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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,

I have a Rampone & Cazzani “deluxe” curved soprano that I’m trying to get a handle on as a player. There’s one thing that irks me with the upper register - the LH palm keys - and I wonder if there could be a mechanical factor. I’m working heroically on getting intonation on spec up there, but that’s (mostly) a different matter, I think.

Specifically, if I hold palm D, then add D#, nothing happens at all. Sometimes it shifts into the D# after a slight delay. Neutral embouchure, even air stream, happens with or without the octave key. The E is correspondingly very flat 60% of the time too. Is there a mechanical issue (seems plausible given the delayed “switch” and the periodic nature of the problem), or is there some acoustic voodoo going on given the margins of that tiny air column?

The neck on these horns is fixed, so I can’t easily have a look at stuff from the inside. The keywork seems to be in reasonably good shape.

I’ve mostly had the mouthpiece all the way in on the cork thus far, trying to come out a bit to see if that can help.

Hope this is the appropriate subforum. I am grateful for any opinions and input offered.
 

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Hi all,

I have a Rampone & Cazzani “deluxe” curved soprano that I’m trying to get a handle on as a player. There’s one thing that irks me with the upper register - the LH palm keys - and I wonder if there could be a mechanical factor. I’m working heroically on getting intonation on spec up there, but that’s (mostly) a different matter, I think.

Specifically, if I hold palm D, then add D#, nothing happens at all. Sometimes it shifts into the D# after a slight delay. Neutral embouchure, even air stream, happens with or without the octave key. The E is correspondingly very flat 60% of the time too. Is there a mechanical issue (seems plausible given the delayed “switch” and the periodic nature of the problem), or is there some acoustic voodoo going on given the margins of that tiny air column?

The neck on these horns is fixed, so I can’t easily have a look at stuff from the inside. The keywork seems to be in reasonably good shape.

I’ve mostly had the mouthpiece all the way in on the cork thus far, trying to come out a bit to see if that can help.

Hope this is the appropriate subforum. I am grateful for any opinions and input offered.
I bet you've got a little bubble of condensate forming between the pad and the tone hole rim. Can probably eliminate this by raising pad height a bit.
 

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I would start with swabbing the horn a few times if you haven't done it yet. You need to make sure that the swab fits through the neck, definitely don't want to have it stuck there so be careful or try to start with a reverse swab (entering at the neck) to make sure you can get through.

Check the regulation of the palm keys, i.e. how far do they open. Also the palm keys are easy to remove and you can use a pipe dill to clean out any gunk in the tone holes, it really doesn't require a tech to do that. Also clean the octave pips with the pipe dill.

Make sure you have the MPC at the position where it plays in tune and at the correct "rotation", meaning the top of the MPC lines up with the octave key (or maybe ~ 10 degrees off clockwise).

Those are the first starting points. my hunch is that it is a combination of those issues and maybe something else.
 

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You might check the mouthpiece input pitch. C Concert is the usual recommended pitch on both soprano sax and clarinet. In some cases palm key notes that don't respond are a result of an air stream that is not fast enough or too soft a reed. The only "mechanical" issue I can think of to check is to see if the palm keys all open the same amount and if any of the pads look "bloated". You might even remove the palm keys one at a time and clean the interior of the toneholes using a Q-tip and naptha or alcohol.
 

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You might check the mouthpiece input pitch. C Concert is the usual recommended pitch on both soprano sax and clarinet. In some cases palm key notes that don't respond are a result of an air stream that is not fast enough or too soft a reed. The only "mechanical" issue I can think of to check is to see if the palm keys all open the same amount and if any of the pads look "bloated". You might even remove the palm keys one at a time and clean the interior of the toneholes using a Q-tip and naptha or alcohol.
Maybe the OP should precise what "nothing" means, but your explanation is unlikely if the note remains a high D (with a failure of response on the palm keys notes, the note falls an octave and is quite resistant).
 

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Do you have enough sense to look at the horn while not playing it and see that the key opens and the pad is not left stuck to the tone hole when the key rises? This would be rare but it can happen. So assuming the pad is still glued to the key and it opens, you have to see that it opens far enough to be effective. The next step would be to inspect the tone hole to see if it is open/clear of anything. Then you have to clean the bore of the sax, especially the fixed neck, then check all the upper tone holes again.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I have certainly swabbed the horn quite thoroughly, once I managed to find a swab that could pass through the neck. I have also played around with it a bit while examining the action, without seeing anything that’s clearly wrong. Have also had a go with pipe cleaners in the toneholes. May try adding some chemistry to clear built up gunk next.

“Nothing happens” means “nothing”. Absolutely no change. This has also happened with a dry horn, from the get go. Puzzled.

Your suggestions are still insightful, and I’ll make sure I’m really thorough next time.

I’m curious about the air speed/soft reed point; should be interesting to experiment a bit.
 

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If it's not a bubble of condensate, pull that key off and have a look. Two things that could be happening: 1) either the pad is loose in the cup, or the pad skin is loose enough not to come off the tone hole rim; 2) Something across the tone hole inside.
 

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If it's not a bubble of condensate, pull that key off and have a look. Two things that could be happening: 1) either the pad is loose in the cup, or the pad skin is loose enough not to come off the tone hole rim; 2) Something across the tone hole inside.
+! a loose skin/ sticky pad would explain the “delayed switch”

Check (without playing) and if there is any expansion of the pad, clean it with WD40, recondition it with shoe polish (my favorite is mink oil) and see if it fixes the issue. Another totally absurd possibility is that the key never really closes because you don't have enough spring action or the pad is badly aligned. That would cause some other issues playing down but it is an easy one to check.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I manned up, removed the key and had a look. The pad seems to be slightly deeply set in its cup, although it seemed to seal the hole. It was also quite dry and with some dried up residue on the surface. I cleaned it up carefully, should be interesting to try try a toot tomorrow. The tone hole also got cleaned using a Q-tip with alcohol. A little bit of dried residue there as well, but not nearly enough to block the hole. Given the state of the pad, I reckon I will have to get it replaced quite soon.

I noticed one thing that worries me a little bit. The “foot” of the D# key stops on the actual hinge/axle of the F key. The latter has some wiggle, possibly due to wear from abrasive oil and grime (oiling without cleaning). So, when the D# is fully depressed, the F key is visibly agitated, just a little bit, with movement seen on the key touch and felt along the arm up to the cup. Not good. (But in isolation, should probably make D# even sharper or squeakier, not take the D# key out of consideration altogether.)

 

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Discussion Starter #12
Opening a hole farther up on the body tube shortens the wavelength of the note being vented thereby increasing the frequency. Anything else defies the laws of physics. :)
As well as the conditioned expectations of someone who’s played the chromatic scale more than three times. Hence, my puzzlement.
 

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Opening a hole farther up on the body tube shortens the wavelength of the note being vented thereby increasing the frequency. Anything else defies the laws of physics. :)
I think we all agree on that but hearing can be a bit subjective and especially on a soprano it is easy to bend the notes so that maybe he was playing a D# and bending it down and then nothing happens when he opens the D# key. Especially if the OP has never played the horn when it was actually working correctly (if I read the post correctly).
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I think we all agree on that but hearing can be a bit subjective and especially on a soprano it is easy to bend the notes so that maybe he was playing a D# and bending it down and then nothing happens when he opens the D# key. Especially if the OP has never played the horn when it was actually working correctly (if I read the post correctly).
You read it correctly. I don’t think this is about perception, but, of course, I wouldn’t know.

Keying palm D and adding D# changes nothing. Same outcome without octave key pressed. Often a quite abrupt transition happens after a slight delay, with no change in embouchure or air stream. (Not unlike a robot, albeit not a Giant Steps one, and also not blind...)
 

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These notes on a sop are often seriously compromised by the acoustic design or lack of it.
Unless the tone hole was seriously blocked...

Are you experienced enough as a player to know that getting them to sound, especially on "reluctant" designs, has a lot to do with the shape of your mouth cavity, i.e. the shape and position of your tongue - probably variations on the "ee" vowel, i.e. lying flat at the front and raised at the back?
 

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You read it correctly. I don’t think this is about perception, but, of course, I wouldn’t know.

Keying palm D and adding D# changes nothing. Same outcome without octave key pressed. Often a quite abrupt transition happens after a slight delay, with no change in embouchure or air stream. (Not unlike a robot, albeit not a Giant Steps one, and also not blind...)
What if you only key D# and leave D completely alone? And trust me, I have a saxello that requires more alternative fingerings than I can count which is the reason why I just mention the different possibilities because it is too easy to miss the obvious.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
What if you only key D# and leave D completely alone? And trust me, I have a saxello that requires more alternative fingerings than I can count which is the reason why I just mention the different possibilities because it is too easy to miss the obvious.
My little DIY intervention yesterday may have sorted it out for the time being. Tested it briefly this morning (euro time) and the D# now does what it says on the box, alone or with the D. For now, it seems to have lost the "delay", and works pretty well. Will give it a spin this weekend, hopefully it will last. Must have been the state of the pad and the built up residue. A skilled repairman should be able to help me get the LH keys into perfect working condition, with new pads and adjustment, including fixing that wiggle in the F hinge.

My general intonation situation I am afraid I can't attribute that to mechanics and gunk...
 

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My little DIY intervention yesterday may have sorted it out for the time being. Tested it briefly this morning (euro time) and the D# now does what it says on the box, alone or with the D. For now, it seems to have lost the "delay", and works pretty well. Will give it a spin this weekend, hopefully it will last. Must have been the state of the pad and the built up residue. A skilled repairman should be able to help me get the LH keys into perfect working condition, with new pads and adjustment, including fixing that wiggle in the F hinge.

My general intonation situation I am afraid I can't attribute that to mechanics and gunk...
I suggest that the very deep pad seat you report is working with condensation to effect a pseudo-seal between the pad and the tone hole that then breaks loose (or not).

My recommendations would be two:

1) Replace the pad with a new one to eliminate that deep seat.
2) Raise pad height (which you'll need to do anyway now with the new pad without that deep groove).

I agree with you that disturbing the F key with the foot of the D# key is suboptimal design. Optional would be to modify the D# key by adding a foot that stops on the sax body or a post or some other feature that's not going to potentially disturb the seal of the high F key. This may not be possible given the space available, thus the foot stopping on the hinge tube.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Thanks, that makes sense, and is pretty much what I have concluded is the next step, too. I'll ask the tech about options to remove the stress on the F hinge, but I suspect it's not a trivial modification.
 

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Thanks, that makes sense, and is pretty much what I have concluded is the next step, too. I'll ask the tech about options to remove the stress on the F hinge, but I suspect it's not a trivial modification.
That is a common design on all sizes of saxophones where the hinge tube of the F is where the "foot cork" of the Eb touches. "Stress" on the F hinge is not the issue. If you see movement of the F key when the Eb makes contact, the solution is to swedge the F key to tighten the mechanism so as not to move. On some saxes a soft plastic tube is inserted over the F hinge tube to quiet the contact thus eliminating the need for a cork to be glued to the underside of the Eb touch.
 
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