My current horn is a 356*** Zephyr with a likewise vintage Brilhart Ebolin and Rico Royal #3s, which I estimate to be from 1957 or 1958 (according to the chart on the H.N. White website). However, I don't know whether or not it is actually a "professional" horn based on it's model year. I really like the horn, but it has a lot of issues, and I'm unsure as to which of this can be fixed or not, and which are due to it or me :?
a) The low notes are generally pretty unresponsive. I know this is often a problem for many saxes, but I wonder if this can be improved. How do I know whether or not this is a problem or just a tendency? Where does one draw the line between these two?
b) The intonation does seem pretty bad, though I've never been the greatest at that myself. Low notes below D1 are very flat, E2 through F#2 are extremely sharp (+40 on the E without any attempt at compensation, which I can almost completely eradicate, though with some tone loss), A2 and above D3 tend to be pretty sharp, especially above that D. Are these typical, or can they be fixed?
c) I pretty much cannot get any altissimo on this horn. I get much more success on some of the newer horns.
d) Mechanism is generally clunky, loud, and my side octave vent/G# pads recurringly stick.
e) The double socket neck was once dropped and the angle it projects from the sax is now very close to 90 degrees...as if it had been pulled down, for those who aren't sure what I'm talking about.
...That's about it. I love the sound of the horn, but these problems are huge. What can I do about them, or is it time for a new horn? I don't really want to give up on my vintage beast
The necks on these horns--and vintage horns in general--are very sensitive. Once they've been pulled down, even when "corrected" they never seem to play like they would've originally. Not trying to be a downer here; just speaking from experience. Is the body staight? That problem often goes hand in hand with a neck pull-down and causes even more stuffiness.
Those are usually fabulous horns; I own a tenor of a similar vintage, and it's one of the best horns I've ever played (and I've played just about all of them). It's basically an all-brass version of the 1950s Super 20.
I had my Super20 neck corrected some years ago.
My tech was sure however that it would eventually bend back down again, so I asked him to install a thin crossbar to prevent this.
Being an ex goldsmith he designed something in the style of the horn.
It made a huge difference in playability, and it looks kinda cool.
I have a Zephyr alto from the same period which has similar intonation problems. Ran it past my tech the other day who thought my mouthpiece, a Meyer 6M might explain some of it... he claimed that the a large chamber mouthpiece with thin rails, like a 6M on an older horn can sound flat down low and sharp up top. Maybe worth trying a different piece to see whether this helps...
My alto is in a similar state, clunking and clattering away with sticking pads and all, but i love the tone and projection my setup offers and work around these problems. If I started feeling otherwise I think I would look to replace than repair - no matter what you spent on them, the action at the very least would always struggle to compare to modern horns - the mechanisms are frankly odd...
Odd? Beauty is the eye of the beholder, my forum friend. They might seem odd to you because you started on a Bundy or Selmer USA or Yamaha or some other horn with keywork modeled after the Mark VI. I started on a 1970s Buescher with the old in-line LH spatula keys, so that's what seems natural to me, as opposed to the Selmer-style spatula which I tried for the first time a couple of years ago and which seemed very odd at first.
At any rate, most Zephyrs from 1947 or so on had Zephyr Special style keywork, which was basically the same keywork that you find on the earliest Super 20's. And if you listen to Bird playing his S20 in the late 40's/early 50's it doesn't sound like he found them odd at all.
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