The problems we most often see with saxophones are:
- Notes won't play or require a lot of air to play
- The neck cork has gotten loose or fallen off
- Keys are stuck or won't return to their rest positions
- Keyguards are knocked off
- The body is dented or knocked out of alignment
When notes won't play on a saxophone it's almost always due to air leaks. The tan/brown leather pads under the keys are supposed to seal the air from the tone holes. If a pad doesn't seal well, the saxophonist has to blow harder or squeeze the key until it seals. (Squeezing isn't good sax technique and slows the player down.) If a leak is big enough, the note won't play at all.
Sometimes leaks are due to keys being bent out of position; when that's the case, the technician finds the leak and usually can make some quick adjustments to fix it.
But often leaks are due to old and deteriorating pads. Sax pads are pieces of felt covered with a soft tan or brown leather; the felt allows the pad to conform to the tone hole and the leather skin seals the air. As pads age the leather gets stiff and doesn't seal well. Sometimes you can feel the leather pad and tell that it's stiff, or you can see the dark discoloration of aging. The only solution for this is replacing the old pad, carefully "seating" it to the tone hole for a a tight air seal. (Unfortunately when one pad has deteriorated the others usually have also, in which case replacing just one stiff pad wouldn't fix the problem for long. Replacing all the pads is never a welcome expense but the saxophonist will probably be surprised by how much better the saxophone plays afterward. With good care the new pads will last a long time.)
The neck cork makes a tight fit between the mouthpiece and the neck and assures no air leaks through. With use the cork compresses and eventually tears or comes loose. The technician cleans the old cork off, cuts new cork to fit, glues it into place, and then shapes it to hold the mouthpiece tightly. With proper maintenance the new cork should last many years. (In an emergency you can apply tape or paper to the neck to hold the mouthpiece until you can get your sax to the shop.)
Keys sometimes stick because of frozen pivot screws or
rods, but usually they've just been bent out of position. The technician
bends them back into position and aligns them to move freely. In most cases he'll also need to replace
their pads because they no longer make an airtight seal on the tone holes.
If a key won't return to its rest position, in most cases one of the springs has simply come unhooked. The springs are short straight wires mounted under the keys; when they're in place they apply pressure against the key. If the spring gets bumped off its hook, the saxophonist can often move it back into place with a pen or a crochet hook. If the spring is broken or loses its tension, the technician will need to replace it with a new one. (In an emergency you can sometimes use a rubberband to simulate the spring until you can get your sax to the technician.)
If a keyguard is loose, sometimes it's simply a screw that has come out; if the screw is available (often it's in the bottom of the case) it can simply be screwed back in. If the keyguard has been knocked off, it will need to be soldered back; if that's all the sax needs, the technician can do it pretty quickly.
When a saxophone gets a dent, a good technician can almost always straighten it with a little work. If the dent is small and didn't knock the body out of alignment, the technician uses special saxophone mandrels and hammers to bend the brass back into shape. As long as the keys weren't bent out of position, removing the dent may be all that's required; if keys are bent, the technician will realign them and replace the pads to get a good air seal.
When the body of the sax is bent out of alignment, the job gets more complicated. First the technician disassembles the sax and bends the body back straight; then he reassembles it and adjusts and aligns the keys to work smoothly; and finally he replaces the pads so they will seat well on their tone holes. It's a big job, but a good technician can put it back in the condition it was before it was damaged.
A good quality saxophone that is repaired properly should play as well as it did when it was new. And a good saxophone that is maintained properly should last a lifetime.
Why Choose Amro To Repair Your Saxophone?
Amro saxophone repair technicians fix more than a thousand saxophones each year for saxophone students, hobbyists, and professional saxophonists. The Amro technicians can play-test your saxophone, show you what it needs, and quote you a price to put it back in its original playing condition. And in most cases they can complete the repairs in just a few days.
- 3 full-time saxophone specialists on staff
- 18 professional instrument technicians
- Sax technicians are on-site: you can meet them, discuss the problem, and occasionally they can fix it while you wait.
- Several technicians are professional saxophonists
- Every repair is play-tested & quality-checked by two technicians
- Free estimates
- Free pick-up at most area schools
Even if you just want to know whether your sax is playing as well as it could, bring it by; we'll check it for you at no charge and no obligation.
Ask about Amro's Maintenance & Replacement Plan.
Average # of saxophones repaired per day: 5
Total saxophones repaired last year: 1,578
Total instruments repaired last year: 14,242
Do you have questions for our repair shop experts? Give them a call at (901) 323-8888 or send them a message here.