So you wanna be a repair tech

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Gandalfe, Oct 4, 2012.

  1. jbtsax

    jbtsax Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

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    I would offer that doing high end saxophone work, both pad seating and key fitting are done to tolerances of .001" as well. Flute and oboe repair uses feeler material that is .0005". My belief is that working with softer metals that flex and other materials that must exhibit some degree of compression in order to quiet the movement makes saxophone repair more difficult, not less. Doing high end overhauls and restorations requires literally hundreds of small decisions about where compromises must be made because the inherent instability of the materials to achieve the best possible mechanical outcomes. This post by my friend Gordon on SOTW makes this point far more eloquently than I can.

    Beyond the mechanics of the moving parts of a saxophone, there is an artistic component to repair work that goes well beyond dealing with the instrument as just a "machine". It takes many years of serious study on any instrument to be able to play that instrument at a level at which nuanced differences are detectable and important. Some of these are:

    - The feel of the keys (springs) at all tempos and using every possible sequence of fingering patterns.
    - The "tonal color" of adjacent notes in a scale.
    - The resistance and "feel" of notes in all registers and all dynamic levels.
    - The response of notes in all registers when articulating rapidly.
    - The quietness and smoothness all fingering combinations found in all keys signatures.
    - The intonation of different notes and registers.

    An instrument can be made to mechanically "look right", but a musical instrument must also feel right and sound right to the accomplished player. This is why at the higher levels of repair the physical (mechanical) work of the overhaul is merely the first step. A great deal of the work that is equally (and sometimes even more) time consuming is play testing and making nuanced adjustments to the instrument over a period of days. A friend of mine in repair who has since passed away was fond of saying, "It takes more and more to do less and less".
     
  2. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    I actually had a "blown out" R13 once in my hands. It was horrible, all the problems mentioned. The bore was oval, etc etc.

    I was doing research, read about oil immersion techniques and the benefits, etc. from Larry Naylor's website and other information I believe he posted on the Clarinet BBoard years back http://www.naylors-woodwind-repair....essing-of-deteriorated-grenadilla-instruments

    and I tested his theory etc. Anyways the R13 came back to "specifications". I know this because it was a 51xxx R13 and I had a 55xxx R13. They were identical as much as possible after the oil immersion technique. It was interesting measuring and seeing the oval bore "readjust" over time from the oil.

    But these techniques require quite a bit of time of experimenting and reasoning, which does not have an immediate financial returns.
     
  3. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    Excellent summary.

    The way I look at it is also, "Any mechanic can probably make it work, but not necessarily in the right way." It's kinda like an example I've used here: "Can you fit the C# key from a Conn New Wonder sax on a Buescher True-Tone? Yup, with enough time. However, I think that's an ugly repair and probably won't work all that well. I also wouldn't buy your horn, so I value it as $0 -- or I take off the cost of doing the repair properly."

    Excellent comment.

    One of the reasons why I'm a good computer tech is because I really, really like playing with them. That makes me want to learn more about them. The more I learn makes me an even better tech and can keep me employed or make me more employable.
     
  4. retread

    retread

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    Probably the most respected tech in Kansas City, used by a healthy portion of the professional saxophonists, was a gentleman named Dooley Wylert. For years he had a store, then retired to do work only out of his garage workshop until he died in his early 90s.

    Dooley was a bandsman in the South Pacific during World War II. He said he learned repair by fixing any instrument that needed it, because there were no repair facilities available. In Dooley's case, self-teaching worked.
     
  5. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    I don't want to give y'all the completely wrong idea. I do think that if someone is a gifted technician in one mechanical field he can be in another, too. However, a lot of it is trial and error and creative leaps of logic. It's generally not the best way of doing something, but it can be effective. As a more musical example, I'm sure anyone here can think of at least one person that was "self taught" on an instrument and made it big or even revolutionized playing the instrument (I offer you Jimi Hendrix, if you can't think of someone). It's one of the reasons I've mentioned that a technician is an artist. It's just a different paintbrush that's being used.

    Ooooh. Waxing poetic. Sorry. I'll go back to lame word jokes in the next post :p.

    Anyhow, dragging us back to OP, I still do think that school + apprenticeship is probably best. Self-taught is probably the worst because you do have to have more than a little talent and you have to do way too much trial-and-error. It's an awful lot easier asking the "master" (in the apprentice/master relationship) what to do when a particular problem is encountered than having to just make up something.

    FWIW, I quite often have to "make up something" in the computer techie world. That's primarily because for some problems, there is no extant solution. As a recent, non-coding, example, I have a couple hundred users of a particular make/model laptop computer. For some odd reason, these computers randomly go "pop." The manufacturer is completely aware of the problem and has a flowchart of things to try. If they don't work, you call the manufacturer and get a new motherboard (the main "guts" of the computer). However, in a good percentage of cases, this doesn't fix the problem. Some people have had three or four motherboards and still have the problem -- and, on a good day, it takes about 90 minutes to replace these motherboards. So I looked into it for about an hour and played with stuff. I found one very simple setting and changed it. It's fixed every computer I've tried it on. I've got to remember to post that solution to the manufacturer's website ....
     
  6. tictactux

    tictactux Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

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    Yes, I admit, it's hidden in some of these million of control panel applets:

    [​IMG]

    :cool:
     
  7. simso

    simso

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    It appears confusion is arising again.

    It is not my inference that any person with a mechanical background can repair a musical instrument, it is my inference that any person with a mechanical background and a passion to do the job can and will do well without needing to do a course.

    It is not my inference that a person with no mechanical background will not be able to repair a musical instrument, any person with a passion and desire will do well, without a background in mechanics of some form, a person will likely benefit from a well structured course or mentor ship.

    I do stand by my statement that IMO the mechanical demand and skill needed compared to other trades is not high.

    I come to this statement because I am a qualified jet engine mechanic, I am a qualified car mechanic, I am a qualified transmission specialist, i am a qualified aircraft mechanic, I am a qualified machinist, i have rebuilt turbo chargers, supercharges etc, musical instruments are very simplistic in a mechanical sense.

    For some reason not all my posts are being displayed as well Pete
     
  8. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    Yes, I agree .. a car engine is far more complex than a musical instrument. Well except maybe a bassoon LOL. Anyways instruments are simplistic compared to an aircraft engine.

    We all strive to improve our capabilities and that is the important part of instrument repair. NAPBIRT, one of the bylaws (or whatever they call it) is to share our knowledge to other ppl when asked or given the opportunity to.
     
  9. jbtsax

    jbtsax Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

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    Now that's funny. :emoji_smile:
     
  10. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    I refer you to post #11:

     
  11. simso

    simso

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    You would be surprised just how easy a bassoon is Steve, it's easier than a clarinet, and they actually play better with some leaks.

    The fear with most is the lack of exposure to a specific instrument, the unknown

    IMO the hardest instrument to repair well is a flute. Any leaks and it won't play, pads not set properly and it won't play with light finger pressure. A flute is the real test
     

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