Welcome to my online resource for advice, care, repair and maintenance
for woodwind instruments.
Whether you're interested in buying an instrument, maintaining your flute
or clarinet, hints on saxophone repairs or just plain curious about woodwind
- you'll find something to interest you here, presented in a clear and
If you require further information or wish to comment on anything on the
site (or just fancy sharing your experiences) there's a contact link on
What with one thing and another it's been a very busy year, but I've at
last found some time to update the site - and I'm kicking off with yet
another book plug.
Not one of mine this time, though.
This one's by a very good friend of mine, Pete Cook. Not only is he a
superb player and an engaging and passionate teacher, he's also a dazzling
raconteur, an excellent and witty writer, a snappy dresser...and what
we Brits call 'a thoroughly decent chap'. We go back quite a few years,
given that I sold him his first alto way back in nineteen eightysomething
- and while I concentrated on fixing saxes, he got on with playing them.
And now, after all these years, he's put all his experience into a handbook
for gigging musicians - Road Rat's Tips.
It's a given that this book will be a real boon for new musicians who're
just starting out on a career as a professional player, but it would be
a mistake to think that's the limit of this book's remit because there's
something in here for everyone, even those of us who like to think we
know all the tricks of the trade.
I very much liked the central theme, which is "The Gig's The Thing".
Many of you will probably be nodding sagely at this point, remembering
various trials, tribulations and obstacles that you had to overcome before
you even managed to set foot on a stage - and what this book sets out
to do is provide you with the insider info you'll need to ensure that
everything goes as smoothly as possible, so that when you finally get
up on stage you're ready, willing and able to do your job to the best
of your ability.
Sure, there's lots of commonsense stuff in it (stay well-rested, keep
hydrated, eat properly) - and it never hurts to be reminded of the basics
- but the book really comes into its own when it gets down to the nitty-gritty...the
hard slog of travelling, the stress of dealing with clients, punters (especially
'grippers') and even other musicians.
I like to think I'm pretty seasoned when it comes to gigging, but even
I found page after page of really useful stuff of the "Now why didn't
I think of that?" variety.
And if that's not enough to tempt you, the whole book is peppered with
eye-wateringly funny anecdotes written in Pete Cooks inimitable, warm
I thoroughly recommend it to you.
Road Rat's Tips is available from Amazon
- but you can check out a preview chapter on roadratstips.com
- and don't forget to check out Pete Cook's wonderful site, petecooksax.com.
while we're on the subject of books - I've just received my complimentary
copy of the Japanese version of the Haynes Saxophone Manual - as published
by Yamaha Music Media Corporation.
It's quite a thrill to see my work translated into another language -
though it does rather mean that I have absolutely no idea what it all
says. For all I know the entire book could now read "Death to cheapo
saxophones!" repeated over and over again. Yes, I know it's unlikely...but
all the same...
As far as I'm able to tell it all looks pretty much the same, though Yamaha
have taken the opportunity to swap or change a few photos around. That
seems pretty reasonable - after all, they've paid for the rights - and
they'd be daft not to take the opportunity to use some of their own product
shots. Rather encouragingly, they've limited the changes to the 'beauty
shots' and a few of those in the Accessories section - the technical shots
And so to the updates...
The big news is that there are no less than seven new horn reviews -
but the even bigger news is that a jazz broadcaster by the name of Clay
Ryder has narrated a few of my Notes articles. If you're a fan of the
Jazz Etiquette series, you're going to love what he's done with them.
Check out Jazz as she is spoken in
the Notes section for more details.
Following the review of the TJ RAW tenor I've been inundated with emails
asking me about the alto, so I've managed to get hold of one at last -
and you can read all about it here.
It's the XS version, which is the same as the RAW but with the 'vintage'
And from the sublime to the, well, not so sublime there's my in-depth
look at the infamous Vibratosax
- today's answer to the Grafton of yesteryear.
Speaking of yesteryear there's a review of a very unusual soprano sax
- the Boosey & Co
Regent. I've never seen one of these before, and I'm willing to bet
you haven't either. So what have we been missing...?
If you fancy something a little larger, there's a look at an Ultra-Cheap
Chinese bass sax (vintage style). It's big, it's heavy - but is it
worth its weight in gold, or will it be a millstone around your neck?
Wrapping up the review section I have a look at Mauriat's
Le Bravo 200 tenor, the Buffet
400 alto - and a Yamaha
YAS62 III comes in for a setup.
I've also taken some time to look back at my article on Ultra-Cheap
horns, first published a decade ago now. I've seen quite a few changes
in these Chinese instruments down the years - but just how far have they
come, and is it far enough?
For the tweakers there's a new Handy Hints article that looks at building
and using a leaklight.
It's an incredibly useful diagnostic tool, but a good one can be very
expensive and a cheap one is often unreliable - so I've put together a
few tried-and-tested budget alternatives.
...And finally there are a couple of new Notes
Special thanks are due to Team Tube for their assistance
with this update.
So, what's on the site?
There's the Handy Hints section,
which contains pages of advice and hints to enable you to care for and
perform minor repairs on your instruments. It's worth checking back from
time to time as this is likely to be an ever-growing section. For those
looking to have an instrument repaired, there's a basic guide to the various
levels of servicing.
Making and using a leaklight.
The Reviews section is the place to
find the bottom line on that horn you've had your eye on.
As and when instruments come through the workshop (or rather, when I have
the time!) I'll post my comments about them here. The emphasis is more
on the mechanical side, given that playability is very much a subjective
matter - though if I find issues that may affect this significantly I'll
comment on them. There's also a section here which offers some advice
to those of you about to buy an instrument, new or secondhand - perhaps
for the first time, plus some notes on the vintage/modern saxophone debate,
and some hints for choosing a pro sax.
The TJ RAW XS alto,
the Vibratosax, Chinese
Mauriat Le Bravo 200 tenor,
Boosey & Co Regent
YAS62 III, Buffet
The Misc. section is where you'll find all
the articles that don't quite fit anywhere else, including the infamous
Latest update: The
soprano of shame.
In Testing...Testing I'll be examining
in more detail some of the commonly held ideas appertaining to woodwind
instruments. For example...people 'say' you should use a Pad-Saver...but
why? And are they right?
Kangaroo skin pads and Noyek Reflectors...Hype or Hooray!? And at last,
the above-mentioned pad saver test!
In the Glossary you'll find explanations
for a great many of the curious words and terms used throughout the site.
If you're very new to musical instruments it might help to open this section
in a separate browser window so that you can refer to it as you read other
sections of the site.
A complete revision of the point screws article (nice new piccies!).
Notes...from a small workshop is a place
where you can get the low-down on workshop life, a chance to pull up a
seat and share a cuppa whilst the great issues of, well, anything I fancy
really, are mulled over. I won't often publish detailed update notices
here...so just drop by and peek in from time to time.
Latest update: Jazz
as she is spoken, Dodgy, Making
All material on this site copyright Stephen Howard Woodwind,
unless otherwise stated. 27/06/2014
Haynes logo copyright Haynes Publishing