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Discussion Starter #1
Playing at a wedding this afternoon in Hilo, HI. At the rehearsal last Friday, everything went well with no issues. This morning when I took out my horn and started warming up, all of a sudden the D2 plays an A2. Additionally, the Bb, B and C will play up an octave automatically.

The D2 plays normally when I play down from an F2 or E2 or when I play with the side key.

Tried to look for techs in the area but have had no luck. Wedding is in about 4 hours. Any suggestions?
 

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I'm only guessing, but I'd first check the octave vents and pads to make sure they are opening and closing when they should be . . . they switch from lower to upper vents at A2.

Also, maybe some other tone hole is not closing properly, thus creating a situation where the lower register is being vented almost like an octave vent, so make sure all of the pads in the middle of the horn (side keys) are closed when they should be closed - or that a pad hasn't fallen out of one of the pad cups. Also, check to see if any springs have either come out of their cradles OR have broken.

Must be frustrating . . . but in these situations, a methodical check of every function, in good light may be necessary to find the culprit. Oh yeah - change your reed. I've had some reeds suddenly go bad and a new (or different) reed solved a confusing issue. DAVE
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks, Dave. I’ve changed reeds (cane medium to hard to Legere Signatures) and have changed mouthpieces too. Same issues. The D2 is a quick (temporary) fix as I just have to remember to play with the side key each time. The Bb and B (and now the C as well) are the real issues due to the jumping up an octave every time I play them. Again, they were fine last Friday at the rehearsal and I did not play the horn at all yesterday.

Will try your other suggestions and hopefully it works.

I'm only guessing, but I'd first check the octave vents and pads to make sure they are opening and closing when they should be . . . they switch from lower to upper vents at A2.

Also, maybe some other tone hole is not closing properly, thus creating a situation where the lower register is being vented almost like an octave vent, so make sure all of the pads in the middle of the horn (side keys) are closed when they should be closed - or that a pad hasn't fallen out of one of the pad cups. Also, check to see if any springs have either come out of their cradles OR have broken.

Must be frustrating . . . but in these situations, a methodical check of every function, in good light may be necessary to find the culprit. Oh yeah - change your reed. I've had some reeds suddenly go bad and a new (or different) reed solved a confusing issue. DAVE
 

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Discussion Starter #4
If anyone knows and can recommend a tech in Hilo who';d be willing to check out my horn on a Sunday, that would be much appreciated. All the music shops I’ve found by googling only deal with guitars and ukuleles.
 

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Well, I can't help you with the immediate issue, but everything you've written implies to me that a piece of cork has fallen off and now you've got a huge leak somewhere.

For the longer term, this shows you why you should own a leak light, learn how to use it, and learn how to address this kind of issue as a player. There's not always a technician ready and available to fix everything. Sometimes you've got to step up to the plate and deal with the machine you use to make music, all on your own. Stand on your hind legs and take ownership!
 

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I meant the actual reed in use when the problem began, not the style. Another problematic area is the G# and the bis Bb . . . make sure the G# is not lifting and the bis Bb is staying down when it should. Even the slightest movement with those pads will screw up response.

I agree with having a leak-light but I’ve never traveled with one. A careful, systematic look at your whole horn, top to bottom will probably reveal the problem. A spring off its hook, a missing cork, a stuck-closed pad, a pad loose in its cup, or a pad that’s fallen out of the cup can be found but it takes good light and a close eye. DAVE
 

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I realize this is too late to help, but the symptoms indicate the neck octave is opening slightly when the octave key is pressed to play D. To diagnose: Finger G and hit the thumb key repeatedly and watch the neck octave key. It should not lift or bounce. If it does, remove the neck and place your thumb between the ring and the tenon and carefully bend the octave key down. Check again for bounce and check to see that the body and neck octave pads exchange when pressing the thumb key and going from G to A and back. If you have bent the key too far and the neck octave doesn't raise when you finger high A, place a tongue depressor or craft stick under the neck octave pad and carefully push the ring toward the neck tenon. Sometimes you have to go back and forth to get the proper adjustment for the ring. Ideally there should be about 1/16" gap between the ring and the post that extends beyond the end of the top of the sax.
 

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I recently had a similar experience, taking out my tenor at a rehearsal to find the right hand notes not playing. The Eb spring had come off its peg. These things happen and the sax player has to deal with them.
 

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Too late for the wedding gig (how'd it go?), but as already pointed out, what you describe (low notes jumping the octave) is definitely a leak in the horn. The fact that it happened "all of a sudden" suggests something other than the usual type of pad leaks that develop gradually over time. Something along the lines of what Dave, saxoclese, and 1saxman suggest. Likely an easy fix if you can find it. If you can't locate it, you'll have to find a tech. Let us know what you discover.

On a side note, those of us in or near big cities where one or more excellent techs can be found are lucky in that we can have our horn checked out on a regular basis and kept in good repair. If I didn't live in a location with a good tech nearby, I'd definitely learn some repair technique and get the necessary tools. And even with a local tech, it's a good idea to be able to diagnose the most likely and basic issues that can come up and that are fairly easily dealt with. It's mostly a matter of examining the key work, springs, corks, etc, and being able to recognize something that is out of whack, usually involving the creation of a leak. Obviously a leak light is helpful, but in many cases you can see where an octave key isn't opening or a spring is 'sprung', a cork is missing, etc.

One other solution to a last minute problem like this is to have a backup horn. If you're gigging regularly, it's a good idea to own a backup horn, since you can't always get to a tech, or even have time to deal with it yourself, in a last minute situation. At least that's the excuse I used to pick up a backup tenor (2 of them, actually...probably 1 too many).
 

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Yep, octave key coordination issues. A leak light is not needed, just look at it and make sure both pips are closed and when you press the octave key, only the body pip from D2 up to G#2 and the neck pip from A2 and up. All other times, both closed. There should never be a time when both are open.
 

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Well, I can't help you with the immediate issue, but everything you've written implies to me that a piece of cork has fallen off and now you've got a huge leak somewhere.

For the longer term, this shows you why you should own a leak light, learn how to use it, and learn how to address this kind of issue as a player. There's not always a technician ready and available to fix everything. Sometimes you've got to step up to the plate and deal with the machine you use to make music, all on your own. Stand on your hind legs and take ownership!
I have heard this before, and it's not an answer. It's kinda like blaming the victim; some of us just cannot do this, no matter what you think. I have a few learning disabilities and if I work on the horn it will get worse. The better and more practical solution for some of us is to have a backup horn (though I have about 5). This has worked for me for 40 years.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks to everyone who chimes in. I tried the suggested approaches but still couldn';t figure out the underlying issue. I was able to rule out the octave key, though, after following Saxoclese’s suggestion.

I was able to get through (only had to play 1 piece at the ceremony and 1 at the reception). Just had to use alternative fingering';s, avoid certain runs and grace notes (basically simplified the pieces to avoid the problem noted) and voiced certain notes.

For what it';s worth, I do have a backup horn and normally have access to fantastic techs, but I don';t think I would';ve been able to take both horns with me on the plane from LA to Hawaii. There';s no way I';m checking in either one of them either.

This was certainly an eye-opener. I had the horn checked out by my tech before I left for Hawaii, but obviously things can happen and it would be wise to know how to deal with them.

Special thanks to those who offered helpful/practical/useful suggestions yesterday. It, should I say, Mahalo. Flying back to LA in a few hours.
 

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I have heard this before, and it's not an answer. It's kinda like blaming the victim; some of us just cannot do this, no matter what you think. I have a few learning disabilities and if I work on the horn it will get worse. The better and more practical solution for some of us is to have a backup horn (though I have about 5). This has worked for me for 40 years.


I do not believe that anyone who can learn to play the saxophone at a high level, cannot learn how to look closely at the pads and close the keys one at a time and see when things that ought to be closing aren't quite closing. But if you choose not to learn this kind of thing, then you'll have to pay a cost in inconvenience at least, if not in money.
 

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I do not believe that anyone who can learn to play the saxophone at a high level, cannot learn how to look closely at the pads and close the keys one at a time and see when things that ought to be closing aren't quite closing.
+1. Even I have been able to do this. And I sure haven't made a study of sax repair. Maybe I should, but as you say a lot of issues, especially those that spring (no pun intended) up suddenly, can be found with an inspection up and down the horn. Recently I figured out how to make a very simple repair by turning an adjustment screw when I noticed the G# key was staying slightly open while playing notes below the G#. I've also had a screw fall out of my octave mechanism (on a gig!) and luckily found it on the stage and was able to screw it back in. Hint: keep an appropriately sized (small) screwdriver in your case. For general maintenance and bigger jobs, I have a top notch tech.

jman, I didn't realize you were traveling when your horn developed a problem. I don't blame you not wanting to bring 2 horns on board and airplane. Glad it all worked out ok.
 

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I do not believe that anyone who can learn to play the saxophone at a high level, cannot learn how to look closely at the pads and close the keys one at a time and see when things that ought to be closing aren't quite closing. But if you choose not to learn this kind of thing, then you'll have to pay a cost in inconvenience at least, if not in money.
Well, in that case I want to make sure you can play and record with Julius Hemphill, David Murray, Doc Cheatham, Hamiet Bluiett, Ken Peplowski, JD Allen and Don Byron; they all require special arrangements, adaptation to their specific abilities and preferences; some can play chord changes, some can't; some read read well, some not; each requires a different form of composition, different drummers, different rhythm sections. What, can't do all that? Do you perform at a high level? Writing and arranging for these players is to me as basic as checking the pads is to you. Problem is I can't figure out pad problems; but I can and have led sessions with all these players as my sideman.

The point is, some of us can do some stuff and cannot do other stuff. So we adapt to the things we can't. But we get the fact that not everybody can do what we do with relative ease.
 

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Have to agree with JL here. With practically no instrument repair skills or prior experience, I have at times used a small screwdriver to tighten neck octave screw, rod screws (holding in place a whole stack), adjustment screws and put back in place springs that inadvertently popped out. Also used tape to temporarily replace a fallen off/lost cork. Carefully re-bending a neck octave key after a knock is an emergency fix that worked OK. These things can happen occasionally, including on country/Inland Australian tours.
I guess I've got a little practice over the years on my student's horns too, which are sometimes in need of a service or treated roughly.
On the road, one should ideally take a little emergency repair kit, but I have to admit to not getting that together in over 40 years of playing. A spare mouthpiece, ligature & reeds is a good idea also. Yet to graduate to rubber band application but I should look into it!
 
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