Martin Troubadour – Alto

This Martin came in for a setup, it is in great physical condition (only the hint of a dent at one place in the bow). There is something odd about this body though: the tone holes are soldered on Martins, meaning the first thing I check for is leaks. There were absolutely no leaks, but many cracks on the inside of the tone hole walls themselves. These did not break through any of the tone hole walls, I even scratched at several of these cracks and tone hole rim seams to be sure there was no dirt blocking my leak light. I am satisfied there are no leaks, but I don’t understand where these cracks would come from, especially on an instrument in such good condition as this.

The neck required refitting as it was totally loose in the socket, no matter how tight the screw was. My thought was that it might be the wrong neck, but it has a serial number that matches the body.

This was recently repadded, but I wish I could be given the chance to repad it again. The pads that were installed were very undersized which makes it very difficult to cover the tone holes correctly. I had to replace several pads – despite being new – because of how undersized they were. My replacement pads used rivet resonators.

This saxophone was missing a lot of corks and adjustment material too, my guess is that the previous repadder is an amateur.

This horn is curious in a couple of other ways. The side C also operates the high E key, which is cancelled by the use of LH 1. Getting this balance just right is quite hard. There are a lot of opposing forces working here that I don’t think make the players job a lot easier, but makes the technicians job much harder. The special difficulty in this is the off-axis forces that shut the E key:

The E is sprung open at all times and is released by the side C/E key. When released it can be shut by the LH 1 key, which very slightly wants to tilt this E key unless the key fit is great. This force also works backwards towards the keys associated with LH 1 – it distorts what I already find to be a delicate balance between the B key and C key above it.

It may sound excessive to talk about these light spring tensions as ‘forces’, but we are also talking about delicate alignments.

TL;DR – This mechanism creates more problems than it solves using what I would call inefficient design.

The other issue I found with this instrument is that it really will not play a low Bb with a modern mouthpiece unless you pull it quite far off the neck. After fully completing my setup, the play test showed excellent response all the way until low B, which showed okay results, and Bb which was unplayable. Apparently these horns are notorious for having a thin low end despite having a good setup, but my play test went beyond just a thin sound. To get any response on my Selmer C* I had to completely drop my embouchure or pull the mouthpiece right to the end of the neck. Either of these adjustments move the nodal point higher up the horn and away from whatever critical junction is impeding the sound wave’s creation. From my talking with other tech’s it has been suggested that the critical juncture is the taper of the neck’s tenon. The neck fit is great after having worked on it, but it is the shape of the taper that is bad for modern mouthpieces.

Be sure you have a selection of mouthpieces to try this horn with, you may not be impressed with your typical setup.