Repair Tips

  • Tenor High G Adjustments

    Hi guys, Rheuben again. Today I’d like to talk to you about the first altissimo G on the tenor saxophone – what can be done and what can’t be done to help that note come in. It’s a problem note on the tenor sax, so there are several things we can do and a lot of things we can’t do.

    First, the most important thing we can do is check the adjustment to make sure that when you push the harmonic key, the front F, it holds down the B key and this little key [points]. Now this adjustment must be in place for the altissimo G to work.

    Now if you play that G and the instrument doesn’t work and doesn’t respond as well as you like it to, on most modern saxophones, right here by the harmonic key there’s a screw [shows]. You can loosen the screw, slide it back and forth, and it will allow you to change the opening of the high F key. There’s quite a bit of distance that you can change here to make that note come in.

    So now, when you get that when the note comes in, remember you’re sliding this back and forth and changing the high F, you’re also changing it so that it will effect your high F and high E when using the fork fingerings. When you make that adjustment, keep in mind that it will change these notes also.

    Now if you’re playing a saxophone that has a high F# key, you can play the high F# key like this and open the F# key with a button [shows] and that works for some people depending on the mouthpiece and everything or you can play the B key and the high F# key [shows]. That tends to be a little flat but it has a great color. So if you’re going to do it quick, this is great. If you’re going from a B to a G, all you do is hit this key and you go from a high B to a high G and back.

    So that’s pretty much all you can do to adjust the saxophone to help with the first altissimo G. And I think that’s it… Later!!

    November 24, 2014 • Repair Tips • Views: 2313

  • Replacing Saxophone Neck Cork with Rheuben Allen

    I’d like to talk a little bit about the neck cork. Now this is a Selmer Mark VI neck and as you can see over time, the neck cork has been lengthened quite a bit. It should stop right about here (shows where) but you have another half inch that was done on this.

    So what happens is, whenever you go to put on a neck cork, you try not to lengthen it at all. So in the case of this though, you can see all the marks and things, so I put the cork just to here and there’s going to be a big ugly piece coming out of that neck. So what we have to do once the cork is cut, we must go that same length with the new neck cork.

    Now I use contact cement when I’m putting on a neck cork. So what you want to do to prepare the neck cork is, I usually cut the cork sheet down the middle, then you cut a tapered angle on one end (demonstrates) so that it’s tapered underneath, then you apply the contact cement.

    Okay, normally when I put the contact cement on, I use a pipe cleaner because it’s easier, but I’m out so today I’m using a q-tip. You simply go over your tapered area first. You don’t want it to be too thick at all, but you have to make sure that it covers everything (demonstrates applying contact cement to the tapered area and the back of the cork). Put the contact on.

    Just want to make sure you cover all of the cork you’ll be applying and you want to make sure you far enough. It doesn’t matter if you go past where the wraps going to be. You just have to make sure you put enough on there for where the wraps going to be. So I go a little extra.

    Put [the glue on], then that’s that part for the moment. Simply lay the cork on something to give the glue time to get tacky.

    The next step, of course, is to put the contact glue on the neck. I’m doing this tenor neck. So I simply take the contact glue and place it around the neck. Now you want to make sure you get it on this seam right here (shows) and on the top because in this little seam [you need to make sure the cork sticks]. Again, you want to make sure you cover everything. If it doesn’t get covered, it won’t stick. And it’s very important to cover the end because that has to be cut a little thinner than the rest of the cork.

    And as I’ve said before, this particular neck is a little long, so there’s a little extra room you have to do here. Make sure you don’t put it on too thick or with any clumpy spots or it will take a long time to dry. You want the glue to be fairly even.

    It’s generally easier with a pipe cleaner, the q-tip is a little limited. Get it all around the neck cork area. Then put it somewhere for the glue to get tacky without it touching anything.

    It will take a while for the tenor cork I just prepared to be ready to sand, so I have here an alto cork that I’ve already put on. It’s already been wrapped and everything, so I’ll show you how to sand it. It’s fairly simple to sand. Simply lay it down. I get these sanders (shows) at the 99 cent store. I get three of them for $1. And by hand, I sand the cork.

    Now contrary to many things that I’ve heard, the saxophone neck is not a cylinder, it is tapered. So the back end of the cork must be thinner than the front of the cork in order to make the cork a cylinder to the mouthpiece to slide onto and seal properly. So you must take a little more off the backend. And the cork seam, of course, should always be placed on the bottom of the neck (shows) so that it’s not seen. When the mouthpiece is on, you don’t see the seam.

    And you just start sanding. Turn the neck a little [as you go]. And hand sand it until it’s the right [thickness] for the mouthpiece you’re going to fit to this neck.

    Okay, now I’m getting ready to put the neck cork on this tenor neck and one of the things you need to do, as I used contact cement, is that you need have a place to put it while the contact cement is drying. So at the end of my work bench, I drilled two holes. One is 1 1/8 inch for the tenor necks and one is 1 inch for the alto neck. So that’s where they can sit while you’re waiting for the glue to dry and there’s no chance of knocking it off the bench or any of the kind of stuff because it’s actually in a hole and setup.

    [To put the cork on the neck, the side of the cork with glue goes against the neck. I start the tapered end at the bottom of the saxophone neck cork area so that when it’s all said and done, the seam isn’t visible. If I have extra cork after I wrap it around the neck cork area, I cut it so that it lines up seamlessly with the tapered edge. Be careful not to cut the actual saxophone neck. Press the cork down against the neck to get a nice seal and let the glue dry before you begin sanding.]

    [Goes back to alto neck] So now I have sanded the neck cork so that it’s a complete cylinder and very smooth and now’s the time to put the mouthpiece on and make sure that it fits. So you want to put a lot of cork grease on the neck. And then the mouthpiece that I use to test putting it on is one that I manufacture that has a metal ring around it so that it’s less likely to crack. So then you simply put the mouthpiece on the neck and get it on as far as you can get it on and [as you can see] that’s a very nice fit, a very nice distance. The player can put it there or out here, he’s got a lot of room and the cork is very snug. So at this point, I look at the back of the cork here (shows) and if it’s thicker in the back here than where you put the mouthpiece on, then I just simply sand that piece down a little more until it gets to be completely a cylinder so you don’t have that big bump at the back end. Now you’re finished and the cork is ready to be used.

    October 29, 2014 • Repair Tips • Views: 2213

  • Controlling the Bounce of the Right-Hand Keys on the Saxophone

    Need help controlling bouncing keys in the right hand of your saxophone?

    No need to worry. Right hand bounce is actually a very common problem. One of the ways to help stop the bounce is to have a cork on the back of the key itself and a felt glued to the body of the saxophone. When the cork hits the felt on the up stroke of the key, it will not bounce as much as when the cork itself touches the body of the instrument.

    So, if the bounce is hard to get rid of, you can experiment by using more cork on the key and less felt on the body or less cork on the key and more felt on the body to get the proper pad height and control bounce. Over the many years of repairing saxophones I have found that almost every saxophone requires a slightly different way to fix the same problem.

    You may also find that the spring tension and spring placement can sometimes cause bouncing. For example, some Selmer Mark VI tenors have a very short D spring in the right hand. This very short spring makes it difficult to both stop the bounce and get good spring tension on the D key.

    The type of spring will also make a difference when making the adjustment. A Stainless Steel Spring (sometimes referred to as a piano wire spring) does not seem to bounce as much as a Blue Steel spring. The reason behind this is that contrary to a blue steel string, it does not need to be heated before it is put in the saxophone, and in result, it maintains a better hardness allowing less bounce.

    If your saxophone has Blue Steel springs, they must be tempered correctly prevent the keys from bouncing. In extreme cases you can drill a small hole in the back arm of the key and have the spring go through the hole to operate the key (but I recommend having a repairman do this procedure if you find it necessary). By changing the spring placement you can control or eliminate the bounce. After doing this, however, it is necessary to remove the entire lower stack to adjust the spring tension on every one of the stack keys. But I would only do this as a last resort…..

    September 4, 2014 • Repair Tips • Views: 2621

  • The Difference Between Tenor Saxophones With and Without the High F# Key

    The following is a guest post by Rheuben Allen.

    Hi everyone, this is Rheuben. I’d like to talk to you very briefly about the difference between a tenor saxophone that has a F# and one that does not have a high F#.

    Many people believe that the tenor without the high F# key responds better. It’s hard to prove this because you can’t take a tenor with no F# key, have somebody play it and then in 15 minutes put on a high F# key so that they can try it with the same reed, the same mouthpiece, the same player and do everything at the same time.

    So the main thing about the high F# tenors that makes them not respond quite as well as one might think they should is that up here is the pad cup and down here is the spring [shows]. The spring is actually on a different key. It’s not on the key that it has to play, it’s on the lever, the part that works it. So, if you have a high F# tenor, and you think it’s not responding as well as you think it should, then you could possibly add a spring here at the top [shows] to hold the high F# key down. And that’s right at the top of the horn and that generally improves the saxophone quite a bit.

    So that’s the difference between the high F# tenor and the F tenor. Everyone is entitled to believe what they believe, but I believe that if you put a spring up here [shows], you’re high F# tenor will respond much better. Thanks so much.

    June 11, 2014 • Repair Tips • Views: 3131

  • Saxophone Repair Tips | An Article Roundup on Teen Jazz

    Rheuben Allen, a saxophone and woodwind repairman based in California, has contributed a number of articles to Teen Jazz on instrument repair and music in general. Because he specializes in sax repair, the majority of his articles have been on that particular topic. Here is a collection of saxophone repair tips from Rheuben Allen.

    Why it’s Important to Take You Instrument in for Regular Check-Ups – Preventative maintenance can help your saxophone maintain its working condition for far longer than if you wait until something is wrong.

    Repair Etiquette – How to Talk to Your Repairman – Why it’s important to tell your repairman the problems you’re having when you take your horn in for repair.

    Emergency Saxophone Repair – Just in case you need to do a couple of quick fixes yourself while on the road.

    Basic Saxophone Repair – If your interested in doing instrument repair, here are a few ideas to help you get started.

    How to Adjust the G-Sharp Spring Tension on a Saxophone – A problem many of us have.

    April 24, 2014 • Repair Tips • Views: 2138

  • How to Adjust the G-Sharp Spring Tension on a Saxophone

    This article is part of a series of repair articles written Rheuben Allen.


    There are 2 parts to the G# mechanism on the saxophone:
    1. The Key Lever: the part the finger pushes to make the key work
    2. The Pad Cup: the part that hold the pad.

    In order for the G# key to function properly, the G# lever spring must be stronger then the G# pad cup spring. If it isn’t, then the key won’t close quickly enough for it to work.

    So, having said that, it is necessary to make sure the spring tension on saxophones with an articulated G# mechanism is balanced.

    As a side note, when you tighten the G# lever spring it will also make the Low B, Low B-Flat and Low C-Sharp key heavier to operate. So make sure you take this into consideration when adjusting the G# lever tension.

    The options on how to balance the G# are determined by the design of the G# Mechanism. Here are a few things you need to consider before adjusting the springs:

    How long is the spring?

    Where is the spring located? Is it located near the Rod or does it have an extension from the rod?

    How old is the spring?

    What type of spring is used: Blue Steel – Stainless – Gold Wire?

    If you tighten the G# pad cup key and the result is that it is too strong for the G# lever key to operate well, then your second choice would be to change the placement of the G# pad cup spring. Sometimes when the spring hook is too close to the key rod it is difficult to adjust the tension without making it too hard to play. It also makes it so that the left pinky keys are difficult to play (for the lower register). Instead, by moving the spring out to the bar of the G# pad cup key, you can get a lighter balance and the key will not bounce (which is why we need to tighten the springs most of the time).

    In my experience, I have found during the many years I’ve adjusted G# tension, that it almost never works the same on every saxophone. It is a matter of experimenting to find the perfect balance.

    July 22, 2013 • Repair Tips • Views: 4943

  • Why You Should Take Your Instrument in For Check-Ups Regularly

    This article is part of a series of repair articles written Rheuben Allen.

    There are two important reasons to keep your instrument in good working order. The first is so that it will be in good shape for your performances and the second is far more important. It is so that your horn will have a long life.

    To ensure your instrument has a long life, you should take them into a repairperson for regular checkups. For example, when the pads on a woodwind instrument become old, they harden and wear down the tone holes on an instrument, decreasing its lifespan. By taking it in every six months or so, this can easily be avoided.

    Check your instrument often and do what you can to maintain it. That means clean it thoroughly after use, change the strings/reeds when they become old, and take it in for check-ups. Keeping your instrument in good shape increases the life of the instruments as well as its playability. Plus, having an instrument that works well ensures that you’ll enjoy playing a lot more!

    This article has been taken with permission from Rheuben Allen‘s website.

    April 10, 2013 • Repair Tips • Views: 2344

  • Saxophone Emergency Repair Kit

    This article is part of a series of repair articles written Rheuben Allen.

    We all have moments on the gig where we have a saxophone emergency and we find ourselves in need of a quick fix. It may be a spring that pops out of place or a pad that tears. Regardless of what it may be, there are a few things you can keep in your case in the chance there’s a problem.

    1. Spring Hook: Spring hooks are not expensive and there are quite handy. They are typically used to hook back a spring on the saxophone in the case that it falls out of place. If a spring slips during a session or rehearsal, you can use the eraser end of a pencil to push it back into place in case you don’t have a spring hook. When pushing the spring back into place, make sure you don’t push it back too far or you will alter the tension of the spring. Push it back just enough to slip it on or under the spring hook of the key. Springs slip off due to the angle they are at. If the spring is pulled tight, it is more likely to slip off.

    2. Rubber Bands: If you break a spring, you can use rubber bands in its place. You should keep several different sizes of rubber bands in your case. Remember that rubber bands do not hold their tension for very long, so make sure you keep spares or take your sax in for repair!

    3. Saran Wrap: You can use saran wrap to cover the surface of a pad in case you tear it. Cut out a piece, place it over the pad, pull the edges over the top of the key and tie it there with a rubber band.

    This article has been taken with permission from Rheuben Allen‘s website.

    March 6, 2013 • Repair Tips • Views: 2269

  • Saxophonist Phil Sobel | Teen Jazz Legend Interview

    Name: Phil Sobel
    Profession: Saxophonist
    Years Playing: since the age of 6
    Location: Los Angeles, CA


    Phil Sobel was born 1917 in New York. Both parents were amateur musicians, helping to expose Sobel to music at an early age. His first instrument was ukulele, which he played out on the street where people would throw pennies to him.

    He later found a violin in his grandmother’s attic and taught himself to play. He took his first violin lesson at 13, but found that it bored him. Instead he began playing the melaphone, tuba, and sousaphone in the Columbia University band. He later received an Albert System rubber clarinet and fell in love with it.

    At one point, Phil Sobel joined a group on clarinet, but a sax player stole his gig. Angry at the saxophone player, Phil took his violin up to 8th avenue in New York and traded his violin for a C melody saxophone. When he discovered he had the wrong type of saxophone, he went back and traded the saxophone for a $200 violin (which was valuable then). Phil Sobel then went to Conn in New York and bought his first saxophone.

    When Phil Sobel finally owned the “correct” saxophone, he got on a train to go look for a teacher in New York. On the train he just happened to sit next to Paul Whiteman’s sax player, who dropped him off at Henri Lindeman’s house. Lindeman told Phil that he would only teach someone who was willing to work hard because talent can only take you so far.Phil was a very talented and skilled sax player while he was studying with Lindeman, but Henri would never tell him this. Lindeman made sure that Phil Sobel worked hard. This helped to ensure Phil Sobel never developed an ego as a player – as he said, “confident does not mean egotistical.”

    Phil eventually began playing in an orchestra, which lead to a contractor calling him to play bass clarinet in movies. At the time, Phil Sobel didn’t really play bass clarinet, so he spent 3 full days in his garage learning the solo for the movie “The Thief.” Including that movie, his first two real jobs were on bass clarinet.

    His success in the film music genre eventually lead to subbing for the first saxophone part at the Oscars – his first gig in California. In California, Phil began teaching students privately as a sort of crusade to teach Lindeman’s Method. Leo Potts was one of his first serious students; although, Phil says all his students were very thoughtful musicians.

    Phil continued to work as a professional musician in the LA area. He performed on television shows such as Laugh In, My Three Sons, My Favorite Martian, Barnaby Jones, Lassie, Streets of San Francisco, and Lux Theatre, in addition to playing with stars such as Dean Martin, Andy Williams, and Fred Astaire.

    Phil Sobel became close with several of the people he worked with in ways that when his alto flute was stolen, Dean Martin bought him a new one, and Fred Astaire paid him compliments such as “You aspired me to dance the best I’ve ever danced before, I said ‘If I can’t dance as good as he played, then I have to do it again!’” However, the gig that has stood out to him the most over the years, was playing a sax soli behind Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

    Phil Sobel eventually began the West Coast Sax Quartet, which was started primarily to record a CD for Paul Creston. The group was at Cal State Long Beach, and it was the “most special thing” Phil says he ever did.

    November 4, 2012 • Interviews, Repair Tips • Views: 2554

  • Repairing a Crack in a Clarinet

    Clarinet Repair Tips from Rheuben AllenThis article is part of a series of repair articles written Rheuben Allen.

    There are a number of reasons that the wood of your clarinet may crack and if it happens, there are two different methods you can use when repairing that meddlesome crack in your instrument.

    Keep in mind that it is always safest to bring your clarinet to a professional repair person who has the training and experience to repair the crack, but if you are unable to do so, here is how you can fix it yourself.

    The first way to repair a crack in the wood of your clarinet is to pin the crack. The second is to use carbon fiber and epoxy to repair it. The second method is the easiest to complete, and seems to be the most preferred means of repairing a crack.

    The reason the second method is the most popular is because carbon fiber and epoxy vibrate the same as wood. Therefore it should not have any effect on the tone color or response of the clarinet.

    To fill the crack:

    First, one or two grooves are cut around the clarinet. The crack is then filled with epoxy and the two grooves are filled with the carbon fiber and epoxy. The filled grooves then need to be cut level with the wood of the instrument and polished to match the wood. If the job is done well, it is hard to tell the clarinet has been banded.

    This article has been taken with permission from Rheuben Allen‘s website.

    August 30, 2012 • Repair Tips • Views: 2520