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Bell Key Problem

#1
The notes on the Bell key cluster of my Bauhaus Walstein alto sax stopped playing yesterday - mainly the B and Bb. I could see that the low B bell key was rubbing up against the RH post of the bell key guard and you will see from the photo that the gap on the LH side is much wider (see first image).

I thought that this was the main cause but, couldn't find a way to move it away, and I have no idea how it came to be unaligned (assuming it was like that when I bought it a year ago).

Rewind to an hour previously: I had adjusted the screw on the post above the G# key, but about 1 ½ turns, to bring the black "stop" higher (see 2nd image).

I did this because I had been having problems getting G# to sound cleanly when dropping from 4 or 5 note intervals and (erroneously - I'm very new to how the Sax works) thought that raising the stopper might allow the G# key to rise and give a cleaner sound. (Yep, "fools rush in..."etc).

After an hour of getting nowhere with the key guard, I remembered what I had done to the screw above the G# key and put it back to where it was originally. Hey presto, all keys played perfectly.

I have 2 questions (well, 3 but, "Am I an idiot or what?" will need to remain rhetorical, please.)

1. The B bell key is still rubbing against the post although it plays. Does anyone know how to fix it - and if I should?

2. What does that screw on the "stopper" do, as it doesn't seem to be attached to anything other than the "stop" itself. I can't see how it's affecting the bell keys. This is more for my own information, and so that I will be sure to leave it alone in the future.

Thanks for any suggestions.


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#2
Unless you are well versed in Saxophone Repairs, I suggest you go to a professional for those repairs. As far as adjustment screws, they actually can control how high the pad/pad cup is raised over the tone hole. The height can affect the tone and pitch of the note when the pad is lifted above the tone hole.
 
#3
Unless you are well versed in Saxophone Repairs, I suggest you go to a professional for those repairs. As far as adjustment screws, they actually can control how high the pad/pad cup is raised over the tone hole. The height can affect the tone and pitch of the note when the pad is lifted above the tone hole.
Thanks for that. I live in rural Ireland. My nearest (and best) sax technician, (maybe one of only 2 in the country) is a 6 hour round trip drive from me - and I go there as often as possible.

I'll definitely call him but was just curious if others knew what might be happening.
 

jbtsax

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#4
1. Apparently the low B key has been bent slightly to the right so that it rubs against the guard post. You can very carefully coax it back to where it was away from the post with your fingers. If you look carefully you can see if the "seat" or indented ring in the pad lines up with the top of the tonehole or not.

2. Modern saxes are made so that pressing any key on the LH pinky table produces a G# when G is fingered. The G# closing screw mechanism prevents the G# key from opening when you are playing a low C#, B, or Bb. It is a critical adjustment on the saxophone that will make the low notes impossible to play if it is not properly adjusted.

Since you are so far away from a tech, you might want to invest in Stephen Howard's excellent book The Haynes Saxophone Manual to help you work through any common problems you might have in between visits to your tech.
 
#5
1. Apparently the low B key has been bent slightly to the right so that it rubs against the guard post. You can very carefully coax it back to where it was away from the post with your fingers. If you look carefully you can see if the "seat" or indented ring in the pad lines up with the top of the tonehole or not.
Thank you John. I had previously tried tried gently pushing the B flat key with my my finger, away from the posts, but all it does is spring back into a position nestling against the post. I'd be afraid of something going "snap" if I push it too far. I reckon it could be a trip into darkest East County Cork to the tech shop (actually a workshop adjoining his house, down the narrowest back roads you could imagine).

I thought I lived in the middle of nowhere, but this guy has taken the phrase "off the beaten track" to another level. :)

Incidentally, I have the Stephen Howard book - I have even been in correspondence with him, and admired his photography (I'm a professional photographer, specializing in music see here).

I also have a box of tools and accessories and am at the "I'd better clean that pad and oil the keys and springs" stage of instrument DIY.

2. Modern saxes are made so that pressing any key on the LH pinky table produces a G# when G is fingered. The G# closing screw mechanism prevents the G# key from opening when you are playing a low C#, B, or Bb. It is a critical adjustment on the saxophone that will make the low notes impossible to play if it is not properly adjusted.
That's what was puzzling me, thanks again. I went back to that screw and found with another 1/4 turn, and checking the low notes each time, I now have it set to blow low C#, B and Bb more easily and cleanly than (to my ear) it has ever done. So, in some ways, a happy accident that I made a pig's ear of it, initially.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#6
One of the "flaws" of the design of the saxophone is that there is no such thing as uniform key height, this because the keys (and, by extension, the touch pieces attached to them) are set at a specific height in order to tune specific notes. An effort to make things nice and neat will render the buttons/touch pieces at a nice even height, but at the same time will screw your intonation six ways from Sunday.

I'm not all that sure of the technical history of the instrument, but I would venture a guess that old Adolphe (who was, by all accounts, a cantankerous old coot) actually designed the horn that way.
 
#7
An effort to make things nice and neat will render the buttons/touch pieces at a nice even height, but at the same time will screw your intonation six ways from Sunday.
I rejoice in the certain knowledge that my intonation is currently only 5 ways from Sunday. :)
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
#8
IIRC, the oldest surviving sax, a baritone, had a lot of (if not all), flat springs. That would probably make things more interesting, as far as regulating key height.

Un momento. Ah. Here's the PDF.
 

jbtsax

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#9
Thank you John. I had previously tried tried gently pushing the B flat key with my my finger, away from the posts, but all it does is spring back into a position nestling against the post. I'd be afraid of something going "snap" if I push it too far.

Incidentally, I have the Stephen Howard book - I have even been in correspondence with him, and admired his photography (I'm a professional photographer, specializing in music see here).

I also have a box of tools and accessories and am at the "I'd better clean that pad and oil the keys and springs" stage of instrument DIY.
That looks like a neat book about Irish music. Just push the key far enough and the arm(s) will bend in that direction. It will be more difficult to straighten due to the fact that it has two key arms, which is why it is unusual that it got bent in the first place. Cheap pot metal on Chinese instruments goes "snap", brass on a saxophone made in Taiwan does not. The worst thing that can happen is that it gets bent too far the other way, in which case you can bend it the opposite way.
 
#10
That looks like a neat book about Irish music.
Thanks, it has got some good press reviews. A selection of my images were taken into the Irish Traditional Music Archive in Dublin, which was a particular honour for me.

Some sample images are here.

Cheap pot metal on Chinese instruments goes "snap", brass on a saxophone made in Taiwan does not. The worst thing that can happen is that it gets bent too far the other way, in which case you can bend it the opposite way.
My sax is one of the Chinese made Bauhaus Walstein's but it wasn't "cheap" as such (about $900 + tax). It's the phosphor bronze action improved model. I'd still be a bit wary of it going snap though. :) The real puzzle, as you said, is how it got misaligned in the first place.
 

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#11
My sax is one of the Chinese made Bauhaus Walstein's but it wasn't "cheap" as such (about $900 + tax). It's the phosphor bronze action improved model. I'd still be a bit wary of it going snap though. :) The real puzzle, as you said, is how it got misaligned in the first place.
Some pictures might help us figure out your bent sax situation.
 

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#13
Yes
Picture one shows the bell keys, but doesn't show how far the cup is moved from where it should be and it doesn't show any sign of an impact which may have moved the key from where it is supposed to be.
 
#14
Yes
Picture one shows the bell keys, but doesn't show how far the cup is moved from where it should be and it doesn't show any sign of an impact which may have moved the key from where it is supposed to be.
there is is no sign of an impact on the sax and there hasn't been one - I bought it new and have not dropped it or bashed it significantly.

Image 1 shows the gap on the left and the lack of gap on the right. Both posts are straight.
 
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jbtsax

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#15
One of the "flaws" of the design of the saxophone is that there is no such thing as uniform key height, this because the keys (and, by extension, the touch pieces attached to them) are set at a specific height in order to tune specific notes. An effort to make things nice and neat will render the buttons/touch pieces at a nice even height, but at the same time will screw your intonation six ways from Sunday.

I'm not all that sure of the technical history of the instrument, but I would venture a guess that old Adolphe (who was, by all accounts, a cantankerous old coot) actually designed the horn that way.
The key heights on the upper and lower stacks of a saxophone are really quite simple and straightforward. The basic acoustic principle involved in "venting" the note through the first open tonehole is that the tallest part of the key opening should be at least 1/3 the diameter of the tonehole. Closer than this, the clarity of the note suffers and the pitch goes flatter. More open than this just creates unnecessary key travel.

When setting up a saxophone there is actually 1 key opening that sets up the key heights of the entire saxophone. That key is the F key on the lower stack. The Yamaha specs are 8.4mm for this key on both alto and tenor. This key height serves as a good starting point for most professional makes. The process is as follows:

- The F key is set to this height by bending the key foot and/or by adding or taking away cork from the bottom of the foot.
- Then the back bar of the F# is set so that the F closes the F#.
- Then the feet of the E and D keys are adjusted to close the F#. (Sometimes the D is set light.)
- Then the corks on the feet of the F, E, and D are sanded/added to to eliminate lost motion.
- The arm extending from the F# is adjusted to close the G# and Bis.
- The A key is adjusted to close the C via its backbar.
- The A key is adjusted to close the Bis.
- The cork on the foot of the A key is adjusted to remove lost motion between the A touch and the bis, and the bis arm and the F#.
- The B is adjusted to close the C via its backbar.
- The cork on the foot of the B is adjusted to remove lost motion between the B and back bar of the C.

There is never any fiddling with the individual heights of stack keys. Those relationships are set by the geometry and taper of the instrument itself which generally speaking produces wider key openings for the larger toneholes, and closer key openings for the smaller toneholes. To properly set up a saxophone requires getting the F set the the best height for that instrument and the rest takes care of itself.
 
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