4 Easy(ish) Repairs on a Cheap Soprano Saxophone – Better Sax

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Soprano Sax Repairs

Being able to repair your instrument usually best left to a qualified technician, but I’m going to show you a few easy(ish) repairs on a soprano sax that you can try if you’re feeling up to the challenge.

If you do any of your own repairs, comment below and let us know some of your tips and tricks!

Today’s patient is the Ammoon/Lade Soprano Saxophone. It’s a Chinese made saxophone, and sells on amazon for about $310. If you want a full review of this saxophone, check out Cheap Amazon Soprano Sax VS Professional Instrument | Unboxing + Review.

Misinformation on Made in China Saxophones

I am demonstrating on this horn specifically in response to numerous commenters on YouTube who have said, without any first hand experience, that these instruments are impossible to repair. As you will see in the video, this saxophone can be repaired just like any other.

There is a lot of misinformation about some imported saxophones and a lot of that is due to the fact that they are not part of the traditional dealer network used by music stores. Since they are sold directly on the internet, brick and mortar retailers cannot easily compete with the prices as there is no dealer share factored in on Amazon or at Walmart.

Many of these dealers who are also providing repair services attempt to discredit direct-sale instruments in an attempt to convince customers to purchase the more expensive (also made in China, sometimes in the exact same factory) instruments they have for sale at standard dealer markups.

While I understand the motivation for this tactic, it is still deliberate misinformation. I have worked in many music stores and empathize with the difficult economics there. I would like to help music stores continue to thrive, but I’m more interested in helping music students get the best value for their money when purchasing instruments. Hence the need for this video evidence and demonstration.

Fitting a Neck Cork

This soprano sax comes with two necks, one straight, and one slightly curved. They both don’t have a perfect fit inside the instrument, which is usually frustrating when you’re trying to assemble your instrument.

I’m going to take a few pieces of sandpaper, one is a rougher grain at 180, and one is a finer grain at 320. Wrap the 180 around the cork and carefully twist back and forth to help smooth out the cork. You can use the 320 to finish smoothing out any extra rough patches. Occasionally test the cork with your mouthpiece on it to see the ease of putting it on and off the neck.

When you’re doing this, be very careful with the sandpaper because it can easily scratch and damage the lacquer of your instrument.

Once you’ve finished with the sandpaper, add a healthy amount of cork grease around the cork and rub it in so it soaks deep into the cork. This should help give you a perfect fit.

Removing Mechanical Play From Bell Keys

When I got this instrument, one of the first things I noticed was the mechanical play in some of these keys. There is a lot of movement, which means it’s slightly out of adjustment and that can cause other problems down the road.

The first step is to remove all of the affected keys. I have a spring hook, two screwdrivers, and a pair of pliers to help me throughout this process.

Check out the video around 4:00 to see how I go about taking these keys off.

Warning, this is something that could actually damage your saxophone if you don’t know what you’re doing. I highly suggest if a repair involves taking your keys off, that you take it to a trained professional.

Do NOT try this at home.

Adjusting the Bell Key Combination

We then have to check the pads to see if they’re landing where they should. Now that we’ve removed the play, we’ve adjusted where the pads are going to land.

Hopefully now when they close, they’re always going to land in the same place. That’s why we don’t want any of that lateral movement or mechanical play in the instrument.

To check, I’m going to use a leak light. By turning the lights off in the room, and inserting the leak light into the saxophone, I can open and close each key and if any light pours out, I know there’s a leak.

In this case, the B flat key comes down and closes before the B key. To fix this, I’m going to use my pliers to make a bend in the B key at the top end of the instrument. There’s a little foot or arm below the key, and by bending this key upwards it will decrease the distance between the B flat key. This helps encourage the keys to then land at the exact same time. Check out the video around 8:02 to see the exact mechanics.

When I checked again with my leak light, I could see that my keys at the bottom were now closing instantaneously.

Changing a Key Cork

So when you press a key down you want it to stop completely. That should be the end of the motion.

On this instrument there are a couple of more spongy pads. Meaning, when I press down a key it doesn’t stop. It continues to press down because there is extra squish in the cork.

To solve this issue, all I’m going to do is change the pad and add a new piece of cork.

I’m going to pull the piece off, which you can usually do with your hands.

Then, all you need is a little bit of super glue on the back of the new cork. You can also use contact cement, but super glue usually dries faster and I’m impatient.

These soprano sax repairs are pretty standard, and fairly user friendly. Outside of removing the mechanical play, most of these you can do right at home without the assistance of a repairman.

Tools & Materials

The tools I used for these repairs are all very affordable and easy to find. You might even have many of these materials at your house already.

I recommend investing in these tools and create your own “emergency repair kit.” These are all portable enough in case you ever need to make a quick repair while at a rehearsal or a concert.

  1. Cork
  2. Cork Grease
  3. Woodwind Screw Driver
  4. Pliers
  5. Slide Grease
  6. Pipe Cleaners
  7. Sand Paper Variety Pack
  8. Exacto Knife
  9. Loctite Super Glue

Interested in more saxophone repair and cleaning tutorials? Check out “Quick & Easy DIY Saxophone Repairs”

Also be sure to follow BetterSax on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube to stay up to date with us for news, giveaways, and other saxophone tips and tricks.

2 thoughts on “4 Easy(ish) Repairs on a Cheap Soprano Saxophone”

  1. Paul Schneidmill

    Jay,
    I’ve a Soprano mouthpiece question (I wasn’t sure if you played Soprano until I ran across this post about Soprano maintenance). Since you taught me about the mouthpiece and reed seal technique, I’ve used it extensively. I do however, have a problem getting that “seal pop” that you demonstrate and recommend on my Soprano mouthpieces. Being a “metal” guy, I have an Otto Link metal 8 and a Runyon metal smoothbore 6. I can get the seal pop on the Runyon with an Oleg ligature and a La Voz Medium Soft reed, but I can’t get the seal pop on my Otto Link metal 8 with any combination of ligatures I have for that mouthpiece (Francois Louis, Olegature, Silverstein CRY04 and Theo Wanne Enlightened) or preferred reeds (Riggoti Gold 3, La Voz Medium, Roberto’s Winds 3 and Boston Sax Shop 3). In light of this conundrum, do you have any advice to help in this area?

    1. Soprano mouthpieces are trickier to get the facing even since they are so small. Modern Otto Links are notorious for unevenness in the facings, tips and rails. If you love the mouthpiece, it is definitely worth it to send it off to a good mouthpiece refacer. They will even things out and get the piece playing its best. Might cost you ballpark $100-$150 depending on what it needs.
      I use Phil Engleman https://phil-tone.com/ for my refacing needs and he always does a fantastic job. Most good mouthpiece refacers have extensive experience with metal links (since they always need work and there are so many of them out there).

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