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So I am planning to buy and intermediate/advanced alto saxophone and I came across several of them, of which showed me two types of key button materials. One is mother of pearl and the other is polyester. I'm think my current standard saxophone is mother of pearl but I'm not sure. And pictures or descriptions on both materials would be deeply appreciated. THANKS:treble:
 

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So I am planning to buy and intermediate/advanced alto saxophone and I came across several of them, of which showed me two types of key button materials. One is mother of pearl and the other is polyester. I'm think my current standard saxophone is mother of pearl but I'm not sure. And pictures or descriptions on both materials would be deeply appreciated. THANKS:treble:
Some imitation mother of pearl looks very realistic, with pictures alone you may not be able to tell which is which e.g.:

for example

Example 1 Light Tin Circle Glass Metal

Example 2 Food Saving Cuisine Money handling Currency

Example 3 Gas Circle Font Electric blue Pill

Some acrylic "mother of pearl" look so unrealistic it makes me laugh.

The only true way of telling is by feel/touch. Real mother of pearl will feel cold and smooth.

For information all of the above pics are imitation mother of pearl.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks. I just wanted to know which one is which because the only polyester I know of is use in clothes :) so thanks for clarifying for me.
 

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Wow, really? But there is a price difference between the two different saxes I'm choosing....Which button material should I get?
 

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key touches can always be replaced. any skilled technician can replace plastic with pearl for a modest charge.
 

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The problem with the fake pearls is that when you heat a pad cup, they melt.
And the problem with the real ones is that with not much more heat, they burn brown. And a fair bit more expensive to replace.

To me, the material of the pearls is almost as irrelevant as the material of car hub caps. There are hundreds of things that are more important on a sax.

Play the damn thing!
 

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I used to think I didn't really care, until recently. I played my ST90 soprano at a hot summer night gig, and realized the synthetic touches were kind of sticky with the hot and sweaty fingers. Natural MOP touches never get like this. They not only look more classy, they really feel cooler.
 

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Plastic, mother of pearl, and abalone all have a different feel under the fingers. Not only does pearl keep cool, it also has a very slight amount of grip (smooth but slightly gritty texture). Abalone is a little grittier than pearl. I avoid burning pearls using a "pearl protector" (it's a flute pad cup on a stick and can be made in under 10 minutes).
 

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The way to tell the difference between genuine pearl and plastic is to do a scratch test with your fingernails or with your teeth - you'll get the fingernails-down-a-blackboard feel with genuine pearl and plastic ones will be very slippery. If you do get some scratch marks in the pearl, they can be removed if you lick your finger and wipe over the pearl with it.

But sometimes genuine pearls are lacquered along with the keys (eg. Selmer and Yanigasawa) and will feel slippery like plastic 'pearls' as can some highly polished genuine pearls.

Plastic finger buttons do feel hot after a while and if you're prone to getting sweaty palms or fingertips, then they will become very slippery under the fingers. Genuin pearls that haven't got a highly polished or lacquered surface will still feel cool and will grip your fingertips much better. However, if you have particularly acidic perspiration (low pH) then this will eventually erode genuine pearl (as acid dissolves calcium) but won't have any effect on plastic.
 
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