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D# key vibrates when playing Middle D Plz Help

Common Sax Problems

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Hi, Plz Reply
I bought a cannonball alto sax and i had it for a while and the spring holding the D# key popped out of its notch and vibrated for a while when i played Middle D. then if fixed it by putting it back. then last friday, i had a football game and I'm in the marching band, my jacket caught the spring and bent it away from the sax, ever since then, it vibrated AGAIN. i tried to bend it back but nothing works, i tried for a few hours to find a way to fix it and it is still doing it. can anyone help me??????
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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Just north of Munich
The answer is, as you've guessed, bending it back, but be careful, it's easy to break it off if it's been bent that far. Do you have a tech locally?
 

Stephen Howard

Well-Known Member
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UK
Some terminology first.

The spring on the low Eb (D#) is a needle spring - so called because it looks rather like a needle.
The spring is mounted to the horn through a small hole in one of the pillars. One end of the spring is flattened out so that it can be wedged tightly in the pillar. This stops it moving around and/or falling out. If the spring is loose in the pillar, it's game over.
The other end of the spring (often sharply pointed) locates in a stub or a notch on the key it powers. This stub/notch is known as the spring cradle or spring post. A stub will usually take the form of a small cylinder with a groove cut into it, which is fixed to the barrel of the key. A notch may be cut into one of the key arms that extend off the key barrel.

Springs can be set to force keys open (as, say, on your low C key) or to force them closed...as on your low Eb key.
When the spring is first fitted it comes out of the pillar in a dead straight line, and in order to set it so that it opens or closes a key it has to be bent. If you look straight down on your low Eb key barrel, the spring would be bent towards the bell. It's then carefully pulled backwards and hooked over the cradle. Because the spring had been bent towards the bell, it now imparts a force to the key in that direction...and this is what provides the closing force.

The further towards the bell you bend the spring, the more closing force it will have when you pull it backwards and hook it over the cradle. Too much 'bend' in the spring and it will make the key very hard to press - not enough bend and the spring will not be strong enough to keep the key closed when playing the horn.

The 'height' of the spring is equally important. When a spring is unhooked from its cradle, it's tip should at least be level with the notch in the spring cradle. If it's set too low the spring will impart a downward force. This won't significantly affect how the spring works, but it will mean that the spring is more likely to 'jump' off the cradle if the horn gets knocked. Setting the spring level will prevent this - though setting the spring just a little higher will add in a margin of safety.

So your spring has popped off its cradle - perhaps because it was set too low in the first place, or maybe because it got caught on your jacket. You now need to re-set the spring.
You pop it off its cradle and check the height. If it's too low you will need to push the spring upwards (i.e. away from the body of the horn). It's a closing spring, so it needs to be set forwards of the cradle (in this case, towards the bell). You can combine the forwards and upwards bending in one go....though you'll often find that the keys get in the way.
Re-check the height, and if all looks well, very carefully pull the spring back until it juuuuuust goes past the cradle then clip it into the cradle. If you pull the spring back any further, you'll just weaken it.
Be warned though, the spring is most likely to break while you are bending it....especially without the proper tools (spring hook and spring pliers).

If you're catching clothes on the tip of the spring it probably means the spring is a little too long.
It either needs to be cut to size, or the tip needs bending. As neither of these jobs is advisable if you don't know exactly what you're doing, a temporary solution would be to wrap a piece of tape over that portion of the key (it won't affect the action of the spring).

With all that said, it looks like the spring has had a good few 'pulls'...and there's a good chance it's now closer to failing than it was before - and if you throw in the issue of it catching on your clothes you'd be better off having it replaced. Be sure to mention the clothes issue because the repairer may decide that it's better to bend the tip around the cradle rather than cut it short.
 
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