Working with a professional player is among the most rewarding experiences we have in the repair shop. Very often we are forced to find ways of 'repairing' an instrument that borders on re-manufacturing. Our most recent overhaul certainly falls into that category.
When professional saxophonist Wayne Leechford first came to our shop, he was excited to have his Keilwerth SX90R Alto saxophone overhauled. When the overhaul was complete, Wayne let us know that he was really-really excited about the way the instrument came out. We worked with Wayne for some time setting up the instrument to match his playing both in tone and intonation. After seeing how the Alto went, Wayne started asking what we could do for his Keilwerth SX90R Baritone. Overhauling Wayne's baritone sounded like a real treat to us as we certainly enjoy Wayne's visit and working with him again.
Wayne talked about the possibility of making his high notes speak more freely. When playing the palm keys, the notes wanted to speak an octave lower. Basically the only way to get the notes to speak properly was to voice them as though they were altissimo notes. Playing these notes with a strong articulation, very softly or with any force was more difficult than playing altissimo notes and basically impossible. We figured that this was a problem that would be solved during the normal course of a professional overhaul, So we took on the project of overhauling Wayne's SX90R Baritone.
When the mechanical overhaul was complete the high note problem persisted. It soon became apparent that the problem was related to the location of the second octave pip, the one closer to the mouthpiece, and that fixing this problem was not going to be easy. It would require changing the location of the octave pip from the body of the instrument on to the neck. If you consider the way the octave pad moves, you know that the geometry is not as simple as drilling a hole and adding a pip. This would take some planning.
First we snapped a few photos with a cell phone in the shop. Then we sent Wayne home while we designed the new key.
Here is Wayne's original key taken in the shop.
Note that the original (pre-modification) neck has no key or lever on it.
Here is original neck with an added pip and a Leblanc style octave lever. The lever is 100% fabricated from brass stock.
Before the neck would work on the instrument the old octave pad needed to be removed and a new lever was brazed in it's place. The entire mechanism working like a champ!
Shortly after we sent Wayne home with his new octave mechanism this letter showed up.
Thanks so much for all of your and Matt's hard work on my horn. I just finished playing it for about an hour and it plays great!! Even without the tuner, I can tell that the intonation is SO much more even than it ever has been. Those high F#s are magical! You just turned me into a much better player. This kicks ass!
We know that Wayne is the real-deal. He's a 100% pro and very picky about how his horns work. So, we take this compliment very personally.
To learn more about Wayne and his playing check out his website
Thanks Wayne for your kind letter and your great music!