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So, I recently received my high school's old Yamaha 61 Soprano and much to my displeasure, things aren't working quite right. I have the necessary tools to fix problems as long as they aren't leaks. But first, is it worth fixing up? If so, how would you fix sticking pads?
 

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Of course it is worth it. I just had my YSS 61 repaired/overhauled.
 

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Your Bro says get it fixed :D
 

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Sticking pads could be fixed cleaning the pad and/or checking the spring tension, if the pads are still in good condition. Dirty pads could have rests of sugar, saliva, dust, etc. I clean the pads once a year (with a little adjust of the horn) and dry it after playing. Sometimes this is not possible, but I try to make it in regular basis.
 

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I also recently fixed up and cleaned an old and neglected soprano.

At first I used lighter fluid on the pads. This is an excellent cleaner, but for some reason its residue altered the sound of the sax and gave it a harsher, more metallic sound.

Re-cleaning the pads with saddle soap got rid of this effect. I wet a q-tip and rub it on the surface of the saddle soap, then gently scrubbed the surface of the pad. I cleaned off the excess with a damp q-tip, then wiped and dried everything. Saddle soap is made for cleaning leather and is supposed to contain a little bit of neatsfoot oil which in theory will leave the leather more supple than before. This helped improve both the sticking and leaking on my sax.

I also used end wrap papers (thin tissue similar to cigarette paper from a beauty supply shop) pulled between the pad and tonehole, although they probably won't clean really old, hard dirt. They also work for cleaning pads which don't lift high enough for a q-tip to fit under.

I tried cleaning with pipe cleaners from a craft shop but they leave fluff everywhere. I'll try again someday with cleaners from a smoke shop which are made for cleaning and not decoration.

For the toneholes which felt rough due to corrosion or dirt, I got some 1000-grit sandpaper from an auto-supply store and gently dragged it across the top of the tonehole. This gets them really clean and bright. Note, some people seem to be anti-sandpaper, some seem to be all for its prudent usage.

The corks need to be carefully checked. It's a fiddly job, but in theory you can slice a wine cork with a razor blade and glue it on with contact cement (e.g. "Goop"). The thickness of the corks needless to say has to be exactly right for everything to work properly and play in tune. There is one really tricky linkage on my soprano, which controls a "two stage" pad that lifts when you go from high C to high C# and above. It's a pad with a hole in it, with another pad on top of the hole. If the lower pad lifts up due to improper cork regulation in the linkage, then the notes from high C# to high F# are wildly sharp. I don't know how common this is on sopranos but I found a tip somewhere on the Internet which led me to discover this problem. Even my technician missed this one, so I repaired it myself because I had an imminent gig. Under normal circumstances of course you should get a technician to fix it up, if your school budget and time allow for it.

All of this work made the old horn quite playable for a minimal amount of $$$, even with 30+ year old pads.
 
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