Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saxophone Repair Disaster

Okay, this is a story that would fit the buyer beware category.
First I live in Brazil , and as an American just gaining functionality in the language and on the ways and workings of a foreign country I was fortunate that my debacle with my soprano didn't turn out worse. (note I've been living in Brazil for 10 months and my language level is now functional which means I can hold a conversation, take the bus, shop, teach in Portugues if necessary, although Im far from being fluent or being able to discuss intellectual stuff.

In A Nutshell
Recently, I had my soprano saxophone repaired.
The horn I was having repaired is a Yamaha YSS 62, not a Mark VI, but a pretty good horn. I've had it for over ten years and I have had it overhauled completely about 3 years ago. Unfortunately, the case is a little roomy, so I have to put a small towel or t-shirt inside to keep it stable.

I had to get my soprano fixed, the alignment was off and due to intonation problems the horn had become unplayable. So what to do? I queried several of my Brazilian saxophone playing friends, and they all recommended repairman number 1. Anyhow I had some suspicions about this individual because he worked from home and he lived nearly 30-40 minutes away, outside of the city from where I live.
However, he came with good recommendations and actually he had helped me out back in Oct or Nov when I had problems with the Bis key.
He came over to my apartment and looked at it, and told me that it needed new pads, 3 years and new pads, suspicion 1?? > (My First Mistake)
The price of the repair would be 200 real which is more or less 100 bucks. (not bad)
Pads don't generally go bad in 3 years, Although I haven't been cleaning it as regularly as I should. I Am now. Now, he ordered pads from Sao Paulo, and it took me a month to get it back. A Nervous Month

Result 1
The horn was playable, intonation was improved but it was far from gig ready, and from low E down the horn leaked awfully bad.
Not a total disaster, but a wasted 200 real.
Lesson 1, Try to find a music store to do your repairs, unless you can meet with the repairman at his shop and see some of his work. In this case I did have recommendations but I didn't visit the guy and see what his shop or tools was like. this was going to be a major repair, not just one key getting adjusted.
Second, keep your horn clean and dry. Using the long fongo swab is a not a bad idea, but the swab must be washed regularly because it carries bacteria from your saliva. The pull through swab is probably a better choice.

Moreover, when I got it back the case smelled like cat urine. I think this repair guy had a cat, and the cat defined my case as his territory if you know what I mean. I was able to get the case cleaned at the local cleaners.

Result 2
About a week later I called the local music store and with my ever improving Portuguese I asked about a horn repairman. The word for repair is pretty easy, Reparar; and they gave me the guys cell number. Repairmen 2 came over looked at the horn and said the alignment was off and intonation( afinacao).

In 3 days I had my horn back, The intonation was pretty good, leak fixed. It still needs some small adjustments which repairman 2 made. But overall on a scale of 1 -10 I give repairman#2 a 8.5

Lessons learned
Music stores are better for repairs. You pay more, but you pay for what you get.
Recommendations can be good, but they don't always work out, especially sopranos which are really delicate.

Godliness is Cleaniness.
Not only does swabbing after every gig or practice session keep the horn clean, it saves wear and tear on pads and thus longer time between repairs.

Good luck and Happy Playing