Play it... Then consider how much you paid for the repair and whether realistically any shortcomings in the instrument, if there are any.. are they fair and reasonable for the price you paid, dont hold an instrument that you paid $50 for a repair to the same standard you paid $5000 for repair
How can you tell if its in the best possible condition it can be, I think you have very high expectations. The best we can do as repairers is get it to as close as possible to what the manufacturer sold it to you as, sometimes with improvements over the original design, but the best it can be...mmm..even the manufacturer fails here..
1. If a specific thing was broken check to see if it was fixed satisfactorily.
2. If you paid for a "play condition" see if it plays throughout the range of the instrument.
3. If you paid for a "mechanical overhaul" see if it is as crisp and tight as a new sax (or better).
4. If you paid for a complete restoration, the same as #3 but add looks like a new sax as well.
The best thing is to know and trust your repair tech. If the best players in the area take their instruments to that tech, there is a good reason. Excellent, mediocre, and poor repair work is passed along by word of mouth very quickly in the ranks of good players when they get together. A good rule of thumb is that the best techs don't necessarily boast about the quality of their repairs---they let their customers do that for them.
This may sound kind of silly but it worked for me. I've had lots of work done on horns over the years as most everyone on here has. The last one I had completely overhauled was some years back. I did most of what has already been mentioned; play it through, listen to just the sound of the keys as you open and close them, the feel of the action, etc. But what also was helpful to me was to give the horn a good polishing; no chemicals or anything just carefully wiping it down from top to bottom with a soft cloth and going over every square inch of the horn that way. I've noticed some things this way that I missed through playing and just a general eyeballing. Mostly I get a good tech and put my trust in his/her skill. I'm more picky about a tech than I am about a doctor (which is probably pathological, but there it is). Good luck!
Also remember what YOU asked the repair tech to fix before evaluating the quality of their work. Did they do what you asked? Most of us try to give the customer a good value and repair instruments to a high standard, however when someone says only repair X and nothing else it is often difficult to make the instrument play its best.
Example: I repaired an SML alto sax yesterday that had the low D# key guard smashed in to the point that the D# key would not move at all. I was asked to repair the guard and nothing else. What I did was repair the guard, resolder the key guard post that was broken off, straigtened another guard, Stuck a light in the horn and make some adjustments on leaks and play test the instrument. The evaluation of the quality of my work should reflect that I repaired all the things they asked (and a bit more) it shouldn't reflect that key heights were off and the octave mechanism was a bit loose and there was some lost motion in some of the key mechanisms.
One thing I learned when my horn got new springs was to play the full dynamic range. (My fff blew open some of the normally closed pads because my tech guy thought I would want lighter action--Quick fix for him, too) Make sure you test the left hand pinky cluster and how the right hand low F articulates the F# pad and the Bb pad--lots of potential adjustment issues that can be taken care of while you are at the shop.
I also put a leak light down my horn a week or so after repairs involving new pads; sometimes they need a revisit.
It goes both ways. I'm sitting here tonight working ona student flute that was returned to me five weeks after originally repairing it. The customer was miffed that "they paid a lot of money for this flute and a lot of money to get it serviced and it doesn't play."
The customer is always right.
They did pay too much for this flute, a student model Suzuki. if they paid any more than $20 they paid too much. One of the advertised features of this flute is that it's designed so that kids can't bugger it up.
Horse Apples! What this translates to, is "we've made the adjustment screws as inaccessible as possible to truly give your repair tech the s#!%s.
The metal is very soft and the damn things struggle to hold any adjustments. When I serviced the flute (at the discount student rate of $100 for a full strip down, clean regulate replace necessary pads, corks, etc and replace head cork, polish, yada, yada), I play tested and magnehelic tested it. All good. The flute comes back to me with all different key heights, keys bent, and damaged adjustment screws. The kids teacher says the flute played very well for a student flute when the kid got back from me.
Long story short, the kid has buggered the flute and to avoid bad press (mum whingeing to every other mum at the school) I'm basically doing a full overhaul on a crap flute for free.
So, expect good work from your tech but remember,most of the problems found on any instrument are a result of operator eror in one form or another and more often than not, your tech has done way more work than you paid him for.
Wow. I would have gone over every bent key and bit of damage in detail with the parent at the time the flute was returned 5 weeks later and point out that this was not the condition of the flute when it was picked up after repair. In many cases we have the customer inspect the instrument when it is picked up and the repairs paid for and ask the student/player if present to play the instrument to see that it plays satisfactorily before they leave the shop.
It is not a bad practice also to add a disclaimer on the receipt following work on a poorly made instrument with soft keys and poor construction that says: "due to the poor quality of the materials and construction of this instrument there is no warranty with regard to adjustments and regulation".
Once a tech has done what you describe, he learns to Cover His A** when doing repairs on those types of instruments for those types of people. You may be doing the right thing to avoid bad PR by fixing it again for free, but you are also sending an invitation to every other "mum" that if she complains loud enough that you will do repairs for free on any instrument that has come through your shop no matter how long ago that has been. It is a double edged sword, and remember "no good deed goes unpunished".
Yeah, it's a bummer. The worst part from my own perspective, is that to get the pads to seal well, I've had to shim the hell out of a couple of keys at the front and the pad protrudes from the key cup noticeably.
I'm not game to take out the shims from the front of the cup and try and bend the front of the cup down, for fear of buggering up the tone holes on this flute. It looks god awful.
Drew, a bit of extra kindness and good deed do go a long way. Mums talk at the local school, as you said a dis-gruntalled mum, be it right or not will cost you some work, a mum so impressed with your service will be an advocate for you....
I offer 6 months warranty on all my services, be they cheap and nasty or quality instruments, so in your situation I would have fixed it again for free as well
If it looks awful you cant give it back to like that, get some help & learn how to do it properly, there is someone in sydney who will help you, pay them for their teaching. It will change your work to a proffessional standard, you just cant charge $100 for something that isnt right( reardless of the circumstances-whether it was good the first time you gave it back). Now dont get upset, go & meet the challange, isnt Brian your repairer there, ask him, offer to pay him.If he wont then go ask john lehner or someone else in the buisness, if they reject you find someone else. If you let it go it will forever be a burdon that you just dont need to carry.
I know Brian very well. I used to do a jam session with him every week, (he's a great pianist) and he used to do all the work on my own horns. I've learned a lot just sitting watching him work . I also know John Lehner.
I know how to do this repair, but as I'm sure you are aware, on cheap instruments, you can end up chasing your tail trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. I can realign the key, so that I don't have to use so many shims. I can do it without damaging the tone hole.
My point is, that for the sake of keeping one mum happy. I have to turn a silk purse into a sow's ear and it's giving me the s#!%s.
I feel like saying to the mum; "You want me to correct all the manufacturing faults in this instrument and fix all the keys your child bent for the price of a minor service???"
What makes it worse is that the mum drives a late series Mercedes Benz and yet wants champagne service on a beer budget.
BTW, John Lehner is one of the best flute techs I've ever watched
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