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  • 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: 1176

  • 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: 1207

  • 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: 1581

  • 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: 1245

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

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

    ADJUSTING THE G# SPRING TENSION AND BALANCE

    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: 2613

  • 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: 1544

  • 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: 1239

  • 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: 1447

  • Instrument Repair Etiquette

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

    Taking your instrument into a repair person is comparable to visiting a doctor. Your instrument, like your body, needs regular check-ups and telling the doctor (or repair person) any symptoms you (your instrument) may have will help with diagnosis.

    So, make sure you talk to your repair person! They are unable to guess your problems and if you don’t tell them about the issues you’re having, they can’t help you diagnose or repair them. If you are having trouble in the lower register, tell him or her. If you cannot play a harmonic G on your tenor, tell him or her.

    When looking at your instrument, on the other hand, they may discover problems you were unaware of and miss something that made it difficult to play. But to ensure that your horn gets the best attention, point out anything you think may be wrong.

    It is important to have a good relationship with your repairman or woman, and the basis of a good relationship is communication.

    There are two things to look for when choosing a repair person. The first is obviously his or her ability as a repair person, and the second is whether or not you can get along with him or her. If they will not talk to you or listen to your needs, find another. Be sure to check with other musicians for references.

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

    August 30, 2012 • Repair Tips • Views: 1151

  • Basic Saxophone Repair

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

    Here are a few tips for basic saxophone repair.

    Removing the Bounce in Your Low C Key:

    In order to remove the bounce in the low C key of a saxophone, you must first move the spring out from under the arm of the key. Next, cut a small slot in the key. Make sure that the slot is not too deep. Adjust the spring and place it in the slot. This changes the pivot point of the spring and does not allow the key to bounce as much.

    Fixing Sticky Saxophone Keys:

    The G# and the low C# keys on the saxophone have a tendency to stick. The reason that the G# and C# keys stick is because the pad is closed against the tone hole, and so, whenever someone drinks anything other than water or eats before they play, they are contributing to the build-up on the pad that causes the key to stick.

    There are several ways to prevent sticky keys. Here are five ways to help prevent your keys from sticking:

    1. Place a thin piece of plastic sandwich wrap between the pad and tone hole so that the seat of the pad will not change when it dries. (After you are done playing)
    2. Have the spring tension adjusted so that it is as strong as possible without making the G# or C# difficult to finger.
    3. Change the direction of the spring. Leverage is very important to the operation of the G#.
    4. Replace the blue steel spring with a stainless steel spring. The stainless steel spring works differently than the blue steel and seems to have more tension.
    5. Brush your teeth and tongue before playing your instrument.

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

    August 30, 2012 • Repair Tips • Views: 1308