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Discussion Starter #1
Hi guys,

I'm just wondering how significant the impact of very very minor leaks is on a horn. The reason I ask is because I've recently had my sax serviced and only about a month later there are some minor leaks appearing. At around the same time I've noticed that low notes are being stuffy and difficult (only at times) and sometimes jumping up the overtone unintentionally. Is it possible these leaks are causing this or am I just having a hard day with my embouchure/reeds etc.?

Furthermore saxophones seem to develop a few leaks pretty quickly after a service and it's just not feasible to get a service every month. I play about 6-10 hours every day so I understand that things can get out of kilter but I'm losing my mind!

Also the quality of the work seemed excellent when I got the horn back. The action was amazing (still is) and there was not a single leak, even when only pressing keys softly, but now a month down the track there are very very minor leaks appearing on a few of the bell keys and that pad that gets closed when you play any RH keys.

Is it normal for this to happen and how do you professional players deal with it? And is there anything I can potentially change to help avoid these minor leaks appearing?
 

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First thought is that the tech is clamping the pads with too much pressure when doing the seating. This compresses the felt with more pressure than your fingers use. As the felt slowly returns to its previous state, the back of the pad will hit the tone hole before the front. If you squeeze the keys really hard or use key clamps this won't show up for a while.

Please understand that this is not meant to be an endorsement of key clamps; while lots of guys like them, I am not one of those guys. We'll probably hear the other point of view in this thread soon, which means you have a decision to make...

Secondary issues: If the bell key pads aren't covering, make sure the bell didn't get bent one way or the other. A few degrees in either direction can throw the key cup-to-tone hole alignment out of whack. For the F# pad above the F, E, and D keys, there are two adjustment screws that can ruin your day if they're not in the right position. There are many threads here that discuss this topic. Also, if the bell got whacked, check the brace to make sure it didn't dent into the body tube and distort the F# tone hole.

All that said, leaks will happen eventually no matter what. I rely on that fact to pay the bills. As a player, you can get the horn fixed by a tech, try to do it yourself (not impossible, as long as you accept your limitations with respect to knowledge, skill level, tools, etc.). Or you can just try to blow through it, which is not such a good option...
 

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All materials have memory. Bend something and usually it won't stay exactly where you bent it. It will ease back a little towards its original shape. Same thing happens with pads. This is why Randy Jones of Tenor Madness lets his work sit 3 days. He then checks the horn and makes any needed tweaks before sending it back to the customer. I agree with the previous post. Making a small adjustment on the pad isn't that difficult. There is enough info available on the web that you should be able do it yourself. Just watch out not to overheat the key. Some people like using a heat gun. It is also possible just to fluff the pad a little to get it to seal without heat. Good luck.
 

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All materials have memory.
Absolutely.

Letting the horn sit and readjusting a day (or several) later is the best policy. Whether we're dealing with pads, corks, or metal (dent work, bending keys), dealing with memory is a part of durable repair work. Of course, if it's an emergency repair and my client has a gig the same night, then I don't have that luxury...

A heat gun is a great way to avoid burning things (lacquer, corks, pearls, yourself). But you can still burn things if you're careless. A flame will give you a more precise location for the heat. I use both daily.

A hair dryer might generate enough heat, too, but I haven't owned one of those things in a long time...
 

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Removing major leaks is not a problem... Getting the small leaks out so they stay out is. The fine tuning needs the work of a expert.... that is why you should not try to do it yourself.
 

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Any chance you're a little rough with it picking it up or putting it in the case? Some keys bend easily enough that grabbing the horn firmly in the wrong place will put them out of alignment.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for your help so far guys! I treat this horn like my own child so when I handle it I don't touch any keys, I always use two hands and I'm always super careful not to carry it by the bell, or remove it from the case by pulling on the bell (anymore!). The bell was a bit out and he straightened it up but maybe like you said it's slightly gone back in the other direction. He did give me a three month warranty on the repairs so maybe it is a good idea to go back in and have him look over it again soon.

About doing home repairs, I've got a musicmedic kit and dabbled with this on my old horn but I'm always a bit confused. When ever I get a sax back from a repairer there are no holes from a pad prick that I can see and no leaks. Meanwhile when I do it at home there are always visible small holes in the side of the pad and also the pad looks like it's diagonal compared to the cup. So I figure there must be a better way than heating up the cup and pricking and pulling the pad into place? Which is most of what I read on the internet says to do.
 

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If the pad's diagonal, you're shifting things around too much. If the shellac is too hot it will become thin and runny and you'll overdo the adjustment. If you heat it up less it won't move around as quickly and you have more control over where everything ends up. If you heat up only part of the pad cup (with a flame) you can get more control of the heat, but normally my heat gun does the trick as long as I don't let the shellac get too hot.

Remember that the metal of the pad cup conducts the heat to the shellac, but there's a delay. The shellac can get hotter even after you remove the heat. Apply the heat a little bit at a time and wait in between until you get a feel for the timing. The type of heat source and the adhesive being used are the main variables here.

I don't use the prick and pull technique very much, although lots of techs do. When I need to prick/pull I like to use a small flat screwdriver. This prevents holes in the side of the pad, which my clients won't accept. You can use start by using the entire width of the blade either vertically or horizontally. Then, if you need to, go toward the corner of the blade. Sometimes I use the blunt end of a thick needle spring. It all depends on the area I'm adjusting.

Generally, I make sure the hole is level and the pad cup is straight (not twisted or bent) before doing anything. Maybe these things weren't addressed when the horn was set up (even from the factory), so that always gets checked. Then I make sure the pad seat and tone hole are clean and free from any debris. This alone takes care of a good percentage of leaks.

After that, I re-float the pad, sometimes with a pad slick. There are many variations on how this can be done; I use several methods depending on the "where" and "why" of the leak. This is pushing the pad "around" and "in" rather than pulling it "out" and "down." After this step the pad is either leak-free or really close. Only after pushing do I go to the pricking and pulling, which should be minimal or zero if everything else was done well.

To summarize, pricking and pulling is generally the last step of pad seating and not the entire procedure.

Since MusicMedic was mentioned, I'll mention that Curt has an excellent tutorial on his website covering some of these topics in more depth.
 

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I also don't find the pad prick method to be one which suits me very well.

This can be caused by a lotta things, it isn't necessarily due to clamping or over-clamping. Could be lousy, fluffy pads. Could be your horn has sorta soft keys. Also, do we know whether your tech used shellac or hot glue ? Do we know for sure your toneholes are level ?

If you have a 3-month warranty, return to him and have him/her correct as necessary. If you have that warranty, do NOT start messing with any home remedies yourself, or that may void the warranty. I know if someone came back to me with a horn which they had been trying to 'correct' themselves, there'd be some serious grumbling from me, to say the least.

After this next visit to him/her...you may wanna try a different tech next time, and see if the same thing keeps happening.
 

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I'm just wondering how significant the impact of very very minor leaks is on a horn. The reason I ask is because I've recently had my sax serviced and only about a month later there are some minor leaks appearing. At around the same time I've noticed that low notes are being stuffy and difficult (only at times) and sometimes jumping up the overtone unintentionally. Is it possible these leaks are causing this or am I just having a hard day with my embouchure/reeds etc.?
Some saxes play just fine with minor leaks, provided everything else is forgiving, example if the pads are soft and you have small leaks, example like a sax would be brand new, then its unlikely you will notice them as the pads conform to the irregular tone hole shape easily. If the pads are firm and you have small minor leaks through out then you may have some subtone issues or some notes may not respond well at all

Furthermore saxophones seem to develop a few leaks pretty quickly after a service and it's just not feasible to get a service every month. I play about 6-10 hours every day so I understand that things can get out of kilter but I'm losing my mind!
I dis-agree, a sax should not be developing leaks shortly after a service, if it is and you are not damaging the sax and you were not informed of issues with the sax, then its time to find another repair person. 6-10 hrs of playing a day is insane, are you a teacher, with this amount of playing the pads will be heavily impressioned just by your playing alone, so any leaks could only occur from damage incurred during the playing.

Also the quality of the work seemed excellent when I got the horn back. The action was amazing (still is) and there was not a single leak, even when only pressing keys softly, but now a month down the track there are very very minor leaks appearing on a few of the bell keys and that pad that gets closed when you play any RH keys.
Okay now Im completley lost, your playing 6-10 hrs a day and you dont know the name of the key that gets closed when you play the rh keys, for info that would be three keys that get closed when you play the Rh lower stack - F# and G# and Bis.

You need to clarify, if you are playing an hr a day on your sax then any impression marks made by the repairer (if the repairer did impression them and is a poor repairer IMO), then they will stay there for as long as you keep this up, if you are playing it once a week then any pads that have been impressioned (thats if they are) will loose the impression marks and slowly re-develop leaks,

If any other leaks occur during this time, then they are being generated by your playing style or your handling of the instrument. Its that simple.
 

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Any leak sucks the life out of a horn.
Yes, but it's a question of degree. Some leaky horns play rather well and some don't. A lot of it depends on where the leaks are.

Unfortunately, most techs are incompetent.
OK, I'll bite...

I'm just wondering what the purpose of that comment was. This thread has been replied to by myself and three other techs. I expect that other techs will respond to this thread, considering that it addresses a question that repair techs deal with every day.

If you don't value our competence, maybe you should find another thread.
 

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Yes, but it's a question of degree. Some leaky horns play rather well and some don't. A lot of it depends on where the leaks are.



OK, I'll bite...



I'm just wondering what the purpose of that comment was. This thread has been replied to by myself and three other techs. I expect that other techs will respond to this thread, considering that it addresses a question that repair techs deal with every day.

If you don't value our competence, maybe you should find another thread.
Most not all, I haven't seen your work, so I can't comment on it.
 

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Any leak sucks the life out of a horn. Unfortunately, most techs are incompetent.
I would assume for such a broad statement that you must have seen a lot of techs and been dis-satisifed with there work. Thats a shame its left you with such a negative view of a collective group of people

I dis-agree completley regarding leaks, a leak is subjective to the pressure applied to the key, if you were to play a horn with 29 grams of pressure then it would quite possibly leak lots to your playing style, but if you were to increase your finger pressure to 60 grams of force applied then those leaks may no longer appear, if you played with 120grams of force then even slightly bent keys will seal.

So a leak is subjective to force applied, ideally techs try to set keys to a medium force applied to the key for optimum sealing.

The lower the force required to seal a pad the higher the associated labour cost for doing said work.

The lower the force required to seal a pad the greater the chance of the pad leaking at the rear when medium to high pressure is now applied to the key.

New saxes leave the factory's with pads that require medium to high pressure to make them seal, I guess we could throw the same tarnish brush onto them as well.

Bassoons for info play far better with some pads that leak than they do with pads that all seal perfectlly.

Regards
 

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I would assume for such a broad statement that you must have seen a lot of techs and been dis-satisifed with there work. Thats a shame its left you with such a negative view of a collective group of people

I dis-agree completley regarding leaks, a leak is subjective to the pressure applied to the key, if you were to play a horn with 29 grams of pressure then it would quite possibly leak lots to your playing style, but if you were to increase your finger pressure to 60 grams of force applied then those leaks may no longer appear, if you played with 120grams of force then even slightly bent keys will seal.

So a leak is subjective to force applied, ideally techs try to set keys to a medium force applied to the key for optimum sealing.

The lower the force required to seal a pad the higher the associated labour cost for doing said work.

The lower the force required to seal a pad the greater the chance of the pad leaking at the rear when medium to high pressure is now applied to the key.

New saxes leave the factory's with pads that require medium to high pressure to make them seal, I guess we could throw the same tarnish brush onto them as well.

Bassoons for info play far better with some pads that leak than they do with pads that all seal perfectlly.

Regards
You just mentioned my biggest complaint. I play with a light touch, I don't feel heavy pressure should be needed to seal if the pad job is done properly. Mention this to some techs and they just don't get it. I agree, my comments were harsh and a little over the top, but I wish there were more real master craftsmen in this field.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
sismo, I've got nothing to gain from lying to you about how many hours I play per day. I'm in college practicing a lot every day, do many gigs per week, many rehearsals per week and I teach as well. I generally practice for about 6 hours a day, sometimes more, and then extra hours on the horn from gigging and rehearsing. As far as I'm concerned knowing the technical names of every key does not make me a better musician and has little to do with creating music. Anyway it's none of those keys I'm talking about, it's the one that doesn't have a pearl on it, directly in between the F key and the G# key.

Not sure what the tech used to stick the pads, he said he'd make sure all the toneholes are level though.

Thanks for your help southflorida, I'm going to check out some of those musicmedic videos for future reference. In the meantime I'm going to maybe wait another week and then take the horn back in and I'll let you know what he says.

Cheers
 

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sismo, I've got nothing to gain from lying to you about how many hours I play per day. I'm in college practicing a lot every day, do many gigs per week, many rehearsals per week and I teach as well. I generally practice for about 6 hours a day, sometimes more, and then extra hours on the horn from gigging and rehearsing. As far as I'm concerned knowing the technical names of every key does not make me a better musician and has little to do with creating music. Anyway it's none of those keys I'm talking about, it's the one that doesn't have a pearl on it, directly in between the F key and the G# key.
It's the F# KEYCUP...and indeed, as it isn't a keycup which a player presses directly....plenty of players may not offhand know the name of that keycup, since an F# fingering is different from that keycup alone.

(That earlier comment you are replying to was a bit unnecessary, IMHO. Your response was more than measured).

BTW, Jekel...what kinda horn is it ? I think your plan is good, just take it back and let the guy make the correction.
 

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Thanks for your help southflorida, I'm going to check out some of those musicmedic videos for future reference. In the meantime I'm going to maybe wait another week and then take the horn back in and I'll let you know what he says.
I don't recall videos on that site, though it's very possible I missed that section. Curt did write a blog article (or several) on his method for installing and seating sax pads.
 

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The significance of a leak is dependent on finger pressure as Simso has stated, but it is also dependent on the location. For instance any key pad that is sprung closed that has a leak is not "fixed" by adding finger pressure from the player. A tiny leak in palm keys and side keys will often cause playability problems down stream of the leak, or cause octave issues. A leak in Low C# will cause that warbly sound When playing B and Bb.

As far as the comment about most techs not being good, I will try to take the high road and say that most of us try to do the very best we can and when given the opportunity we try to fix the mistakes we make. You the customer often don't see the extras we do to make that train wreck you handed us into something that will play. If you are finding problems with your horn give the repairer an opportunity to do the right thing and fix the problem.
 
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