Do Saxophones Bounce?
We had a rather disturbing phone call a few weeks back at Gazebo Music. Saxophone players can be a bit disturbed at the best of times, and we love them for that, but this one was troubled beyond the recognized and accepted level of turmoil we have come to treasure. A good friend and local musician had experienced the calamity of watching his pride and joy, in this case a Selmer MKVI alto sax, crash to the concrete outside the bar moments before his Thursday night gig and take on a curve like a Bobby Hull hockey stick. It didn't help matters when the crowd started cheering as he entered the club pale faced and well, as I mentioned, disturbed. Now, this sort of thing happens a fair bit in our world and the key is to not get too excited or agitated. That's difficult for a lot of the sax players I know. We can expect instruments to have their pads wear out and pad leaks develop over time, corks/felts fall off and need replacement, the odd key post need re-soldered etc. The damage inflicted on instruments when they are unwillingly dropped is a whole different ballgame, and as it happens, the kind of stuff I really enjoy fixing. Most technicians do relish the opportunity of challenging themselves with the 'bigger' projects - Something to get their teeth into.
This one wasn't horrible, but it wasn't great either. Damage report: This part might just be for geeks only: A significant bend from around the G# tone hole and then another twist that had warped most of the tone holes on the upper stack and seized the keys, rods and the players belief that there was indeed a god in this world. Another noticeable ding in the Eb had punched the guard foot into the body and had taken that tone hole with it. Bell keys were also frozen as the posts had been pinched together. Apart from that it was in great shape. All this resulted from not that big a drop and with the horn in its protective case.
I hope the pictures reveal a little of the structural issues encountered. And I don't wish to use this forum as a how to straighten a saxophone body session. I'm sure you can find a horde of that on YouTube and elsewhere. I'll take a more philosophical stance. The challenge in this type of work is to firstly placate the anxiety in the player. It's never a great thing to have your horn hit the deck and no matter how lightly the impact is, it will cause problems somewhere - guaranteed. But I've never found one that couldn't be resurrected. Well, just one, and that was because they dropped it and then it was burned in a basement fire. Beyond my help. I take my time with these. Study the horn's now abnormal condition and predict the outcome using several tried and trusted techniques before selecting the appropriate response; Take things slowly and use the best tools for the job ... and be very careful to not go too far. Get it right the first time. Metal doesn't like to be manipulated too often - tends to get work-hardened and develop 'dead areas' in the brass. It does help when you've done it a few hundred times right enough. The next part is the best part. When the player collects the instrument they had previously thought had been destroyed. Makes it all worthwhile for me, too. Oh, and yes, saxophones can bounce back by the way.