Haynes Saxophone Manual by Stephen Howard

This entry is part 6 of 22 in the series 2023 Reads

This is a book I read the other day, and it’s a really great educational/reference tome. However, if you usually are here for fiction reviews, it may not be for you. If you play saxophone, on the other hand… 

The other day, I finally tore through Stephen Howard Haynes Saxophone Manual. I bought it a few years ago, when it was still in print and available at a sane price. I skimmed it, but never read it all the way through. I’m glad I got it back when it was affordable, though, not. only because I couldn’t afford it now, but because it’s a great book by an expert. Stephen Howard’s website is famous for his Workbench reviews. He works as a sax tech, and has posted invaluable and knowledgeable reviews of many models of saxophone over the years. I’m a bit amazed the book seems to have gone out of print, to be honest, as it seems an invaluable tome to me, the kind of thing any saxophonist would want to own. (I would definitely gift it to any young saxophonist I knew, if it were available.) That said, there seems to be good news: Howard seems to be working on getting it back into print independently, and in and expanded edition! Hopefully that does happen—there’s certainly room on my shelf for the revised, expanded edition, if it does come out.  

Obviously this is not book is not for the truly general reader: it is instead an accessible technical manual that covers a lot of areas only someone who plays the instrument would really want to know about. (In that way, it’s like most Haynes Manuals, really.) It’s also the kind of thing I wish I had when I was starting out on the saxophone: nobody ever talked to me about oiling the mechanisms on a sax, and the keywork always seemed so mysterious I was afraid to do much with it when something went wrong. Now, I have a better sense of what I can actually do—and what I should leave for a sax tech to do for me. 

Honestly, the book is detailed enough that I could probably clear off my desk and take both my saxophones apart if I wanted to… well, after getting my hands on some specialty tools. It’s tempting, actually: my tenor could use a good, thorough cleaning at the moment. There are plenty of images and diagrams in the book that explain a lot of processes. However, I’m not sure I really trust myself to put it back together again—not even with this book in hand—and getting someone else to do it for me well is easier said than done at the moment.

Therefore I’m likelier to stick with the easier upkeep tasks, like oiling the horn and replacing corks and felts. Indeed, I already have replaced one missing piece of cork. The section covering that was the first I read, when I took my tenor out a few days ago and looked it over, realizing that there was a missing cork. While I was fixing that, a felt popped off, but I was able to replace that too. After that, I resolved to read the whole thing, and I’m glad I did. It’s packed with advice and tips, from how to test out and buy a saxophone, to how they work, and how to do a lot of basic maintenance or home upkeep on them. 

There are issues with my tenor sax that I probably can’t address on my own, and there are issues with my soprano that really can’t fix myself (though after some careful oiling and screwing in properly one point screw that had come loose, those issues may not be as big a deal as I thought.) I’m unlkikely to go so far as to try replace springs, for example, and my soprano has a really weak one, but to me, that’s one for a tech to deal with. Either way, for the issues I can address, I feel pretty confident now that I really can handle them, and this book is a lot of of the reason why. For others’ sakes, I look forward to it being back in print at some point in the future. 

Series Navigation<< <em>Swords Against Wizardry</em> by Fritz Leiber<i>Sandman Omnibus</i>, Volume II by Neil Gaiman and Others >>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *