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I don't know of any accomplished player who can't play both alto and tenor interchangeably. Soprano and baritone take a bit of time and practice to become acclimated to their idiosyncrasies. I think it is important that your tech play the saxophone to catch the nuances that a tech who can just honk out a few scales might miss.
 

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Suppose he plays only alto, would you give him your tenor for a revision ?
I'd be more concerned about his level of experience and quality of work, rather than his ability as a musician.

Would you rather have a tenor player that is a bad repairman?
 

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For me, I prefer a technician who can play well enough and have a good enough ear to set pad heights correctly. Twice in 47 years I have had my actions of my MK VI lowered by technicians that did not know any better. The second time I had even told them not to. The thought was that you could play faster, but intonation suffered and the bottom end was real stuffy.
Repairing a sax is a real art form and the skill required is greatly unappreciated. I have run across a few that have the whole package and always walk away smarter after each time I deal with them.
 

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Never auditioned him.

Good enough for Harvey Pittel, good enough for me.:mrgreen:
 

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I'd be more concerned about his level of experience and quality of work, rather than his ability as a musician.

Would you rather have a tenor player that is a bad repairman?
I totally agree.
And surely a good repairman would not set venting way different from what it was without consultation with the player.

And if a virtuoso player tech sets up a sax to what he thinks is perfect in all parameters for himself, that is not necessarily perfect for the owner, who has his own idiosyncrasies as a player. In that regard such a tech may do a worse job for the player than the tech who is a much more basic player.
 

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One of the most famous repairers in the Netherlands Nico Bodewes doesn’t play saxophone at all and a few others are only able to play a scale on the horn but aren’t players.

In both cases celebrated musicians trust them and have trusted them for years.

I have posted this documentary video many times before. I’ve met Nico, have some work done on my Super 20, recommended him to a couple of SOTW members one of whom came all the way from a far away town in Germany to have his horn done by him.

Dutch spoken ( he says that he learned from someone who had 15 pupils and that he himself has taught more than 14 people)

He says : “ I don’t play any saxophone but I listen to the “ plops” , I will demonstrate with this very good baritone......if it sounds like that you can bet it is a very good sax...."

 

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If your tech can play like Sonny Rollins, he’ll likely be able to blow through any leaks with little to no effort.
So you might get your horn back leaking like a sieve.
But that’s OK you can always sell it to Sonny.

Seriously though, I took a tenor that was leaking really badly to a well know tech who is also an awsome player.
He put a mouthpiece on it and blew the ceiling off, whilst I could only honk out half a register.
I have no doubt if he overhauled it would be completely leak free but you have to wonder.
 

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My guess is if everything is done properly and all the fundamentals through the scale work as they should the nuances will be there if its a good horn.

Some guys just have a gift regardless of playing ability.

In the MPC world JVW played very little if any.
 

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The best overhaul/repad I’ve ever had done was by Jack Finucane at the Boston Sax Shop. FWIW, he’s a fantastic musician and an accomplished saxophonist. I’ve no doubt that his high level of playing informs the way he sets up horns.
 

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In my experience "setting up" a saxophone involves three senses. They are visual, aural, and "feel". "Feel" is the hardest to describe since it involves not only tactile sensation, but also how a note or register "feels" when you play. It involves resistance and to a large degree response. When I set up a saxophone on my work fixture I try to make everything as close to perfect as I can visually. That involves pad seating, key opening, regulation, etc. A certain amount of setting spring tension can also be done in this setting. Then the saxophone comes off the work fixture, the neck is added and the notes are fingered without playing. This checks for key noise, lost motion, and correct spring tension by feel. Everything up to this point can be done by a tech who is not a "player".

Next the sax is play tested. Playing a slow chromatic scale using both regular and alternate fingerings and listening to the timbre and pitch of each note determines if the key openings that "look" correct are actually venting the notes to sound clear and in tune. The next assessment is the feel and response of the saxophone---especially in the lowest register. This is where the "princess and the pea" analogy applies. Saxophones can look airtight with a bright leak light inserted in a dark room and still not "feel" right in the low register. This is where the experienced tech who is also a player earns his/her pay. Leaks can go undetected up to this point: at the neck tenon, under the neck brace at a seam, under the neck cork, at the neck pip, and the body octave pip, in the pad of a palm key with lateral play that closes missing the pad impression, at the body bow connection. and at the bell bow connection. These possible leaks cannot be chased down if the tech is unaware of their existence.

Certainly the "non player" tech can work with the player in the shop playing and checking, playing and checking for how long it takes, but it is more efficient if the tech can have all of this done before the sax is given back to the customer for a final check.
 

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I feel, if you cannot play it, you should not repair it.

The mechanical component is only one part of the job, response, feel, intonation, attack of the notes is just as important, if you cannot play you should not repair.

I can picture a repairer now, fitting new pads to an oboe/bassoon/flute and so many more and going, mmm it should play okay, mechanically everything’s sealing, I cannot play it, but it’s good, two thumbs up, bwahahaha.

Sax is pretty forgiving, you have to be a whole special type of person to get that wrong, possibly why so many people that cannot play repair them.

Steve
 

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Simso is correct. If you want the horn the best it can be, the repair needs to be able to play well. "Good enough" never is.

There is a ton more than the mechanical aspect. There are many times where a tech and player will feel the horn is "right" simply because it was better than it was, and they can't see leaks.

This is similar to mouthpiece refacers. I respect JVW's work but he also was at a time with not a ton of other skilled independent refacers. If a refacer can't play altissimo correctly, how does he know his piece is in balance? I find it telling that many of the world's top players have their pieces worked on, or own pieces made by, refacers who are also stellar players. But, most of the market are amateurs, and thus an amateur refacer who can't play the horn will suffice for their needs.

Years and years ago when I was an apprentice, my mentor would overhaul a horn and then give it to me to playtest for no less than 3 hours. His repairing skills were unmatched, but his playing was average to above average, and he wanted to make sure the horn was correct from someone with a higher ability. Once it passed my tests, only then did the customer come in for his final consult.

All that said, average tech work is the norm in the industry. Its just not profitable to do things 100% correct and spend the amount of hours it takes to truly maximize a horns potential. I'd say the average decent tech gets 80% of a horns potential, the good techs around 90%, and very extreme few can come close to that 100% mark.

- Saxaholic
 

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My guess is if everything is done properly and all the fundamentals through the scale work as they should the nuances will be there if its a good horn.

Some guys just have a gift regardless of playing ability.

In the MPC world JVW played very little if any.


JVW wasn’t a saxophonist and either is Randy Jones.
2 of the best at their crafts.....
 

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I know, it’s surprising.
Both of those guys —-two of the best. I don’t think it really matters about being able to play the saxophone to be able to do repair work. In theory you would think that they would be better if they could test everything and all of that, but clearly it works either way. Emilio Lyons is a clarinetist, and he has done saxophone repair for over 50 years. Quinn the Eskimo has sold more saxophones than anyone I know, and he doesn’t even play the saxophone.
 
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