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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,

A little background first: Started learning the sax at age 9, and progressed reasonably well through the exams and so on until age 15, at which time I made the lamentable decision to quit. Now it's 10 years on, and I wish to take up the instrument again.

This forum's been very helpful in educating me about the brands/models etc that are out there. All the time I played, I played on a crappy rental alto, so it's really opened my eyes. I never even knew that a mouthpiece could make a difference, for example!

Now, I'm leaning towards buying a tenor, but I do have a few questions:
a) I'm obviously expecting a lot of rust having not played for 10 years - how much harder would I be making it for myself by jumping straight to a tenor having only played alto? I recall messing around on a friend's (equally crappy) tenor a few times when I was 14, and at the time I struggled with the lowest couple of notes (C and under iirc). Is this a concern? Would I be better off getting a cheap alto at first just to ease back in?

b) The used sax market in Australia seems pretty woeful, both in terms of price and availability. This is compounded by the fact that having not played for 10 years I'm not going to be able to test out any used horns in the area, nor do I have any contacts who can. Unfortunately, going by what I've read on this forum shipping cost for tenors from the US is prohibitive. So I guess I'm wondering if anyone in Oz or a similarly god-forsaken place can recommend particular non-US sellers from whom I can buy with confidence? And is shipping a tenor halfway round the world a good idea at all?

c) In terms of particular saxes, I'm a sucker for vintage gear in general so would love to get my hands on an old Buescher Aristocrat or similar that doesn't need tons of setting up/repairs. Again though, I'm finding I'm totally at sea trying to determine the condition of these things by eyeballing the photos. Is there a place on this forum where one could ask a wiser head to glance at the photos to get a rough idea of the condition etc? (this is asking a lot, I know)

Sorry for all the blather, but this is the first I'm telling anyone of my intent to get a sax, so I'm a tad excited/nervous. Thanks in advance for any help/advice you can send my way!
 

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For starters...Welcome to the forum!

Now, I'm leaning towards buying a tenor, but I do have a few questions:
a) I'm obviously expecting a lot of rust having not played for 10 years - how much harder would I be making it for myself by jumping straight to a tenor having only played alto? I recall messing around on a friend's (equally crappy) tenor a few times when I was 14, and at the time I struggled with the lowest couple of notes (C and under iirc). Is this a concern? Would I be better off getting a cheap alto at first just to ease back in?
No, I wouldn't be concerned about it at all. Provided you don't have any injuries that reduce your lung capacity, and assuming the sax is in good playable condition without any leaks, then it's more of a matter of acclimating to the larger instrument and building the breath support necessary to play the entire range fluidly (and a decent mouthpiece with an appropriate strength of reed for you is obviously important as well).

b) The used sax market in Australia seems pretty woeful, both in terms of price and availability. This is compounded by the fact that having not played for 10 years I'm not going to be able to test out any used horns in the area, nor do I have any contacts who can. Unfortunately, going by what I've read on this forum shipping cost for tenors from the US is prohibitive. So I guess I'm wondering if anyone in Oz or a similarly god-forsaken place can recommend particular non-US sellers from whom I can buy with confidence? And is shipping a tenor halfway round the world a good idea at all?
Quite honestly, just about any kind of international shipping for a sax (particularly anything bigger than an alto) can be fairly expensive relative to domestic shipping. The issue that pops up more frequently are size restrictions...which can make bari's about impossible to ship, and sometimes can make it hard to ship a tenor as well.

I don't have any particular recommendations for sellers, but there are a few non-US members on here who occasionally sell saxes.

From my experiences buying/selling internationally, the key is to ALWAYS get proper insurance on the instrument, and ALWAYS make sure there is some kind of tracking number.

Shipping an instrument around the world isn't harmful to it, so long as it's packed properly. But just like when shipping a sax shorter distances, it doesn't hurt to plan on the sax needing an adjustment once you receive it.

c) In terms of particular saxes, I'm a sucker for vintage gear in general so would love to get my hands on an old Buescher Aristocrat or similar that doesn't need tons of setting up/repairs. Again though, I'm finding I'm totally at sea trying to determine the condition of these things by eyeballing the photos. Is there a place on this forum where one could ask a wiser head to glance at the photos to get a rough idea of the condition etc? (this is asking a lot, I know)
That's not a bother at all! Quite frequently members ask for input on saxes or gear. The issue is that, while some of us can get an idea of physical condition from photos, it's about impossible to judge the playing condition without giving it a go ourselves.

You can normally limit your exposure to risk by buying from a dealer that offers a warranty and has a return policy. Also, you could always browse the forum to find saxes listed by members. Quite a few people that sell here are willing to ship internationally, and are trustworthy sellers.

And then there's Ebay. But buying off a site like Ebay can be risky for multiple reasons...so it's normally not a good first place to go for horns.

(BTW, I understand your feelings...I'm a sucker for vintage as well! :mrgreen:)
 

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Basically everything that VSG said.

You could try to contact member SaxPunter, only because he is in AU and is also into vintage, and he may have some leads on the vintage market which are not readily apparent to you.

Basically, if you buy from an International seller who has a guarantee/return policy then you are pretty well set. Indeedy, you can find an Aristocrat on eFlay or even on a site like this which seems like a great deal until you get it in your hands and realize it doesn't play (quite honestly, there are even some online merchants with very slick-looking sites - complete with all the bells and whistles - who try to pull this on you....
....I ain't namin' names....just sayin').

While shipping to AU ain't cheap, it's not insanely expensive either. $130-150usd compared to, what ?....$40 or so if domestic.

Here's the gratuitous plug (no, not why I replied...plenty other reputable sellers on this site will ship to AU, also):

I sell and ship DownUnder fairly often...at least a half-dozen times/year. A tad tricky with a Tenor because due to us postal size limits, it has to be shipped in a gigbag & not a hard case, or the shipping cost becomes astronomical. But it's common.

Here's the advice:

1) Go to some shops and start blowing some Tenors...don't matter if they are old or new or their price tag.
This is the part I don't understand in your post:
Why can't you playtest a horn ? Folks buy saxes who have NEVER played the instrument before...and even THEY can playtest a horn ! You know how to blow, you can probably remember a few scales up and down the octaves. What more do you need to know ? If you are embarrased to play in front of the seller..all the more reason to go to a shop, take the horn back into a practice or test room so you are all alone, and just mess with it. Although quite honestly, if you just flat-out say you haven't played in years, most sax players wouldn't be rude or anything.
You just wanna see if you feel comfortable on 'em (I am gonna guess your buddy's horn back in the day probably leaked down low, which is why an altoist wouldn't be able to make it speak). It will either feel good, or it'll feel off. Do this with at least 4 or 5 different Tenors. That will inform your decision more than anyone on a Forum.

2) Then bust open the piggy bank and see what you can afford. Post back here on this thread with your budget and your (researched) ideas on what you may want (i.e. if you say you'll be happy with anything from a Heimer to a Buescher 400...that won't be much help, really)...and then the ball will be rolling.

Welcome to the Forum.
 

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I bought my tenor from Phil Barone in New York sight unseen. There were no problems at all. From what I can see, it is not hard to find good and competitive dealers for new or used instruments in the United States. SOTW should be able to give you all sorts of options.
 

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Id also like to add that shipping from the US is not prohibitive, CUSTOMS can be if its declared value is over $1000.00
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks to all for your help.

1) Go to some shops and start blowing some Tenors...don't matter if they are old or new or their price tag.
This is the part I don't understand in your post:
Why can't you playtest a horn ? Folks buy saxes who have NEVER played the instrument before...and even THEY can playtest a horn ! You know how to blow, you can probably remember a few scales up and down the octaves. What more do you need to know ? If you are embarrased to play in front of the seller..all the more reason to go to a shop, take the horn back into a practice or test room so you are all alone, and just mess with it. Although quite honestly, if you just flat-out say you haven't played in years, most sax players wouldn't be rude or anything.
Sorry, I should have been clearer here. I'd have no problem testing in a shop, but the shop prices on vintage horns in Aus seem astronomical. (e.g. one picked at random from one of the more well-known stores: 1925 Buescher True Tone Alto for $2500USD)

I was referring to testing a sax being sold privately in my city (Melbourne), which I'm not sure I'd be all that comfortable doing. Although as you say, it's probably a good idea to go to a shop first anyway to get a sense of the difference between various makes.

2) Then bust open the piggy bank and see what you can afford. Post back here on this thread with your budget and your (researched) ideas on what you may want (i.e. if you say you'll be happy with anything from a Heimer to a Buescher 400...that won't be much help, really)...and then the ball will be rolling.
As a grad student, I have to be pretty conservative with $ unfortunately, so I'd be really hoping to keep it under $1500 all up for a tenor (or under $1000 all up if I wuss out and go for an alto).

As far as what I may want, as mentioned in the OP the Buescher Aristocrats really appeal for whatever reason, so if I could find one that is not in great cosmetic shape but plays really well I'd be pleased. Also, there's an alto "The Martin" circa '48 that is selling on Aus ebay atm so I did a bit of research, and a tenor of the same make would be great too (probably a bit optimistic given my budget, though). I think part of me just loves those old American names :mrgreen:.

Otherwise I'm open to suggestions within my budget, because really, after what I played as a kid everything sounds rather lovely.
 

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Thanks to all for your help.

As far as what I may want, as mentioned in the OP the Buescher Aristocrats really appeal for whatever reason, so if I could find one that is not in great cosmetic shape but plays really well I'd be pleased. Also, there's an alto "The Martin" circa '48 that is selling on Aus ebay atm so I did a bit of research, and a tenor of the same make would be great too (probably a bit optimistic given my budget, though). I think part of me just loves those old American names :mrgreen:.

Otherwise I'm open to suggestions within my budget, because really, after what I played as a kid everything sounds rather lovely.
If you like Martins, get on to Phil Noy in Melbourne. He is "The" Martin dude
 

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Welcome to the forum. I applaud your decision to get back into harness and particularly your decision to play tenor.

As Evan suggested and I'm sure quite a few of us can testify, Phil Barone does good deals on excellent instruments and has a lot of experience posting to Australia. Good dealers in the US regularly post to Australia also and are happy to do so. Even with postage the prices of US musical instruments are insanely cheap compared with the market here.

As for play testing, it seems it falls into two categories for you: firstly seeing if you can handle a tenor at all, and secondly, wanting to test a particular horn. As for the first, be forthright. Go to a shop and ask to play the instrument. Allans as far as I know doesn't have a sax player on its sales staff so they're probably going to leave you alone while you play in the booth. As for the second, well that's a risk you'll have to take when buying beyond Melbourne.

If you're ever in Ocean Grove PM me and I'd be happy to show you my stuff which includes a very nice mid-80s Yamaha YTS-62 which is almost vintage now and I might be interested in selling and it might be in your budget.

A guy who has a lot of vintage saxes for sale is Phil Cheek at secondhandsaxes.com.au but his list prices are a bit steep for me. He currently has a rough looking Buescher Aristocrat for $1650 that he reckons plays OK. He's up Bendigo way and may let you come and play test and haggle. I met him once and he seems a nice guy. Check out his site.
 

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$1500 for a Tenor shipped from usa or Europe is a hella good budget. Heck, $1000 is a good budget, even. That basically means you have $800-1300 to spend on the instrument alone. You could actually...easily...buy a professional vintage Tenor for that money...I am talking a top-line classic horn. If all you want is a reputable, solid player...you could pick up one of those for around $600-800 plus shipping, very easily.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though. Go blow some Tenors...ignore the shop pricetags..then see if you can pursue some of the suggestions of your Aussie brethren above, too. Once you have made a determination on what sorta horn you are after, then you can approach some international sellers if you cannot find the horn there.
 

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Evan's point about customs is important - I've had painful experience of this. If you wind up buying from overseas this means that your budget is $999, no more. With shipping that will leave you a few hundred to invest in a decent mouthpiece and your first few lessons.

Lots of good advice above... I reckon you should seriously think about making the trip round the bay to Ocean Grove, the YTS62 is a very well regarded horn (I love mine, although my experience of other tenors is limited...but lots of other people rate it highly). If you like it and can persuade Pat to part with it you are unlikely to go wrong.

A word about mouthpieces - they are WAY too expensive to buy new in Australia. You can often buy the same mouthpiece new from O/S for well under half the price you pay here. A strategy Pat taught me is to take a punt on buying secondhand mouthpieces from sources like the marketplace here. They will be much cheaper than the same piece bought new in Australia, and if you don't like them you can always sell them again, with any luck at no loss.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
If you like Martins, get on to Phil Noy in Melbourne. He is "The" Martin dude
And if it needs work he'll do it for you. Phil's a tech as well as playing horn for The Bamboos.
Either of you have an email address or similar for him? Google has lots of references to his playing, but not so much about contact details.

If you're ever in Ocean Grove PM me and I'd be happy to show you my stuff which includes a very nice mid-80s Yamaha YTS-62 which is almost vintage now and I might be interested in selling and it might be in your budget.
Might just have to take you up on that next time I'm heading Geelong way. Cheers!

Still haven't had a chance to pop down to a store and try anything out, but hopefully in the next couple of days. Will report back when I do.
 

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Either of you have an email address or similar for him? Google has lots of references to his playing, but not so much about contact details.

.
I'll PM you
 

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totheside - I had his number here somewhere but I wouldn't know where to begin to try and find it, sorry. I do know he's in Fitzroy though.
 
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