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What effect, if any, does playing outdoors in cold weather have on pads?

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Last winter I practiced every day in the park in the freezing cold (intolerant neighbours...or maybe I'm just that bad!). It was actually great for expanding my sound, so no complaints, however the pads did not appreciate it at all. With the condensation they became sodden every time, which was partly down to them being the original Yamaha factory pads and not very waterproof. Eventually they turned odd colours, shrunk and became rock hard.

I've also played outdoors in the summer and noticed that much less condensation builds up on the pads. Unfortunately I don't have a "control" variable to compare with winter, but I can't help thinking that cold weather plus condensation is a damaging factor to pads.

This hunch has become stronger since got both my tenor and alto horns repadded. I took the tenor out a few times to a nearby hill (which was freezing cold), and within a week the entire lower stack pads had leaks (like 1mm!). I don't really have enough data to determine what is causing this but the hunch tells me it's the cold. The tech told me it was the "grooves in the pads becoming deeper over time" but, observing the pads, they were clearly leaking on the outer side (not the hinge side), suggesting the pads had expanded or pushed out, rather than the grooves becoming deeper.

I'm very keen to prolongue the pads' lifespans, and limit peroidic repairs, especially considering that a repad is around half my monthly earnings (useless humanities degree, don't ask!). I'm struggling to find places to practice at the moment (dozens of emails sent out to various churches and venues to no avail), and would actually like to start practicing outdoors again, even busking, but if it means killing the pads then it's not worth it.

So my basic question is: does cold weather deform/displace the pads?
Bonus question: any ideas where to practice?
 
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Jeanette

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I'm struggling to find places to practice at the moment (dozens of emails sent out to various churches and venues to no avail),

Might do better phoning or calling in person. It's harder to ignore or say no to someone face to face, especially if you offer to pay or do a small job for them in return :)

Failing that Café Septet use a local village hall once a month £10 hr if it were weekly we might get it cheaper!

Other places would be conservative clubs, scout halls and the like.....

Jx
 

Colin the Bear

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Playing outside, in the cold is hard on pads. However not all of them. You probably don't need a full repad, just one or two near the top. If they're leaking. Sometimes palm keys and Lh keys take a beating. My Lh fingers get very wet when it's cold. Hard discoloured pads can still work well. If they're performing as they should I'd leave well alone. I'd be more worried about the damage to your lungs. Gulping lots of sub zero air won't do them any good.
 
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Might do better phoning or calling in person. It's harder to ignore or say no to someone face to face, especially if you offer to pay or do a small job for them in return :)

Failing that Café Septet use a local village hall once a month £10 hr if it were weekly we might get it cheaper!

Other places would be conservative clubs, scout halls and the like.....

Jx

Thanks. I guess there are still many avenues to explore in terms of practice space, I am hopeful!

It seems that real estate here in Edinburgh is at a premium these days! The churches have cottoned on to the demand. And everyone with a spare garage or lockup these days seems to have a fancy website advertising their hip new "creative space" (only £100 an hour)! Meanwhile the council wants to turn an important empty Georgian building into another hotel instead of a proposed music school. As if we don't have enough hotels and AirBnb's already! Meanwhile jazz continues to fade away in Scotland (at least jazz outside the global networks of conservatories and festivals). A great local jam session was axed recently because "not enough punters are coming and buying beer". Oh well.
 
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Playing outside, in the cold is hard on pads. However not all of them. You probably don't need a full repad, just one or two near the top.

In that case it may just be worth the sacrifice! As for the lungs, it might do me some good? (I've fed them much worse, that's for sure. Golden Virginia and Camels, mainly).
 

jbtsax

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If there is a pattern of the pads not closing in the front it indicates that the pads have become "swollen" due to the moisture they have received. The felt inside of pads consists of woven fibers which expand when they absorb water. This has the same effect as putting pads that are too thick while repadding a saxophone.

One solution would be to install pads made of a synthetic material such as the Valentino pads made for flute, piccolo, and clarinet. Unfortunately they haven't figured out a way to make that material work and "feel" right in the larger pads used in saxophones. They do work on the larger keys of bass clarinets, but the toneholes are vastly different than on saxes.
 

Stephen Howard

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First up - cold weather by itself won't affect the pads. If it gets cold enough it may have an effect on the shellac, causing it to become rather brittle...but we're talking seriously cold here. Hot melt glue will be largely unaffected.

Secondly - you're dead right in drawing a correlation between the ambient temperature and the amount of moisture in the horn (and thus on the pads), and yes, repeated and excessive wetting (and drying) of the pads will not prolong their life.

Thirdly - the change in temperature should have little or no effect on reasonably fresh pads...provided they've been properly set, without the use of compression. Changes in temperature/humidity will cause any pad to expand and contract, but if it's been properly set it will minimise the distortion during the wetting/drying cycle.
The 'groove' excuse is just that...an excuse - and your suspicion that the pads are expanding at the rear is bang on the money again.

It's fair to say that the regime you're putting the horn through is a punishing one, but millions of players all over the world manage fine when playing outdoors...and I've done a fair amount of it myself. If pad displacement was a common problem for these players, we'd have certainly heard about it by now. I very much suspect the difference is in the quality of the pad work.

Do you know what brand of pad was fitted? There are some 'waterproof' varieties out there which would probably be a good bet. Other than that it might be worth risking a shot of waterproofing spray (such as Scotchguard). I'd suggest treating the side Bb/C pads first to see how it goes. If it makes the pads sticky it won't be too hard to clean off...or replace them.
 

scotsman

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Well.. FWIW I have been playing on my boat in the local harbour. (In Scotland) for many years. I became a bit of a celebrity locally and something of a tourist attraction. I had quite a lot of friendly ragging from the locals and one memorable day the harbourmaster hailed me from the quay to tell me that he had just had a phone call saying that the the (non fitted) foghorn was making a funny noise! I took this as a complement..However, back to the thread. During my time (5 years) busking I never had any problems with any of my pads on either tenor or alto.. I did however make sure that when I padded my horns I always used lots of shellac to seat the pads. I have come across horns used by pals with similar problems as mentioned above.. On examination I found a somewhat parsimonious use of pad fixing materiels. A quick pad flip off showed the problem and a liberal use of shellac resolved it.. Just my experience however. BTW I didnt make much money on the boat but brightened the day for some people!! Regards
 

Stephen Howard

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I did however make sure that when I padded my horns I always used lots of shellac to seat the pads.

That's a very good point. It's essential to have good coverage of the pad base with adhesive, otherwise you end up battling the inevitable warping in the pad backing material too.
 
Messages
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It's fair to say that the regime you're putting the horn through is a punishing one, but millions of players all over the world manage fine when playing outdoors...and I've done a fair amount of it myself. If pad displacement was a common problem for these players, we'd have certainly heard about it by now. I very much suspect the difference is in the quality of the pad work.

That is a very good point. And come to think of it, I haven't found anything on the internet mentioning this specific issue. Stuff about corks falling off and wet hands in the cold, yes, but pad warping no!

Also, if Sonny Rollins was prepared to play on a freezing cold bridge out of necessity...:)

Do you know what brand of pad was fitted? There are some 'waterproof' varieties out there which would probably be a good bet. Other than that it might be worth risking a shot of waterproofing spray (such as Scotchguard). I'd suggest treating the side Bb/C pads first to see how it goes. If it makes the pads sticky it won't be too hard to clean off...or replace them.

I don't know what kind of pads they are. According to the tech they are "deluxe" pads. Organic? Oak-matured? Siberian Flying Squirrel hide? For what it's worth they have very tiny pores and are quite soft, compared to my alto, the pads of which have larger pores and are generally stiffer (never had an issue with the alto despite playing it in the cold, but might just be the smaller pad size being less prone to warping).

They did say they use hot glue rather than shellac, for what it's worth. I think I'll take it out over the winter a bit and see if the same thing happens, as it might just be a one off. They provide a year's warranty in any case which will cover any adjustments.

BTW, I've got your book, it's awesome!
 
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During my time (5 years) busking I never had any problems with any of my pads on either tenor or alto.. I did however make sure that when I padded my horns I always used lots of shellac to seat the pads. I have come across horns used by pals with similar problems as mentioned above.. On examination I found a somewhat parsimonious use of pad fixing materiels. A quick pad flip off showed the problem and a liberal use of shellac resolved it.. Just my experience however. BTW I didnt make much money on the boat but brightened the day for some people!! Regards

You have emboldened me to go and practice in the winter cold!

The tech I go to uses hot glue. I was quite sad to find this out, not that I'm particululary knowledgable about the topic, just that shellac is more traditionally associated with saxophones whereas hot glue is just boring - it's for closing cardboard boxes and things!
 

Stephen Howard

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If the pads are 'Premium Deluxe' then they'll be waterproof (they have a thin disc of cellophane behind the leather). They shouldn't be soft, though - they're more medium-hard. They tend to look rather more orangey than brown.

They're quite picky when it comes to seating, and I find they won't tolerate being compressed. They sulk, and then expand as soon as you're not looking. Maybe you should take the horn back and have the pads adjusted. It should not cost you anything.

Hot melt glue's not a problem; despite what you might read on t'internet, the use of HMG vs shellac is down to a repairer's personal preference. Both methods have their pros and cons - but a well-set pad is a well-set pad no matter which glue has been used.

Glad you like the book - and thanks for the compliment!
 
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If the pads are 'Premium Deluxe' then they'll be waterproof (they have a thin disc of cellophane behind the leather). They shouldn't be soft, though - they're more medium-hard. They tend to look rather more orangey than brown.

They're quite picky when it comes to seating, and I find they won't tolerate being compressed. They sulk, and then expand as soon as you're not looking. Maybe you should take the horn back and have the pads adjusted. It should not cost you anything.

Hot melt glue's not a problem; despite what you might read on t'internet, the use of HMG vs shellac is down to a repairer's personal preference. Both methods have their pros and cons - but a well-set pad is a well-set pad no matter which glue has been used.

Glad you like the book - and thanks for the compliment!

Yes, they're orange! They looked kind of soft but I just prodded a couple and I guess they are quite firm.

The pads are actually fine right now - I took it in a couple of weeks ago and they re-seated the wonky ones, they are very helpful and it works fine now! I was just concerned about taking it out int he cold again if the pads are going to get warped again. It may just have been the new pads' "teething troubles", perhaps?
 

Stephen Howard

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Yes, they're orange! They looked kind of soft but I just prodded a couple and I guess they are quite firm.

Sounds like Pisoni Premium Deluxe. A good exampe of their colouration can be found here:

Saxophone Pads

The pads are actually fine right now - I took it in a couple of weeks ago and they re-seated the wonky ones, they are very helpful and it works fine now! I was just concerned about taking it out int he cold again if the pads are going to get warped again. It may just have been the new pads' "teething troubles", perhaps?

Glad to hear it's sorted.
It's a tricky business, setting pads. You can spend half an hour tweaking one until it seats absolutely perfectly...and then the next day it's miles out. It's like they get all tense, and need time to relax. I haven't yet found an effective way to speed to the process up.
 
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Sounds like Pisoni Premium Deluxe

That looks like them!

It's a tricky business, setting pads. You can spend half an hour tweaking one until it seats absolutely perfectly...and then the next day it's miles out. It's like they get all tense, and need time to relax. I haven't yet found an effective way to speed to the process up.

Sounds tricky, and the "tolerances" are pretty tight I imagine...less than a millimetre!

Thanks for the advice :)
 

Colin the Bear

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Reminds me of an Aerospace engineer talking to a Joiner in the pub. We work to one ten thousandth of an inch in aerospace. That's no good says the joiner. We have to be bob on.

Same with sax. Tolerances won't do. It has to be "bob on" ;)
 

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