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Discussion Starter #1
I'm looking to buy a new alto. Right now i'm trying to decide between a Yamaha 875EX and a Selmer Ref 54. I have been playing sax for about 5 years and am going into my senior year in high school this fall. I will play in college since I will be majoring in music. For now, and likely throughout college, I play alto for all legit settings. I do occasionally play jazz on alto but most of my jazz playing is done on my SX-90R tenor. Irregardless, I need a horn capable of doing both although for the next five years my alto playing likely will mostly be classical orientated.

I am searching for a very dark tone and after playing both of these horns I think they both fit the bill. The 875 felt a little more comfortable in my hands. The action was very smooth every note spoke very well. The sound was very warm. The Ref 54 had a little bit brighter sound but I think that might be because it was so much more free blowing. The low register of the horn especially had very little resistance and sang with ease. My main concern with that horn is taming it for legit playing. Can it be done? I tried out two different 54s and both had a problem with I believe the :line3: key sticking very badly. Is this a commonly known problem with the horns?

If I were generally picking a horn I would go with the 54. I just don't know if it is right for what I will be using it for, albeit what I use the horn for could change drastically(that is why I want a versatile horn). If the 54 can seriously be used for legit playing without struggling I will go with it. Otherwise, I think the 875 is a better choice. I like a dark tone for jazz playing and think the 875 could be used in jazz settings with a mouthpiece with some push...the 54 being used for legit playing is what I question. Is it a bad idea? Money is a concern but i'm willing to spend what is necessary to be happy and not be looking for another horn 3 or 4 years down the road. I also am interested in the greater resale value of the Selmer. That is very enticing. Both are great horns and it almost seems a coin toss right now. Suggestions from more experienced players would be greatly appreciated.
 

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Suggestions will only ad to undecision.
 

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So take the Selmer .... because it's FRENCH! :D
And it's known Selmer have more tonal qualities than Yamaha.
 

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Play both. Go with the one that feels best under your fingers. YOU make the sound.;)
 

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Either one will do just fine, but I'd rather have the Selmer. The horn plays the smallest role in the grand scheme of things.

I knew a girl in college that played a YAS23 and she could cut anybody in town on that horn. She later switched to Selmer and sounded great on it too.
 

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Since you use a Keilwerth tenor why not use a Keilwerth alto. And if you want a dark tone,how bout a cx-90 copper keilwrerth alto.
 

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If you know where you want to go to college, go talk to the guy you will be studying under. Ask his opinion. He will be glad to give it and you'll look good for asking. Some college programs REALLY prefer a certain horn and you'll be off on the right foot. Plus, this can be some good "laying the groundwork" for a possible scholarship. They are BOTH great horns.
 

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I agree with LBA. Talk to your college prof. He might send you in a completely different direction.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I do not know for sure where i'm going to college. I still have my senior year in high school to complete. I have taken lessons from the director of bands at the university here in town for the past 3 years. If I go to college here I will play alto in concert band, there is a seperate jazz band director so I do not know for sure about that. Most likely I will choose to compete for a spot on tenor, my preferred jazz horn.

After a conversation with Dave Kessler I think I have came to the conclusion that the 54 will not serve me well with legit playing, which is what I will mostly be doing as far as I know. He talked about how difficult it is to play soft and subtle on the 54 and after playing it I know exactly what he is talking about. The horn is not made to be played soft and subtle, especially in the low range.

Dave DOES NOT like the Yamahas. He said they lack the rich tonal qualities that the Selmers, Keilwerths, and Yanis have. That is by no means a quote, but close to what he said. I do tend to somewhat disagree with this though. I think that the player shapes the sound moreso than the horn. Personally, I liked the sound I got on the 875EX I played. It was very warm, round, and tame; great for legit playing. No notes barked out of the horn and subtoning was effortless. At the same time it didn't project quite as much as I wanted. It isn't much of a jazz horn. I will probably just have to get used to that if I end up with one and possibly do some experimenting with jazz mouthpieces (yay!)

I own a Keilwerth SX-90 alto right now. I bought it for about $1500 on Ebay. It did seem like the best choice for me but when I got it I was quite dissapointed. It didn't sound, feel, or play anything like my tenor. It is quite a bit older than my tenor and doesn't have the rolled tone holes but I wasn't expecting it to make as big of a difference as it did. Even after taking the horn to a tech and having it repadded and a few other things fixed the intonation was still all over the place, the sound really bright (even with a S-80 mpc), and the action nowhere near that of my SX90R tenor. This may just be this particular horn not working for me. In any case, i'm not too interested in purchasing another Keilwerth alto.

Dave recommended a Yanigisawa A991. I might give this horn a try. I have never tried one before so I suppose it may be worth it. Only problem is nowhere in my area carries these horns and sending horns back and forth through the mail sucks. Before I do anything, i'm going to get a couple new legit mouthpieces then drive up to Saieds in Tulsa and try out a bunch of horns again. It was foolish of me try out a bunch of horns on just one mouthpiece (S80 C*) I just assumed that mouthpiece worked well on every horn.

Thanks for the suggestions. If for some reason you read this Dave, thank you for your time as well. I may be getting back in touch with about that Yani.
 

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I second the suggestion about the Yanagisawa 991. Or you might consider the A992 bronze model. For less money there are the 901 and 902.
 

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Sleeper -

If you think that you will play mostly classical music, then either the Yami, Yani, or the Selmer will do. Which one among the three, you ask? Play the three (next to each other if you can) and see which one you LIKE most. And remember, when it comes to horns (or women for that matter), your choice is absolutely PERSONAL and thus it is RELATIVE. In other words, even if someone thinks the world of the Ref. 54, but if YOU play and think that it sucks, then it does (to you).

And why limit your choices to only those three names? There are others (except for King, Conn, JK since they are not considered fit for classical settings) that can also serve you well. I have heard that the Buffet S1 is good for classical music. I have played the black pearl alto and think that it can do the job as well as others.

Good luck!
 

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And why wouldn't you look for a good Selmer Balanced Action or Mark VI?
 

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Discussion Starter #16
silvin said:
And why wouldn't you look for a good Selmer Balanced Action or Mark VI?

The best horn I have ever played hands down was my teachers 100x Mark VI alto. Unfortunately, my dad whom has the credit (even though I pay for most of the horn), refuses to buy a vintage horn. He would probably consider it if anyone withing 150 miles of me had vintage horns for sale that I could physically play before buying. That is just not the case though. The only place I could get one is Ebay and I don't want to open that can of worms. Plus, to get a decent one your easily looking at spending at least $4500. That is just for what 'might' end up being a good horn. If it isn't, i'm stuck with it.

I really wish I could get a Yani A991, Yam 875EX, Ref 54, Mk VI, and a vintage Buescher put in front of me side by side but I do not live in an area where that is feasible. The music store selection in the Dallas area which is about 90 miles away is really subpar, Oklahoma City is very average, and Tulsa has one good store in Saied Music Co which unfortunately is over 3 hours away. I believe they only have Yamaha's and Selmer's in stock, as is the case with most music stores. That is why I have only tried those 2 along with the Keilwerth's I own. Honestly, if I could spend a lot of time with all these horns I would not have made this thread. Ordering horns from WWBW or some similar site may sound like a good idea, but it isn't quite so when i'm spending $40 to send them back.

I have sort of hit a brick wall at the moment. Some conclusions I have reached are:

- I was much more satisfied with the Yamaha than my SX90 I now own. The intonation was superb, action even, and sound much darker. The sound was nothing unique or necessarily impressive, but was satisfactory. I was after darkness and got it with that horn. I think with time I can shape the color of my sound moreso to my liking while maintaing darkness. It's price is also very attractive as opposed to the Ref 54. I think it is capable of being used in jazz settings with proper mouthpiece and reed to add some push.

-The Ref54 had a killer sound...for someone interested in playing jazz. It has the darkness I was after and was very freeblowing. The low register really barked though and I don't see that working real well in legit settings. It seems as though it would be a struggle. The keywork was not as comfortable as the Yamaha. The intonation was better than my SX90, but not as spot on as the Yamaha. The price is steep, especially when the horn really isn't what I seem to be looking for afterall.

-I loved the Mark VI I played but buying one is pretty much out of the question.

-I have yet to try out a Yani but really really question whether it is worth it to pay shipping on a horn just to test it out. It is quite a hassle and a strain on money.

I would be satisfied with the Yamaha, but I don't know if it is the absolute best fit for me. I would hate to get it, then discover a couple years down the road that there is a horn I like better. I may not hear the minute tonal qualities that are not present in a Yamaha at the moment and finally discover them after the fact. This is a tough decision, thanks for all the suggestions so far, I have taken them all into consideration.
 

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Pity you can't do a trip in the area where you can try more horns ...
 

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You're worrying waaaay too much about what migh happen, what you might hear, what might be a better horn, etc.

Get any of the recommended horns above. If you want to change in a few years time, sell or trade the horn for something else. Why the angst?

If the decision is soooo important at this stage, then it warrants $40 . Go busking, wash cars, wait tables, flip burgers. If $40 is too much hassle, then the decision is'nt that important. The "perfect" horn isn't going to jump up and bite you on the bum. Any recommendations you get here will just add to your angst.

Spend the $40 bucks, or better still, spend the money on a round trip ticket to a store that has a variety of horns to try.
 

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Forum Contributor 2011, SOTW's pedantic pet rodent
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I think you should buy a s/h yamaha - (a few years old, higher end but not the highest) save yourself some money, and go out and party. I'm serious. If the prof you finally get turns round and says "No, sonny, you need a Yanagisawa made out of crushed dung beetles" (or similar) he/she's not worth their academic position. You can play lovely jazz on any good "classical" horn, in my opinion. The same isn't true the other way round. So you do need a good quality "classical" instrument but you also need to live a little, I think.:)
 

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Sleeper -

I think Dog Pants made a good point!

The truth is: It is YOU that plays the horn, not the other way around! You get the point, I trust!
 
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