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Beginner What does it mean to “set up” a sax?

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91
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Greater Toronto Area (Canada)
So I’ve read that a good “set up” is really important and can make all the difference to whether a sax plays to its full potential or not. Is this something that is done automatically by a store when I buy a new sax, or just by some “better” stores, or do I need to request this service at extra cost?

What does this service entail? When I buy my new sax, should I request this service? Even if my sax will be brand spanking new? Doesn’t a brand spanking new sax play well right out of the box? I’m considering a Yamaha YAS 280, 62, or Yanagisawa AWO 01 (leaning towards the latter).

Thanks for teaching a newbie!
 

gladsaxisme

Try Hard Die Hard
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3,409
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manchester
Unfortunately buying a brand new sax doesn't guarantee anything at all these days especially when buying the cheaper brands in the case of the brands and models you mention ie Yamaha and Yani there is much more chance that they will be set up better than the lesser saxes,but there is also the problem of damage in transit before they get to the store you have bought from or getting to you if bought direct, the sax is a delicate instrument and can be easily damaged whilst in transit.
A lot might depend on the store you buy from and their attitude to how they check the saxes they sell prior to them being sold.
Being set up properly involves
1) Making sure there has been no damage in transit
2) making sure the tone holes are as level as they should be and there are no small leaks on any of the pads
3) Making sure that all the mechanics of the sax are working to their optimum and I'm sure the pro techs will tell you there are quite a few more checks
Then to get the very best out of a sax the opening heights of all the keys needs to be set for optimumum performance and things like spring tension on all the keys can make a great difference to how a sax feels when being played it can make all the difference in the world from feeling stiff and clunky to light and airy and precise and a joy to play.
So like I said at the start its not guaranteed that buying a brand new sax is going to be the best it can be, probably best to ask where you buy if they have an in house tech that has thoroughly checked the sax over and set it up for optimum playability
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
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3,705
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Sweden
"Factory set-up"? It means it should be set-up as the sax was when it leaved the factory. It's easier when we talk about new/modern saxes. How to factory set up a 95 years old Conn soprano? A factory set up gfourm sax? Or a B&S from the late 70's? Maybe an Indiana (Martin)? Saxes that were made in a furios tempo and with less quality control and bad material. You don't wan't a factory set up on saxes that were made out of bad materials and manufactoring? N.B. I'm not saying saxes like these are bad!

To set up an old sax is a compromise!?!?!?! And to how to deal with a modern moutpiece that is designed to work on modern horns and in modern music. Key heigts; low key heights and fast action and maybe muffled tone or open up up the key heights so the sax sings better but losed action?
 

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
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5,910
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Bristol, UK
Service levels for sax repairs and other woodwinds

It is worth getting a setup, even for a new high-quality instrument. As @gladsaxisme says, saxophones are surprisingly delicate, and your sax may have been damaged in transit, or a factory defect may not have been noticed, or the factory setup may not be as good as it should be.

If you are buying a new sax like a Yamaha or a Yanagisawa, then the shop ought to do this at no cost, but some shops don't, and some shops don't have a well-qualified person to do it.

So you should ask the shop whether they will have set up the sax. If so, then I would expect it to be fine to play when you get it, if not then it is worth taking it to a good repair person. The setup should be cheap.

I would certainly not pay the shop extra money for a setup - they are supposed to make sure that what they sell is fit for purpose.
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Commercial Supporter
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13,841
Locality
McLean, Virginia
NB There are two meanings:

1 The specific make and spec of mouthpiece, reed and ligature you choose to use

2 The adjustment of key heights, spring strength etc to either make the instrument play at its best. Sometimes this is a personal preference so even if it is set up nicely at the end process of manufacture or by the shop, some players get it set up by their own tech. (As mentioned in more detail in replies above)

Same with many instruments such as guitars
 

Phil

Member
Commercial Supporter
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687
Locality
France
Of course "Factory Setup" from Selmer means its filled with leaks.

...unless they have changed their ways in the last few years.
 

Stephen Howard

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,873
Locality
UK
So I’ve read that a good “set up” is really important and can make all the difference to whether a sax plays to its full potential or not. Is this something that is done automatically by a store when I buy a new sax, or just by some “better” stores, or do I need to request this service at extra cost?

What does this service entail? When I buy my new sax, should I request this service? Even if my sax will be brand spanking new? Doesn’t a brand spanking new sax play well right out of the box? I’m considering a Yamaha YAS 280, 62, or Yanagisawa AWO 01 (leaning towards the latter).

Thanks for teaching a newbie!
Virtually no-one's doing a decent set-up-out-of-the-box these days - though Yanagisawa tend to fare better than most, but TJ currently hold the crown.
Sad to say it's probably a waste of time asking the shop to have their tech go over the horn - there simply isn't enough profit on the price of a horn to cover the cost of a proper set-up.
 
OP
C
Messages
91
Locality
Greater Toronto Area (Canada)
Thanks folks! I have a better understanding now.
Since it’s likely I’ll be getting my sax shipped to me from overseas (i.e. UK), I think it might be a good idea to get a local tech do a proper set up once it arrives, just in case it got banged up in transit.
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Commercial Supporter
Messages
13,841
Locality
McLean, Virginia
Thanks folks! I have a better understanding now.
Since it’s likely I’ll be getting my sax shipped to me from overseas (i.e. UK), I think it might be a good idea to get a local tech do a proper set up once it arrives, just in case it got banged up in transit.
Yes, after transit always be prepared to get it fettled.
 

jbtsax

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7,935
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Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
When I was starting out in repair (and reading SOTW) I was led to believe that a "set-up" was some specialized knowledge or techniques that only a handful of techs with name recognition had or knew how to do.

As I learned more and more about repair, I came to realize that there are no "secrets" that are involved in "setting up" a saxophone. It is just a "catch all" term that can include:
  • adjustment and regulation
  • adjusting key heights
  • adjusting spring tension
  • checking for loose pivot or guard screws
  • checking for leaks
  • sometimes installing better materials than what came from the factory
There is no mystery. It is good saxophone repair fundamentals that any competent tech can do---especially if the tech plays the saxophone at a higher level.
 
Last edited:

Stephen Howard

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,873
Locality
UK
As I learned more and more about repair, I came to realize that there are no "secrets" that are involved in "setting up" a saxophone. It is just a "catch all" term that can include:
  • adjustment and regulation
  • adjusting key heights
  • adjusting spring tension
  • checking for loose pivot or guard screws
  • checking for leaks
  • sometimes installing better materials than what came from the factory
Completely agree - though I would add that a part of the process is tailoring the horn to suit the player...depending on their prowess (or otherwise).
This may not necessarily mean setting the horn up for what would ordinarily be considered optimum performance.
As with the above, there's no mystery involved.
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Commercial Supporter
Messages
13,841
Locality
McLean, Virginia
This may not necessarily mean setting the horn up for what would ordinarily be considered optimum performance.
No, it's possible one might get some really awkward customer whose bizarre and perverted requirements totally eschew all the values one has nurtured throughout their entire professional career.

But has that ever happened? please don't answer ;)
 

Stephen Howard

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,873
Locality
UK
Yes. Yes it has.
Thing is...there's always a degree of latitude. Ordinarily I'd never set up, say, a Yamaha YAS280 with as low an action as I could get away with on, say, a Conn 6M - but what do you do when the customer asks for it?
Well, you talk them through the pros and cons and hope that they see sense - but not all of them do.

Assuming they don't blow you away when they playtest the horn on collection you have two options: Always be busy when next they want any work done...or charge them a modest premium for the inevitable hassle down the line.
 
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