The other important relationship in your musical life.

Love your repair guy/gal?

There is a relationship that people outside of the musical arts may have have a difficult time understanding. It is the love-hate relationship between the musician and the tech who keeps their instrument in playable condition. The musician must leave their beloved and personally valuable tool of expression in the hands of a trusted technician to restore form, function, and capability. This can take hours to weeks depending on the techs workload and severity of the repair needed.

In many ways musical instrument repair is like medicine. You bring the tech your sick and ailing instrument and they take it to their work bench and perform miracles. In the privacy of their work space they huddle over their brassy patient trying to determine if your description of the symptoms represents the problem as a whole or are part of a much bigger issue. Then after much careful work they pronounce the operation a success and call you to pickup your loved one and pay the price.

As baritone and bass saxophone players we have issues specific to playing the large horns. Issues like lower stack alignment because of the long rods and leverage points well away from keys they activate. Dents seem to appear like magic on the bow of the baritone saxophone. These are just a few of the “little” issues that seem to plague us big horn guys and gals. So what this really means is that your relationship with your repair person is even more important than what a small horn player may have.

In my experience I have found that baritone saxophone players are the most tolerant of issues with their instruments than any others in the saxophone family. Why are we more willing to deal with a stuffy note here or a warble there? Have a zip-tie holding on a clothes guard or key brace? Perhaps a piece of expertly placed duct-tape securing some important piece of the instrument? I don’t know too many gigging tenor or alto players who would tolerate make shift repairs for as long as bari players tend to. I am guilty of it as well, I have the dreaded Yamaha YBS-61 stuffy “G” issue which requires moving the octave pip. It’s not likely it’s going to get repaired soon due to my repair persons busy schedule and my need to play it.

Let us not forget that all repair techs are not created equally. First and foremost these people are business people and for the independent repair person this is their livelihood. Because there is always a shortage of top quality repair techs, repair prices can be all over the map depending on where you take your horn. Supply and demand is not the only factor in pricing or speed of repair. It can boil down to who you are. School band repairs make up the majority of my techs bread and butter repairs. Heaven forbid you drop a horn off on a day when they just received a load of bent keyed saxes , cracked clarinets, or sticky keyed flutes. Be prepared to park your baby in the repair black-hole for a couple weeks.,

So what do you do? If you are like me, you learn to make the repairs you can and leave the advanced stuff to the qualified tech. For example:  neck cork replacement should never be paid for when any sax player with a bit of glue, piece of cork, a strip of sand paper, and a razor can complete this job in less than 20 minutes. Gluing a key pearl back on a key is another easy fix which shouldn’t be paid for. By doing so we can avoid a backlog at the techs shop for simple repairs.

TAKE AWAY: If your tech is like mine then bring them a 4 pack of Guiness Draught and hope they can complete your repair in less than 2 months otherwise live with clicky keywork for a few more months. After all, who doesn’t like an improvised solo with self accompanied percussive effects.