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Conn vs. new

1867 Views 10 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  old10m
My son recently attended marching band camp and arrived home requesting that I buy him a new saxophone. His current saxophone is a Conn with the shooting stars and Conn USA engraving, serial # L02031. He is embarrased by the used and worn condition of it's appearance. I took it into the local music store to be looked over (I do not know anything myself about saxophones) and to inquire about new instruments. I was told this saxophone had a great tone and played well. They offered us $500 in trade towards a used Yamaha student saxophone priced at $1000, no scratches or dents. I was surprised by this offer and began my research about the Conn, thinking that we may have a better instument than we originally thought, even if it's appearance isn't great.

I have spent many hours reading through this website and one other. From what I have gathered, this saxophone was made in 1968, and is probably one of the last "good" Conn's. Am I correct?

Also- my son is starting his freshman year in high school and his 5th year of saxophone. I am told that if I buy him a new saxophone, I should not purchase a student model like the Yamahas that are sold at the local store, but to buy a intermediate or an advanced saxophone. Now we are as confused as ever. Is it possible that our Conn is a good instrument for his level? At what level, if any, should we consider investing in a new instrument?

Thanks for any advice offered.
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I think that the key here is that your son is embarassed by the Conn. A large part of the selection of an instrument is not objective. There are actually some Conns later than yours that are pretty well thought of.

The deal the store is offering is not bad, especially if they are going to warrant the Yamaha. Your vintage of Conn will seldom go over a couple hundred on eBay, so you are getting a YAS 23 for 7-750, which isn't horrible when you can play it and inspect it before hand. No dents, dings or scratches a Yamaha can bring that much on eBay.

The horn that best suits your son at this point is the one that he is psyched to play. It really doesn't matter that a vintage Buescher will blow away a Yamaha for that kind of money if he won't play it. If it takes shine to get him pumped for practice, get him some shine, used.
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If he is marching with it, use the worst horn as it will get a lot of abuse. As I recall, Sam Ash sells the Yamaha YAS-23 for under $1,000, no trade.
I really don't get buying a YAS 23 new. Both Sam Ash and WWBW are 1671.00 for a new YAS 23. Compared to an identical used Vito for 20% of that, these make zero sense to me.
Even more so, it sure makes some of the vintage horns look like bargains to me. Just think of what that buys in a Buescher or Conn.
I rarely sell a moder horn. For under $500 a kid can get a real vintage horn in good working order that will incereas in value in the years to come. When he develops a sound and opinion, then buy the high priced horn.
I agree with the value judgments above, but I think that we need to keep the mindset of the student in view. Children are conformists for the most part until they reach their late teens, and having your child show up with a "funky" looking instrument (when everyone else is playing a "cool horn" that has a traceable pedigree (in modern terms)) is going to put them on the outs with the one group that they value most - their peers.

In addition to the appeal that shiny has for many adults, it obviously appeals even more to youth. It shouldn't be that way, but it's going to be so regardless of our logical reasoning. Many of their decisions are made for no other reason than that they are "cool".

If a kid is made into an "outcast", it may go so far as to affect his/her attitude towards music overall. It ain't right, but it's a fact of life for the young folks, and you ignore it at your peril.
I own a worn conn 6m (from '35) and a new shiny beautiful selmer series III. I almost always use my conn. Not that the selmer is a bad horn, I just prefer the sound I get on my conn. Sound is more important to looks.

The conn will be fine for marching.
I think the Conn would be a good Jazz horn. The appearance would work if some pictures of the Jazz greats are introduced to him. As far as the student Yamaha, forget it! In another year he will be ready for the Intermediate level or higher. If you are going to go for a new horn, aim for at least the Yamaha 475 or better. These are great horns. They will be more horn than is needed right now, but will be something your son can and will grow into in the years to come. Conns are good horns. The sound is really the only thing that matters with any musical instrument. I don't care how it looks. If it sounds good, it is good.
thank you

I have read through the posted replies thus far, and thank you very much for your input. We have yet to reach a decision, but everyone's input has helped.

My son has read much of the material on Conns that I have found, and he does feel better about it now. Ignorantly, we did not do any research, or even shopped around, before buying the Conn 4 1/2 years ago. The price was right and it came from a nice local family whose children no longer played.

Today my son did request a few new items, such as a mouth piece, neck strap and carrying case. I bought a mouth piece and strap. We will be shopping in a large city Labor Day weekend and intend to visit Dietz Music where we are told that there are many new and used saxophones which can be played before purchasing. I think that will be a great opportunity for my son to try a few out.

I am hoping that we might find someone with more expertise at that time to listen to our Conn and verify the quality of the sax so that we can decide whether or not we would keep or trade it in if we buy a shiny :) new one.

My son loves playing in both concert band and marching band, and is also involved in choir. I am willing to do whatever is needed to encourage his enthusiasm in music, which is what began this journey to begin with.

Thanks again!

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Dixie -just a head's up. "Gig bags", which are soft cover carrying bags for horns (think a very big horn purse) look really cool and many retailers are more than happy to sell one to a kid, but they are a very bad idea for a school kid to have, so please make sure he gets a good, hard case.

Also, while agreeing that band kids have a tendency to "hear with their eyes", and a new horn may indeed be justified if that's what it takes to motivate him, I still wouldn't sell the kid short. If he could hear recordings of Art Pepper or Paul Desmond for example, and then understand that all these guys played "vintage" instruments, that also might be an incentive to think his horn is cool - cooler still, maybe, than all the other kid's horns. ;)
OK, 2 things:

First, as a band director who teaches marching band, IMO that old conn is a great marching horn. It's hard to keep instruments in good condition in the weather outside, much less getting banged around by some kid who's either waving a flag or running into you with a bass drum.

Second, peer pressure is a powerful thing with kids. They do not understand the value of vintage yet, and while the Shooting Star Conn is one that does have some value, it is probably not the quality of the M series or Chu. My advice would be to use the Conn for marching with the promise of getting a nicer pro line horn after the student develops to a certain level of proficiency. At that point, get with a college or private teacher and make an educated decision on whether to go vintage or new. Give your child a chance to have some input on the decision after more instruction.

Vintage horns are great. I've got a 1937 10m and I love it, but I didn't start with it and it took me 30 years to realize what I had. I wouldn't have wanted to play the old smelly thing when I was a teenager either.

As far as the case is concerned, they have some cool molded cases that fit with over the shoulder straps, etc. The coolness effect of that with his peers should take a bit of the sting out of playing an old horn.

As sad as it is, appearance is almost everything to young people.

With that being said, it also speaks a lot for you as parents to be making an informed and educated decision to support your child in music.
You make my day job a lot easier and enjoyable.

Best wishes,

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