Monday, January 7, 2008, 04:31 PMThe most reliable way to purchase a new woodwind instrument made in Asia.
One of the most common questions I get is “which student instrument should I buy?” If you have searched for an inexpensive woodwind instrument made in Asian such as Flute, Clarinet or Saxophone, you know that there is a lot of information out there. You are probably also aware that there are many different opinions in regards to which instruments are well made and which are not. There are just too many manufacturers, too many brand names and too much hype when you are looking at the instruments manufactured in Asia. The search can be maddening. It can also be risky. Purchasing an instrument that is an unknown brand without knowledge of instrument manufacturing or the opportunity to play-test may result in wasting money on a poor quality instrument that will probably cost more in the long-run to repair than it originally cost you to buy.
I believe I can help you find a quality instrument at a good price. I can find you an instrument that plays great and is well constructed for less than you can expect to pay elsewhere.
First you need to understand the Asian instrument market:
MusicMedic.com works closely with many Asian manufacturers. We visit with these manufacturers while attending numerous music related trade shows. As a result, we have gained a solid understanding of the Asian instrumental market; who is making which instruments; who is using which parts in their own manufacture.
One thing I have come to realize is that many businesses in the US who sell Asian manufactured instruments do not know where the instruments they buy are produced. Although there are many brand names, there are surprisingly few manufacturers of complete saxophones. Factories will often import parts for instruments they produce. There are some companies that only make certain parts; bells, necks, etc. There is an incredible amount of trading going on at various levels. Businesses involved in this trading call themselves manufacturers even though most of them do not manufacture anything. They just purchase parts and assemble the instruments. So the question, “Where is this instrument made?” becomes very difficult to answer. The question, “Who makes this instrument” is even more difficult to answer.
Something else to keep in mind is there are US companies that buy these instruments and private label them. This compounds the aforementioned questions. In addition, there are companies in the US and abroad who buy from various manufacturers, assemble, label and sell instruments. Some of the US companies that buy these private-labeled instruments are not aware they are buying from a distributor, nor do they know who built the instrument they are selling. They have been lead to believe that they are purchasing from the manufacturer, when in fact, they are purchasing from a distributor. They may not even know in what country the instrument was made. The company they purchase from may not know where the parts were actually made. Purchasing an inexpensive, well-constructed Asian made instrument is extremely difficult.
“If I try a certain brand of instrument can I be reasonably assured that this Brand is OK?”
If you buy a "brand x" instrument made in China, it may have been made anywhere in China or Taiwan; possibly both. If 2 years later you buy another "brand x" instrument it may be made in a different place. “Brand-X” may insist (and believe) that their instruments are made by the same factory they used for the past 2 years. In short, the answer to this question is, “No, you cannot assume the instrument is in any way the same as the one you tried.” You need to play test every instrument you purchase. This is true now more than ever.
“So, why can I trust an instrument from MusicMedic.com?”
MusicMedic.com is in the unique position of having an intimate knowledge of instrument manufacturing, a staff of professional players for testing instruments and an established relationship with many manufactures. We are also a professional repair shop.
This year I will be meeting with many manufacturers at various trade shows. I know most of these manufacturers personally. I am a working professional woodwind player, as well as the owner of both a world renowned instrument repair shop and woodwind repair tools and supplies distributor. When I go to the largest trade shows, I will have at least 5 woodwind players and 3 repair techs with me. We will be play testing every instrument we can get our hands on. This alone effectively cancels the risk I have outlined above. We will play test the various instruments at the shows (and there are many to try) purchasing only the instruments with good tone, intonation, and quality craftsmanship. When possible, we will purchase from manufacturers we know. This further assures us and you that we are buying good quality instruments.
The names on the instruments we purchase will all be different but many will be from the same factories. In the past I have had very good luck with the instruments I bring back and have never had one returned.
“What is the process for purchasing one of these instruments from MusicMedic.com?”
Instruments are purchased on an 'as needed' and 'as available' basis. If there are not enough good instruments at the show to cover the demand, those who do not get an instrument will be given the option to keep their place in line and wait for the next show or have their deposit returned.
When we return from the show we send the instruments through our repair shop to be properly set up. Then we play test them again. Once this thorough process is complete, the new instruments are sent to those that have requested them. You will get an instrument that is well-made, play tested several times and regulated in our shop.
To purchase a woodwind instrument with our service:
1. Fill out this questionnaire located here: http://www.musicmedic.com/info/horn_form.php
2. Contact Curt@MusicMedic.com with any questions.
3. We will contact you via Email to pay your deposit. See deposit schedule on the horn form.
4. We will find an instrument that is right for you at the show. Hurry, the next show is just around the corner.
5. When we find a good instrument, you will be asked to pay the difference between your deposit and the actual cost of the instrument.
6. The instrument will go through our shop where it will be tested for leaks and play tested again before it is double boxed and shipped.
7. Enjoy your new instrument!
Monday, December 31, 2007, 10:05 AMI just got some great feedback on our Sax repair kit. I would like to share it with you all.
I wanted to send a quick thanks to you and MusicMedic for making repair supplies available to the every day musician. I was able to repad and properly adjust my Mark VI tenor with Precision pads while using the sax repair kit and various materials obtained from MusicMedic. The horn sings with the Mark VI magic like never before after the repad and balanced venting method as you describe. While removing old pads, I was disgusted to see that various "good" repairmen over the years secured and leveled pads with hot melt glue and what looked like Micro pad cement. I used amber stick shellac exclusively and the results are fabulous. The horn now vibrates and responds effortless and is even from top to bottom. The leak light alone is worth it's weight in gold. Many barely visible leaks were corrected during repad using this light. Some local shops won't even sell a single clarinet pad without insisting that they do the work. Thanks again for providing materials and know-how for all skill levels of repair at a great price.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007, 01:55 PMAbout 3 years ago I had an idea that I'm pretty certain is an original one. Although very odd, this idea worked so well that I now implement it in many of my repairs. I'll outline this idea as a procedure to make it clear what I am doing and why. If anyone out there is doing something similar I will be happy to hear your thoughts.
The problem I was trying to fix when this idea came to me was a stuffy note on a Buescher Alto Sax. The note is the alternate or forked F#. The tone-hole for this F# on a Buescher alto is very small, so nearly every Buescher alto that I have played suffers from a stuffy F# because of it. Opening the key height makes the stuffiness better but it's still present.
It is not air that we are necessarily dealing with inside saxophone, rather it's a wave, and further it's a standing wave. Knowing this I still had the feeling that allowing more air to escape the tone-hole would improve the tone of this particular note. Considering ways to do this, I thought about adding a scoop of sorts onto the tone-hole that projected into the bore. Something like an air foil. I also thought about adding a vent
somehow to that area. Finally it hit me to try adding turbulence on a low level to reduce the overall turbulence experienced at that tone-hole.
I considered roughing up the tone-hole with sand paper. I tried this and worked a little but not great. I was surprised when it worked even a little. A little is better than nothing. I took the idea a step further and added a liner in the tone-hole made of sand paper. My thought was that this might work the same as the dimples do on a golf ball. By adding turbulence near the surface of the tone-hole, air might be allowed to rush out of the tone-hole more freely.
This theory is best understood when considering a large mass of air traveling over a surface. It the surface is smooth like glass, the air will encounter friction there and slow down. The air is slowed and continues to slow the air column around it. Consider that same mass of air traveling over a rough surface. The air that is directly in contact with the rough surface will whip around in turbulent circles. These circles of air act like a bearing for the rest of mass of air to travel over without friction. So adding turbulence actually increases the air flow. This is what I hoped would happen in the tone-hole.
After gluing the sandpaper in the tone hole and playing the note, I was amazed that it really improved the tone. The stuffy hissing air problem was nearly solved. Adding sand paper to the tone hole made a stuffy note much less stuffy.
I have also found that “The sand paper trick” works to take the fan or warble noise out of octave C that plagues so many sax players when playing at higher dynamics on instruments such as modern Selmer altos, vintage Conn's, vintage Bueschers and many other instruments.
Any tone that is stuffy can be fixed with this trick. However, I suggest searching for a solution such as mouthpiece, reed or key height before implementing this fix.
Here is how I install the sand paper. For ease of viewing, the work below is done on a horn without keys or posts. Of course, one would not need to remove this many parts when doing this simple job.
1.Remove the key
2.Clean the tone-hole clean with Alcohol
3.Cut a strip of sand paper
4.Apply contact cement
5.Glue the sand paper: It is not important that the sand paper match perfectly at the seam. Place the seam at the bottom of the tone hole. There are several pictures here to help you understand.
6.Press the sandpaper firmly on to the tone-hole
7.Apply super-glue to the sand paper (this makes it very permanent)
8.Cut the paper to match the contour of the body
9.Apply more super glue
10.Check that the paper is truly fixed
11.Clean the tone hole surface making sure it is not covered with adhesive.
12.Assemble and play
Best of luck to you!
Thursday, August 16, 2007, 02:18 PMFor saxophonists, and particularly those playing acoustically in quartets or solo literature, the hiss that is often found on the second octave notes such as octave A, G# and octave D on many Alto and Baritone saxophones can be a real nuisance. This hiss is most noticeable when playing softly on a hard reed. To the player, the hiss is accompanied with a feeling of resistance. This change in feel and sound is very bothersome and distracting. Luckily it is easily fixed on most saxophones, both the hiss and the resistance often disappear with the simple repair I am going to outline for you.
Before we begin, you must understand which of the two octave keys are open when the offending note is played. The first octave key, found lower down the body of the saxophone, is open on notes from 4th line D to top space G#. The neck octave key, or the octave pad that is closest to the mouthpiece opens from A above the staff and up. Notes most often afflicted with this hiss and resistance are those on the outer edge of a pips 'range'. For example, the second octave pad works from A and up and the worst note is often A. This is the lowest note controlled by the neck octave. Of the notes controlled by the lower octave pip, from D-G#, the D and G# are usually the most resistant and prone to this hiss. Notes in the middle of the pips range are largely not a problem.
It is simple to diagnose this problem and discover if the repair will work before you begin. Here is the procedure for testing this problem: First you will need to procure some cheap pantyhose.
1.Get some pantyhose and cut a strip from the 'leg' of the hose about 1” or 25mm wide.
2.While playing the note with the worst hiss, have a friend stretch the pantyhose strip over the open octave pip. You can test this yourself by placing the pantyhose onto the neck over the pip and tying it on. See the picture below.
3.If the problem is greatly reduced or disappears, this fix will help you.
If you discover that this solution works, you will need to tie the pantyhose over the octave pip. However the pantyhose will cause the small octave pad to leak, this will affect the response of many notes on the instrument. Do not be tempted to stop here . You will need to find a way to make this repair airtight and permanent. I believe there is a better way than the one I use but, to this day, I have not found it. If you have any ideas about this, please contact me.
Here is what I currently do to make this fix more permanent.
Start with the cheapest pantyhose you can find. Some pantyhose are sewn in double strands (the good ones) and some (cheap ones) are single threads. Although either will work, the cheaper pantyhose are easier to work with. You will instantly know which you have when you stretch them over your hand and look at the construction of the pantyhose.
1. Remove the octave key.
2.Using a sharp knife, cut the material into a 1" strip. Tie the pantyhose over the pip.
3. Stretch the pantyhose so there are only about 5 strands going over the pip.
4. Get some high quality 5 minute epoxy and mix it up. Be sure to follow the directions on the label and wear safety goggles.
5. Add heat to the epoxy via a hot air gun of some sort. This will thin the epoxy and allow it to mix better. Heat also removes the air bubbles and makes the epoxy set very hard. I hold the epoxy over my heat gun while it is on heavy paper pallet. Be careful here, the epoxy will get thin and run. Do not heat it up too much just heat the epoxy until it begins to thin out.
6. Put a little epoxy on the pantyhose make sure to get it on the edges AND in the middle over the pip. A small amount of epoxy on the strands of fiber over the pip will strengthen the fibers and make them waterproof.
7. With your safety goggles on, quickly hold one hand over the large end of the neck and blow in the small end. The epoxy on the fibers over the hole will blow off but the remaining epoxy on the fibers will strengthen then and keep them from fraying. Be sure that you are blowing the epoxy onto a surface that it will not harm. Of course you would not want to suck this epoxy into your lungs.
8. Make sure that the epoxy fills in the pantyhose grooves and is not in the pip. Also be certain that the epoxy surrounding the hole in the pip appears to be even and smooth. Although it is possible to sand this epoxy flat the embedded fibers may be damaged. It is best to reach a nice level surface with your epoxy when wet.
9. Wait. let the epoxy set hard. Prop the neck up into an upright position allowing the epoxy to set level.
10. After several hours, cut the pantyhose from around the edges of the pip leaving only a screen over the pip and the entire pip covered with pantyhose.
11. Install a new pad that will now seal on the epoxy layer. For this, I prefer RooPads as they are the least sticky and form the nicest seal on the new surface.
12. Using your mouth as suction or, the MagMachine (for best results) perform a leak test on the neck.
13. Play test paying attention to the response of each note. Too much material in the pip will inhibit the response of notes. Too little will not solve the hiss. if this is your first time with the trying this trick, you may have to give it several tries. The repair should be nearly invisible and leak free.
Friday, July 20, 2007, 12:05 PMAfter I posted the Buescher Alto modifications, I received a bunch of Emails asking for more modifications. It's too bad we don't take more pictures here at MusicMedic.com! Maybe this new blog will change that. I'll try and take more pictures of our work as we finish. It may keep others from having to reinvent the wheel.
Here are some Buescher mods that we did to an Alto a little while back. This Alto is a Transitional.
Clyde the Glyde
Clyde the Glyde is the name we have affectionately given to a mechanism that lowers the pitch of the second octave open C#. This little mechanism is miraculous. When the octave key is pressed Clyde closes the C# pad the proper amount to allow the tone to play in tune. Because this mechanism is adjustable, it also takes any play from the octave key that might be introduced when the mechanism is installed.
There are two screws on Clyde, one on top and one on the side. The screw on the top allows Clyde to glide back and forth between the fulcrums of the C# pad and the octave touch. This changes the amount of movement in the small C# pad.
The second screw is tightened down to keep two parts in constant contact.
Although much more difficult to manufacture than a simple attachment and adjustment screw, Clyde works so seamlessly it makes it worth the effort.
This is a simple mod, but since it was done to this same instrument I thought it noteworthy. Here, a piece of guard wire was soldered to the bottom of the neck to reduce "pull down" that is common on so many saxophones.
Bumper added to low Eb.
On Bueschers there is often a problem with noise in the low Eb key when pressed. This is slight but when the entire instrument is super quiet, it is noticeable. Even if these keys are swedged to perfection, there can still be a little bit of noise as the pad cup vibrates when open. Here we added a bumper to the low Eb and the problem is solved.
Side Key Contact Points
This is a mod that I do to most horns coming in the shop. When a horn is set up perfectly, all the play is gone, cork is replaced with more appropriate materials and things are generally tight, any lost motion or imperfect feel in the keys is quickly noticed by the player.
Here we added contact to the side C and side E keys. If you look closely, you will see the side C key now contacts the body under the key touch. The side E key has an added part near the post to contact the post and reduce flex in the key. If these parts are hard to see in the picture, good. This means the modification is a success!
Good luck with your Bueschers!