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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I rescued this from a local music store. My tech thought it was a pre-war model, and pointed out that the serial number was quite low. But actually it's a 1955 model, which is what I suspected (according to the martin story website.) What I didn't realize was that it appears to be a replica of a Handcraft Committee. I did try a variety of old Martin altos at this shop, some with old pads or different resos, this one had really old pads but sounded and played well anyway! So had the tech put in a fresh set of pads without any resos as he suggested. After playing around with mouthpieces for a bit I found it played in tune and responded properly with a medium chamber mouthpiece (as opposed to a large chamber.) I am happy with a Morgan 7M with regular Rico reeds for now, but an off-the-shelf Meyer 7M worked too. This sax was neglected probably due to it's looks, someone decided to 'customize' it by taking the lacquer off the bell, and possibly the neck too. But I am not sure if the neck is original. It's a Martin neck but it's hard to read the serial number on it, and since the neck doesn't fit well (too tight) and had to be crimped slightly by the tech to get it to work at all, I suspect it may not be original. Either way, it plays in tune for me but I do find the intonation of C and C# and around there to be a little quirky sometimes. What I really like about this sax is it has a rustic, tweedy quality, the tone and pitch is very flexible, and it just has so much character. The brass smells sweet and earthy inside the bell (why don't new saxes smell so good?) It sounds like a tenor in the low notes and a soprano in the high notes, so it can really scream or sound low and lush. I got the original case too, complete with a little brass plaque of a feathered-headed Native American which the alto fits very well inside and does not shake around at all. It is truly a pain to remove and fit the neck. I always have to be careful not to bend the octave key mechanism. So I mostly leave it on when I can. I had some problems with sticky pads (I guess because they are new) especially with the side octave vent pad, the bis key pad, and also g sharp, but I have been using Yamaha pad treatment papers and they have been helping a lot. I wouldn't call it a looker, but it's definately a keeper!

 

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I'm an Indiana owner myself and the neck looks like my original one. You could try some grease or oil so getting it in and out works smoother.
 

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You might also try using toothpaste on the neck tenon, it has a very fine abrasive action. And - do you know if there is any significant difference between this lovely Indiana and the 1960 model? I'm still trying to decide whether my 1960 RMC is a "keeper" or just a student horn.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Thanks for the toothpaste idea. I was surprised at how well it worked, I just tried it now.

My research indicates the quality of Martin instruments started declining around 1956. Chet Baker supposedly toured the factory around this time but apparently couldn't get a good horn (he played Martin trumpets, as did Miles Davis.)

I understand a few models of the Indiana were made, based on other models, like 'The Martin,' some with nickel-plated keys. Perhaps you should look at what horn your Indiana is a copy of and then look at that, because they are probably similar.

At the store I played some other Indianas, a 'The Martin,' an early gold-plated Handcraft of some kind, and not sure what else I can remember (tried about 8-10 Martin altos that day.) Since conditions of pads varied and some horns had an undesirable or inconsistant reso setup, it was hard to judge them very well. I do remember finding some ok-playing ones but I did not always like the sound, it was too bright and aggressive. I believe that a 'The Martin' I tried was like this.

Finally the store owner brought out the Indiana with the neck that didn't fit. It played wonderfully (after almost bending the thing out of shape trying to get the neck in.) More laid back than 'The Martin' it really sounded lush and full, maybe slightly resistant but this was ok - it just made me think this was an older design (the Handcraft Committee was first made in 1938 - I read they were using the old tooling to make the Indianas.) It really spoke to me, and the keywork was significantly more comfortable and smooth than the older gold-plated Handcraft (late 20's?). Beautiful and heavy but the finger pearls and action didn't feel fast, so it was a no-go for me.

I assumed it would like a large chamber mouthpiece so I ordered a Morgan 7L from junkdude but I could not get it to play in tune and it seemed to not respond as well as it could. Exchanging for a 7M totally fixed all this. (And the Morgan is 100 times better than the Meyer 7M I was using temporarily!)

Dave, I did look at the serial # on the neck but almost all the digits are rubbed out. That is why I can't verify if it's original or not. I think I can only make out 1 digit, which both serials share. It is a 51,xxx on the body. Maybe I will check again with a magnifying glass.


fred12 said:
You might also try using toothpaste on the neck tenon, it has a very fine abrasive action. And - do you know if there is any significant difference between this lovely Indiana and the 1960 model? I'm still trying to decide whether my 1960 RMC is a "keeper" or just a student horn.
 

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If its hard to read someone could have replaced the neck and rubbed out the serial numbers but i would check it out first
Dave
 

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Has some 'features' of the Martin Handcraft stencils - e.g. the low Eb/C on a single rod instead of the normal twin rods. Some players say that pressure on the C can cause the Eb to open - but I suspect you'd have to have a gorilla grip to make that happen. :shock:

All (well, most of) the Martin altos from this period play superbly, with a wide range of sounds/dynamics. Happily, not all production declined in 1956, my early sixties Martin Magna alto still beats anything I've ever played, and, as you say, can almost sound like a tenor or soprano as well ......
 

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coolsax2k7 said:
My research indicates the quality of Martin instruments started declining around 1956.
I'm sorry, but what ever your source for that bit of misinformation, that is utter rubbish.

Martin was one of the few companies who's products remained to a high standard right up to the original company being sold off. In the case of Martin, the 1961 sale of the company to Paul Richards of RMC didn't effect the quality of the product line adversely at all. Martin didn't appear to cheapen their saxophone construction and materials like so many other makers of this era.

Frankly, it is hard to cut corners when you are still hand soldering thick walled tone hole chimneys instead of simply drawing them mechanically from the body! Just one example of the care and quality they maintained.

But in 1963, when the company was in turn sold to Wurlitzer, and later Leblanc, those products wearing the badge Martin (brasswinds mainly) did indeed take a nose dive, save for the Later Yanagisawa made Saxophone stencils, which were good, but not true Martins.

By this mid to late 1960's period, nearly all the American Saxophone makers were in the doldrums as well.

Your 1955/56 era Indiana is still very much in the era of the great ones. Although marketed as a student to intermediate horn compared to their Pro The Martin Committee, Magna and later Music Man (Committee's re-badged and engraved), these were still super horns, and better than a lot of first line horns from other makers.
 

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I have THE MARTIN altos from 1948 to 1958 and they are all high quality.
I have played an INDIANA sax in roughly the same production period as the one in the photo above, and it played fine. THe Indianas up until a certain time period of production do play similar to the pro models. I dont know when the Indiana's started going downhill but i think one test is that any Indiana with an adjustable right thumb rest is a good sax. I dont know when this feature was removed, if i had to guess i would say the late 1950's.

I owned a 1963 Indiana sax that said RMC on it and it was really noticeably inferior in terms of key work, it was a true student sax, that i really didnt enjoy trying to play because of the key work. So if you take a 1953 Indiana and compare to a 1963 Indiana, they are a lot differnet the '53 is almost comparable to a modern pro sax in feel and playability and tone, and the '63 is basically almost a piece of trash because the keywork is shoddy feeling.

On another subject i have an Imperial that is i think 98x,xxx (1959-ish??) and it is a good well made sax. I had one of the 3xx,xxx Imperials (early 1960s?) and it wasnt quite as good but there wasnt a very clear difference between the two.

Clearly the THE MARTIn models were good up until the company was sold.
IF you are looking at an INDIANA that has a right adjustable thumb grip that dates it somewhere around 1954? or earlier and its clearly a good sax.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Thanks for the comments...

I haven't been playing my alto lately but watching and hearing Louis Jordan with his Martin alto and what looks like a Brilhart Tonalin mpc. on youtube inspired me! I think a Brilhart Tonalin (or Ebolin) might even be better than the Morgan I'm using which is based on a vintage Meyer. However, they are so rare and expensive these days.

Right now I think I am getting a 'duck'-like sound. The sound character is a bit dry and not exactly to my liking, and also not very passable for classical. The overall sound has a sweet, sultry, and smoky character, which is beautiful, but I am thinking that maybe an old horseshoe chamber Brilhart might focus the sound just right and help to bring it more forward.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
It's hard to describe these subtle tonal things... I guess I'm looking for a little more brightness or something, not sure. I heard the new Jody Jazz mouthpeices are good (but Morgans are better?) so I don't really know where to go from here. But I wish it would sound more bright, forward, and upfront while not sounding thin, and more solid core. Any ideas what I might try (under $300!)? I don't mean volume necessarily I just mean sound quality.
 

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I dont have Morgans but i do have Brilhart Ebolin and Tonalin and also i have played on the Jody Jazz plastic mouthpieces.

While these are all good mouthpieces, I dont think that you will find that these other mouthpieces will outplay a Morgan unless maybe you are on a student Morgan made of plastic, namely the Morgan Pro Tone which i read is based on a Runyon 22 (which is the same plastic compound that the Jody Jazz plastic model is made of I believe.) Even if you are on the Morgan Pro Tone, it is not bad I am sure becuase ive played the Runyon 22 and it was not bad. I suggest instead you keep the setup you have, make sure the sax is in good repair and adjustment and keep playing and practicing on that setup.

So if youve got a good playing Morgan piece made of hard rubber or a compound that contains some hard rubber, i dont think it will substantially change or improve your tone to go to any of the other mouthpieces you list above.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks, and what about a Morgan classical mpc (3C?)

garyinla said:
I dont have Morgans but i do have Brilhart Ebolin and Tonalin and also i have played on the Jody Jazz plastic mouthpieces.

While these are all good mouthpieces, I dont think that you will find that these other mouthpieces will outplay a Morgan unless maybe you are on a student Morgan made of plastic, namely the Morgan Pro Tone which i read is based on a Runyon 22 (which is the same plastic compound that the Jody Jazz plastic model is made of I believe.) Even if you are on the Morgan Pro Tone, it is not bad I am sure becuase ive played the Runyon 22 and it was not bad. I suggest instead you keep the setup you have, make sure the sax is in good repair and adjustment and keep playing and practicing on that setup.

So if youve got a good playing Morgan piece made of hard rubber or a compound that contains some hard rubber, i dont think it will substantially change or improve your tone to go to any of the other mouthpieces you list above.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I haven't had the chance to play a lot lately because I think my neighbor hates it when I play. :crybaby:

But I think I'm staying with the Morgan 7M, which plays fine with rico reeds, but maybe not the best? I am hoping a Rico Jazz Select or Vandoren Java might be the icing on the cake for me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
The RJS reeds work and the mpc seems fine, if a bit loud/projecting sometimes. I may be having trouble getting the low notes to speak softly upon attack.

I looked at the serial number on the neck. It is slightly rubbed out but not completely. They don't match. Should I be concerned?
 

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coolsax2k7 said:
I looked at the serial number on the neck. It is slightly rubbed out but not completely. They don't match. Should I be concerned?
How is the intonation, how does it play and sound. Does the neck fit the socket properly (and tightly) and is it from the same model and era as the horn? If all is well with those prerequisites, the neck should be suitable. I have a couple of horns with necks from donor horns of the same make/model/approximate year and they work just fine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
Well, today was the day. I put on a RJS 3M filed reed and played rhythm changes with a playalong cd, and it played much better than ever before. The low notes spoke perfectly. I wasn't taking enough mouthpiece, or something. I had no problems at all with the intonation.

The side F# is a bit stuffy, which means I have to use the alt. fingering which is ok. It makes a click-clack sound on the Eb keyguard, as there is no felt there. Some sticky pads, like the side octave vent and bis key, but it's not as bad as it was before.

It plays b-ooo-tifully, methinks. :D sweet and silky...

Oh yeah, and I got lead poisoning from the thumbhoo.k doiiirrrriirrk9rrrrrrr r r


Bill Mecca said:
I'd agree with Mike, How does it play? matching serial numbers only really matters if you are a collector.
 

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If the Eb is hitting, it may need some added cork or felt under the Eb lever. Don't cover the roller, just the metal part. I think that one has a post that the lever strikes. If the cork is worn on sanded too thin, it allows the pad to open a bit too much, clicking.
 
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