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Hey everyone. I'm currently working on my masters in saxophone, and I am deeply in love with my Big B tenor and alto (1940 and 1941 respectively). After saving up some money and deciding it's time that I buy myself a soprano, Buescher is naturally one of the brands at the top of the list. So far I've tried a Yanagisawa 901, a Selmer SA80 II, and a Martin Handcraft from 1925. Yesterday I was able to play a silver 1925 True Tone that played perfectly and was up for $2000 (negotiable), and I really resonated with its sound more than I have with any of the others I've tried. However, I felt uncomfortable pulling the trigger because I didn't feel like I had enough knowledge on what other kinds of Bueschers are out there. My main points of concern with this one was that there was no front F key and that the palm keys, specifically the high F key, were extremely low. I was wondering about what kinds of plating/lacquer options were available, and if the palm keys and presence of a front F changed at all as the production years get later. When did Buescher stop producing soprano saxophones? Also, if you have any advice on finding one I am all ears. Thank you!
 

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AFAIK Buescher stopped producing sopranos after the great depression due to the market drying up. They special-made them during the Aristocrat run with the Series I engraving ( View attachment 85151 ) but the instrument itself is a Series IV True Tone which was from 1928-ish to 1932 when the New Aristocrat debuted. The one you tried is the best one that you can get - Keyed to high F. There was not a front F on sopranos that I am aware of, however many technicians can add one to your instrument as well as bending the palm keys / adding risers to make the instrument more playable. As for finishes and finding one there are much more knowledgeable people than I but I hope this helps.
 

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I don't think any vintage soprano's ever had a front F, apart from Holton I think it was. You may want to try vintagesax.com. They have a good reputation here. As far as I know the Tru Tones were the only sopranos Buescher made and silver and gold plate were the only options.
 

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While regular production ended in 1929, the sopranos were available as a special order item all the way to 1963, including both the straight and curved. Carina Rascher has an Aristocrat engraved curved soprano that was given to her as a brand new horn by her father, Sigurd, in the early 60's.

That said, they are all the same after 1926. Regular production of sops stopped with the introduction of the New Aristocrat labeled horns and they were no longer continued in the catalogs after 1930 -- except for a couple years in the early 60's. So, in fact, if you buy an Aristocrat engraved soprano, assuming you can find one, it's the very same instrument that you could buy in 1928 that was simply labeled as The Buescher, and was likely actually made, but not engraved, in the late 20's.

There were actually 3 basic finishes with some variations on the theme. Bare brass, silver plate, and gold plate along with differences in the engraving. The very late brass ones may have actually had an optional factory lacquer applied to them, but most of the bare brass horns had an after-market lacquer job at some point in their lives. No front F on any of them, though you can have one added. You definitely want one of the later ones with the roller G#. I've seen a couple that were modified with the Aristocrat key work, but those were one-off's by a tech and not something Buescher produced.

The finish option and the cosmetic condition of that finish generally drives the price, though a fresh overhaul can make a big difference too. $2k is pretty pretty high for a straight one in silver (model 122), but if it was just overhauled and you're getting it from someone with a good reputation that stands behind it then it's not so bad. In really nice condition they run about $1400 from a private seller. $2k is not unusual for a nice one in gold plate regardless of playing condition. If either one is the earlier version with the button G#, then subtract $600 from those prices. If it's keyed only to Eb, then drop it another $400.

If it's a curved sop (model 125), then that $2k doesn't sound too bad for a silver one, with the curvy in gold reaching near $3k. There's a "tipped bell" version of the straight model 122 soprano as well. If you can find one of those, then expect to pay in the order of $4k to $6k to acquire it. There is currently a set of silver tipped bell horns, consisting of a straight soprano and alto, being sold as a set for $11.5k on eBay.

Yes, the palm keys are quite low and almost unusable for someone with modern fingers. I've seen at least one where the palm D key was modified to stick up nearly an extra inch off the body, but I think risers give you a bit more adjust-ability without making it look like a Frankenhorn. I had epoxy risers added to mine on the palm keys and also on the side Eb to make a little hook. Even with my large-ish hands, just adding 3/8" or so helped out a lot and it's now quite comfortable to play.

View attachment 85152

They are pretty picky about the mouthpiece you put on it, and that has led some to claim they are tough to play in tune. I'm using a Morgan Vintage "choke throat" piece that works well, but I ran through a dozen different pieces to find one that played well in tune and didn't sound like a vintage rubber ducky (not a big fan of the original Buescher mouthpiece). Curiously, they seem to prefer a choke throat piece to a large chamber piece, unlike their larger brothers of the same vintage that all prefer a large chamber.

You see them pop up on eBay occasionally. The straight ones in silver aren't unusual. If you get one from eBay, assume it's going to need an overhaul and plan your bid accordingly. You can also find them at all the usual vintage horn dealers (Vintage Sax, Tenor Madness, USA Horn, Getasax, etc...) and they all are pretty fair and straightforward to deal with.

HTH, and good luck with the hunt.
 

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[ . . . ]I had epoxy risers added to mine on the palm keys and also on the side Eb to make a little hook. Even with my large-ish hands, just adding 3/8" or so helped out a lot.

View attachment 85152
I like that, those look neat and well done.

Palm keys on my Martin soprano are also very low - I'm betting it's endemic to '20's sops in general.
 

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I don't think any vintage soprano's ever had a front F, apart from Holton I think it was. You may want to try vintagesax.com. They have a good reputation here. As far as I know the Tru Tones were the only sopranos Buescher made and silver and gold plate were the only options.
Holton for ref View attachment 85155
 

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Yes, the palm keys are quite low and almost unusable for someone with modern fingers
Wait- so you're saying people in the 1920's had different fingers? Just kidding.

Thank you all so much for your responses, especially maddenma- I can definitely say I've learned something today. The soprano that I played was straight and unfortunately had the button G# instead of the roller. 2K is now seeming higher than ever. I'll continue to look around, but it's really good to know not to look for something I'm not going to find. I got in touch with USA Horn and they said they had a few Buescher sopranos waiting to be assembled, and that they'd let me know when they were finished. I'll keep you posted on anything I find.
 

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Wait- so you're saying people in the 1920's had different fingers? Just kidding.
Avg height of a US man in 1900-ish when these palm keys were designed was 5'4". Today it's 5'10. There is probably a correlation, but I don't know that for a fact. ;)
 

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Just to mention... I've had a couple of TTs over the years. The best sounding one, well, tied with a beautiful gold plate Series IV I had for a while, was an early curvy with the button G# and keyed to Eb. Just to point out, if you're really going for sound, the earlier button G# instruments are every bit as good an instrument overall, except that little mechanical set back. Which, depending on what you're playing or how you like to practice, may not be a problem. I wouldn't opt for a horn without the high F again, though...
 

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Conn sopranos of the same era sound warm, too, and all are keyed to high f, even the stencils. If cost is an issue, look for a Pan American (Conn 2nd line) or a stencil of it. Since PA serial #'s don't correspond to Conn #'s, it is hard to determine the age of what you find. My curvy is engraved Bruno Perfection NY, a stencil made for a store approx. 1918-1920. It is obviously a Conn stencil, with all typical hallmarks of a Conn/PA near the thumbrest:
S for soprano, serial number (mine is 4 digit), and L for low pitch. If you can get a PA or other stencil, it will cost much less than a marked Conn.
I spent $450 USD for a full mechanical overhaul, including swedging lh palm keys and rh side keys (needed badly), as well as pads, adjusting corks, chem clean, and full adjustment. I put a Yamaha 4C mpc on it, and it is fabulous. Like all Conns (and most soprano saxes), the pitch is quite variable due to player input, but the intonation is excellent in experienced hands. I've played TT's and like them, too.
 
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