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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi

Some of your might remember that I'm mainly a clarinet repairer but also repair saxophones.

Yesterday someone (a very good local player) calls me that he has a gig in two hours and his saxophone (very old Martin tenor) doesn't play right. He brings his sax, plays it, and he sounds great. I try the sax and it feels like one the better tenors I've played. He told me a week ago at a gig the sax was great, and the next or a couple of days later he played again and something just didn't feel right. Suddenly everything felt more resistant and much less sound (not as loud maybe?). The problem is mainly in the second octave, especially from around G and up. He thought (but wasn't absolutely sure) that from C# and up to palm notes there is no problems.

This tenor was recently overhauled (about a month ago) by some very good repairer in USA. I checked it and it really looked like a very good overhaul. I found one really tiny leak in the upper right stak pad which only helped slightly with some notes. I also found a leak in second right side key (the one just above the Bb) and he felt an improvement but he still felt it is not exactly right. The sax was definitely 100% leak free from the pads. I checked the neck itself and it doesn't leak. I thought maybe something in the connection of the neck but this would be strange as the high notes sound fine (he thought). Since the tone holes are soldered maybe one was leaking, but naything a light showed. He also said he bought four new boxes of reeds and checked to make sure it isn't the reed (because he first noticed the problem with a new reed).

So the leak I fixed helped a lot, but he thought it is not completely right. So I didn't have any more ideas, and he had to go to the gig anyway.....

So... any ideas?!

Thanks!

Nitai
 

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- Failing soldering of lower octave vent? (This can easily come loose when using dent removal tools during an overhaul, especially with an old instrument where galvanic corrosion has destroyed the soldering.) Try pushing it out with a dowel form the inside of the bore.
- Tone hole soldering?

A leak light does not normally pick up these problems. You need to try prising the parts off and see if they move, or the bond line parts where the soldering is. It is very common for the solder of tone holes to get eaten away from catalytic corrosion.

Try sucking around the junction of neck receiver and body to detect leaks in soldering.

Try putting grease in the neck-to-body joint and playing, as a diagnosis tool for leak detection. But clean it ALL out after the trial.

Make sure the front F connection to the high F key is not restricting the closing of the high F pad. There should be a little play in this linkage.
 

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Stephen Howard wrote an interesting article on te Martin toneholes
http://www.shwoodwind.co.uk/HandyHints/Martin_toneholes.htm
maybe you could get in touch with him (he contributes to this forum too)


Maybe he came across a diagnostic method, the problem is how can you fix something that you can't see.....The partial obstruction of one or both octave vents could be the explanation but I am not a repair man!
Off to play with my Martin and hoping this is not going to happen to me today!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks milandro, I read Steve Howard's article.

tbone said:
Nitai, Did you check the octave vents for partial obstructions?
Actually, I don't remember. I think I did, and I dfinitely checked many things about both octave vents, but I'm not sure about this. Thanks tbone.

Gordon (NZ) said:
- Failing soldering..... A leak light does not normally pick up these problems. You need to try prising the parts off and see if they move, or the bond line parts where the soldering is. It is very common for the solder of tone holes to get eaten away from catalytic corrosion.
I think I saw some of this corrosion but not much at all. I will have to check like you suggest.

Gordon (NZ) said:
Try sucking around the junction of neck receiver and body to detect leaks in soldering.
Yummy :D but my mouth have seen worse :) I checked the neck for leaks by sucking, felt ok. Sorry the English was a bit hard, so you mean sucking around the soldering on the neck and the body part that the neck fits into, and try to see if I can suck air through it, right?

Gordon (NZ) said:
Try putting grease in the neck-to-body joint and playing, as a diagnosis tool for leak detection. But clean it ALL out after the trial.
I did exactly this. No improvements. Although one strange thing was that when we tightened the screw on the neck the neck moved slightly, though this didn't have anything to do with the problem.

Gordon (NZ) said:
Make sure the front F connection to the high F key is not restricting the closing of the high F pad. There should be a little play in this linkage.
Yes I checked. It had enough play. Thanks for your suggestions.

Maybe I should mention that surprisingly(?) I could play all the way to low Bb without problem (I am just ok or mediocre sax player, especially tenor and lower), and he (a very high level player) could easily play pianisimo (subtone) all the way down to Bb.

Thanks again!
 

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sounds to me as if you have a problem with the octave mechanism itself.I think both maybe opening when you press the octave key on A2 and aove and only one should. even if its a tiny bit it would cause some stuffiness only when using them.check this mech. also there should be some space between octave arm on neck and octave stem on body as the stem will move a little bit when using octave key on G2 and below. check to see that body octave pad is fully closing on A2 and above. i suspect that is where the problem is. maybe the pad is cracked or off center or it just needs some cork added. or the g key rod could be bent and cause this same problem.this leak is hard to detect by the eye. sometimes you can feel the play in the key when depressed.
hope this helps.
 

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I have experienced these kinds of intermittent problems on some saxes because of the neck octave. You might check to see when the neck is rotated slightly right or left of center that there is still some lost motion between the rod that activates the neck octave and the extension from the neck octave pad that it contacts. Sometimes a player will position the neck in a slightly different spot each time he plays and if the neck "ring" is not curved properly, the neck octave can open slightly in some of these "off center" positions.

I also had an old Conn tenor that had such a flexible neck that when I pressed down hard with my top teeth on the mouthpiece when playing, the neck would bend enough to cause the neck octave to open. You might check this as well.

If you don't yet have the saxophone neck leak isolator tool available from J.L. Smith, it is a very useful tool check for leaks in the neck tenon. I use mine on every sax that comes across my bench and it is amazing how many have neck tenons that leak even though they feel tight when inserted into the receiver. If you find your solution, let us know so we can all learn from your experience.

John
 

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clarnibass said:
Yesterday someone (a very good local player) calls me that he has a gig in two hours and his saxophone (very old Martin tenor) doesn't play right... This tenor was recently overhauled (about a month ago) by some very good repairer in USA. I checked it and it really looked like a very good overhaul.... So... any ideas?!
What kind of pads were used for the overhaul? Are they relatively thick?
Ya need thin pads on a Martin for it to sing.
 

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IMO the "singing" depends on sufficient venting, and accurate sealing, rather than the pad thickness itself. Even if pads are a little thicker, a sax can still be adjusted to get those factors right.
 

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clarnibass said:
I think I saw some of this corrosion but not much at all. I will have to check like you suggest.
There is usually nothing to see, until the parts are separated. However if the low notes are going greaqt, then I too think this is an octave mechanism problem.

With the neck off, and fingering high G, can you move that lever that goes to the neck operate with complete freedom?

When the G key is released, is there anything such as a stack key spring, which prvents it fromk fully opening (hence closing the lower octave vent)?

Check the cork between G key and octave mechanism. Does it have a deep depression in it, tha could prevent appropriate force veing transferred to the octave mechanism?

Is the G key spring sufficiently strong to reliably overpower any other spring to close the lower octave vent?

"Yummy :D but my mouth have seen worse :) I checked the neck for leaks by sucking, felt ok. Sorry the English was a bit hard, so you mean sucking around the soldering on the neck and the body part that the neck fits into, and try to see if I can suck air through it, right?"

Yes! Not the sort of thing you really want to do with another person's instrument. Better to get that testing gear that JB mentioned. A lot of techs seemk to like it. But a leak here would surely affect the low notes.

My goodness! Post No. 5000!
 

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I definitely know what's up... this drove me CRAZY when I repadded my Martin tenor. It played sealed great, but when I played it for any length of time and ESPECIALLY at full volume or with subtones, it just lost all its guts and got airy. Well, the problem is design. The side C and Bb are positioned in such a way that setting stiff spring tension is virtually impossible. They are also aligned with strong air node points that get "beat up" when you subtone or force backpressure. So, consequently the pad gets forced open and creates pressure/instability. So to fix it, I manhandled the springs to be as strong as possible, and also corked the pads closed for a LONG time (over a week). Once this was done, it has never given me problems since.

Let me know if this works for you too.
 

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The first things that I think of with a problem like this are situational. Maybe the horn is a little different from the overhaul, and he didn't notice until he got close to comfortable with it. Did he change reed brands? This can make quite a difference. Is the cork tight on the mouthpiece? I have had people coming back after an overhaul that don't have a tuner and just push the mouthpiece on by 'feel'. Once a guy (pro) was playing with his horn tuned about 20 cents flat, cause I fixed the sloppy cork and made it snug. He was good enough to play in tune, but he complained that the horn was resistant. Wasted a morning on the horn, before I convinced myself that everything really was ok...I had him come back and watched him and figured it out.
 

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Gordon (NZ) said:
IMO the "singing" depends on sufficient venting, and accurate sealing, rather than the pad thickness itself. Even if pads are a little thicker, a sax can still be adjusted to get those factors right.
See a lot of Martins in the shop then, eh?
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks again for all suggestions.

saxxsymbol said:
sounds to me as if you have a problem with the octave mechanism itself.
Unfortunately, I don't think so. When he played A and above I made sure myself that the lower octave vent is closed and the higher one is open (and vise versa when he played below A) and he didn't notice any improvement.

jbtsax said:
I have experienced these kinds of intermittent problems on some saxes because of the neck octave. You might check to see when the neck is rotated slightly right or left of center that there is still some lost motion between the rod that activates the neck octave and the extension from the neck octave pad that it contacts.
I also had an old Conn tenor that had such a flexible neck that when I pressed down hard with my top teeth on the mouthpiece when playing, the neck would bend enough to cause the neck octave to open. You might check this as well.
For the same reasons as I mentioned above I don't think this could be the problem. I actually tried many rotations of the neck and it made no difference.

jbtsax said:
If you don't yet have the saxophone neck leak isolator tool available from J.L. Smith, it is a very useful tool check for leaks in the neck tenon.
Thanks. I will probably buy this.

Grumps said:
What kind of pads were used for the overhaul? Are they relatively thick?
Ya need thin pads on a Martin for it to sing.
I didn't measure, but they looked relatively thin to me. About 4mm I would guess.

Gordon - thanks, but the same test I described that I did with the octave mechanism I think it eliminates all of this. I'll buy those neck leak tools probably, but I am usually not affraid of those type of gross things... not that big deal.

shmuelyosef said:
The first things that I think of with a problem like this are situational. Maybe the horn is a little different from the overhaul, and he didn't notice until he got close to comfortable with it. Did he change reed brands? This can make quite a difference. Is the cork tight on the mouthpiece? I have had people coming back after an overhaul that don't have a tuner and just push the mouthpiece on by 'feel'.
OK, I don't think the overhaul is the problem since he played the sax for about two weeks after the overhaul and it was fine. He first noticed the problem with a new reed, so he bought four new boxes to make sure (I asked and it was the exact same brand and strength of reeds he always use). He said suddenly it was much worse. For the same reason (played fine for a couple of weeks after the overhaul) I don't think it is the cork on the mouthpiece (which was ok, I checked).

Jason DuMars said:
The side C and Bb are positioned in such a way that setting stiff spring tension is virtually impossible. They are also aligned with strong air node points that get "beat up" when you subtone or force backpressure. So, consequently the pad gets forced open and creates pressure/instability.
You are talking about the right side Bb and C keys right? The side C is exactly the note that had the leak, which I fixed. To make sure they don't leak I closed them with my hands while he played - no improvement.

The main problem which makes it very difficult is that he wasn't exactly sure what notes are the worst, what the difference is, etc. though he said definitely something is not right (yet he could play easily to low Bb subtone). He did say the sax played great in a gig just a week before. I can't completely rule out the possibilities that A) It played differently since the overhaul and it took him a while to notice. B) The leak fixed the problem and it was his imagination that the problem is still there. C) ???

Thanks again!

Nitai
 

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I repaired a Martin tenor a while back. It turned out that there are 2 springs on the octave key. This initiated a long discussion on the Delphi forum. If you're interested I can send you that info.
Hans
 

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Grumps said:
See a lot of Martins in the shop then, eh?
I don't know what you are talking about, or what you are trying to say. There is no issue of quantity involved here. I have worked on Martins.
 

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Gordon (NZ) said:
I don't know what you are talking about, or what you are trying to say. There is no issue of quantity involved here. I have worked on Martins.
Well some of the techs I know (as well as some fairly respected folks on this very site) feel Martins play best with thinner pads. Surprised you hadn't heard, so I was only wondering if you'd ever repadded one.
 

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Unless something is done to prevent it, thinner pads means more venting, so I do wonder if certain people, irrespective of status, might sometimes confuse pad thickness with venting, even if that confusion is only in the communication rather than the concept, and even if that communication is deliberate for simplicity, rather than getting bogged down with the separateness of the two issues. I guess only the context of their statements could give clues as to that. :)
 

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Here are just a few more ideas about what I do when confronted with these types of mysterious problems. After rechecking the pads for leaks at the bench, I will check the sax in a pitch black dark room with my leak light. Oftentimes this reveals small leaks such as those appearing through the grain of the pad leather that are not visible in a lighted room. If this doesn't find the problem, I go through the sax with a feeler gauge. This can reveal a "light" spot on a spring closed pad that can be opened slightly by the sound wave when the sax is played, but not be visible at other times.

The next thing I check with intermittent leaks is the side to side play or wobble of the keys. Those keys with short hinge tubes such as the palm keys and side C and Bb if they are sloppy on the hinge rod can come down in a different spot on the tonehole, miss the pad seat slightly and alternately leak or seal depending on how the key is pressed. Good luck. Thanks for starting such a great thread.
 

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Gordon (NZ) said:
Unless something is done to prevent it, thinner pads means more venting, so I do wonder if certain people, irrespective of status, might sometimes confuse pad thickness with venting, even if that confusion is only in the communication rather than the concept, and even if that communication is deliberate for simplicity, rather than getting bogged down with the separateness of the two issues. I guess only the context of their statements could give clues as to that. :)
So what were the stock pads like for these horns then?
 
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