In three weeks I’ve had two new beginner alto saxophone students start and both were provided with terrible rental instruments.
The first saxophone was pretty banged up. I think the right hand side keys had taken an almighty wack at some point so were too close to the instrument. The reed was probable too soft and the mouthpiece was complete rubbish. The result was a saxophone that sounded like a voice breaking teenager; the low notes just couldn’t stay low.
Then, just last night, I saw one of the worst examples of a rental. I was showing the adult student how to put the saxophone together, proceeded to put the mouth piece on, then, hang on, WTF!?
They’d given him a tenor saxophone mouthpiece!
Not only that, the speaker key mechanism that closes the tone hole on the neck of the saxophone was completely bent out of shape so that it couldn’t close. It’s next to impossible to play anything meaningful when that happens.
Problems like these are typically only discovered when I play their instrument, something I’m often reluctant to do because of the ‘gross’ factor (for them and me). Unless there is obviously something wrong with their instrument I don’t usually trying playing it, although one could argue I probably should just to ascertain that there aren’t going to be any dramas later on.
In the first dodgey-sax instance I actually forgot to give it a play at the end of the first lesson (time constraints) but during the second lesson I had to; reed and all. Yuck; beginner students generate a lot of spit. Sure enough, the sax was crap. The reed was too soft and the mouthpiece was very volatile (ready to squeak). *sigh* A crap instrument. I gave the student my nothing-special Yamaha alto to play but using his own reed and he was able to play easily.
Students don’t need this kind of drama. The last thing they need is an instrument that doesn’t work reliably because it will ultimately drain all sense of enthusiasm as the squeak count mounts. Why the music store rental people don’t realise this is beyond me; they’re essentially killing off any chance of future business if a student gives up music.
That shoddy piece of hiring paled in comparison to the other saxophone with its incorrect mouthpiece and bent mechanisms. I just gave the student my saxophone to play and I did my best to demonstrate things via the clarinet. Thankfully this adult student was pretty clued up and was playing some notes by the end of the lesson.
As someone who values their time because I always feel like I’m on the go, these situations irk me. Incompetence on the part of the hirers has given my students the run-around. They will waste an hour plus going to and from the store to arrange a replacement and it’s almost certain that the stores aren’t going to chuck in a few reeds as penance.
The end result, ultimately, is me not recommending those stores. Music Planet in Takapuna and Auckland Bank Instruments in Glenfield, sort your sh*t out. Please.
(ABI fixed the sax and sold the student a harder reed; no replacement mouthpiece though).
[update] Music Planet actually sold my student that instrument. They found the appropriate mouth piece and offered to pay to fix the speaker key but in the interim I bent it into place to make it functional.