Installing Tan or RooPads in a Buescher Saxophone
By Curt Altarac
When re-padding a Buescher saxophone, one has to decide what type of pad to install. The choice of pad and installation method is the subject of many debates among Buescher players, collectors and technicians. There are reasons to install standard pads on a Buescher, just as there are reasons to keep the system original and install Buescher Metal backed pads. In this article, I intend to discuss one method of installing standard (not metal backed) pads on a Buescher saxophone while retaining the original snaps and spuds, without permanently modifying the instrument.
Why not to install regular, cardboard backed, pads on a Buescher?
Before we begin a discussion about how to install standard pads on a Buescher, it's important to note that some players, collectors and technicians feel that only Metal backed pads should be installed on a Buescher. In my discussions with many players, techs and collectors around the world, I have found two main arguments for installing Metal backed pads on a Buescher: The first is tone and the second is feel.
As far as the tone of the instrument is concerned, there are some players who believe the Metal backed pads are an integral part of the tone production on a vintage Buescher saxophone. The most common reasoning I hear is that the Metal backing on the pad transmits sound or vibrations to the key-work and body of the instrument. Since this system is unique to Buescher saxophones, some feel that installing cardboard backed pads on a Buescher may detract from its unique tone and playability.
Others believe that the Metal backed pads, in combination with the snaps and spuds, produce a feel in the players hands that is unique to Buescher Saxophones. As there are many ways to install Metal backed pads in Buescher saxophones, there are various levels to this argument. Buescher Metal backed pads can be installed (although it is very difficult) with pad shims, with a solid bed of shellac, with very little shellac etc.. The Buescher purist, would argue that it is imperative that no adhesive be used in the installation of Buescher Metal backed pads. Re-padding a Buescher in this manner (without shellac and with Metal backed pads) is exactly correct from a historical perspective and there are many players and collectors that feel this is very important to keep these instruments original.
Reasons to install Standard pads on a Buescher:
There are good reasons to install RooPads or standard pads in a Buescher rather than the metal backed pads. The first is feel and the second is playability.
As far as the feel of the instrument is concerned, replacing the Buescher metal backed pads with standard pads allows the technician and player to choose the pad style they prefer. This flexibility allows the technician to tailor the instrument to the player based on their specific playing style and geographical location. Even with this flexibility the technician and player are forced to use the Snap-on resonators that came standard on so many Buescher saxophones. Nonetheless, there is a lot of flexibility for the padder as far as pad choice is concerned. Certainly a Buescher with Metal backed pads will have a different feel than one with RooPads. In my experience using Standard tan pads on a Buescher will result in a feel that is very similar to metal backed pads.
As far as the playability of the instrument after the overhaul is concerned, installing pads with shellac facilitates more precise leak removal. With shellac it is possible to heat the cup and adjust the pads for a near perfect seal. This is the traditional method used on all other saxophones containing standard cardboard backed pads. To level and seat with the metal backed pads, the technician will have to bend the pad cups to conform to inconsistencies in the tone holes as well as the inconsistencies in the leather and felt. Using any cardboard backed pads will usually result in finer leak work. The feel and stickiness of the final job will be defined by the quality of the pads installed. Again, this is why I choose RooPads for most Buescher overhauls that do not get metal backed pads.
Removing the snaps and spuds altogether
Don't do it. Although it would be an easier job for the technician to simply remove the spuds in the cups and install the standard or RooPads in a traditional manner, this is not recommended for a few reasons. The most important reason to leave the metal snaps and spuds on the instrument may be value. A Buescher that has its snaps removed is less valuable than one with the Snaps and spuds intact. A lesser reason may be playability. Many players that use Bueschers, and to a greater extent collectors, feel that the Snaps and spuds are an integral part of the sound and feel of a Buescher saxophone. Removing the snaps and spuds will lessen these players' perception of how the instrument will play and may change how the instrument actually plays. Since replacing the snaps and spuds is very costly, removing them can be considered non-reversible. As far as I know, there is no proof that the spuds and snaps have any impact on the sound of a Buescher. Even with this information, we generally replace any missing spuds and snaps during a Buescher overhaul.
What does MusicMedic.com do in their pro-shop?
At MusicMedic.com we have a unique situation. We sell pads, including the Buescher Metal backed pads, as well as repair instruments. Also, we repair Buescher Saxophones for players all over the world. Players at a very high level as well as professors at major universities insist on the finest work we can offer and will not accept anything less. It is a real challenge to satisfy these players and we must use every trick and technique we can to help them play their best everyday; knowing that they are not in town and cannot just 'drop by' if they have a problem with their instrument. There can be no problems.
That said, in our saxophone pro-shop, we have used every pad from every major and minor pad manufacturer. We are also a pad manufacturer and have experimented extensively with various leather and felt (or synthetic) combinations. We have made Metal backed pads with many leather and felt combinations. To date we find that RooPads are far superior to any other pad available at any price and this includes the currently available Buescher Metal backed pads.
Having found (created really) a pad that is clearly superior to anything available, we offer the option of RooPads to players who use Buescher saxophones. About 95% of our Buescher overhauls go out the door with RooPads and the player is always ecstatic with the results. Of course, we have installed metal backed pads on many Bueschers and continue to do so at the players request. However, we strongly recommend considering RooPads on a Buescher Saxophones.
As there are so many pad types in the world with many different properties discussing each of these would be a long winded article to say the least. For the remainder of this article will discuss the use of RooPads in place of original metal backed pads. As RooPads install exactly the same as any other standard pads, you can substitute any cardboard backed pad where RooPads are mentioned.
Finally, the Process of installing RooPads pads in place of Metal backed pads.
As I mentioned above, this process does not alter the instrument permanently. If you choose to remove the original snaps and spuds from your instrument you may be making a mistake.
The process of replacing Metal backed pads with cardboard backed pads (or RooPads) is simple but it takes a little more time than a standard overhaul. Once the preparation for this process is complete, the act of installing the pads is almost exactly the same as any other pad replacement. When complete, the resulting pad job will have RooPads in the cup with shellac behind them just like any other saxophone. In the middle of the pad will be the Buescher Snap held in by the original spud.
1. Choose a Pad that you like of the proper size. Buescher Saxophones work well with 0.160° - 0.165° pads.
2. Using your caliper, note the smaller diameter of the snap as well as the larger diameter of the snap associated with the key.
3. Choose a leather punch that is slightly larger than the snap back but smaller than the snap face.
4. Punch a hole in the center of the RooPad.
5. Set this pad aside read this article and all associated articles about padding including: Leveling tone holes, leveling pad cups on a bench anvil, dry fitting pads, The push and pull of installing pads and any other articles you can find here.
6. Once you have addressed the 4 variables of pad installation, you can proceed with the installation. Do not skip the preparation of leveling the tone holes, pads cups and dry fitting. Note that dry fitting is most important in with Buescher pads as the snap will hold the pad firmly in the center of the cup and 'floating' will be limited.
7. Heat the Buescher pad cup and apply a layer of quality shellac to the back of the cup, be sure that some gets on the spud in the cup. This will help keep the snap from rattling later.
8. Quickly press the pad into the cup and press the snap on the spud.
9. Now, install the pad in a the regular manner outlined in the articles here. Again, it is important to note that 'floating' will be limited once the snap is on the pad. Be sure you have done your dry fitting completely before you begin your padding.
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