Questions - and answers
On this page you'll find answers
to questions sent in by readers or prospective buyers of the Haynes
Saxophone Manual. If you have any questions relating to the content
of the book, or as a result of applying any of the techniques, please
feel free to drop me a line.
? Does the book tell me how to regulate
the cork and keys on the saxophone ? I can remove the keywork and
I can change a pad but I do not know how to regulate the upper and
lower stack. There must be some rules how much cork there should
be on the keys. Some of the keys works in combination and the cork
over the key foot can be used to regulate it. The cork under the
key foot has to do with key height. I know I can put some thicker
cork on or sand it but I do not know how thick it should be. P.
Olsen - Denmark
A Yes, it contains a sizeable section that
deals with fitting and regulating key corks, along with all the
information you need to know about how 'regulation' affects the
keywork. It shows you how to distinguish between problems caused
by build issues and faulty pads and those caused by poor regulation.
? I'd like to buy the saxophone manual
for my son, but I'm a bit worried that he might start messing with
his saxophone and end up breaking it, though I want him to know
how to take care of it. What would you advise? Mr. Leedy - Canada
A You'd have to go some to physically break
a saxophone - it something I've never seen professionally other
than from a deliberate attempt to damage the instrument ( with a
hammer ) or from a nasty accident - but there's certainly plenty
you can do to stop a horn working by poking about without knowing
quite what you're doing. The manual helps to avoid this by explaining
how the instrument works and showing what all the component parts
do. I would recommend starting with the basic care projects ( like
cleaning and oiling ) and then moving on to the testing section.
This will help players familiarise themselves with the instrument's
mechanism and become more confident about handling it - at which
point it will become far less likely that they'll make any major
mistakes. In any event the diagnostic techniques show how to check
for and correct any such problems.
The bottom line is the care techniques alone will make a significant
difference to the playability and reliability of the instrument,
and anything that furthers a player's understanding of how their
instruments works has to be a good thing. If any mistakes are made,
they won't be serious!
? I bought a cheap Chinese sax ( before
I read your article! ) and have always had trouble playing F,E and
D in the low and mid range. I bought your book and did the test
for leaks and found all the pads on the lower stack were leaking.
Worse than that, I found the tone holes were not level. Will it
cost a great deal to have it repaired, and is it worth it? J. Finch
A If you've found warped tone holes on the
lower stack then it's a good bet that some of the others will be
similarly warped. If you're lucky and it's only the lower stack
holes at fault then you can probably reckon on spending about £40-£60
to have the lower stack stripped, the tone holes levelled and the
If the horn is still under guarantee you could argue that it's unfit
for purpose, or negotiate sharing the cost of the repairs. Whether
it's worth it depends on how much you paid for the horn, bearing
in mind that a ( good ) replacement can be had for just over £200.
? I was checking my action and found
little bits of paper stuck to some of the corks. This can't be right,
can it? S. Foster - UK
A It's not ideal, but sometimes a repairer
will find that a cork needs thickening up by only a very tiny amount.
In order to save on the bother of replacing the cork they stick
a piece of paper over the existing one. It's a bit of a bodge coming
from a professional, but it's a common technique used by many home
repairers - and if it gets them out of trouble then all well and
good. What tends to happen though is because the paper is less resistant
to oil and water, it can disintegrate - usually on a gig. For reliability,
and a quieter action, fit a new cork.
? I've been using thin oil on my keys
for a while now and I want to start using a thicker oil. Will I
need to have the action degreased first? K. Tomas - Germany
A You shouldn't need to - most oils will
mix quite happily unless you've used something unusual. Degreasing
would help in that when you apply new oil ( thicker or otherwise
) it will push out any thin oil present in the keywork, so unless
you remove the thin oil it's likely to migrate out for a while longer.
It's not a big problem, it just means you'll have to keep cleaning
the instrument until the thin oil has been replaced. It will take
some time before you feel the full benefit of a thicker oil though.
? My low F key pad has a tear in it that
goes right over the tone hole mark. The leather is pretty good though,
is there anything I can do to save it? The sax seems to play ok.
Mr. Jeffreys - Ireland
A A tear in a pad will reduce its ability
to fully seal over the tone hole, especially if the tear goes over
the seat. It really needs replacing, even if it's quite new.
You can improve things slightly by gluing the leather to the pad
felt. Apply some contact adhesive to a small stick or the tip of
a screwdriver and very carefully wipe a thin smear
of it on to the felt beneath the tear, ensuring the glue covers
slightly more than the torn area. Press the pad leather down onto
the felt and align it as best you can - then hold it in place for
a minute or two. Be very careful not to get any glue on the face
of the leather - it will be very hard to remove and could make the
leak even worse. You should consider it a 'get you out of trouble'
fix, and have the pad replaced as soon as possible.
? My husband is a professional sax player,
I was thinking of buying a copy of the manual for him for his birthday.
Would it be something he'd find useful? Anon - USA
A Strange as it might sound, professional
players often know very little about how their instruments work,
and many of them play on instruments that have so many small faults
that most beginners would struggle to play them. It's because they
get used to working around the faults ( we call it 'compensating'
). They also hate leaving their instruments with repairers - and
anything that keeps them away from us is worth its weight in gold
to them! He'll love it.
? In the exploded saxophone diagram on
page 25 the palm Eb key is marked as the E key. J. Oakely - UK
A Technically, yes, it is the top Eb key
- in order to play an E you have to press down the side top E key
as well as the palm Eb. However, whenever players refer to the palm
keys they always talk in terms of the 'top D, E and F keys'. It's
one of those technical inaccuracies that seems to have become common
parlance. To avoid confusion I have changed all references to this
key to Eb.
? Is the Haynes Saxophone Manual
a proper repair manual? Phil Carter, USA
A No, it's a maintenance manual. Maintenance
deals with keeping what's working in good order and fixing small
problems - as well as diagnosing larger ones. Repair deals with
fixing things that are broken or damaged. Repair techniques often
require expensive tools and well-honed skills. You can buy repair
manuals if you wish to do more than maintenance, and I recommend
the Reg Thorp Woodwind Repair Manual (£45).
? English is not my first language
so do you have any plans to do translated editions? H. Bloch - Germany
A It's up to publishers to produce translated
editions. They will buy the rights to a number of copies and have
the text translated. If you know of a publisher in your country
who specialises in either music books or technical manuals, you
can ask them if they'd consider producing an edition in your local
? I want to buy a 'beater' horn
cheap to do up, will your manual be the right thing for this? Richard
Levy - USA
A It depends on how beaten up your 'beater'
horn is. Assuming at has no serious mechanical or structural defects
then I suspect you could get pretty far with the manual. If you
have to invest in a full-blown repair manual and some specialist
tools it will probably end up costing you more than buying a decent
horn in the first place.
? Oh no! Your manuals are out
of print! How do I get hold of a copy?
A If you're lucky you might find somewhere
that still has a stock of manuals, but it's more likely that as
time goes by you'll have to resort to hunting down a copy on the
Unfortunately, both books are quite unique in the field - and as such
you may find that prices are rather steep.