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Discussion Starter #1
I think my '54 The Martin Bari has a pretty nice action. When my hands are doing well, it feels fast and easy. However I have been developing inflammatory arthritis that sometimes makes playing at all painful on any of my horns. So I'm considering whether I should switch baris.

Not a small decision, I've had this horn for 14 years and it's the only bari I've owned. The tone, for me, is probably perfect. So I'm not really anxious to switch. But if I do, it will be for something that has lighter action so that I can have more years of playing ahead of me.

So the question is what bari has the best tone, with action that is easier than my The Martin? I know "best" is subjective, but those who know the sound of a good The Martin could take that as a reference point.

Bb horns, not looking for low A.
Any vintage or price range.

Thanks for any thoughts. I know there are a lot of related posts, which I've been reading, but this is one specific question (which I'm sure will bring a number of different answers:)
 

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I find the 12m slightly easier in the left pinky table at least pressure wise.
If you can find a King super 20 Bari it may be to your liking also.
The earlier Keilwerth Low Bb baris are also nice tonally and pretty easy ergonomically too.
But apart from perhaps the 12m you’re going to be hard pressed to match the tone of a The Martin.
 

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what about getting some modifications done on your martin?
lightening up the spring tensions and maybe getting some modification on the low C# which can lighten that whole table area?
just a thought.
However I have been developing inflammatory arthritis that sometimes makes playing at all painful on any of my horns. So I'm considering whether I should switch baris.
 

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what about getting some modifications done on your martin?
lightening up the spring tensions and maybe getting some modification on the low C# which can lighten that whole table area?
just a thought.
That would be my thought, maybe taking or sending the horn to someone who specializes in vintage horns.
 

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what about getting some modifications done on your martin?
lightening up the spring tensions and maybe getting some modification on the low C# which can lighten that whole table area?
just a thought.
There's more to a horn than the pinkie table, but you seem pretty hung up on that one point (ex. Yamaha vs Buescher thread).

I think my '54 The Martin Bari has a pretty nice action. When my hands are doing well, it feels fast and easy. However I have been developing inflammatory arthritis that sometimes makes playing at all painful on any of my horns. So I'm considering whether I should switch baris.

Not a small decision, I've had this horn for 14 years and it's the only bari I've owned. The tone, for me, is probably perfect. So I'm not really anxious to switch. But if I do, it will be for something that has lighter action so that I can have more years of playing ahead of me.
When was the last time you had your horn in the shop? You may be able to gain some ease in the stacks by taking the horn apart, cleaning and freeing the mechanism, and adjusting the spring tension. Aside from that, there are inherent mechanical limitations in a bari due to the size of the action. You say you don't want a low A bari, and I get that, I won't play bari at all any more because of the weight factor and chronic back issues. My TT bari was pretty light in the stacks, but that was with a Vintagesax.com overhaul. I don't the experience with a Martin to compare. If weight is not the issue for you, trying something like a Yanagisawa will show you the limits of how easily a bari can play.

Your best bet for years more of playing may be to consider switching to a smaller horn.

I, too, have developing arthritis in my left hand, and have had to make choices with my guitar playing. Not easy, but you're going to have to pick your battles.
 

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What they said; have the spring tensions adjusted to suit you. Assuming you have 'tamed' the upper register intonation on it and have no other ergonomic problem with the design, you probably are not going to be satisfied with a modern baritone. I think you should have a little fun with this problem and go shopping for a different baritone just to see if you like the modern ones. Of course the number one on the list would be a Selmer but the other ones of the 'Big 4' (Yamaha, Yanagisawa and Keilwerth) are great horns too. I should think in your locale you could find a non-low A bari by one of these makers and it should be fun to put your mouthpiece on it and see what happens.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Do any of the big 4 even make a Bb bari anymore? Not Yani, will check the others.
What they said; have the spring tensions adjusted to suit you. Assuming you have 'tamed' the upper register intonation on it and have no other ergonomic problem with the design, you probably are not going to be satisfied with a modern baritone. I think you should have a little fun with this problem and go shopping for a different baritone just to see if you like the modern ones. Of course the number one on the list would be a Selmer but the other ones of the 'Big 4' (Yamaha, Yanagisawa and Keilwerth) are great horns too. I should think in your locale you could find a non-low A bari by one of these makers and it should be fun to put your mouthpiece on it and see what happens.
 

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Piling on....

Matt Stohrer has done one of his "Repairman's View" videos on the Martin Committee III and in it mentions that, set up properly, the pinky table should be as light as that of a flute. As Dr. G notes above, perhaps you should get to the shop and see if your tech can make the action more to your liking? I have one of these baris and find the action to be light and fast, even in its current, poor condition. Also, it is much lighter than my Buescher 139 Custom Built.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Yeah I've been weighing that, putting money into the Martin. It's been regularly maintained, though some end play has developed here and there. It's not like it's not working right, but maybe it could be finessed. I did play a recent Yani bari and could see how different modern action could be. Felt crowded to me, of course it was low A / F# so extra stuff, felt like I was in a little Miata or something vs maybe a Ford F-something. But I got it.

I got a bunch of prednisone this past week and it knocked down the inflammation about 50%, and I had a blast playing the bari this weekend. It plays well. The base of my thumbs are the worst - bone on bone - and the way thumbrests force my thumbs downward is a big problem. I could look at engineering some sort of raised right thumb rest that might help...
There's more to a horn than the pinkie table, but you seem pretty hung up on that one point (ex. Yamaha vs Buescher thread).



When was the last time you had your horn in the shop? You may be able to gain some ease in the stacks by taking the horn apart, cleaning and freeing the mechanism, and adjusting the spring tension. Aside from that, there are inherent mechanical limitations in a bari due to the size of the action. You say you don't want a low A bari, and I get that, I won't play bari at all any more because of the weight factor and chronic back issues. My TT bari was pretty light in the stacks, but that was with a Vintagesax.com overhaul. I don't the experience with a Martin to compare. If weight is not the issue for you, trying something like a Yanagisawa will show you the limits of how easily a bari can play.

Your best bet for years more of playing may be to consider switching to a smaller horn.

I, too, have developing arthritis in my left hand, and have had to make choices with my guitar playing. Not easy, but you're going to have to pick your battles.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Yeah light and fast is how it used to feel to me when my hands were better. Are you saying btw that the horn or the action is lighter than your 139? One of the other horns I was thinking about endlessly searching for:)
Piling on....

Matt Stohrer has done one of his "Repairman's View" videos on the Martin Committee III and in it mentions that, set up properly, the pinky table should be as light as that of a flute. As Dr. G notes above, perhaps you should get to the shop and see if your tech can make the action more to your liking? I have one of these baris and find the action to be light and fast, even in its current, poor condition. Also, it is much lighter than my Buescher 139 Custom Built.
 

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Yeah I agree, the tone is really hard to imagine letting go of. What a voice. This horn has been like my soul mate and I may not be able to let it go, but if there were something at least similarly great with easier ergos, probably less spread even 'though I always felt like the spacing of the Martin layout was perfect for me, would be better for my hands. Especially my thumbs, if I could minimize the pull on them. I'm not even sure it will matter, maybe I'll rent or borrow a Yani and play it for a week to see if that makes any difference. There's a beauty I could buy locally but I think it's heavier than the Martin. I passed on it once already but it's still available. If I could try a 12M, Super 20 and Keilwerth that would be informative. It may be the Martin is as good as anything ergonomically and I just have to play it less.

I broke my back and neck the year before last and stopped playing altogether for about 6 months then picked up a Buescher tenor and have been playing more tenor since then, just trying to get the bari back in action again.

Have also thought about Selmers, plenty of VI's around, I know they would not be in the same ballpark tonally, are overpriced and I don't know if the action is any better or even as good. I had VI tenor for a month or two, didn't find it all that different from my Buescher 156 as far as ergos.

I find the 12m slightly easier in the left pinky table at least pressure wise.
If you can find a King super 20 Bari it may be to your liking also.
The earlier Keilwerth Low Bb baris are also nice tonally and pretty easy ergonomically too.
But apart from perhaps the 12m you’re going to be hard pressed to match the tone of a The Martin.
 

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Yeah I agree, the tone is really hard to imagine letting go of. What a voice. This horn has been like my soul mate and I may not be able to let it go, but if there were something at least similarly great with easier ergos, probably less spread even 'though I always felt like the spacing of the Martin layout was perfect for me, would be better for my hands. Especially my thumbs, if I could minimize the pull on them... It may be the Martin is as good as anything ergonomically and I just have to play it less.
If you do go the route of putting work into the Martin, consider having the key touches moved on the cups to adjust the finger reach for your hands. An adjustable right thumb hook is a relatively quick fix/replacement. At this point ergos are much more important than originality. A creative tech could also fabricate an offset thumb rest for you, but that will be secondary to the stack adjustments.

I broke my back and neck the year before last and stopped playing altogether for about 6 months then picked up a Buescher tenor and have been playing more tenor since then, just trying to get the bari back in action again.

I had VI tenor for a month or two, didn't find it all that different from my Buescher 156 as far as ergos.
A Buescher is a great tenor - tone and ergos.

Best o' luck to you, Mark. After an accident like yours, I'm happy to know that you are able to play at all.
 

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I have a True Tone, a Committee 3, and a 12M. Of the three the Conn is easiest and lightest, although it does spread my fingers more than the other two. The Martin is hardest on my thumbs, also arthritic, but I'm not sure why. Seems to be true of my Martin tenor as well. Now these could be setup differences, rather than inherent to the horn, I don't know. I have a Yanagisawa with low a and its action is not particularly light, but it doesn't spread my fingers as much as the three Bb horns. For me, the easiest is the Conn, but I know that some people have moved away from conn baris specifically because of the ergos.

I'm surprised that no one has suggested Selmer baritones. I have no first hand experience, but they are said to be better ergonomically.

There's also a guy who posts here, Italian guy, who had a modern Keilworth low a converted to Bb. If you can believe that. I don't know who would do that.
 

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I have a True Tone, a Committee 3, and a 12M. Of the three the Conn is easiest and lightest, although it does spread my fingers more than the other two. The Martin is hardest on my thumbs, also arthritic, but I'm not sure why. Seems to be true of my Martin tenor as well. Now these could be setup differences, rather than inherent to the horn, I don't know. I have a Yanagisawa with low a and its action is not particularly light, but it doesn't spread my fingers as much as the three Bb horns. For me, the easiest is the Conn, but I know that some people have moved away from conn baris specifically because of the ergos.

I'm surprised that no one has suggested Selmer baritones. I have no first hand experience, but they are said to be better ergonomically.

There's also a guy who posts here, Italian guy, who had a modern Keilworth low a converted to Bb. If you can believe that. I don't know who would do that.
A few thoughts:

1) If you have trouble with right hand thumbhook position, the The Martin baritone is the very easiest to modify, because a) it has an adjustable hook; and b) it doesn't have a side F# so you can have the hook moved to absolutely anywhere you want it.

2) You should consider playing the baritone off a stand.

3) If you have arthritic conditions that are hindering you in playing baritone, I would say you ought to consider a different horn and once you get one that works better, invest time in rebuilding tone. Although I much prefer the old Conn/Martin baritone sound, I suspect that from 10 feet away few people would be able to tell what baritone I am playing. Being able to play the baritone by using a horn with an ever-so-slightly-suboptimal sound is much better than not being able to play.
 

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Stop eating foods that increase inflammation: non-organic wheat, grain, and flour;spicy foods, processed foods, et cetera. Limit alcohol consumption.
 

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A few thoughts:

1) If you have trouble with right hand thumbhook position, the The Martin baritone is the very easiest to modify, because a) it has an adjustable hook; and b) it doesn't have a side F# so you can have the hook moved to absolutely anywhere you want it.

2) You should consider playing the baritone off a stand.

3) If you have arthritic conditions that are hindering you in playing baritone, I would say you ought to consider a different horn and once you get one that works better, invest time in rebuilding tone. Although I much prefer the old Conn/Martin baritone sound, I suspect that from 10 feet away few people would be able to tell what baritone I am playing. Being able to play the baritone by using a horn with an ever-so-slightly-suboptimal sound is much better than not being able to play.
I’m not complaining, and don’t need a solution, just responding to the OP.
 

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Yeah light and fast is how it used to feel to me when my hands were better. Are you saying btw that the horn or the action is lighter than your 139? One of the other horns I was thinking about endlessly searching for:)
I was referring to the horn itself. The 139 has a great sound, though different from the Committee III, and doesn't have the intonations quirks of the Martin, however it is built like a tank and quite heavy. Among other things, it is the first horn on which Buescher used nickel silver rods and it is very well braced.
 

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I’m not complaining, and don’t need a solution, just responding to the OP.
Sorry, BH9, I was responding to OP who specifically mentioned thumb joints, but ended up quoting your post so it looked like I was responding to you. All of my points are directed at the OP.

MarkM, it's not clear whether your left hand little finger is an issue or not. You mention both thumbs - for that I would consider playing the baritone from a stand. Some years back I had some thumb joint soreness and while it lasted I used a stand which helped a lot. Another point is that modern horns have somewhat different locations and shapes of thumb rests. Especially the left one, where on older horns you roll the thumb up to depress the octave key, whereas with modern ones you can put your thumb further across the rest and flex the last joint to depress it because it has that "tail" that hangs down to the right of the thumb rest.

I would suggest trying some different instruments as well as trying the playing stand. Even if you don't buy a different horn you might get some ideas for minor modifications to your existing horn that would make it feel better.
 
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