sit in on some rock/blues/soul tunes. I recently started having difficulty playing in the higher register on my Buescher True Tone alto. Clearly the octave key does not respond like it does on my Silvertone alto, so I assume that the horn needs adjustment.

A tech at a well known music store checked out the horn and told me that it needs a repad job....that it's leaking everywhere. It seemed to play fine 6 months ago..... Also of note is that when he first looked at the horn he said it was a Conn. Upon correcting him I immediately suspected than the word Conn should have been in lower case and with only one "n". He went on to say that an adjustment would be about $100 and a repad about $600 and a full recondition about $1100. He also noted that one pad was missing a resonator.

My question here is: what sort of visual evidence would indicate that the pads need replacement besides obvious things like rips or stuff that would prevent a proper function? (there are none such defects visible). All I really wanted was for a tech to adjust the horn so that all of the keys/pads are properly aligned.

The last comment about the tech is that after I noted that the eBay seller I got the horn from included a short video of him demonstrating the item, playing well, top to bottom, the tech said that he could have been using a "big" mouthpiece that would have hidden the horn's flaws. That comment smelled a bit too.

The horn year of manufacture was 1922. Thanks and sorry for the long winded post.
 

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If the horn isn’t playing properly and you have played it for 6 years without any work done on it, then there is a good chance you need a new set of pads or a full overhaul. A new set of pads is different from a reconditioning/overhaul. I’d expect new pads to run around $350 - $400.. A full overhaul can been anywhere from $800 - $1,600 depending not the work needed.

.......the horn working 6 months ago should not be relevant to your decision as to whether it needs work today......

I don’t want to give a full description on of how to check for leaks and whether the pads are bad. There are plenty of resources on the internet. Here is a brief summary.

1). Pads should look like they are mounted evenly and should be free from cracks, damage, and roughness. If this is not the case, then a new set of pads would likely be helpful. (All pads that are large enough should have resonators (plastic/metal) round thing sitting in the center of the leather pad). The smaller tone holes, like the ones for the octave keys are too small to have resonators.

2). Use a light inserted into the throat of your sax to check for air leaks. You will need to stand in a dark room. (Find videos on You-Tube). If there are no air leaks then you are in good shape. If you have large air leaks, then a full overhaul might (maybe, not definitely) be in order. Big air leaks are normally caused by alignment problems with the horn - which would indicate that you need an overhaul. Small air leaks might simply be caused by pad pads.

3). Examine your horn. Is it clean or do have a lot of dust and dirt collecting around the rods/screws/springs? If so, a full cleaning/overhaul might be a good idea, though not absolutely necessary. Also would be a good idea to smell the inside of your horn. It should be icky metallic smell. If it is nasty moldy smelling then I would recommend an overhaul and full cleaning.

4). Find another store to look at your horn and give you a second opinion. Sometimes a full overhaul simply helps your horn play better, but is not absolutely necessary. Other times, people need to do a full overhauls so they can start enjoying their instrument again.

5). Post a thread on saxontheweb.net asking who a good sax technician in the LA area would be. You are wise to be concerned about the ability of your sax-tech, but don’t let it lead you to paralysis. I would be more concerned on the quality of work he can do, rather than his ability to diagnose a problem.

Earlier this year I spent about $850 on a full overhaul of my Conn Shooting Star. (Detroit area) It is amazing the difference it made to the horns playability).

I think most Conn horns say Conn on them. If not, it could be a stencil, which would negatively impact its value.

Good luck.
 

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The last comment about the tech is that after I noted that the eBay seller I got the horn from included a short video of him demonstrating the item, playing well, top to bottom, the tech said that he could have been using a "big" mouthpiece that would have hidden the horn's flaws. That comment smelled a bit too.
Forgot to mention. Don’t rely too much on the eBay video - from which you purchased the horn. A well skilled musician with strong hands, a well developed embouchure, and knowledge of all alternative fingerings, will be able to play a lot of horns that a more intermediate player wouldn’t be able to play. Someone with great form and experience can overcome a lot of air leaks and misalignments.
 

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If the horn actually does need to be repaired, then the prices quoted seem reasonable.

The easiest way to check whether the horn leaks is to get an inexpensive leak light (like the flexible one sold by MusicMedic), put it down the bore of the horn and check (in a dark room) that the pads all seal when closed with with light finger pressure.

If you don't have a leak light, you can also check for leaks using cigarette paper (i.e., you should be able to feel resistance when pulling the cigarette paper across the tone hole of a closed key), but this is more time consuming and harder to do correctly.

As an aside: typically when players suddenly develop problems with the upper register, it's because the lower part of the octave key mechanism (the one that should open for middle D to G) doesn't open or because the upper part doesn't close completely when fingering middle D to G.
 

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Leather when it has been wet and dried repeatedly over the years eventually becomes hard and brittle. This is especially true of original pads in vintage saxes before pads were given a waterproofing treatment. In most cases just checking the pads visually will reveal if this is the case. Sometimes it helps to remove a key or two and actually feel the leather and press your thumb into it to see if it has any of the suppleness of leather left.

My rule of thumb is that when the pads in the upper and lower stacks are shot, it needs a repad. The reason is simply that it just doesn't work to put a fresh supple pad next to a hardened old pad and try to regulate one to close the other. Palm key, side key, and low Eb pads can be replaced individually since they work independently. A good player can make just about any saxophone "play" using gorilla grip even when it leaks like a sieve. The standard most techs work to is that the pad closes the tonehole to be airtight with just the lightest touch. The majority of vintage saxes I see in my shop that haven't been serviced for a long time need a repad or overhaul in order to play dependably for the next 30 years with good care and maintenance.
 

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Regarding trusting a tech - the best thing to do is ask other sax players who THEY go to. Ask 15 or 20 players, and make your best choice. Give more weight to good players' choices :)

As has been mentioned, the prices mentioned are not out of line. How a tech decides on inspection if a horn needs new pads is usually the way saxoclese describes, plus looking at the overall leakiness of the horn using a leak light. Note that leaks can be caused by other things besides pads, like corks and felts coming off. If that happens in several places, it likely means the horn needs a complete going over, because the glue holding these adjustments in place is either old or badly applied.

A good technique to use with a tech is to ask if they can get the horn into playing condition for some specific amount - like say, $150. That lets them know that your budget is limited, and they will often give you a range, as the tech you saw did.

Having said that, I too would be wary of a tech that thought a Buescher was a Conn...
 

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A little off-topic, but 'A well skilled musician with strong hands, a well developed embouchure, and knowledge of all alternative fingerings, will be able to play a lot of horns that a more intermediate player wouldn’t be able to play.' is totally true. In my case, even though I have a leak light, I really don't do anything to a sax unless I have to, and since I play hard, I just blow right through leaks. If I detect lost motion and a pad not seating with moderate pressure, I'll fix it, but for the most part I won't do anything until it comes time for the next pad job.
In the OP's case, I'd say an experienced sax owner could find the problems right away and fix most if not all of it just by putting in a few corks and felts.
Surely in LA LA Land there's another tech who will be straight with you.
 

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I am not a pro sax player but I am an accomplished harmonica player, including chromatic. I've been messing around with sax for about 6 years and have been able to sit in on some rock/blues/soul tunes. I recently started having difficulty playing in the higher register on my Buescher True Tone alto. Clearly the octave key does not respond like it does on my Silvertone alto, so I assume that the horn needs adjustment.

A tech at a well known music store checked out the horn and told me that it needs a repad job....that it's leaking everywhere. It seemed to play fine 6 months ago..... Also of note is that when he first looked at the horn he said it was a Conn. Upon correcting him I immediately suspected than the word Conn should have been in lower case and with only one "n". He went on to say that an adjustment would be about $100 and a repad about $600 and a full recondition about $1100. He also noted that one pad was missing a resonator.

My question here is: what sort of visual evidence would indicate that the pads need replacement besides obvious things like rips or stuff that would prevent a proper function? (there are none such defects visible). All I really wanted was for a tech to adjust the horn so that all of the keys/pads are properly aligned.

The last comment about the tech is that after I noted that the eBay seller I got the horn from included a short video of him demonstrating the item, playing well, top to bottom, the tech said that he could have been using a "big" mouthpiece that would have hidden the horn's flaws. That comment smelled a bit too.

The horn year of manufacture was 1922. Thanks and sorry for the long winded post.
Don't apologize, you provided a lotta good info and, quite honestly...your exact experience is what initially GOT me into the repair/refurb biz as far as saxes go (except up in the Bay Area I had a half-dozen techs tell me they wouldn't touch it for under $400, couldn't really do a good job unless they did a $900 repad, and all pushed for the whole-hog $1200-1500 overhaul (this on a JK New King stencil).

If the horn isn’t playing properly and you have played it for 6 years without any work done on it, then there is a good chance you need a new set of pads or a full overhaul.
With due respect, this is a blanket statement and is not necessarily true.

We don't know all of the details of the scope of work which the tech said was required. We DO know the horn was playable up until recently.

We cannot equate leaking pads with "horn needs new pads". A horn w/ leaklight inserted can light up like a Xmas tree...it doesn't necessarily mean it needs a full-on repad.

In this instance we simply do NOT know whether the tech was angling for a big-bucks repair job or not.

IMHO, the question here isn't "are those prices out of line ?" , but rather: "does the horn really need such an extensive scope of work to make it play OK again ?"

A horn can have multiple leaks and absolutely NOT need a repad. A horn can have pads which LOOK bad, and not need a repad.
Are the leaks due to old pads which are failing ?
Are the leaks due to mechanical relationships which have gone out of regulation over time ?
Can the leaks be corrected by key bending, re-regulating the mechanisms, or some pad refloating ? Etc., etc.

So ...."The pads look old, it needs a repad" ...or ...."the horn has nine leaks, it needs a repad"....these, in my opinion, are not the greatest yardsticks, necessarily.

In the case of the OP, I would suggest that you get a second opinion. From your post it sounds like you do not have a relationship with this particular tech. Next tech you go to, you may wanna try an alternate approach (already alluded to by Skeller): "Hi, this horn was playing six months ago but it isn't now. I have a budget of $XXX, do you think you can get it into decent playing shape for that ?"

LA is an expensive town so I imagine most tech there would charge an average of maybe $80/hr if not more ? Even if so, 4-5 hours of tech work on a horn can usually get some significant work done to that instrument. Enough to make you happy with it ? We dunno...thus get a second and third opinion.
 

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Personally, the way you remark on how the tech was talking about the horn seems slightly suspicious. But like others have said, we wouldn’t necessarily know that unless you talked to other people who got specific repairs by him.

Also, if by full “recondition” you mean an overhaul, definitely consider it something that might be needed. Ask the tech you go to about “play in the keys” (ie if a key moves in any other direction than that which it’s supposed to). Generally you’re going to want to remove as much play from the keys during a repad.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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It is what it is, first 1922, yeh quite likely needs new pads :)

I find sax pads work well for 10-20 years, but they work great in the first 5-10 years.

They work okay for 20-40 yrs, and if I hold my tongue up in the left hand corner and hold my right leg up, and balance on a beam, I find they work okay for 40-100yrs.

The reality of the situation is, pads are made from leather, leather wears just like anything else, firmer finger pressure makes it seal better as the pads get older.

I have saxophones that come in that are 40-50 years old and the owner saids it plays great, its just a little weak on the bottom notes, I play it and it plays like crap, I put a leak light in and show them all the leaks and all the hard pads and all the torn pads.

The prices you quoted IMO are not too bad.

Steve
 

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It's not really possible to know. Some people (including or maybe even especially) instrument repairer can be weird... for example he might not know better terms to explain what he meant about the mouthpiece, but who knows. Confusing the Buescher with Conn could just mean he has a terrible memory to distinguish the make based on the look... (assuming he didn't read it before he said it). On the other hand they may have made up or just ignorant about the mouthpiece thing or don't know what they are talking about.

I would try to get a second opinion (or more if possible). Try to ask as many people as you can in your area who they recommend. Maybe some people here can recommend someone. Are you a member of any local saxophone groups (e.g. on Facebook? My country being so small there is only one, but I imagine some saxophone groups in the USA might have more than a few people from Holywood... if that's where you are from?).

Other than looking terrible, torn, etc. pads can just harden (the leather and/or the felt under it) to the point that it's not really possible to adjust them as well as they should be. Pads can look terrible and seal fine. One saxophone might have a small problem that makes it impossible to play, while another could have small leaks from almost all pads, making it a little hard to play overall, but it would need a complete overhaul to play well (just to give examples). Also some players are particularly good at playing great on instruments in lousy condition. It's not necessarily being a better player or not, just a specific skill that some players have more than others.
 

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I am beginning to see a pattern on SOTW where someone takes their saxophone to a repair tech to get an estimate, and then comes here and asks a group of complete strangers who have not seen the saxophone first hand to second guess what the tech said. Sigh. This reminds me of the time I worked in a repair shop and a woman customer kept asking the shop foreman who took the call to give her an estimate over the phone. She absolutely wouldn't take no for an answer and so he finally said, "Ok, hold the instrument up real close to the phone".

Any comments from folks who haven't inspected the instrument need to be taken with a grain of salt with the exception of a recommendation of a qualified tech in the area to take the instrument to for a second opinion.
 

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I am beginning to see a pattern on SOTW where someone takes their saxophone to a repair tech to get an estimate, and then comes here and asks a group of complete strangers who have not seen the saxophone first hand to second guess what the tech said. Sigh. This reminds me of the time I worked in a repair shop and a woman customer kept asking the shop foreman who took the call to give her an estimate over the phone. She absolutely wouldn't take no for an answer and so he finally said, "Ok, hold the instrument up real close to the phone".

Any comments from folks who haven't inspected the instrument need to be taken with a grain of salt with the exception of a recommendation of a qualified tech in the area to take the instrument to for a second opinion.
Its rational to be skeptical, when something's working, then in 6 months issues develop, and someone says it needs a complete replacement of wear items, $500 worth of repair - with no visable evidence that anything changed in that 6 months, including the pads. But sax veterans know that bad pads can look great, while functional pads can be dark and hard. And its plausible that all the pads may age out at the same time, so the first visit to a tech for a leak, can bring the bad news, which is unexpected. I think its a good service for SOTW veterans to share experience with newcomers to SOTW, and typically exonerates our shops and techs.

Until you know and trust your tech, about the only thing I know for the OP to do, is get a second opinion.
 

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Classic example.

Todays workload -

Customer sax plays great, tech (me), no sax does not play great, sax has 90 year old pads fitted, sax plays like crap, sax has torn pads, lots of leaks,. Statement sax needs repad.

Customer - yeh but it sounds great for me, I just want a pad changed to make it play better. Tech (me), which pad would you like changed,

Customer - I dont know, whatever pad is needed to make it play greater. Me, so all pads then, its going to be one of those days

Steve
 

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See dialogue in previous post, three photos is enough, the rest are very similiar.
 

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See dialogue in previous post, three photos is enough, the rest are very similiar.
Seems like you could fix those with a lil’ deck paint... No?
 

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Just another anecdote: Customer has story that another shop - I don't know whether that was the tech or a counter assistant - says that the pads have gone mouldy and need replacing. Time to buy a new sax.
I could detect no sign of mould whatsoever. Pads looked great. Only minor adjustment needed.

I am seeing this sort of thing often.

I think one has grounds for being just a little cautious when a shop sells instruments as well as servicing them, and may have an agenda for a quick sales buck rather than honest servicing.
There will of course be exceptions.
 

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I think one has grounds for being just a little cautious when a shop sells instruments as well as servicing them, and may have an agenda for a quick sales buck rather than honest servicing.
There will of course be exceptions.
I totally agree with that statement, whilst I like to think ethically most people do the right thing, I am sure that does cross the minds of others, thinking SG here as an example.

Steve
 

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A good technique to use with a tech is to ask if they can get the horn into playing condition for some specific amount - like say, $150. That lets them know that your budget is limited, and they will often give you a range, as the tech you saw did.

/QUOTE]

This is a good suggestion to obtain a cheap work that put the sax in playing condition , I used it in the recent past and it run . The playability is better but I know that it could be not for much time , really depends by the sax start condition and the work done and cost of the technical intervention.....The best choice is to found a onest a good technician that you recommend for the sake of the sax and not for his wallet. The forum friends in your area can help you to find this kind of technician
 
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