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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We've done the "Why can't Selmer get it back?" thread - the simple answer is that Selmer has made a different choice, taken a different path.

The Mk VI has been the basis of so many clones and copies - that, too, is beyond the realm of this discussion.

The quest here is to tease out whether the "vibe" of the Balanced Action (BA) and Super Balanced Action (SBA) tenors can be captured and retained while making improvements in mechanism and intonation. Or, were the very idiosyncracies in intonation responsible for creating the core sound of those classic horns?

I played a Balanced Action tenor for 20+ years before that horn was so worn and I was so tired of fighting its bell key and palm key issues that I moved on. That took me on a 15 year path through a Serie III, Reference 36, and finally two Borgani Jubilees.

I am excited to see Rich Maraday of Viking Instruments taking up the cause to create a horn that is rooted in the tradition of the earlier horns - there are enough American-vintage and Mk VI-inspired horns to go 'round for everybody else.

So what is it about the BA and SBA that make them sound so good? Certainly the first approximation comes from the bore geometry and tone hole placement. Can "corrections" be made and still maintain the Good Stuff? I think so - the Reference 36 was a nod in the right direction (to me, the Ref 54 is just another modern horn).
 

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Well you, me, anyone cannot go back in time (as of yet) so I'd say no way. Some manufacture might want to come close and could very well try their best but it ain't gonna happen.

I do go along with you in one aspect, after 50 years of performing on an SBA then two great MK VI's, the two Ref 36s I use now are the most reminiscent of the qualities of a BA/SBA.
 

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There is a similar phenomenon happening in the microphone business. The market is flooded with cheap Chinese copies of vintage mics at a fraction of the cost of the originals, there are a few smaller shops who modify these cheap knockoffs (change of capsule and electronics) for a premium price and those who try to "replicate" the vintage mics with the best components. One would think it would be rather easy to replicate a microphone - I mean, some of these designs are rather rudimentary - and while a lot of these are great mics on their own, only very few of them come close to capturing the vintage "thing": those which are made identical to the last detail (and cost just about as much as the originals). Even then some would argue these are not like the real thing.

Attempting to take inspiration from great designs of the past and make them "better" is a pitfall a lot of manufacturers jump into. There is a reason vintage instruments have this thing going on and IMO it comes with idiosyncrasies.

On top of that, as far as I know, it's rather tough to work with manufacturers overseas. I'm no engineer, but how hard can it be to properly measure tonehole placement, size, thickness of body tube, brass composition, angle and size of neck and so on with modern measurement technology? It surely can be done very accurately, right? Then why not just "order" a plain and simple copy of a great vintage SBA or BA rather than trying to modify a stock factory horn?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
On top of that, as far as I know, it's rather tough to work with manufacturers overseas. I'm no engineer, but how hard can it be to properly measure tonehole placement, size, thickness of body tube, brass composition, angle and size of neck and so on with modern measurement technology? It surely can be done very accurately, right? Then why not just "order" a plain and simple copy of a great vintage SBA or BA rather than trying to modify a stock factory horn?
I don't want an exact replica of my BA - weak palm keys and sharp bell notes are a negative. Might someone take a BA body and correct the palm key notes? Might they learn from the short/medium/long bow eras of Mk VI enough to get the bell notes correct? There's not that much more that needs to be done on the BA to bring it to modern standards - I get along great with the ergos.
 

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I don't want an exact replica of my BA - weak palm keys and sharp bell notes are a negative. Might someone take a BA body and correct the palm key notes? Might they learn from the short/medium/long bow eras of Mk VI enough to get the bell notes correct? There's not that much more that needs to be done on the BA to bring it to modern standards - I get along great with the ergos.
Have you tried other BA's? Did they have the same issues?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Have you tried other BA's? Did they have the same issues?
Yes. Mine was one of the better BA's that I've played over the last couple decades. I bought it from Fred Lamberson when he was still living in Berkeley and playing with putty baffles.
 

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Have you tried other BA's? Did they have the same issues?
The other question is price. The collectors market has made SBA/BA/5 digit VI horns (especially tenors) rich person's object's of desire rather than players tools. Getting the SBA/BA vibe in a horn that doesn't require a mortgage is hugely attractive...
 

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Um, there is a lot of stuff that goes into a horn. Simply mesuring it and copying it that way will get you close, but it is also the metal. How they mixed the metal. The metals used. I'm still surprised by the tonal qualities some old horns have that I see where I work. Some no name brand......but it sounds great. Due to the metals.

Another example would be mouthpieces. I have a vintage Meyer brothers mouthpiece that was opened up by Jon van wie. I also have a couple old slant signature links for tenor. I've tried many of the modern copies of these. Some are quite good, but non are the same. Somehow the formula of the rubber just isn't the same so they don't have the same "ring" to them. Same sort of thing for horns
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Um, there is a lot of stuff that goes into a horn. Simply mesuring it and copying it that way will get you close, but it is also the metal. How they mixed the metal. The metals used. I'm still surprised by the tonal qualities some old horns have that I see where I work. Some no name brand......but it sounds great. Due to the metals.
I don't accept that an alloy cannot be copied and its processing duplicated. That is all quite straightforward in the world of materials science and engineering.
 

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I don't accept that an alloy cannot be copied and its processing duplicated. That is all quite straightforward in the world of materials science and engineering.
True, but some of the material choices of the past wouldn't pass EPA standards for production today.
...not that any of that matters since it wouldn't likely be built in the USA nor would material choice likely make any difference other than physical "heft in the hand".

My gut tells me that paying attention to the neck geometry will be most important with regards to tone.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
True, but some of the material choices of the past wouldn't pass EPA standards for production today.
Such as??? I have experience that supports your suggestion if we were talking about finishes but I doubt that it holds true for brass production.

My gut tells me that paying attention to the neck geometry will be most important with regards to tone.
Oh very yes.
 

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After I found the sax I was searching for in 2004 I still continued to try many horns. A Reference 36 was great and a Yamaha 62 II was almost as good. I could have been satisfied with either of those horns.

One of the main qualities of the Mark VI is ergonomics. When I would meet top tier players the first thing they would do is hold the horn and get a feel of it's ergonomics. I thought this was backwards because to me sound is number one.

Of all the modern horns the 82 Z had maybe the best ergonomics. The Reference36 was right up there also.

Anyway sound is still the most important factor to me. Some people adjust to the
ergonomics of a 10M. Because they love the sound.

In a post months ago I related what Joe Farrell had said that it takes 7 years to
learn a new horn. I've had my Serie II for seven years and I now see what he
meant. Not because he projected that concept but because it takes a while to know
when the horn is off due to leaks etc. In takes time to learn the nuances of a horn.
Although it took only seven seconds to know this was the horn that speaks to me.

Does it have the best ergonomics? No.

Does it have the best sound I've ever heard on a horn? Yes.

I've been to the NAMM show and had the luxury of trying out many horns.

The first day I didn't like some of the top of the line horns because of their
ergonomics.

The second day I learned to adjust and could play any horn there no problem. They had the prototype Serie III there at the time. Which now that I think about it has
the best ergonomics of any Selmer.

I also believe that the modern horns have the best intonation.

As McCoy Tyner said " You have to adjust to the instrument. It's not going to adjust
to you."

What does all this have to do with the original topic? I don't know.

And one more thing before I found the horn I that I have now I tried a mediocre Serie II . Oh yeah they're out there.

Just like so so horns of any make or model are out there.

You have to play the horn in your hands and not the name on the right side of the bell.
 

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Such as??? I have experience that supports your suggestion if we were talking about finishes but I doubt that it holds true for brass production.
Supposition. I don't know enough about brass working to speak intelligently about it, but I know that the lacquer and some of the hard rubber from the days of old are no longer able to be made here. Just like the really nice, deep, black finish imported grand pianos have can only be achieved via import...

I was thinking of it more in the big picture sense. If someone is going to believe that the material makeup of the brass is going to make a big deal, then they're also going to think that the composition of the finish will as well.

Regardless, it's just an intellectual exercise as anybody who would likely take on such a challenge - for something other than a one-of-a-kind - would almost certainly choose to make the product far away from anywhere the EPA had any control.
 

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This is a tough thread! I hope Dr G. doesn't "flame" me, but of all the SBA's and BA's I played over the years, most seemed to be heavier in weight. That's pure speculation on my part and I admit it. I don't know what metal costs would be anymore, but I think you would be looking at a pretty expensive horn. I have a BA alto that plays great after all these years and it's only one of many I've had. I also have a Silversonic Alto that seems heavier along with some Zephyrs I've picked up for students. The Kings are great, but the BA and Super BA had that 'something"!

The idea of getting that sound back would be an interesting project. I think we know more about what is wrong with the old balanced action horns these days because of all the technicians that have looked them over. I definatetly have experienced the sharp bell keys and also the left hand hand palm key problems...I think that's almost universal.

Could that sound be brought back....I think so. By the way, would someone clue me in to the "Viking" instrument that was mentioned above. Also, please correct me on the metal...I've played a lot of horns professionally and as a local teacher and gig guy. I'm 56, so I saw many BA's when I was a kid and I played a sweet one for about 10 years. I do play a MK VI tenor 167XXX, but I'm not a Selmer bigot at all. If someone could figure out how to get that sound back, though, I'd leap at the chance to get one!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Hi M'55,

The Viking that I alluded to is of Rich Maraday's new line. The website reflects that Rich is more of a player than a webmaster but he's put in his time working at USA Horn so has considerable experience with the real deal.

http://viking-instruments.com/

His M58 is alleged to be treading the fine line between SBA/early Mk VI and the M40 might be more akin to the Balanced Action. I'm thrown by his statement that the "40" and "58" allude to serial number ranges as "40" would be well beyond BA and seriously into SBA range but that's just a nomenclature issue. I think he's about dialed in the horns from what he's shared and his youtube.com demos demonstrate some horns with exceptionally strong voices.

Do they feel and respond like a BA? Well, the M40 has a "corrected" rotation of the right hand stack so it won't feel exactly like a BA. I'm curious, tho', to learn more of what remains true to the BA and what has been mod'd.

I could get a serious jones if someone could put a horn in my hands that feels and sounds like a good BA for a reasonable price.
 

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Thanks Dr. G!
I'm checking out their website and going to listen to the demos. I, too, would be seriously interested as to what they've done to dial in their horn to match a BA. Thanks for the advice. If anyone checks one of these out in person please share! The BA series of Selmer's were fantastic horns with rich harmonics. I've got a student looking to up-grade his horn...I'll see if the dealer will send out a trial horn and I'll post some tunes. Thanks again!
 

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Wow! Check out Lee Russo...kids been listening to some serious Getz, Mobley and Trane. In all his tunes there is a definate "vintage" sound that reminds me of late SBA's and early VI's. Check it out. Let me know what you think.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
<harrumph> All those endorsers are playing T.K. Melody "Yardbird" horns - I wanna hear some M40/M58.
 

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most seemed to be heavier in weight.
I find the contrary to be true. I played 2 SBA's and 2 MKVI, one late and one in the 100,00 range, so even though I'm no expert, these horns were all lighter than any modern horn I tried. I was told the type of brass used back in the days was stronger so they could make a body tube thinner without compromising its strength and that would also be why these horns vibrate like crazy (in addition to the non-ribbed construction).
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I find the contrary to be true. I played 2 SBA's and 2 MKVI, one late and one in the 100,00 range, so even though I'm no expert, these horns were all lighter than any modern horn I tried.
That's going to depend on the other horns in the comparison, isn't it? It may also be a function of ergos since real weight doesn't vary all that much.

I was told the type of brass used back in the days was stronger so they could make a body tube thinner without compromising its strength and that would also be why these horns vibrate like crazy (in addition to the non-ribbed construction).
Brass is brass - of a given composition, the variation in strength is a function of grain size and cold work. And let's not get started on pre-war vs post-war brass. :twisted:
 
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