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A Reader's Poll

jbtsax

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
My boss and I got into an argument the other day over whether a customer's Conn 6M naked lady alto was a professional model sax or not. This was one of the later models. It did not have rolled tone holes or the micro-tuner neck and was in very good, almost closet, condition except for the worn out pads which were the original Conn Reso-rings.

The issue was whether doing a repad on this sax should command the student sax repad price, or whether it should be charged at the professional model repad price, which is considerably higher.

I'm not going to reveal my side of the argument till the end of the informal poll. So "what say ye" WWF List. :)
 

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
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This doesn't make sense to me. If there are more materials, more labor, or higher priced pads then that's a pro repad price regardless of the horn. I would suggest that a student repad would be to a different standard, take less time and available no matter what kind of instrument it was provided to.

Also, if a vintage instrument takes more or less time to repair, harder to find parts for, that should probably also be considered. Am I missing something here?
 
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I confess that the terms "pro repad" and "student repad" don't make much sense to me. The price should vary according to quality of pads, difficulty of working on a particular sax, and what needs to be done in addition to cleaning, oiling, adjustment, corks and felts, and the routine stuff.

Or are the student repads done by apprentices, the professional by fully qualified techs? :wink:
 

tictactux

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
For me, the total price due is max(Labour+Material; minimum_price), regardless of the type of instrument. Two hours on a Bundy cost exactly as much as two hours spent on an MKVI unless a shop is doing some cross-funding from pro down to student.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Regarding PRICE of the repad, I agree with TTT, Gandalfe and retread: you only pay more if you're getting better stuff or if you're telling the tech to spend more time on the project. That "stuff" can be pads, etc.

However, I also don't know how one could say pad x is "professional quality."

Regarding whether or not any Conn 6M is a professional horn, you have to ask if the horn was being sold as a professional model when it was new --and it was. If you're asking me to compare the quality of the 6M against a new pro horn, you're asking for something that's a subjective opinion. If you're asking me to compare a 1937 6M with a 1967 6M, I can definitely tell you that the 1937 horn has more features than the later horn, but then it's subjective opinion time again. I'd trade my 1967 6M for a 1937 6M if they were in the same condition, but someone else might not.
 

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
and some believe that older instruments are not up to "specs" of modern pro instruments .... with of course exceptions like Selmer Paris, and Buffet DA, SDAs etc etc etc etc

I think the opinions of all the older instruments vary so much that one can go either way. But then, is the instrument in the hands of a pro or a student (not that students don't buy pro instruments).

But on the other hand, when one has an argument with the boss ... i would think the boss is right. But for the old Conn I have to put it in the category of a H&A Bundy (which is a pedigree of the Big Bs) and thus it's a student, no wait, a pro, no a stu ........ pr ....... :p

flip a coin
 

jbtsax

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
It is pretty standard in the repair industry to have different levels of pricing for student and professional instruments. Let me try to explain.

In musical instrument repair as in other arts and trades there is a continuum of excellence that one tries to achieve in the finished product. In working on a professional instrument one tries to address very small details that are important to a highly skilled player. Some of those things are perfect pad seating and regulation with the lightest possible pressure on the keys, the elimination of all friction possible in the keys and linkages, the fitting of the keys to the absolute finest tolerances to eliminate key noise and lost motion, and adjusting the key heights for the best possible venting taking into account the travel of the keys and the intonation.

On a student saxophone, the tech insures that the pads seat well, that there is no significant binding of the keys, that there is no "key slop" that prevents good regulation, and that the saxophone plays well up to the standard that a beginning or intermediate player requires.

An example would be on a pro overhaul, I might spend 30 minutes getting the side Bb to operate as smoothly and noiselessly as possible so as not to detract in a soft passage in a classical solo. For a young player tooting with enthusiasm through the Marines March a slightly noisy side Bb would not be an issue.

It's not that techs do a "bad" job on student repads. It is that there are minute details that an experienced tech will address on an accomplished player's instrument that are beyond the needs and even recognition of a player at a lower level of skill. The saying that I believe is true in instrument repair is: "It takes more and more to do less and less".
 

tictactux

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
An example would be on a pro overhaul, I might spend 30 minutes getting the side Bb to operate as smoothly and noiselessly as possible so as not to detract in a soft passage in a classical solo. For a young player tooting with enthusiasm through the Marines March a slightly noisy side Bb would not be an issue.
No difference as long as your hourly rate is the same.
If you charge "per issue" rather than "per hour" then, yes, I understand what you mean - different tariffs then.

I guess the real problem is quoting the approximate cost to the customer *before* doing the magic.
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
OK, I'll bite. If you're simply asking is a late-model 6M a pro horn, of course the answer is yes. So is a late model 10M. I happen to have both.

I have a 1968 6M with an underslung octave key that is my main alto. I picked it up in a pawn shop for $400. I haven't put a dime into it (although it now does really need an overhaul), and it paid for itself 10 fold during the first year in jazz gigs alone. That's what I normally use it for. It's my jazz alto, and replaced my Mark VI for that genre of music. If I were to play my Selmer at all, it would be for rock, R&B, or blues. (Currently I'm not playing alto at all however, because the smaller horns cause an increase in my intracranial pressure that the doctors haven't been able to get under control.)

My other Conn is a 1965 10M with an underslung octave key that was a train wreck (Gandalfe can attest to that, since he saw it in person prior to restoration). I had it restored by Sarge at World Wide Sax. Was it worth the restoration? Sure. It's still a 10M. It sounds like 10M, and does everything anyone else's 10M from an earlier time would do. Sure, it (and my 6M) might not have as many features, but that's OK. For me, I don't care. I don't need them. It's the sound that's important, not the rolled tone holes, mircotuner neck, the fork Eb, or the fancy engraving.

BTW, before I went ahead with the restoration on the 10M, I had a serious discussion with Sarge about if the horn was worth the work. He believed it was. And he didn't just say that because he wanted the money. Sarge doesn't operate like that. He's a stand up guy, and is honest about a horn's short comings.

The question of course here is: What is the customer going to use it for? Do all "pro" horns get the "pro" treatment? For example, if a 2nd year sax student walks in the door with say an SBA, are you going to give it the same care and attention as you would a working pro's? And if the answer is "yes", I'd say "really?" You'd spend just as many hours making this kid's SBA work just as perfectly as you would mine? (And I'm picky, just ask Sarge.) I expect to pay more, but I expect most parents would not appreciate my bill at the end of their kid's horn repair.
 

Carl H.

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Distinguished Member
I can see both sides having an advantage for a pro. I played an Armstrong on gigs for years. Every time a pad rotted off it went to a tech. I told them put in a new pad, nothing more. They all said it won't play, it needs a ton of work, but I took it with minimal (less than) work and played on. I played through the horn, in spite of its condition because it was a tool for a job, and did it well enough. Gigged on it for many years like that until it was so far gone that it needed the works done - which was more than it was worth to me - so I sold it to a buddy who was happy to get it. He had it done and it is still in service 12 years later.

When I dumped it (I hate to say it, but my buddy got screwed on the deal, even though he is still happy with it) I upgraded a considerable amount. With this new horn I hold it to a higher standard, and expect it to be in very good condition at all times, and pay to keep it that way. It works as well for me as the beat up Armstrong did but it is a bit fussier in how it plays when not in very good shape. It is much harder to play through problems with this horn.

I suspect the horns are designed to be this way - student horns play in spite of their condition and pro horns need to be fussed with to some extent to play well. Like a Chevette vs a Jaguar. They need to be serviced to a different standard to maintain the minimum expected performance.
 
It is pretty standard in the repair industry to have different levels of pricing for student and professional instruments.
For me, and from your description I would say maybe for you too(?), there is no actual difference in pricing. There is a difference in how much you invest and the quality of the result, but the price is the same for the same work. It's simply more work on a "pro" instrument (or an instrument done to the "pro" standard). So, my price is exactly the same regardless of what instrument I work on. It depends on what the work I do is. In general, I might accept a lot more compromises on lower quality instruments where the owner has serious budget issues, than an excellent instrument belonging to a pro player, like in your example of the noisy side key (unless a beginner tells me a noisy side key disturbs them and want it fixed). But my price for the work stays the same i.e. an hourly rate with occasional variation for unusually expensive materials and/or tools used.

But I don't have a pro repad price and a student repad price. That's because I don't have a studet repad at all. Even full repads can vary some in amount I invest etc. depending on budget. Even a pro willing to pay a lot more might prefer less than a certain amount, and will prefer to save on some things knowing what theyr would improve. But the most basic full repad I would do I still consider a "pro" repad. This is why I don't have a repad price, and why two different repads rarely cost exactly the same.

If an instrument is in bad condition and in reality needs a full repad, but the owner just can't justify that for whatever reason, I will not do a full repad. I just can't attend to all the mechanical issues of an instrument (e.g. warped tone holes, loose hinges, etc.), which often take most of the repad time, without charging at least a modest amount for it. I might do some, depending on the amount the owner can afford, but I can't do this for free all the time or I'll have to quit this work. So instead I will do the best to bring the instrument to the best possible condition, considering budget. Every time I've been in this situation this was a far better option than a full "student" repad.

In the case of any saxophone, regardless of model, I would check the instrument and tell the owner what the condition is, what are the options, prices of options e.g. a full repad/overhal for X$ will be optimal, but can be put in good condition for Y$, plus some things in between, depending on what want to spend. I would tell them my opinion of whether a certain type of repair is worth it or not, but also say that sometimes it's a matter of how much they like the instrument as far as tone, intonation, etc.

I disagree with Carl's "suspicion". Some student models are made to be very free blowing, in a way that many more experienced players don't like so much. But IME they are not easier to play in the same bad condition as pro models, in general. I found that this is true about different models, but whether they are a student or pro model usually doesn't have anything to do with it most of the time.
 

jbtsax

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The question of course here is: What is the customer going to use it for? Do all "pro" horns get the "pro" treatment? For example, if a 2nd year sax student walks in the door with say an SBA, are you going to give it the same care and attention as you would a working pro's? And if the answer is "yes", I'd say "really?" You'd spend just as many hours making this kid's SBA work just as perfectly as you would mine? (And I'm picky, just ask Sarge.) I expect to pay more, but I expect most parents would not appreciate my bill at the end of their kid's horn repair.
What a great question. In the case of a vintage saxophone of the quality of a Selmer SBA, I would insist upon doing an overhaul to the same standard for a student as for a professional player. In this case this level of work would be done:

- out of respect for the history, heritage, and quality of the instrument itself
- based upon the pride I take in my work, and my reputation
- to enhance the value of the instrument
- in the hope that the inexperienced player would be motivated by such a fine instrument to really excel and someday appreciate the work done to the saxophone

By the way, this is another argument I get into with my boss, "doing the repair for the sake of the instrument" and not for the sake of the customer. As you can probably tell, I am somewhat of an idealist when it comes to this sort of thing.
 

jbtsax

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
For me, and from your description I would say maybe for you too(?), there is no actual difference in pricing. There is a difference in how much you invest and the quality of the result, but the price is the same for the same work.
I agree that there is no difference in the hourly rate charged at the bench. It is simply that the pro instruments require more time than student ones do---often 2 to 3 times the number of hours. The only other factor would be the quality of the pads used. Top of the line pads can cost $40 - $60 more for a set than regular pads.
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
Some student models are made to be very free blowing, in a way that many more experienced players don't like so much. But IME they are not easier to play in the same bad condition as pro models, in general. I found that this is true about different models, but whether they are a student or pro model usually doesn't have anything to do with it most of the time.
This has been my experience too. Having played all my students' horns over the years that I've been teaching, I've had an opportunity to play a wide variety of student model horns both new and "old" (don't want to use the term "vintage" to describe student model horns). These horns have also varied greatly when it comes to states of repair. I've found many of these saxes way too easy blowing for my liking. Honestly, this is more true of the newer instruments though, than of the older models. The older horns tend to be the ones with more resistance.

On a related note, my stable of gigging tenors (6 at last count) varies greatly when it comes to resistance. The 10M is the easiest blowing of the lot. It hardly requires any air whatsoever. At the other end of the spectrum is my Hohner President. The other horns from least to most resistance are: Zephyr, Mark VI, Martin Handcraft, (the Selmer and the Handcraft are pretty much tied), and lastly my Dörfler & Jörka-made Keilwerth clone horn stencilled DeVilliers.
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
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I can see where you're coming from JBTsax, about the work on the sax being done out of respect for the instrument's history, and I respect it. However, sometimes that's just not possible, or feasible to do. For example, I've got a student in middle school who plays a Selmer Super Sax. It belonged to his grandfather, and this poor horn had had its bell lip bent down somehow, and needed a bunch of pads replaced.

I suggested that this student's father take the horn to my tech, who I naturally trust with vintage horns, and when David (my tech) saw the horn, it turned out that there was much more to do. This Selmer was in need of a full overhaul to bring it back to its former glory. When David phoned the student's dad and gave him the news, the dad phoned me and asked my advice. He didn't know what to do. He hadn't budgeted on $1,000+ overhaul and repair on this alto. Because David is like you JBT, he wasn't keen on doing only a partial job. (He's the guy that pros go to, and he's got a solid reputation.)

In the end, the horn got 3/4s rebuilt, and played wonderfully, but certainly would have been even better had the rest of the work been done. David was actually sick about the fact that this horn was being schlepped to and from school every day. He had tried to convince the dad to rent another alto for school, and keep the beautiful alto at home and use it for concerts and practice at home. Needless to say that argument didn't fly. (I hadn't had any luck with that argument either.)

I've also had a student that had a Dolnet Belair, and it's same kind of story there. Again, the mom wasn't keen on a huge repair bill just because the horn was a vintage pro horn that previously belonged to a family member.

Sometimes all the reasoning in the world isn't going to reach non-musical family members. In the end, only $ talks, and it says: Fix it for less, and just make it work.
 

jbtsax

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
On a related note, my stable of gigging tenors (6 at last count) varies greatly when it comes to resistance. The 10M is the easiest blowing of the lot. It hardly requires any air whatsoever. At the other end of the spectrum is my Hohner President. The other horns from least to most resistance are: Zephyr, Mark VI, Martin Handcraft, (the Selmer and the Handcraft are pretty much tied), and lastly my Dörfler & Jörka-made Keilwerth clone horn stencilled DeVilliers.
You have opened up a whole new fascinating subject Helen, the "resistance" of different makes and models of saxophones. I am going to start a new thread to discuss this interesting topic in more detail.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
I agree that there is no difference in the hourly rate charged at the bench. It is simply that the pro instruments require more time than student ones do---often 2 to 3 times the number of hours. The only other factor would be the quality of the pads used. Top of the line pads can cost $40 - $60 more for a set than regular pads.
I'm still not buying into this. I do get the fact that if you're using higher cost materials, there should be aa higher charge and that's it.

If a tech is going to charge me more and the ONLY difference is that he considers my horn "professional" so repairs should cost more, I'm looking for a different tech. Also, if the tech is not going to do an as-good job on my YBS-52 JUST because it isn't a pro horn, I'm going to look for a different tech.

I've only owned only three or four professional model horns -- although I played several other pro horns for extended lengths of time. I've owned MANY non-pro horns and have used them in pro situations, like several others in the above threads. I'd never want a tech to do less of a job on any horn I have just because he thinks that either I'm not a professional player, so I won't know the difference or that because it's not a pro horn, he doesn't have to do as good of a job.
 

jbtsax

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
I'm still not buying into this. I do get the fact that if you're using higher cost materials, there should be aa higher charge and that's it.

If a tech is going to charge me more and the ONLY difference is that he considers my horn "professional" so repairs should cost more, I'm looking for a different tech. Also, if the tech is not going to do an as-good job on my YBS-52 JUST because it isn't a pro horn, I'm going to look for a different tech.
I'm afraid I haven't communicated very well, if that is your interpretation. Let me try another way to describe the way repair techs approach high end instruments vs student horns.

First of all we are talking about repads/mechanical overhauls, not replacing the palm key pads. In these instances the tech is given a clean canvas, so to speak, to create his/her art.

The first step is dent work and body or bell straightening. The student instrument is done to the point that it looks very good. The pro instrument is worked painstakingly to the point where it looks as if it just came from the factory. This often involves removing (unsoldering?) the entire bell section to insert a tapered mandrel into the body to roll the dents out.

The next step is the leveling of the toneholes. All of the toneholes on the student instrument are leveled with diamond rotary files. Only the very worst ones have the low spots raised before filing. On the pro horn, all of the low areas of the toneholes are painstakingly raised so that only the very smallest amount of filing is required to bring them to perfection.

Key fitting follows. The very loose keys on the student sax that prevent good regulation are addressed. On the pro horn, every key, regardless of its function is painstakingly swedged to fit as snug as humanly possible without any friction whatsoever. Usually the rods and the inside of the hinge tubes are polished using special techniques to insure lightning fast movement of the keys.

Pad installation is next. The student sax gets slightly softer felt pads that are slightly more forgiving to imperfections in the tone holes. These are seated to close airtight with medium light finger pressure. The pro sax gets the best quality pads available with slightly firmer felt for a more positive feel to the key closing. These are painstakingly seated so that just gravity closing the key makes a perfect 360 degree seal around the tonehole.

Key opening (venting) and spring tension is next. The keys on the student sax are adjusted so that there are no unusually stuffy notes for that make and model, and the springs are set to be close to uniform throughout. On the pro sax, the venting of each key is carefully checked and adjusted to try to match the timbre and projection of the adjacent notes. Intonation issues are addressed using crescents in the tone holes, changing the key heights of the entire stacks, and other advanced techniques. Each key spring tension is painstakingly set to match the player's specifications, and to be as uniform throughout as possible.

Play testing and final adjustment. On the student sax, the instrument is played to insure it is air tight, all the notes are speaking and venting properly. If it doesn't feel right, it will be checked again with the leaklight to see if something has changed. On the pro sax, it is played extensively, sometimes hours making small adjustments along the way. After sitting a day or two, it is checked again with the leak light, adjusted if necessary, and then played again. Depending on how big a hurry the customer is in, this process may be repeated over several days as things settle in.

Obviously one sax is repadded/overhauled to a higher level than the other. The student repad is very good for that level of instrument---often better than when it left the factory with better fitting keys and level toneholes. The professional repad/overhaul is simply done to a higher standard. The "bench time" which is the measure of how much is charged the customer is considerably less for the work put into the student sax. In our shop it is a very modest $40 per hour.

If you brought me your YBS 52 for an overhaul, I would give you the choice. I would recommend the top of the line overhaul with all the bells and whistles, but if you said you were on a budget, I would do as much as possible according to what you were willing to pay.

Craftsmen and women and artisans work to a given standard and then stop. That standard can be higher or lower depending upon the needs and resources of the customer, or the quality and value of the item being worked on. Band instrument repair is no different.
 

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
If you brought me your YBS 52 for an overhaul, I would give you the choice. I would recommend the top of the line overhaul with all the bells and whistles, but if you said you were on a budget, I would do as much as possible according to what you were willing to pay.
so we are back to the question of whether the Conn 6m was going to be used in a student or pro setting ....
 
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