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Problem with a couple of notes on new Tenor Sax

QWales

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I received my new (second hand) Trevor James Rev II Tenor sax from Ebay yesterday. To look at it it was as described, in almost as new condition but when testing it I found I was having problems getting F and E when coming down the notes chromatically with the octave key on. After further inspection I noticed that the arm on top of the neck was coming down slowly just for these 2 notes and then after checking a little more it seems that the vertical pivot arm (sorry don't know the technical name) seems to be the part that is turning slowly.

Can anyone tell me if this is likely to be due to a knock (no damage showing) and hence alignment issues or lack of use and just needs oiling? If the latter, what oil should I purchase to try to get this working again?
 

kernewegor

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The octave mechanism does its clever switching stuff when you come down from A to G. If it doesn't work properly it is liable affect the whole instrument, although all notes will not be equally affected and you might only really notice a few notes being problematic.

Try a drop of oil. Don't use vegetable oil and don't use thin stuff - it'll migrate everywhere you don't want it and where you want it the effect won't last. Use gear oil - SAE 80, or 90 for those who live in a hot climate.

Pick up a drop on the point of a needle stuck in the end of a cork or whatever and put it where there is a gap between the bit that moves and the bit that doesn't. Don't over oil unless you want the oil to dissolve the glue which holds your pads on... then make the bit that moves move - several times. It should improve. If not, oiling it isn't the answer.

There may be damage which is not obvious. Repairs to the octave mechanism can be very tricky even for professionals, so proceed with extreme caution if are going to investigate and perhaps attempt a repair. If in doubt - don't!

In any case, get yourself a copy of Stephen Howard's Haines Saxophone Manual - inexpensive and an absolute bargain which will potentially save you a fortune - as well as giving you "well I'm blowed, I never realised that" moments about how the bits of your sax work and how they can be adjusted.

It's a book which will can help you fix something yourself, or stop you from making a problem worse and costing more than it should have when you go to a repair shop!

His web site is full of information, saxophone reviews and all sorts of stuff, including some very witty articles - See 'jazz Etiquette', for example...

Here's the link:

http://www.shwoodwind.co.uk/
 
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Colin the Bear

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Personaly I wouldn't use sae80/90gear oil. It's a sulphur bearing extreme pressure oil for transmissions and will dry out and go sticky in my experience. And it will taste funny. I'm not sure what is sticking from the description. It's better to lubricate rods etc by removing them and cleaning them first. It may have had a knock that can be adjusted/regulated away or it may have had something sticky, a drink etc spilled on it.

If it looks too complicated for you to do yourself, it probably is. It's just a tube with flaps, some are connected some aren't. It helps if you've played a while and know what it's supposed to do. If in doubt get it to a tech or an experienced player.
 

jbtsax

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Here are a couple of things to try to diagnose what the problem might be.

1) Finger G to A back and forth with the thumb key pressed and watch both the neck and body octave keys. They should "trade places quickly and smoothly. Hesitation indicates friction somewhere in the system.

2) Take the neck off and finger G with the thumb key pressed. Now grip the floating lever (also called the octave pin) that extends from the sax and wiggle it up and down. It should "float" freely with no hesitation or friction---hence the name "floating lever". If it is binding, it is almost always caused by a bent key or rod.

I agree with Colin. If anything, use key oil specifically made for woodwinds. I prefer Ultimax sold by Music Medic.
 
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QWales

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Thanks everyone, I'll give your suggestions a go when I get home and let you know the outcome. If the oil etc doesn't do the trick I'll be sending it back to the person I bought it from.
 

Fraser Jarvis

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I wouldn't use EP 80 or 90, just to heavy for that + it has a very sickly smell to it that will start to linger, ughh! nothing worse! just use some general household 3in1 oil, like what I do innit...
 

kernewegor

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Lots of ideas here, some conflicting!

I tried thin oils a long time in the past (3 in 1 AND proprietary 'key oil) and it migrates - fact - even if you are stingy with it and only use a tiny drop. I ended up with loose pads which I believe oil was responsible for. Like linseed oil/boiled oil for the bore and body of clarinets (which I was recommended to use by a shop!) it ain't the wisest choice.

Buy the book. Read what Stephen Howard says about octave mechanisms. There is a lot to take in, and you need to mull it over. Then decide what to do - which may be giving it some oil to see if that is the problem.

While you're waiting for Amazon to send you the book, look at his website and see what he says about lubrication:

http://www.shwoodwind.co.uk/HandyHints/oilaction.htm

http://www.shwoodwind.co.uk/HandyHints/oilgeeks.htm

I wish I'd known that years ago before I used thin shop oil which they recommended!
 

kevgermany

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Gear oil works for me, but it doesn't smell nice. It's not too thick, even at -20C.

The spring on the neck needs to push the other parts of the octav mechanism back. It may just need tensioning a bit.

However I wouldn't send the sax back, I'd just get a tech to look at it if you're not confident, get a quote and go back to the seller. Chances are they knew about the problem and will be willing to cover the repair cost, rather than face another sale with a possibly lower price...
 

Colin the Bear

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Very interesting reading there.

I use a thin oil for cleaning rods and screws but wipe it off.

I still don't like the idea of using an EP gear oil on the sax though. I've used new engine oil in the past. I wouldn't recommend using black used oil though. It's been proven to be carcinogenic on skin so goodness knows what happens if it's ingested.

I've had some success with silicone grease too.

It does seem I've been wasting my time stripping down to lubricate. The experiment shows that a drop at the pivot point and any joints works its way in just fine. Who'd' a thought?

Remember though that less is more.
 

QWales

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This is the response from the sellers:"Hi,The sax has only been played a couple of times and has been stored in its case untouched ever since (as the mint condition demonstrates). It was bought from sax.co.uk a few years ago and has been in storage ever since as it was surplus to requirements due to investment in a pro-level sax. My wife is a semi-pro sax player and fully tested the instrument before it was sent out to you. All it needs is some actual playing-in time. It just needs bedding in as it's effectively a brand new saxophone."Possibilities of being accurate anyone?
 

kernewegor

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Gear oil works for me, but it doesn't smell nice. It's not too thick, even at -20C.

The spring on the neck needs to push the other parts of the octav mechanism back. It may just need tensioning a bit.

However I wouldn't send the sax back, I'd just get a tech to look at it if you're not confident, get a quote and go back to the seller. Chances are they knew about the problem and will be willing to cover the repair cost, rather than face another sale with a possibly lower price...

I agree with kevgermany.

Don't rush into sending it back - make sure you find out what the problem is - and take advice, as yer man says, if need be - before you decide. Look before you leap...
 

kernewegor

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This is the response from the sellers:"Hi,The sax has only been played a couple of times and has been stored in its case untouched ever since (as the mint condition demonstrates). It was bought from sax.co.uk a few years ago and has been in storage ever since as it was surplus to requirements due to investment in a pro-level sax. My wife is a semi-pro sax player and fully tested the instrument before it was sent out to you. All it needs is some actual playing-in time. It just needs bedding in as it's effectively a brand new saxophone."Possibilities of being accurate anyone?


Just saw this after my last post.

Hmmm. I don't buy the 'playing in time' for an octave shift problem. Hooey!

If it was 'fully tested' before it was sent then either her 'fully testing' missed this (!!??) or it's taken a knock in transit since it left them.

It's a bit of a puzzle otherwise how since being 'fully tested' the octave shift is giving problems.

Trying a drop of oil won't prejudice your right to return it (especially if you don't tell them!) - it could just be the answer. (Maybe it was lubricated with one of these thin oils which don't last......)

If not, then your options have already been discussed on this thread.

If it is otherwise mint condition and the sax you want then it's worth getting to the truth of the matter before you decide what to do.
 
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QWales

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Here are a couple of things to try to diagnose what the problem might be.

1) Finger G to A back and forth with the thumb key pressed and watch both the neck and body octave keys. They should "trade places quickly and smoothly. Hesitation indicates friction somewhere in the system.

2) Take the neck off and finger G with the thumb key pressed. Now grip the floating lever (also called the octave pin) that extends from the sax and wiggle it up and down. It should "float" freely with no hesitation or friction---hence the name "floating lever". If it is binding, it is almost always caused by a bent key or rod.

I agree with Colin. If anything, use key oil specifically made for woodwinds. I prefer Ultimax sold by Music Medic.

You had me worried for a sec as up and down didn't work at all but back and forth did, which is how it worked from having it dangling around my neck. Guess it was a perspective thing :). I went straight in for option 2) and wouldn't say it was completely smooth. So I spent a few minutes going back and forth and it seemed to get better. I then added the neck and mouthpiece and had a blow. I'm not sure quite where F and E came into it last time as the arm only seems to operate on G. Anyway I couldn't try for long because the kids were in bed but it may be a lot better, possibly resolved now. I'll try again from cold tomorrow evening and update you with my results. I'll probably add some oil either way.

Thanks again to everyone who replied.
 

jbtsax

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If oil is "migrating" on to the body when you oil a woodwind, it usually indicates applying too much oil and/or an ineffective way of applying the oil. I'm a believer in removing keys when you oil them. That way you can clean the old oil off the rod with a paper towel and clean the hinge tube with a cotton pipe cleaner. Then I add 1 drop of medium viscosity oil made specifically for woodwind keys inside the end of the hinge tube that the rod will be reinserted in---2 drops if it is a long key. Then the rod is inserted slowly and rotated as the key is reinstalled on the saxophone. Even with this system, one needs to wipe any excess oil that emerges at the threaded end of the rod with a paper towel or cotton swab.

A needle applicator is a must to do a good job, and even then just adding oil to the areas where the rod meets the post is inviting most of the oil applied to run down the post and onto the body of the saxophone. One could apply heat to the hinge tube away from the ends to draw the oil inside, but this invites another set of hazards with cork, felt, and pearls nearby.

Keys that are held in place with pivot screws should be lubricated with woodwind pivot and roller grease. Oil simply does not last very long in this application. There is really no good substitute for using the correct product formulated specifically for each purpose and applying it correctly. It costs a bit more and takes a bit more time, but the results are worth it if one cares about their instrument.
 

Morgan Fry

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Don't know about your horn specifically, but a little cork grease on the linkage between the two octave pips fixes this problem on a lot of horns.
 

kernewegor

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Both jbtsax and Stephen Howard are very experienced saxophone repairers but they have different views on lubrication, which is the way knowledge evolves... there often isn't a single 'correct' answer to everything.

Stephens method enables oiling without dismantling, which is a plus, especially if you are nervous about dismantling - and he has proved that oil penetration is achieved. On the other hand jbtsax's method ensures that everything usually out of sight can be cleaned. So both approaches have virtues, and also gives the possibility of using both - jbtsax's on a 'new' secondhand sax (to make sure you have a 'clean start' - and Stephen Howard's thereafter.

I'm toying with using chainsaw 'chain oil' for my next lube - it has 'anti-fling characteristics' - OK as long as I don't intend to play at any Burn's Night suppers, I suppose...
 

kevgermany

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On the only works on G - There are two octave pips on a sax. One on the neck and one high up on the body, often hidden under/behind the rods for the other keys. Trace the octave mechanism mechanically to see the other body pip. The switch between the two is controlled by the G key. So press and release the G key a few times, looking at the top of the body, just below the neck to see things move. Wuth the octave key pressed, either one or the other should be open, depending on the position of the G key. If both are open then something's sticking. Same if neither are open. As you press the G expect both to be open momentarily, but the spring on the neck must be strong enough to close the neck pip and open the body pip.

If anything needs doing, best get it to a repairer, get a quote, shouldn't be expensive, and then go back to the seller and challenge him with the expert diagnosis. Playing in is bull, but drying out of grease/oil is not, and once it's dried out, only spot of oil will help. Plus which a knock in transit could also have had an effect. Was the neck plug in when it was sent? Could have bent the octave pin if it wasn't and this will give the symptoms you describe.

Better players can often play through minor leaks... Before I got interested in saxes, a friend of mine, an excellent clarinet player, but then novice sax player was selling an old Conn Chu Berry, that needed a repad and he could hardly get a note out of it. Buyer came along, gave it a test blow - played perfectly for him, monster sound, paid the agreed price and went off happy.
 

jbtsax

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Anyone who has taken keys off a saxophone that has had a lot of use knows that the old oil becomes black and dirty over time. Putting a drop of oil at the ends of a key in this condition is just trying to mix clean oil with bad. In Stephen Howard's experiment to see if the oil traveled all the way to the inside of the hinge tube by wicking action when applied to just the ends, it should be noted that he started with a dry key to begin with. Had there been oil inside the key already the results would have been far different.
 

aquatic

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First, thank you kernewegor for the links, I found them fascinating.

Second, I think if you are going to buy a sax mail order, for whatever reason, brand new or second hand, shop or ebay it is always worth factoring in a little extra cash to have a professional repair person have a look and set it up for you. Couriers are not always as careful as they could be, and even shops that advertise "fully set up before the instrument leaves the shop" are not necessarily telling the whole truth.
If your sax isnt playing as it should, take it to someone who has done the course and knows how to fix it. My local sax repair man, Steve Marshall up here in sunny cumbria ( am I allowed to mention names ? ) didn't even charge me when I took my yani in to have it set up after I bought it locally from shop that doesnt sell many saxes. ( I just think it better to keep my local shop in business ). If it is nothing serious you will have peace of mind, and if it is something that will cost hundreds to fix, then you can get back to the seller and get your money back via ebay. You will have all the evidence you need.
 

QWales

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Thanks for all the top tips people. I've really been dragging my heals with this one, the Alto being my usual blow and with two young kids, the tenor doesn't come so high on my priority list.

I took it to my class on Tuesday and let the teacher have a go, she's more player than techie but agreed it is probably fine and just needs a little oil. I do already have the Haynes manual so I checked it and taking everything said here into consideration, plan a) is to get myself some 80 or 90 gear oil and spot that into the appropriate places first. The G is still sticking but after you operate the keys for a while it plays OK, so it does seem as though this could be a lube problem.

There was no neck plug with it Kev but it was very well packaged.
 

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