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Beginner's situation

2104 Views 10 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  JayeLID
A little background to start with: I'm 37 and have only recently discovered a type of music I immediately fell in love with--tango jazz. An Argentinean artist, Miguel de Caro, transcribes many classic tango pieces for the saxophone, and I loved some of his work so much that it inspired me to learn to play. Here's an example, a piece called Malena:

In that video he is playing a Selmer Series II with a Vandoren T45.

My first question: I've seen many posts where people talk about a saxophone's sound in terms of bright and reedy, or dark and smoky, etc. How would you describe the sound of the saxophone in this piece?

That's what I aspire to in terms of music, sound, and skill (it's a long way off).

I started by taking private lessons in Boston for a few months early this year, using an alto saxophone rented from Rayburn. Now that I'm certain I will continue to learn, I will be switching to tenor (was more expensive to rent) and buying a horn.

However, I've since moved to India, where I will be for the next few years. I've located a teacher who tells me that I should have brought a saxophone with me when I moved because the market here is very thin. All is not lost, many people I know often travel between India and the US. But it does become difficult to try out different horns, or explore the used market, or avail of return policies.

After much reading of reviews and critiques all over the Net, I've pretty much decided to buy an ultra-cheap horn, the Venus tenor, and have it shipped to a friend who will bring it to India for me in December. There are many differing opinions on this horn, but I'm reasonably certain it will serve to learn on, for a year or so at least by which time I will certainly be making a trip to the US and can consider upgrading.

And finally, my questions (forgive the longwinded-ness):

1. One thing that everybody agrees on is that I need a better mouthpiece than the one that comes with the Venus. Different mouthpieces also change the horn's sound a good bit. So, what mouthpiece would you recommend, given the sound I'd like to achieve (in the piece above) bearing in mind that I'm a beginner?

2. Can you recommend a good tech around San Francisco or Palo Alto who would check the horn out and set it up for me? One who won't mind working with an ultra-cheap horn, and even better, is familiar with the Venus and any common issues it may have?

3. What are the issues people have usually encountered with this horn, out of the box, that I can have the tech specifically look for?

4. Given the sound I'm looking for, what horn would you recommend I graduate to, after the Venus? Or should I just start saving for a Selmer Series II? They're going for around $2k I believe.

Very grateful for all responses and suggestions.
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It's kind of hard to really tell what his tone his like - there appears to be some distortion on the sound recording.
It's quite a bright sound to my ears, with quite lot of 'honk' in places...and an ever-present buzzing.

Thing is - that's the sound HE gets from that horn and that piece, and the same setup won't necessarily make you sound the same.
in any event what you have to do is get a sound first - so I'd concentrate on that for the time being and worry about tailoring it to your desires at a later date.

You'll certainly need a better piece than the one that comes with the Venus - so something like a standard Yamaha piece will be in order. This may help:

The Venus is one of the better-quality Ultra-Cheap horns, but will still benefit from being checked over and tweaked by a repairer.
Common issues to look out for are sloppy corks, play in the action and poorly seated pads. A good repairer will spot these issues.

As for what you graduate to - I'd worry about that at a much later date. It would be easy to say 'get this or that horn' at this stage, but there's no guarantee that it will be what you want a year or so down the line. After a year or so of playing the Venus you'll be better placed to try a number of horns and draw your own conclusions.

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There's a definite sort of classical tone - and to my ears it sounds a little more pinched and a little less expressive than a jazz tone, but I can see how it would translate quite well to a tango.

Graftonite? I can't stand them, and can't fathom why on earth anyone would want to play on one.

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