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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I keep my '68 MVI in good repair with a great set of techs. But this issue has happened several times. I pull it out for a big gig, and it plays awesome, I remember why I keep it. But then, after a couple hours practice, it starts to get difficult in the low register. I took it to a gig recently and regretted it. From experience, I'll store it, and pull it back out and it will play whisper easy again, but then get difficult. Whats going on? Keys are tight, pads are good (I volunteer to rebuild it, but the techs say its fine). I want to play it more. Moisture related? Thermal related? Any ideas?
 

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and this happens with any reed?

We have had many threads on intermittent reeds depending on a number of issues (I have had it in conjuction with air conditioning) my reeds died after 10 or so minutes and a change of reed resulted in similar thing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
reeds... That could be it. I'm bad to hang onto reeds longer than possible. I actually changed reeds during the gig, but 3 of my 4 in rotation are pretty used. Its very possible they all are shot at the same time. I've got a break for the next couple weeks, I'll work on breaking in 3 new reeds. Reed management...at least old lessons are easier to relearn, lol.
 

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Hanging on to reeds may be a bad habit , if you want to do that make at least sure that you start clipping them at some point and to determine WHEN that point is, it is always wise to keep at least one good reed (playable one not a reject) as a reference. Once your old reed plays much too soft against a reference reed it is time to clip it.
 

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A common cause I have found for this problem relates to several locations on the saxophone that require a bit of lost motion so that if a pad "swells" a bit it doesn't cause another pad to open slightly. Places where "lost motion" is needed are between the front F and B key, and between the tabs on the underside of the G# touch and the low C# and B keys. Another cause is less than ideal key fitting which allows keys to "waggle" a bit and come down in a location that where the pad seat misses the tonehole. The usual culprits are the side Bb and C and the palm keys. The way to check is to open the key and see how far the key cup moves from side to side. If the mouthpiece is a bit loose on the cork tilting it up or down a bit when you play can reveal a leak. The same is true at the neck tenon connection. It is easy to check the reed by removing the neck and playing what I call the "tone producer". If the reed responds well and produces a clear tone on the mouthpiece and neck alone, it means the issue is in the saxophone itself. It is always a good practice to "rotate" your best reeds both in performance as well as practice.
 

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Does the neck fit well enough that you could play it without the clamp screw? I actually did this last night by accident - things were hectic around the time I was putting my horns together for sound check and I did not tighten the clamp screw on my tenor. I was playing numbers on the sound check when the neck shifted and I realized I had not tightened the screw.
Anyway, a poorly-fitted neck can definitely add resistance, although I don't think it would cause your problem which does sound very much like reed warping on a marginal mouthpiece (non-reed-friendly). You might want to have that mouthpiece checked for table/facing problems. Cane reeds are going to swell and warp but a combination of a free-blowing mouthpiece and ligature combo can make a non-issue.
 

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Just a possibility...
It is so easy for a player to believe pads are fine when they are not.
A pad that easily absorbs water can swell after a bit of playing, and this can cause it or another pad not to close properly.

If it turns out not to be a reed issue, then perhaps try a second opinion technician.
 

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...I volunteer to rebuild it, but the techs say its fine...
Do you do a fair bit of work yourself?
Unless you are really experienced, this, for most players, is a recipe for problems.
 

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I had a soprano doing this as well. It took me a while to figure out the octave pipe had some build up where the pad sits. After playing for a while humidity would change how it sealed and I鈥檇 start loosing the lower octave. after wiping it clean with some vinegar the issue went away. Just a thought to check out...

And FWIW my tech also thought the horn was fine. I had to figure this out on my own.
 

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Just a possibility...
It is so easy for a player to believe pads are fine when they are not.
A pad that absorbs water easily can swell after a bit of playing, and this can cause it or another pad not to close properly.
+1.

If you are 100% sure the probleme is not with mouthpiece+reeds... this situation sounds like a pad job gone not good at all.
There are several "levels" when we are talking about leaks.

You should check your mouthpiece+reed with another alto... as soon as the Mark VI doesn't work at 100%... same moment.
So, you can be sure if it's the "mouthpiece+reed" combination the source of the problem.
 

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I had a soprano doing this as well. It took me a while to figure out the octave pipe had some build up where the pad sits. After playing for a while humidity would change how it sealed and I鈥檇 start loosing the lower octave. after wiping it clean with some vinegar the issue went away. Just a thought to check out...

And FWIW my tech also thought the horn was fine. I had to figure this out on my own.
Thanks for the pointer, I just ran a pipe dill through the octave hole and cleaned/lubricated the pivot screw/hole and it makes the octave key so much more responsive/accurate.
 

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Here's an alternate suggestion founded in my direct experience. The pads on saxes dry at different rates depending on the humidity. This affects how well the pad is seated. There is a circular groove where your pad seats on the key cup. If it gets misshapen when dry the pad seals poorly. I avoid this problem by using key clamps on all of my horns and regularly using a product like PadLife to keep the leather on the pads supple and soft. I am aware some think key clamps are bad but my experience using them for 30 years is contrary. If you use clamps have them fitted by a good tech. Don't buy cheap generic junk and expect good results. Padlife is cheap, effective, and harmless. It's a very light oil. Some players use Neat's Foot Oil which is usually meant for baseball gloves - (Neat's foot oil is more viscous than Padlife). I use clamps on a MK VI tenor and MKVI alto and two Yanagisawa sopranos. None of my horns has ever been harmed by this practice. They all play remarkably easily and without leaks. Before you drive yourself crazy with reeds and mouthpieces make sure your pads are sealing well.
 

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On occasion I had problems with the body octave pad not closing. I switched necks and it stoped (Cannonball comes with 2) ...maybe check that out too?
 

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... . I am aware some think key clamps are bad but my experience using them for 30 years is contrary... Some players use Neat's Foot Oil which is usually meant for baseball gloves... None of my horns has ever been harmed by this practice. They all play remarkably easily and without leaks. ...
Here we go again...

If your pads are adjusted properly you definitely do not need key clamps. Perhaps this was the case for you.
Key clamps gradually crush the felt inside the pad such that it hardens and its resilience is reduced. It is there for a purpose, so best not to destroy that purpose!

If your pads are not adjusted properly then key clamps will gradually put them into a state where they leak and can no longer be adjusted to do their job well.

We used to have a guy in this forum who was a stock whip maker in Australia, with huge knowledge and experience in keeping leather supple.
He assured us that Neatsfoot oil, no matter how good it might be initially, hardens leather and makes it brittle.
Take it or leave it. I am certain from my experience over 50 years that a variety of other oils do this too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Do you do a fair bit of work yourself?
Unless you are really experienced, this, for most players, is a recipe for problems.
I know enough, to not take on a rebuild. I mention it when I take it in, to remind them I'm not one to skimp on horn maintenance - just reeds, lol. They always assure me there is plenty of life in these pads, but I've not mentioned this come and go leak before.

The moisture and swelling of pads is interesting. I'm going to pursue that too. Here's some more info. I play a 615 more often. Its seen a lot more action in its life than the MVI. I use the same mouthpiece and reeds. I don't have this issue with the 615. I have both neck corks fitted for both horns, for this mp. I've had both tenons checked and fitted. And, I use a SIII neck with the MVI. So I have the original neck I can swap, and isolate a possible neck issue.

So, I think I'll punch up my reed maintenance, start taking two horns to slower gigs, take both necks, and see if this come and go issue surfaces with the MVI exclusively, or the SIII neck, at which point I'll take it to the shop with valuable data, and let them troubleshoot it further.
 
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