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Discussion Starter #1
Palm D up gets progressively worse. I've taken my horn to a number of repairmen but the problem still lingers. I can't play above an mf or the horn wants to shut off. I've played other horns and no problem. Different mpcs, same results. I've experimented with some necks and the results are similar, with the exception of an SBA neck I tried that made the horn sing. Opening the key height only raises the pitch with no change in stuffiness. I'm at a loss and considering ditching the VI. The tone on the rest of the horn is great, better than any other horn i've tried, but the stuffiness up there is driving me nuts.

I notice a slight improvement pushing in but that sends the rest of the horn way out of whack. If I lower the key heights overall the entire horn is stuffy. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what might be causing this, or how to remedy the situation? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
 

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You might want to have the neck tenon checked with a neck leak isolator and refit if necessary. A slight leak in this area can make a saxophone play "stuffy". I don't know if it would affect the short tube notes more than the long tube notes.

Another possibility might have to do with the neck octave vent. If the upper stack G is clear and the stuffiness affects just the A and above, the venting through the octave pip may be the cause. Have you tried other Mark VI necks to see if they produce the same problem.

I currently have both a Mark VI neck and a SBA neck. I will check the diameter opening of the octave vents and the other specs of each neck and post a comparison.
 

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"I've taken my horn top a number of repairmen but the problem still lingers."

I think you should find a good repairman that knows the MK VI, i.e. Randy Jones and others, and there are many of his caliber, experience and knowledge.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks, for the suggestions. I've had the tenon checked and it is good. I've tried other VI necks, same result. The only thing I've notice neck wise is that, with few exceptions, mine seems to be at a shallower angle than other VI necks I've compared it to. I purchased a barone neck while I had mine raised (about .5in), same problem on the barone neck. The sandpaper idea looks helpful though the fact that it is occuring on more than one note leads me to believe that there is an underlying cause that needs to be addressed (which I can't seem to figure out if its me or the horn). I've resorted to almost always playing fork E & F; they still feel stuffy but at least project more. I'm wondering if, despite playing in tune, the horn is in tune with itself. I have to keep the mpc less than an inch on the cork for the horn to play in tune, yet in doing so the overall sound chokes up. Push in .5in more and the sound opens up but the intonation is all over the place (if the resulting sharpness was consistent I would consider pushing in and using a softer reed). At the risk of compressing the cork I'm ready to try pushing the piece in as far as it takes to get the upper notes to speak and readjusting all the key heights... Does this make any sense? One immediate trade off I notice is the altissimo doesn't speak as well when the mpc is pushed in more. So many compromises, where does one start?!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
E3-G3 using the fork fingering is still stuffy, though because of the extra closed holes it projects a bit more. E3 in particular is noticably flat. I've tried other horns where I can put as much air through these notes as I can a low Bb. It's not a matter of voicing the notes either. Compared to other horns that range is troublesome even when playing them as over tones, which leads me to believe that there is an acoustic issue somewhere, perhaps with mpc position or the neck. I can understand how pushing the mpc in a bit would improve the tone, or at least the stuffiness, but the intonation issues render it unplayable.
 

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Is the neck clean? Does your horn have a high F#? that may be the issue. Up the top there you are running out of things that can cause a problem. It may be worth trying a different mouthpiece or perhaps it's time the neck cork was changed? If it aint the horn, and you've had it checked, then it could be mouthpiece.
 

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There is another avenue that can be explored, and that is the embouchure pressure and the mouthpiece input pitch.

Common results of playing too high on the pitch of the mouthpiece include:

- A pinched, "stuffy" sound---especially in the high register
- Having to pull the mouthpiece too far out on the cork to tune to A=440
- Octaves are out of tune because the cork is pulled out too far

The mouthpiece pitch should be no higher than A on alto G on tenor for classical playing. It can often be a step to a step and a half lower for a jazz concept of sound. The mouthpiece plus neck pitch on alto should be Ab concert on alto, E concert on tenor.

Palm key notes that are either flat or stuffy can often be helped by adjusting the thickness of the key cork in order to open and vent more. Opening more than approximately 1/3 the diameter of the tone hole will have little added effect.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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I've experimented with some necks and the results are similar, with the exception of an SBA neck I tried that made the horn sing.
Sounds to me like your answer could be there. Provided the issue isn't a sloppy tenon, which you mentioned it wasn't, then get a different neck. I would be tempted to try a Magnum or a Warburton.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I've been tempted to try a Gloger SBA neck! But that might be a bit of a costly "let's see if it works." No high F#, and the horn has played like this after multiple trips to repairmen who have deep cleaned the neck, refit the tenon, new cork, total overhaul.

JBT you make a valid point regarding the embouchure. The curious thing is I don't have the stuffy high tone on other tenors. As far as mouthpiece position, if I pull out to tune to 440 the octaves are in tune, the whole horn plays in tune, however the sound gets dull. If I push in, tone gets better but the pitch is all over the place.

The keys are well vented. That particular region is sharp and stuffy! I'm playing a Morgan excaliber, great piece, Ralph knew what he was doing.

Is it possible to decrease the diameter of the octave pip? That may bring down the pitch on the upper stack and allow me some more room to push in, granted I may have to adjust the rest of the key heights again, but I'm willing to try anything.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Is it possible to decrease the diameter of the octave pip? That may bring down the pitch on the upper stack and allow me some more room to push in, granted I may have to adjust the rest of the key heights again, but I'm willing to try anything.
THis is very easy, try some blue tack. My gut feeling is it won't solve the problem though.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Decided to give the horn a little cleaning just to make sure. Upon removing the upper stack I noticed the 2nd ovtace key vent inside the horn is horseshoe shaped (with the flat side vertical, or parallel to the tube). Is this normal? I also noticed that high F pad has a very deep indentation (turns out the roo pad dried out and cracked open). Regardless, should the F key have that much tension? Would pushing the pad into the tone hole contribute to stuffyness?
 

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Decided to give the horn a little cleaning just to make sure. Upon removing the upper stack I noticed the 2nd ovtace key vent inside the horn is horseshoe shaped (with the flat side vertical, or parallel to the tube). Is this normal?
In a word no, but whether it makes any difference is anyone's guess. I would suspect that it does not.
I also noticed that high F pad has a very deep indentation (turns out the roo pad dried out and cracked open).
The first thing you need to do is to replace the high F pad and check the rest of the sax for leaks.
Regardless, should the F key have that much tension?
Normally the palm key springs would not be set that strong.
Would pushing the pad into the tone hole contribute to stuffyness?
No, but a leak in that area certainly would. I would strongly suggest that you take the sax to a competent repairman and get the leaks fixed before even considering any modifications to the instrument. Any acoustical adjusting must be done after the sax is perfectly airtight or you will just be chasing your tail. Been there, done that.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Though the pad was cracked open it still sealed; i've seen this a number of times in fact, usually on pads that remain closed. I've taken measures to ensure an extra tight seal for now (I'll save the remedy for a new thread).

Though a leak may have explained stuffyness down low, it doesn't explain the stuffyness up high when all the keys are open. I took a closer look at the 2nd octave vent and it is not horseshoe shaped. It is cracked, pulled, burred, or damaged in some way though hard to say exactly how as its in a difficult location to see clearly. It doesn't seem to effect the response of the lower stack when in use, but it could be enough of an agitation to the sound waves to induce stuffyness.

Also found some minor dents around the first octave pip and around the upper stack. They are small and barely visible; some I could only feel but they definitely there. It is hard to say whether they are big enough to effect the response, but the fact that they exist around the upper stack and on the neck at approx. 1/2 the tube length of the upper stack raises eyebrows.

*on a side note, I had the horn overhauled recently at well north of $1000. This is the first time I've taken the horn completely apart since then. What I found was pretty disturbing as far as seeing what I actually paid for. Perhaps someone can clarify what "overhaul" means? I told the repairman I wanted a complete overhaul, top to bottom, new everything, fully cleaned, with all the little dents and dings removed. What I found was all the old and rusted springs, dust bunnies in all the nooks and crannies (these were not formed in the time since I got the horn back, they go way back), obviously none of the dents were removed, old neck cork, play in the action, and various other short cuts. What I got was essentially a repad, which does not cost that much... I'm done venting but I do have to admit its pretty apalling. All I can say is "fool me once, shame on me!"
 

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.... I've taken my horn to a number of repairmen but the problem still lingers....
......I also noticed that high F pad has a very deep indentation (turns out the roo pad dried out and cracked open).......
It would seem very odd to me that a number of repairmen would not notice that the high F pad had dried out and cracked open.
 

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Getting the horn into playing condition should be repair 101 for anyone in the repair business.
 

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A leak in the upper part of the sax near the neck tenon, ie. the high F or F# pad will have the SAME effect as a leaky neck tenon---an overall stuffiness throughout the range of the saxophone. Good luck finding a solution to your problem.

If the cork is not fit well to the mouthpiece air could be leaking around the cork as well. This could account for the fact that the sax plays with a better sound when the mouthpiece is pushed further onto the cork, and when a different neck (with a better fitting cork) is used. I have even found necks where the air leaks through a channel underneath the cork itself.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Thanks for all the input. I apologize if there has been any confusion regarding the horns playing state, please allow me to clarify. I've had the sax for 9 years and have (for the most part) always kept it in great playing condition. I've always taken it to repairmen, at least a couple times a year, to make sure all the pads were seated/sealing correctly and to replace pads/neck cork when necessary. The cracked high F pad (it only goes to high F) was a recent development, which I have not had the opportunity to replace yet.* The high end stuffiness (or better yet, the inability to really push the high end past mf without it shutting off) has always been a characteristic of the horn since I purchased it, even though many trips to repairmen have kept it top condition. I had never given the horn a complete overhaul since it never seemed warranted, however after my growing frustrations with the upper stack I decided to invest in the complete overhaul (figuring if it solved the problem, an overhaul would be cheaper than buying another sax).

The problem with the high end is unrelated to pads not sealing, or a new neck cork, etc., leading me to the conclusion that there is something affecting the acoustics in some way. Even if the pads weren't sealing, the problem is in an area where all the keys are open. I still have this issue with other necks (the SBA neck mentioned before opened up the enitre horn, but the issue was still there though to a lesser extent) Before I bring it to another repairman I am hoping to gain some insight as to what the other possible causes could be. The horns sounds great (better than any other I've tried) in the middle and lower registers, and even the altissimo, particulary from A up (high G using the fork seems to suffer from the same issues). This makes it difficult to just get rid of it for that one problem.

Thanks!

*As a quick fix to the cracked pad until I can get it to a repairman, I installed a vinyl covering and reseated it. After removing the pad I pulled a black vinyl glove (standard drug store glove) over the vacant key cup until it was strecthed smooth. I then applied a thin layer of hot glue to the top of the cracked pad and pushed it into the key cup top-side down so that the vinyl essentially became a new skin, perfectly fit to the old pad. I reinstalled the pad and key while the glue under the vinyl was still hot enough that I could push the key against the tonehole and create an indentation, essentially creating a temporary custom fit. Amazingly its holding up for now!
 

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. I still have this issue with other necks (the SBA neck mentioned before opened up the enitre horn, but the issue was still there though to a lesser extent)

Aha, that's a new bit of information there (my italics).

previously I had assumed as you said the SBA neck solved the problem, then all you needed was a new neck.

If all it does is sound better, but the issue is still there, albeit to a lesser extent, I would suggest that (assuming there are no leaks as you say), the problem is with the saxophone itself.

It could just be a lemon, or it may have some issue caused by previous damage, maybe it was bent and restraightened badly and this is affecting the acoustics.
 
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