PPT mouthpieces

Why have pads had the same design for 150 years?

To which question? 😄 Leaving aside that flakiness


It's the form of answers that fascinate me. There's the "yet another new pad design" brigade but there's the "fix the tone hole and any decent pad will work" perspective; with a modicum of others structural issues etc. and yet the market and economics says sell saxophones that are likely, sooner or later, to spring a leak.
Why that's the structure of the industry has not been elaborated.

How much more do you want to pay for a saxophone with a longer wear interval? Pads are consumables.
 
Yep, that's correct. Taking a horn from a supported horizontal position (on the workbench) to an unsupported vertical one is going to stress the body tube. It's not by much - about a thou or so here and there - but it's still worth accounting for.
To be sure, most pads will accommodate that amount of flex with relative ease when fresh and new - but given it takes so little time to account for it, it seems silly not to. And, of course, it pays dividends further down the line when the pads harden up.

Like I once said...the fewer variables the better.
Considering thermal expansion, that flex becomes negligible. In some cases it may even be a good thing.
 
How much more do you want to pay for a saxophone with a longer wear interval? Pads are consumables.
Fair question, although I'm probably a corner case.
For beginners, the situation seems pretty clear. Look at the spread in prices - taking G4M as an example reference - between own-brand ¥$€£350 and the 280 $¥€£900. So people who can and care to, pay a factor or 3; mostly for reliability.

At the pro/semi pro level, well, you know the answer:
I prefer skilled technicians to work on my horns
That much.
 
I have a Conn 10M in for a service at the moment which was kitted out with Eddie Ashton 'Superpads' - so I thought it would be of interest if I posted a few observations...

The first one is that it leaks. To be fair it's no better or worse than many ordinary repads I've seen, but my feeling is that it kind of negates the point of installing a 'never wear' pad if it doesn't seat properly in the first place.

Ashton pad Conn 10M low Bb.jpg


Here you can see the rather large leak on the low Bb. This is with the low B firmly depressed so as to take it out of the regulation between the two keys. When you add that back in, the leak gets a bit bigger. There are few dotted around on the horn - some of which are related to or exacerbated by wear in the action.

Ashton pad Conn 10M low F.jpg


This is the low F. Note the depth of the pad impression. It really is very deep indeed.
Note too how it varies in depth; it's considerably more shallow on the left side of the pad.

In terms of feel it's a bit odd. When the pads close there's more of a thud than a pop, so you don't get that 'acoustic feedback'. It sounds like all the pads are leaking, even though they're not. My own impression of the feel of the action is that it feels a bit squishy...but a client tried it and said it felt more like metal-on-metal...so there's clearly a subjective element in play, which might be down to that lack of acoustic feedback.
There's some noticeable stiction on the normally-closed pads. This is undoubtedly down to the deep pad impressions which, rather than sitting atop the rolls on the toneholes, are wrapping around them.

I'm not sure how the pads are set but given the deep impressions and the fact that most of the are set over warped toneholes, it would appear that a combination of heat and compression has been used. And, it's fair to say, with less than complete success. At a rough guess I'd say the horn is running with about 20% leakage.
What'll be interesting for me is see how (or even if) the pads can be reset. I have noticed a few bent key cups - and so I'm rather hoping that this isn't the only way to correct padding anomalies...
 
My first question, what is that?

whatisthat.jpg


But also what is this? Seems like where it was poked with something to float the pad. But it if so isn't a bit of overkill to also have to sink such huge pad impression to make up for the pad not closing properly.

I'd expect one or the other if the previous tech couldn't be bothered to align then keycups the tone holes properly by either fixing the angle of the keycup our addressing a wonky tonole.
 
'This' is indeed a pinprick hole, possibly used to tweak the pad in place. Normally you'd poke the tool down between the side of the keycup and the pad and lever it from there, as is leaves no visible marks.

'That' is a shadow - created by a ripple in the face of the pad. There are three or four pads with roughish edges.
 
I have a Conn 10M in for a service at the moment which was kitted out with Eddie Ashton 'Superpads' - so I thought it would be of interest if I posted a few observations...

The first one is that it leaks. To be fair it's no better or worse than many ordinary repads I've seen, but my feeling is that it kind of negates the point of installing a 'never wear' pad if it doesn't seat properly in the first place.

..................... At a rough guess I'd say the horn is running with about 20% leakage.

Could you explain what you mean by 20% leakage - is that 20% of the pads are not fully sealing when they should, or does the figure make some account of the rate of leakage ?

Rhys
 
There's nothing scientific about it - it's just a case of looking over the horn, noting which pads are leaking and by how much and guesstimating what it all adds up to. You can run a horn at around 5% leakage without much difficulty, but around and above 10% you'll notice a drop-off in response and a few notes that might trip you up.
 
There's nothing scientific about it - it's just a case of looking over the horn, noting which pads are leaking and by how much and guesstimating what it all adds up to. You can run a horn at around 5% leakage without much difficulty, but around and above 10% you'll notice a drop-off in response and a few notes that might trip you up.
That's a statement about ease of playing but how do you define or quantify the percentage of leaking? Number of pads that aren't sealing correctly? If my high F doesn't seal, I get a horn with 4% leakage and it won't play.
 
That's a statement about ease of playing but how do you define or quantify the percentage of leaking? Number of pads that aren't sealing correctly? If my high F doesn't seal, I get a horn with 4% leakage and it won't play.
It's weighted. For example, there's that hefty great leak on the low Bb. In real terms that could be 5% on its own - but a smaller leak further up the horn carries more weight because of the cumulative effect.
Like I said, it's not scientific - it's borne out of decades of examining and playing leaky horns. If you played this one against a non-leaky 10M I'm pretty sure most decent players would say "Yeah, that's about 20% less playability".
 
It's weighted. For example, there's that hefty great leak on the low Bb. In real terms that could be 5% on its own - but a smaller leak further up the horn carries more weight because of the cumulative effect.
Like I said, it's not scientific - it's borne out of decades of examining and playing leaky horns. If you played this one against a non-leaky 10M I'm pretty sure most decent players would say "Yeah, that's about 20% less playability".
Thanks Stephen, I am a scientist and methods are always one of the crucial factors for anything I am doing but I see where you are coming from.
 
There's some noticeable stiction on the normally-closed pads. This is undoubtedly down to the deep pad impressions which, rather than sitting atop the rolls on the toneholes, are wrapping around them.
Apparently this is intentional. From the WoodwindCo website:

"The new Superpads for saxophone avoid all these problems. They're designed so that they're the opposite of the normal pad which by nature of its construction is pulled inwards from the centre to the edges. By contrast Superpads are made so that the outer edge sits proud to cover the tone-hole like a dustbin lid (an old fashioned tin dustbin - not a wheelie bin)!! "

Also this is an somewhat elusive description as to how the pads are actually fitted - (I'm assuming they have an adhesive backing)

"Superpads are positioned in the key in a non-conventional way. Skin pads are traditionally glued into the cup and 'bedded' into position using heat and pressure. Another word for bedded is ‘forced’ and anything forced into a position will eventually revert to its restful state. One of the great benefits of Superpads is that they are set in their rest position without any bedding being applied and so they have no reason to move and destroy fine regulation between keys."
 
"Superpads are positioned in the key in a non-conventional way. Skin pads are traditionally glued into the cup and 'bedded' into position using heat and pressure. Another word for bedded is ‘forced’ and anything forced into a position will eventually revert to its restful state. One of the great benefits of Superpads is that they are set in their rest position without any bedding being applied and so they have no reason to move and destroy fine regulation between keys."

In which case I would have expected to see a very faint impression on the face of pads - such as one might achieve by carefully setting a conventional pad.
But you can clearly see from the photos that most - if not all - pads bear deep impressions. Not sure how 'without any bedding being applied' fits the evidence.
 
In which case I would have expected to see a very faint impression on the face of pads - such as one might achieve by carefully setting a conventional pad.
But you can clearly see from the photos that most - if not all - pads bear deep impressions. Not sure how 'without any bedding being applied' fits the evidence.
I was pointing out the disparity between the claims and your observations - it doesn't really add up
 
In which case I would have expected to see a very faint impression on the face of pads - such as one might achieve by carefully setting a conventional pad.
But you can clearly see from the photos that most - if not all - pads bear deep impressions. Not sure how 'without any bedding being applied' fits the evidence.
When I was testing neoprene and other synthetics for my pads, spread over 1 1/2 years, dozens of samples would take too high a compression set. In other words they would compress but not recover when pressure was taken away from a tone hole.

Apart from this 'compression set' measurement there's also the firmness of the material to choose. My choice of "too soft' (per techs and players) had desirable low compression set but its softness would invite a deeper than wanted seat on sprung closed pads, as Steve has noticed on the Superpads. This may be the issue with Eddie's. Perhaps he didn't spend enough time on research of material.

My new firmer neoprene seems to have the attributes needed but one of the problems all of us 'crank' pad inventors have is time. Time to do R&D. Time to test the long term performance of what we think will do the trick. Steve was kind enough to help me with my 'squeeze leak' issue when I visited him a year ago but quite understandably poo-poo'd the whole idea, especially one as complex as mine.

Fair play to Eddie and others who have tried, but if you go to market with a new product it has to be able to survive scrutiny. Take Music Medic's Neo pads. Leather for the purists, self-levelling, but in my tests they flop around when a pad lifts giving a double action as they then have to readjust to the tone hole's plane each time they close again.

More pretenders to the traditional pad throne will come and go no doubt. Will there ever be a successful revolution though? Who knows. I'm trying.
 
A few more observations as I dig into this Ashton padded 10M...

As expected, the chief cause of the indistinct feeling as the key cups close is an uneven pad seat.
Below are the Bis Bb and top B pads - both pressed down lightly until the first contact with the tonehole is felt. What you see here is a classic case of 'back end bite', whereby the rear of the pad hits the tonehole before the front. Pads like this will close, but it requires a little bit of extra force (i.e. making the player do the work that the pad ought to be doing) and the payoff for this is a slightly squishy feel under the fingers. And that's on top of an inherent squishiness in the pads.

Bis Bb and B.jpg


Here's the B pad removed from the key cup.
Now this is something that really ticks me off. Look at the state of the key cup...it's nowhere near flat.
It took me less than a minute to flatten this key cup - and I can't for the life of me see why on earth you wouldn't do that job while you were changing the pad. In fact not doing so just makes your life harder, because you'll be trying to seat a pad in a wonky key cup...and quite possibly onto a wonky tonehole (as indeed is the case here).

Top B.jpg


Note the construction on the pad. It's a synthetic core wrapped with a synthetic skin and backed with a cardboard base - so essentially a traditional design.
In attempting to reset the pads I've found that the existing seat is thermally stable. This has pros and cons; on the plus side it mean you can remove a pad, work on the key cup and tonehole and then refit the pad - which then requires you to match up the existing impression with the tonehole. On the down side there doesn't appear to be any way to alter the seat - such as by ironing the pad.
This leads to the situation seen on the lower shot. The pad is clearly too thick for the cup angle (and it's also somewhat...lumpy). Given that there's no way to correct this I've had to match the seat to the tonehole and forget about making it look presentable.

Some early conclusions then. I can see that the pads work. Where they're less than perfect I can tweak the setting (after a fashion) to achieve a good seal. Can't do too much about the feel, though a properly set pad feels better under the fingers than one that's biting at the back.
It seems to me that much reliance has been placed on the (somewhat suspect) ability of the pads to conform over anomalies - but it's also clear that it hasn't worked terribly well. Either the setting process was faulty...or the pads have a degree of recovery in them (as ordinary pads do) and this hasn't been accounted for and adjusted out.
So it's beginning to look like the problem with this particular job isn't so much the pads as the repad job itself. And it wasn't cheap.
I'll carry on and see if anything else crops up...
 
I found out why the normally-closed pads feel sticky; the synthetic pad covering appears to be breaking down and leaving deposits on the tonehole rims.

Side F sharp.jpg


Cleans off with lighter fluid - but you can't clean the pad with it as it seems to react with and dissolve the material.
 

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