Aren’t all pads the same?

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Let’s talk about pads! Many times we will be asked to change a pad in a woodwind instrument on-site or bring a pad with us to replace (i.e. “Can you bring a Bb pad for a clarinet? An Eb pad for a Saxophone?). Pads are a complex subject and we could write a pretty boring book about all the ins-and-outs of pad history, construction, and features prevalent in today’s woodwind world. I’ll spare you all of that and simply make this in to a two-part tip (you’ll get part two next week!).

Most pads are measured in half-millimeters (i.e. 9.0, 35.5, etc.). Each manufacturer uses its own specifications when manufacturing its instruments and therefore different size pad cups on their keys. Yamaha clarinets use 10.0mm pads on their upper joints while Buffet and other manufacturers use either 9.0 or 9.5mm. Same thing for saxophones – an Eb pad on a Yamaha is 40.5mm but on a Selmer USA or Bundy (depending on the iteration) it can be anywhere from 38.0 to 41.0. There are also thickness issues to consider when installing a pad – Buffet clarinets typically require a thin pad while others can use a medium. Selmer USA saxophones typically work better with a thick pad while Yamahas prefer a medium thickness pad. Also look at the resonator on the saxophone pad – is it brown plastic, a large metal disc or a small rivet in the center of the pad? Having a mixture of pad resonators in an instrument can change the timbre of different notes so it’s best to swap out the resonator when replacing a pad. Flute pads can be deceivingly complex – while the pad itself is generally held in with either a screw/washer, nylon snap, or a grommet (which would make you think that replacement would be super easy) in reality there is a lot going on underneath the pad. You will likely need either partial or full shims of varying thicknesses to make the pad cover properly! Also note the color of the pads – some manufacturers use yellow flute pads while others use white. Finally keep in mind that pad sizes on handmade instruments (particularly oboes and bassoons) vary widely and a 12.0 whisper key pad that fits on one Fox bassoon may well not fit on another Fox bassoon!

So to wrap up – if we tell you that we need to bring the instrument in to the shop to replace a pad rather than doing it on-site it’s not because we want to annoy you or waste your time. It’s simply too difficult to bring our pad cabinets on the road with us!

Next week we’ll share some information about different styles and types of pads.

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