Emergency Saxophone Repair15th April 2010
Nice little story…We were displaying at the National Concert Band Festival last weekend in Birmingham. It was a great weekend and inspiring to see so many players, especially kids, enjoying playing in concert and big bands. We were by our stand when a rather distressed young lady came to us clutching a Baritone Sax and exclaimed that it has suddenly stopped working properly! She was due to play in 2 minutes and the Sax was not blowing any notes below a D, so my colleague pointed the girl in my direction as he knew I had some repair experience (albeit a few years ago!). I asked the young lady to play for me so I could hear the problem, at this point your mind wishes you were at the work bench with your leak light and tools, it’s funny how being removed from a usual place of work can affect your ability.
I quickly looked at the main possible causes of the problem but everything seemed fine: the octave pad was seating correctly, the regulation screw on the G# key was doing it’s job and not letting the pad lift, the springs around the problem area were all in and the pads seemed to be seating reasonably (despite the budget nature of the sax). The young lady was panicking more, the crowds around me were massing, and then I had something of a repairers epiphany…the nature of the problem wasn’t going to be caused by a mechanical issue, I gently peered down the bell and found as I suspected a crook bag and mouthpiece wedged firmly in the bell/bow section of the sax!! I reached in, pulled it out and after a little embarassment the young lady blew the instrument beautifully down to the low A. She raced off and played in her performance, hero status was assured on my part (in my own mind at least!).
So, the moral of the story: Years of training and experience can’t always prepare you for the simplest of things, especially when all else around you is frantic. The best tip of all though, always check down your bell before you start the gig, you never know what might be down there!!