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Hi Everyone,

I'd really appreciate some help from the more experienced players on here.

About a year ago, I bought a Conn 10M tenor sax from the mid-1950s. I played it before buying and it felt different to my previous sax (a B&S Blue Label from the 1980s), but nothing I didn't think I could get used to in time. However, I'm struggling with it. I have quite small hands and quite thin, weak fingers. I struggle with the G#/C#/B/Bb plate for my left hand and also the Eb/C keys for my right. Quite often I nudge the High D palm key when trying to play a low C#/B/Bb. I think straining for the problem notes with my left or right hand also causes me to tense up my embouchure.

I've been playing more often lately and have started to notice increasing pain in my left wrist. Basically, I think it is not the right model of saxophone for me. However, it sounds awesome. I absolutely love this horn. But it's killing me. So before I sell it and buy a modern Yamaha, I just want to ask whether anything can be done to let me keep my Conn.

As far as I can tell, I'd need to get the following things done (in order of expected feasibility):
- Raise the loop for the neck strap. It's ridiculously low and brings the horn to my mouth at a weird angle.
- Replace the thumb hook for the right hand: It's also killing me. I placed a rubber cover thing on it, but I think I should get the hook replaced and moved. This might also help me get to the low Bb/C keys.
- Replace and reposition the left hand thumb rest: It's a tiny little pearl button that I always slip off.
- Raise the High D/E/Eb palm keys or shorten the levers to get them out of the way.
- Raise the G#/C#/B/Bb plate so that I can reach it more easily.

What do you think? Is there any chance I can get these modifications made? Or should I just wave goodbye to the love of my life and settle down with a young Asian model?

Thanks in advance,
Matty
 

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Hi Everyone,

I'd really appreciate some help from the more experienced players on here.

About a year ago, I bought a Conn 10M tenor sax from the mid-1950s. I played it before buying and it felt different to my previous sax (a B&S Blue Label from the 1980s), but nothing I didn't think I could get used to in time. However, I'm struggling with it. I have quite small hands and quite thin, weak fingers. I struggle with the G#/C#/B/Bb plate for my left hand and also the Eb/C keys for my right. Quite often I nudge the High D palm key when trying to play a low C#/B/Bb. I think straining for the problem notes with my left or right hand also causes me to tense up my embouchure.

I've been playing more often lately and have started to notice increasing pain in my left wrist. Basically, I think it is not the right model of saxophone for me. However, it sounds awesome. I absolutely love this horn. But it's killing me. So before I sell it and buy a modern Yamaha, I just want to ask whether anything can be done to let me keep my Conn.

As far as I can tell, I'd need to get the following things done (in order of expected feasibility):
- Raise the loop for the neck strap. It's ridiculously low and brings the horn to my mouth at a weird angle.
- Replace the thumb hook for the right hand: It's also killing me. I placed a rubber cover thing on it, but I think I should get the hook replaced and moved. This might also help me get to the low Bb/C keys.
- Replace and reposition the left hand thumb rest: It's a tiny little pearl button that I always slip off.
- Raise the High D/E/Eb palm keys or shorten the levers to get them out of the way.
- Raise the G#/C#/B/Bb plate so that I can reach it more easily.

What do you think? Is there any chance I can get these modifications made? Or should I just wave goodbye to the love of my life and settle down with a young Asian model?

Thanks in advance,
Matty
Speaking generally, not specifically, some of the things you mention are commonly done with Conn 10Ms and some are not. Some of these (like relocating the LH little finger keys) are likely to involve very considerable design and fabrication, whereas things like moving the strap ring are relatively straightforward.

Before launching into any of this, I would suggest you schedule at least one session with an experienced teacher who plays old-style saxophones (I say this because there are so many Selmer addicts that will tell you all kinds of inaccurate negative stuff about Conns). The focus of the "lessons" should be 100% on playing position and posture. You may find that relatively minor adjustments to how you address the horn will make a big difference in how comfortable it is for you.

I also have relatively small hands and short fingers and have never had the least difficulty in fingering my 10M, but the 10M was the first tenor I ever started on and I've been playing mostly that model since 1978, so I am fully adapted.
 

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As turf noted, some of what you mention is somewhat typical of others' experiences, particularly the poor neckstrap eyelet location and the grazing of the palmkeys while engaging the pinky table.

EVERYTHING you mention is pretty easily modifiable...EXCEPT the pinky table being 'raised' (and by this I assume you mean it moving UP the body tube a few mm's so you don't have to 'reach' for it as much.

The thumbhook and thumbrests are easily replaceable with after-market ones; plenty of those available. The eyelet can easily be relocated. These things are just a mater of unsoldering, locating, and resoldering.

Actually 'shortening' the palm keys (meaning cutting the shafts as they move towards the touches, then silver soldering 'em back after taking off a little material) is also doable for a tech who has good silver-soldering skills. This is a bit more 'artful' a mod than the others, but it's not rocket science.

I am not sure how 'raising' the palm keytouches (if in your semantics this means their height off of body tube is greater than currently) gets those out of the way of interfering with the pinky table operation, however. But if it seem that would work instead of shortening the keywork, then that can be done with removable palmkey risers (?) Again maybe I misunderstood, and by 'raising' you mean moving up the body tube.

The big one is actually moving the table UP the body tube....i.e. moving the entire table closer to the LH thumbrest. NOT impossible, but this one requires that the key rods of the C#/B/Bb actually be extended...meaning solid brass rod be added to the existing key rods. Again, by cutting the rods, then adding a small piece of new rod and silver-soldering. Doable, yes, but to make it look good and clean this takes some precision. Then the relocating of some posts...which offhand I think is possible providing the new post locations do not interfere with anything already present on the body tube.

A lot of mods. The thumb stuff and eyelet is cheap. Maybe $100-125 plus cost of new thumbhook and rest. Palmkey risers are cheap.

Cutting and shortening palmkey lengths, not cheap. Probably around $150-ish for all 3.

The pinky table thing, my guesstimate = $150-250.

So you are likely looking at $500-600 worth of mods.

Next question becomes...how would this effect the horn's value ? Purists might argue the sky has fallen, and the horn is ruined. However, the big knock on these horns is ergos; that is what causes many folks to give 'em up...so...

IF the tech can do a really nice, precise, clean job....one can argue a number of the typical ergonomic issues which keep folks away...have now been addressed and the horn is actually IMPROVED under the fingers now.

Another argument could be made that: it turns out a 10M isn't really for you, so save the $600 and sell the horn (they are hot items at the moment) and go look for a different vintage model which suits you better....Buescher, King, Martin, etc....IMHO an S20 or a Comm I or II actually is slicker under the fingers than a 10M.
 

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...So you are likely looking at $500-600 worth of mods.

Next question becomes...how would this effect the horn's value ? Purists might argue the sky has fallen, and the horn is ruined. However, the big knock on these horns is ergos; that is what causes many folks to give 'em up...so...

IF the tech can do a really nice, precise, clean job....one can argue a number of the typical ergonomic issues which keep folks away...have now been addressed and the horn is actually IMPROVED under the fingers now.

Another argument could be made that: it turns out a 10M isn't really for you, so save the $600 and sell the horn (they are hot items at the moment) and go look for a different vintage model which suits you better....Buescher, King, Martin, etc....IMHO an S20 or a Comm I or II actually is slicker under the fingers than a 10M.[/COLOR]
I would reiterate that a lot of the issues may simply be basic hand position. I find that I am able to adapt to saxophones from the Holton C soprano with teeny weeny little palm keys, to the Conn 12M baritone, with a minimum of irreversible changes. I do put some cork key risers on palm keys here and there, or maybe gently bend one of the palm keys to the side a bit. But I think that jumping directly to the conclusion that the instrument needs major rebuildingand modification is premature.

I suspect the first three issues ("strap ring too low [standard complaint is that it's too high]", RH thumbhook painful, LH thumb rest too small and prone to slipping off) are all related to not having the horn properly adjusted on the strap and angles of the neck in the horn and MP on the neck, to present the MP to the embouchure without strain. You shouldn't find yourself having to lift the horn, or push it forward, or to one side or the other, except with the very lightest pressure. If you are having to push on the RH thumb so hard that it's painful, something isn't adjusted right. Same with the LH thumb. I also wonder if the difficulty in reaching the LH keys and brushing against the palm key might be related to having the horn too low, leading to a distorted hand position as well as trying to constantly lift the horn up with the right thumb.

As far as the "collectible value", mid-50s 10Ms aren't really all that hot in the collector's market (which will probably undergo one of its periodic crashes in the next few years anyway), so I doubt that a great deal of value would be lost in that sense. If subsequent potential buyers find the key positions to be in weird idiosyncratic positions, that could make it hard to re-sell.
 

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Dave O’Higgins is known for playing a heavily modified 10M. In an interview you can find online his equipment is described as:

“Dave’s Gear
Tenor: Conn 10m Ladyface 1938 which has been customised by Steve Crow to resemble a Selmer Mk 6 as much as possible without moving any tone holes. New Selmer keys have been put on, contrary to a vicious rumour going about that they were the keys from my old Mk 6!”

Maybe you could reach out to Crow see what he has to say about your situation?
 

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What do you think? Is there any chance I can get these modifications made? Or should I just wave goodbye to the love of my life and settle down with a young Asian model?
Get your horn fixed. The young model won’t stay that way, but a good horn is forever.


Tenor - It’s all that matters.
 

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My hands are rather large, and I liked the key layout of the 10M I once had. Of course, the sound too. I got used to its quirks, but after a few years picked up a beater Silversonic tenor on a near whim. More and more the Silversonic got the gig and the 10M got the shelf. When you have the slick keywork action of the King, the Conn is even more clunky in comparison.

If the horn bothers you, dump it. Once you go spending money to alter it, you reduce its resale value for when you've finally had enough. I was lucky to get more for mine than I paid when I let it go.

Find a horn that doesn't frustrate you. Then you can make music.
 

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Apart from loving its beautiful tone, I find that one of the joys of the Conn 10M is that it lends itself readily to almost endless modification.

One place I would advise against modifying is the left hand little finger table. Modification here is complicated, costly and irreversible — and, I believe, entirely unnecessary. To me, the LH little finger table on the 10M is intuitive and easy of operation: I speak as someone who also plays a Selmer Mark VI tenor, and who has ongoing problems with the Mark VI rocking low Bb key — a problem which I never had with my old Yamaha YTS-21, where the LH little finger table is reportably modelled on the Selmer one ! If I could magically replace the Mark VI little finger table with the 10M one, I'd do it; what prevents me from this is the expense of doing it, and the loss of resale value of the Mark VI thereafter !

I have two 10Ms — one from 1949 and the other from 1937. Both have been modified to suit my tastes. Both are excellent horns. The 1949 one has been extensively modified with permanent, irreversible alterations.

I had already modified the 1949 10M when I got the 1937 one. I decided that since the 1937 10M was a genuine classic horn in pristine condition I would only make modifications to it that were fully reversible. As you will see in the photos below, all the modifications were done with Sugru, except for the altered strap-ring position, which was achieved by the addition of a brass plate in which four holes were drilled, one being used to fix the plate in place by a nut and bolt passed through the existing strapring, and the other three holes serving as alternative strap-ring placements.

The brass plate is 12 cm long and at its widest point it measures 2 cm; the fixing hole for the nut and bolt is placed at approximately 5.5 cm from the top; the three alternative strapring holes are placed at approximately 7.5, 9.25 and 11 cm from the top. This brass adjustment plate was made for me by a saxophonist friend of mine whose day-job involves metal work.

I cannot recommend Sugru highly enough for other modifications. It is easy of use — and totally reversible if that is needed. It's available from the Sugru website in a variety of colours: as you will see from the photographs, I have used the black version. It moulds like plasticene and dries overnight to a hard rubber finish. I haven't used Sugru on the right hand thumb rest on this particular saxophone, because I haven't needed to — however, I have used it on other ones: you just put a layer of Sugru under the rest, where the thumb contacts the metal, and it cushions the thumb beautifully.

I notice that you say that the strapring on your 10M is too low, which I find surprising — are you sure you don't mean that it is too high ? If it really is too low, I suspect that a previous owner has already lowered it — and too far for you. Anyway, the same metal plate modifier could be used upside-down if you needed to raise the ring.

A picture beats a thousand words, so here are the 1937 10M modifications. Good luck !

View attachment 231808 View attachment 231810 View attachment 231812 View attachment 231814 View attachment 231816 View attachment 231818
 

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Dave O’Higgins is known for playing a heavily modified 10M. In an interview you can find online his equipment is described as:

“Dave’s Gear
Tenor: Conn 10m Ladyface 1938 which has been customised by Steve Crow to resemble a Selmer Mk 6 as much as possible without moving any tone holes. New Selmer keys have been put on, contrary to a vicious rumour going about that they were the keys from my old Mk 6!”

Maybe you could reach out to Crow see what he has to say about your situation?
This quote about "Dave's Gear" can be found as a footnote to an interview with Dave O'Higgins at:

https://www.mcgillmusic.com/articles/dave-ohiggins

Intrigued by it I wrote to Steve Crow last April, 12 months ago, about the modifications he had done to Dave's 10M. He replied most courteously the same day:

"My work on Conns is for the main stack and little finger righthand, i haven't done any mod work on the left little fingers."
I suspect that these main stack and little finger RH modifications were along the same lines as the permanent modifications I had done to my 1949 10m some years ago by Kris Wanders, well before I had heard of the Crow-O'Higgins mods. They involved extending the touchpieces for the Eb and C touches and changing the linkages between the RH keycups for greater strength of operation, and also to increase the ease of operation in the altissimo register. Have a look at the photo below. (The Sugru on the F touche is a recent mod I did myself, by the way.)

View attachment 231830
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Hi everyone,

Thank you so much for your fast and detailed replies.

I think I'm going to get the strap ring /eyelet relocated. At the moment, I have to tighten my strap all the way up to the stop to bring the mouthpiece up to my lips, which I've never had to do on any of the other models I've played / tested. I hope this will improve the overall position of the horn and might take the pressure off my left thumb as well, as I guess I might be having to push slightly to keep the horn at a comfortable angle. My left hand position does need to improve, but I didn't have any problems on other models I've played / tested. I hope the new strap ring / eyelet will give me a better angle and might feel less cramped.

I'm also going to replace the thumb hook for the right hand and the thumb rest for the left hand, depending on what the technician recommends. Thanks for the tip about sugru, but I think I'll leave everything to someone with experience of modifying instruments. I'd be too nervous to do it myself.

Thanks also for the information about Dave O'Higgins, it's a real help.

I don't think these two modifications will chop a huge amount off the resale value. In any case, I can't let the horn go without at least trying something. If I still don't feel comfortable after these changes, I'll sell it and pick up something else. At least I'll know I tried.

Thanks again everyone!

Matty
 

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What does everyone think of the Interbiden modification on 10M that I believe entails cutting the body tube near the g Tone Hole and turning the tube about a half inch, I believe, but I haven't seen a detailed explanation or seen photos that make it clear what was done. I do believe they replace the key work with Yamaha keys for better ergos....

Sent from my Nexus 6P using Tapatalk
 

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I also have a 10m. very nice 1937 but it's been heavily buffed and needs to have a re engraving of the the lady face. It also has chrome/nickel plated key work that apparently was done by many players to make the keys stiffer and I've noticed on Conn's that some do have soft keys... But I'm not fond of the look of silver colored keys.

Thanks for all the good information about the modifications that other players have done

Sent from my Nexus 6P using Tapatalk
 

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What does everyone think of the Interbiden modification on 10M that I believe entails cutting the body tube near the g Tone Hole and turning the tube about a half inch, I believe, but I haven't seen a detailed explanation or seen photos that make it clear what was done. I do believe they replace the key work with Yamaha keys for better ergos....

Sent from my Nexus 6P using Tapatalk
The most specious argument/aspect of the supposedly 'modern ergos' keywork is IMHO the 'offset lower stack holes'...thus resulting in a rotated right hand compared to an in-line stack (my old osteopath in SF wholeheartedly agreed with me there, and on one visit I recall that showing him the RH position on an 'offset' horn actually resulted in a repeated alternately raised and frowning eyebrows followed by a shake of the head reaction from him).

I never found that comfortable nor did it result in the ability to 'play faster'. He felt it actually increased the stresses on the joints and soft tissue.

I would seriously question anyone who....with ALL other Selmer-esque 'modern ergo' modifications made to a horn (modern pinky table, perhaps better palmkey design, etc)....also insisted the offset lower stack was an absolute necessity in order to achieve a wonderfully ergonomically responsive horn. If they insisted such, I would call BS. It's the most arguable aspect of the 'modern ergos' thing.

Therefore, to actually PAY someone to hack your body tube in two then rotate the lower part and put back together with new keys...would be such an incredible waste of money in my opinion it'd leave me speechless. I mean, other than saying "look what I had done ! (for an inordinate amount of $)' I cannot really imagine what benefit it'd have.

As noted by others, if you are seriously gonna buy into THAT extent of a mod...just sell your horn and go buy something which is already designed that way....
 

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Hi everyone,

Thank you so much for your fast and detailed replies.

I think I'm going to get the strap ring /eyelet relocated. At the moment, I have to tighten my strap all the way up to the stop to bring the mouthpiece up to my lips, which I've never had to do on any of the other models I've played / tested. I hope this will improve the overall position of the horn and might take the pressure off my left thumb as well, as I guess I might be having to push slightly to keep the horn at a comfortable angle. My left hand position does need to improve, but I didn't have any problems on other models I've played / tested. I hope the new strap ring / eyelet will give me a better angle and might feel less cramped.

I'm also going to replace the thumb hook for the right hand and the thumb rest for the left hand, depending on what the technician recommends. Thanks for the tip about sugru, but I think I'll leave everything to someone with experience of modifying instruments. I'd be too nervous to do it myself.

Thanks also for the information about Dave O'Higgins, it's a real help.

I don't think these two modifications will chop a huge amount off the resale value. In any case, I can't let the horn go without at least trying something. If I still don't feel comfortable after these changes, I'll sell it and pick up something else. At least I'll know I tried.

Thanks again everyone!

Matty
Keep the original thumb rest and thumb hook....always a good idea to just keep 'em in case you ever sell the horn.

No, those mods will not cost much nor are they particularly 'invasive'.
 

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Learn to play the 10M really well as it is and maybe you’ll attract a “young Asian model”
If you want a big sound and good ergonomics, sell the 10M and buy a Selmer Balanced Action.
If you put the conn 10M and a BA side by side it’s hard to believe they’re both the same instrument. The Conn looks like a piece of farm equipment next to the Selmer.
 

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Bulldust, whaler my friend — arrant, specious nonsense. I expected better of you.
 

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Reviving this thread to see what others think of some ideas I have. For the last several months, I've been trying to make the jump to a 1950 10M full time from my trusty Yamaha 62. The Conn has a big, spread tone with a TON of bark to it that I immediately found fascinating, but the ergos were a big adjustment for me, having played the Yamaha for ~15 years. The Yamaha is a great horn and I don't buy the arguments that it "lacks character" or whatever other people want to say about it, but the Conn has been more interesting to me lately.

In the last couple of months, I finally made the decision to suck it up and start only practicing and playing on the Conn and not play the Yamaha at all, at least while I'm learning the Conn. The LH pinky table is starting to make sense to me. I find the G#, B and Bb easier to play, though I am still struggling a bit to muster up the pinky strength to always hit the C#, especially when moving down to a B. Going the other way, it's fine.

I had initially thought this was an issue with the pinky table, but after spending a few days with scale exercises trying to isolate the issue, I am starting to think that it might have more to do with the position of the RH third finger touchpiece relative to the table. I don't have big hands and I think that by the time I've wrapped my hand around the horn to reach all of the touchpieces, my pinky is not at a great angle for the pinky table. As it is, I feel like my third finger is extended too far for me to really feel totally fluid around there.

Has anyone moved or extended that third finger (G) touchpiece outboard a little bit? I think that might make it easier for me to reach and would help put my hand in a better position. I also think the extended LH thumb rest that Mike T did looks like exactly the sort of thing I've been thinking about for that spot, given the hand position I seem to be favoring.

I also want to try building up the palm D a bit. I'm not sure if all of the palm keys are exactly where they are supposed to be (or if they've gotten bent over the years), but it feels like the D palm key is a bit too low relative to the others. It's OK most of the time, but it's a real challenge to hit it on the way down from notes using the front F, like an F#, without also brushing open the Eb palm key. F# to D is a useful option to have (and is part of a riff I play with a band I gig with), so I need to get that figured out, either through practice or modification.

I think the "offset" tone holes that Jaye mentioned above might be a modification that helps people with smaller hands who can't reach around the instrument as easily. I don't think I need to actually offset the tone holes, but I do think I need to adjust a couple of touch points so that I don't have to rotate my hand so far around the instrument and can play with a bit of a straighter wrist.

In the right hand, I really like Mike T's extension of the Low C key and might try to copy that. A little more leverage on that key might be nice, though I don't have long fingers, so I'm not sure if I'd really be able to take advantage of it.

One note that I have sometimes been missing, especially on descending scales, is the D#/Eb. I've never, ever struggled with this note on any wind instrument before, but I think I am missing the third finger touchpiece. Blame my small hands again. That touchpiece seems to close the E pad, so I doubt it could be moved, but I think I could probably try to extend it.

I guess the spread between the third finger and the pinky keys seems a bit wrong for both of my hands.

I ordered some Sugru and am going to experiment with some stuff in a reversible way, but has anyone encountered these sorts of issues with the 10M and tried to address them like this? I'm open to experimentation, but I don't want to reinvent the wheel if others have already done it.

Overall, though, I like this horn a lot. The tone is fantastic and intonation is totally solid. I guess the pitch is a lot more flexible/less "locked in" than on the Yamaha, which might lead people with bad ears/voicing ability to play out of tune, but I was expecting a lot worse based on some of the things people told me before I got the horn. Even the keywork, despite this ramble, seems pretty nice. The action, set up by the same tech, was able to be set a bit lighter than on my Yamaha, which was a pleasant surprise.
 
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