Time to install resonators…but which ones?


Grenada, West Indies
Well, continuing the quest to ‘hot up’ my The Martin tenor, I think it’s time to install some resonators. Currently, the pads just have a plain rivet. So which ones should I buy?

Over the last months, I’ve read whatever I could find on resonators to try and make some sense out of the choices available. The conclusion that I’ve come to is that there is no agreement at all on which resonators work the best, so I think it makes sense for me not to go too extreme. I think a domed or flat metal reso makes sense.

I intend to do the job myself. The cost and risk of sending my sax to the UK or US makes it worth having a go at it first…if I really mess it up, then I’ll have to find a way to get it to someone like Griff.

I read somewhere that putting domed resonators in, where none were before could affect intonation and require key height adjustment to correct. I’m keen to avoid any extra complications like this, as they will clearly be beyond my capability to deal with…so perhaps I should order flat metal resonators and not domed, because the resonator will stand no higher than the pad so the existing key heights should then be fine. Or have I been reading mis-information? What do you all think?

I intend order from Music Medic.

Hopefully some of you will have opinions or advice for me…

Looking forward to reading some replies,
I know nothing... But one thought - don't put cheap ones in that may rust - cos living on a boat, with all the salt in the warm wet air, you have to be more at risk than other people. Perhaps the plastic Selmer type would work better. Wouls be worth discussing with Music medic...
If your "The Martin Tenor is from late 50's then there should be pads with a small resonators. The Martins from that time came with resonators.

I think the best resonators are ResoTechs. MusicMedic is selling them. Quite expensive. Sterling silver or brass, so no plating problems. You can use them over and over because you mount them with a screw on the backside of the pad. I have ResoTechs on three of my Martins. I use the flat model. I think it's easier to install and "burn in" a pad with flat resonator. You get a plain surface. If you adjust the pad with a padslicker a flat resonators is better. I don't know how and if a domed resonators affect the tone. I have conical plastic resonators on my "The Martin Baritone" and it's works. But be careful if you adjust the pad with a hot padslicker if you have plastic resonators. I think a oversized ResoTechs gives you a louder sax. I don't think the resonators affects the the sound ("colour", brighter, darker, mellow .. )

The main reason why you should have thin pads ( .160"/4mm or thinner) mounted on your The Martin is that the sax was constructed to work with a thin pads. If you mount a thick pad on a Martin sax, the pad will touch the back of the tonehole first, so the pad is not sealing correct. To make it fit you have to bend the keys. It's a sin to treat a Martin like that!!! Every key on a "The Martin ..." was hand-fitted. I have seen this often because they mount a std pad on a Martin. You can set the key heights higher on a Martin as well. The way you play and your mouthpiece should decide the keyheights.

Thanks for your replies.

Kev, good point about the rust issue. I checked with Music Medic and their metal resos are all stainless so shouldn't be a problem.

Thomas...now you've got me thinking about reso techs. If I remember, last time you gave me information, maybe a year ago, you had oversize reso techs in one of your Martins...now in three...you obviously like them a lot. Have you installed them yourself or do you have a technician to do it for you. I'm wondering if installing oversize reso techs myself will be more difficult than regular flat resos, because the clearance around the edge must be quite small...roughly how much clearance would you say there is between the outer edge of the oversize reso and the inside edge of the tone hole?

I would go for the flat stainless ones from music medic.

Iam assuming you already have the pads, if not order them with the resos fitted.

BTW if you havent already remove the cork from the keywork may I suggest you make a note of the thickness on all the cork feet and linkages and when replacing go for a slightly thicker cork (cork compresses over time) and then adjust/sand it down so you have the ideal thickness.

If you get stuck pm me or post a message here
I like them because it's a genuine feeling. I bought a Martin Handcraft tenor (Comm I), from Bob Ackerman, NJ in the late 90's, with ResoTechs sterling silver resonators. A very good sax. It was so good that I bought two ResoTechs alto sets from a company in USA. Last autumn I installed them.I bought the ResoTechs in 2000 and installed them nine years later!!! If I remember right the Resotech was made by a guy living in one of the prairie states?!?! I spoked with him a couple of times, nice guy and very helpful. The altos are; a Martin Comm II -40 and a The Martin Alto from -57. Both saxes were in good condition. No damages, dents, nice straight bodies .... so it was easy to repad them. I installed them myself. When I sat the keyheights my friend who is a former woodwind technichian helped me. I played and he adjusted.

If it's the first time you are installing pads, maybe the ResoTechs are not to recommend. There are other good alternatives.

....roughly how much clearance would you say there is between the outer edge of the oversize reso and the inside edge of the tone hole? Beteween 5-7 mm on the low D, C, C#, B and Bb keys. When I ordered the ResoTechs I bought complete sets for Martin altos. The tube, taper and toneholes diameter is roughly the same on Comm I, Comm II and Comm III (The Martin). I can't see any differences!!

I have three more "The Martins" that I'm going to install ResoTechs on. I think I send my bari and th Magna to a woodwind tech. On my next project, Klingsor tenor (Hammerschmidt) I'm going to install Roopads.

Thanks for the advice Griff and Thomas.

When I saw your post yesterday, Thomas, I started to get keen on reso techs, but if you found it necessary to adjust key heights afterwards, I think it might be complicating things too much, so I'm coming back to flat metal resos after all. I think for now, I should keep things as simple as possible. Incidentally, my The Martin is from 1947 accoring to the serial number, and in lovely condition, with about 90% original laquer still intact.

I haven't got the pads yet, so yes, Griff, I'll order the pads with resos fitted. Thanks for the tip on corks.

I just open up the saxkeys after new pads, corks and felts ... . The corks are already "glued on". I think you have to adjust all saxes. The reason I testplay saxes with another person is that two is better than one when it comes to this. One is playing/blowing and when we need to adjust I just take of the neck and hand over the sax to other person who does the adjustments. I think it's hard to adjust/tune and listen to a sax when I'm playing/blowing.

The saxes I've repad are good/no damaged saxes and they are mine as well. I just do jobs on my own saxes!. I don't buy saxes that are bent, wrong pads, bad keywork, bad neckjoint .. just nice saxes. Keep in mind; I'm "hobby- sax - repairman ", no pro ..... When I "repad" a Martin sax I do like follow:

1. Lost motion on keys adn hinges before the sax is torn down.
2. Torn down the sax.
3. Remove the pads, felts and corks. You can check the thickness of the corks, like Griff said, if the the saxheights were ok before.
4. "Clean" the padcups, keyfoot, felt ... from old adhedsives. Scrape, "sand" with emery cloth and clean with solution so the keycups is as clean as possible. If you don't have pads at home you should now mesure the keycups with a vernier sliding gauge and order pads. I try to avoid padsets. Better to buy some extra pads.
5. Clean all rods, screws. Inspect the rods and screws. Martins screws are special. You should always have some extra.
6. Clean the hinge tubes with pipecleaner or simular.
7. Clean the sax body and neck. Make sure that the inside of the neck/tube neck is really clean. I use warm/lukewarm water, detergent and saxbody- and neck-brush. Dry with paper.
8. Clean polish the outside of the saxbody, neck and keys. I just clean with a damp cloth. No buffing and polishing. Just a few drops of lemon.oil on a cloth.
9. Check the springs. Remove and replace the bad ones.
10. It's a Martin sax, so inspect the toneholes joint. Insert a lamp/leak light and inspect the joints carefully. Read SH "Martin Toneholes". So far I've been lucky. No selective galvanic corrosion on my Martins to talk about. But there are more or less corrosion on all Martins joint(softsolder). You can "preserve" the joint/soft soldered area. I didn't do that.
11. Put on the new cork or replace those that are bad.
12. Put on the new pads. I use stick shellack and an alcohol lamp. Make sure that the new pad comes nice and even into the keycup. Cold the shellack/ pad against a anvil or wood bench. You can drill out for the resonators if you use conical/dome resonators. No probleme with flat resos they are in line with the pad. So an anvil is fine. Press key/pad against the anvil by presssing with your hands, cork, cloth ....
13. After all pads are mounted start assembling the sax and seat each pad. Some new oil on the rods and screws. Press the key lightly to see that the pads seat correct over the tone hole. If not you must do some minor correction.
14. Make sure that all keys moves fine.
15. Let the pads "burn in": Check the pads once again. If necessay use a hot padslick/iron to make the pad to flatten out for minor corrections.When you have removed the padiron heat the outside of the keycup with a flame. Protect the mother of pearl touches and do not heat so the pad burn and the shellack start to come out from the keycup. Be careful so the padslicker/iron are not to hot so it burn the pad. There are padirons with holes in the middle if you mount pads with domed/conical resonators.
16. After heating hold down the cup by placing a rubber wegde under the keyfoot. Let the pads "burn in" to the next day(s).
17. Recork the neck if necessary. Mount the the neck pad and the neckkey.
18. Adjust the key heights and reugulate the spring tension. Play with your ordinary mouthpiece and in the same way you use to play.

A "Sax Pad Opening Height Gauges" is a god help when you set the key heights. From 2 mm to 12 mm steps.

Thomas, thanks for the detailed answer.

I've just placed my order with music medic...black roo pads, flat metal resos, a leak light, plus a few other bits and pieces. It might take a couple of weeks to get here. I'll let you know how I get on.

let me know how it goes,and what difference it makes to the sound. I've a tenor to do soon...
Still waiting...

Well, it's been a while now...

I ended up ordering black 'roo pads with flat stainless steel resonators fitted, from Music Medic. I'm a bit lazy, so against all advice, I just ordered a complete set for my model of horn...and...they all fitted perfectly!!

It was slow work...so I did the upper half of the instrument first...played it for a few months until I found some more patience to finish the job, by completing the lower half. I found that I needed to thicken up many of the main pads to get them to seat properly. This was done by glueing them onto a piece of weetabix box with shellac, cutting around them, then mounting them in the normal way.

The job was tedious! If I lived in a place where sax technicians existed, I might have asked for help...no technicians here though, so I had to persevere...


What a difference! Going from no resonators to flat metal resonators...it's like my sax was dead before and now it's alive! Everything is just more vibrant.

Has my sax been born again? Reincarnation? Life after death...not sure...but I like it...

It makes me wonder what it would sound like with the reso techs, suggested by Thomas. Just more I guess. Maybe next time...

I am just now working on my first ever Martin tenor, "The Martin" for a local college. It is getting "the works" including a new unlacquered finish. I am using Music Medic Precision pads with the plastic Selmer style resonators. I appreciate Thomas' comments on how he does his overhauls. My hat is off to anyone who can use an alcohol lamp on saxophone to heat the keycups.

I have used alcohol lamps for larger clarinet keys, but it is a simple matter to hold a clarinet lower joint above the flame. No so with a saxophone---especially a heavy tenor. At the suggestion of another tech, I got one of the Blazer ES1000 butane torches, and I haven't used anything since. You can hold it in your hand and direct the adjustable size flame anywhere you choose with complete accuracy. It will also lie on its side with the flame pointing up to melt the shellac to dab on the pads.

One thing I've never understood about replacing pads is once you put anything like that any were your key cups surely your going to burn off the lacquer? or is shellac of such a low melting point you just warm it from a distance?
One thing I've never understood about replacing pads is once you put anything like that any were your key cups surely your going to burn off the lacquer? or is shellac of such a low melting point you just warm it from a distance?

I think you've cracked it

Them beetles have a low melting point
The newer baked epoxy lacquers will take a tremendous amount of heat. Even the old nitrocellulous lacquers are pretty safe if you keep moving the flame around the keycup while melting the shellac. Soldering can be a bit more challenging on the older lacquers. One trick is to apply a coat of pledge to the surrounding areas. Of course I'm talking about soft soldering posts, guard feet etc. Silver soldering is a different story altogether.
Thanks for that jb, now I'm wondering if my Selmer has shellac on the pads or would they have used a hot glue gun? more probable I guess..


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