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TENOR, soprano, alto, baritone
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Discussion Starter #1
I'm mad as heck. Why, back in '99 I bought a WW&BW 'tipped-bell' soprano which turned out to have been made for LA Sax but got the Woodwind stamp instead. This was the first soprano I've ever had and I had never even played one song on one before. I have played a number of mouthpieces on it over the years finally settling on a Soprano Planet 'Missing Link' .090" that is a truly great mouthpiece. Over the years I tried to get rid of the horn a number of times by trying out name-brand sopranos but never found one that had the certain 'funkiness' of the Woodwind. Those included Selmer Paris Series II, R&C R1 gold-plated 'saxello' (tipped-bell) and Jupiter Artist. Finally I just quit trying and decided at my age it was just going to be good enough. At that time I was playing with a certain group a lot more than I'm playing today and I carried the sop to every gig for like 12 years. After that I continued to carry it with the new group which didn't play as often as the other one.
So its been played a lot. The problem is, it has started squeaking (squawking) in the low register and you sop players know what I mean - sounds like the thing has a chicken in it.
So why am I mad, well, just because I haven't done a damn thing to this horn since 1999, not even cleaned the 'club webs' off it in all that time, and here the darned thing has developed a leak that I'm going to have to fix before I can play it again. The very idea!:)
Seriously, that's a heck of a record, isn't it? I mean especially on a cranky old soprano to just keep on playing for so long with no routine maintenance. Its been to the shop but only to fix minor damage from being knocked over, etc.
Now I don't have any gigs coming up where I will need it so I'm going to tear it down, clean it and see if I can find maybe something stuck on a pad or whatever. The pads are all good but need to be cleaned and treated. I'll do all that plus probably take out the self-adhesive 'cork' and put real cork and felt in it and do a set-up. If that doesn't solve it I guess I'll take it in for a look by somebody who knows what they're doing. :)
 

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Hey I had one of these until just a few months ago. I bought it in about 2000. It was silver plated and really played well. I bought several sopranos from WWBW and sent them all back and settled on this one. Since then I had accumulated some 9 sopranos. I got a Cannon Ball Arc and found I really liked it. I sold my Yamaha 675, 80's Yani curvy, 80's Yani straight, vintage King. I took out the silver woodwind and compared it to the CB. They were almost identical. No wonder I liked it so much. I was used to the Woodwind. With all the sopranos I had I have settled on 3 that I am keeping. Grassi pro 2000, vintage Martin and the Cannon Ball Arc. That Woodwind really was a great horn. I got $50 less than I paid for it, but it looked like new. You don't put much wear on any one horn when you have 9 sopranos.
However I will say that haven't really improved on the soprano since my 1927 Martin gold plate. Its spectacular. The WWBW was really a great company back then.
 

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TENOR, soprano, alto, baritone
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Discussion Starter #3
The horn plays in tune but you have to work for it. It has a more mellow sound, particularly with the curved neck, but its not a wimpy sound. The low notes are very powerful but the best thing is simply the very pleasing tone which never fails to get me compliments, including from musicians I am not associated with. If for some reason I want more 'oboe' in the sound, all I have to do is put on the straight neck. The appearance of mine matches the 'miles' on it but its starting to get a patina. :) I wondered why they did that sand-blasted silver with bright keys, and eventually I learned about the Buescher 'Tipped-Bell' soprano which was what they were thinking of when they made it. The Buescher was also matte silver with polished keys. Everybody called this model a 'saxello', including WWBW, but that was just ignorance of the facts. I always wanted a saxello but after seeing a real one I lost that urge. The tipped-bell Woodwind is close enough for me. The tipped bell makes it easier to get on the microphone and the curved neck makes it possible to use a strap.
So, I'm willing to do what I have to do to keep it going a few more years. Bottom line, this sax has made me enjoy soprano playing more than I ever thought I would.
Interestingly, many of us in my generation first started thinking about a saxello when King Curtis recorded 'Soul Serenade' which became a hit. The thing is, he did not have a King Saxello - he had a Martin 'American' which was similar but had a sleeker design. Anyway, in the '60s he no longer played the 'saxello', having switched to a MK VI soprano and subsequently completely lost the mellow 'semi-curved' soprano sound.
 

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TENOR, soprano, alto, baritone
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Discussion Starter #4
Now I have a new soprano very much like my old workhorse but gold with abalone touches. Looks great and plays great. Sold by Eastern Music in Shandong, China - not sure which factory.



I'm also working on the old one. First I'm cleaning and fixing things, like the curved neck which is all I used for 20 years. The spring needed re-tensioning and it needs a new pad. While I was at it I spiffed up the silver plating on it and am replacing the cork. I'll take the rocker to the shop and get them to put a pad in it since I don't have any that small. Then I need to clean the main body, fix a couple of minor issues and find that leak, assuming it isn't the octave pad which I had replaced with a cork one a long time ago. I've had bad results with the cork octave pads - they tend to leak and the cork may look fine - I don't use them anymore. I'm pretty sure all the pads are okay and it just needs a full set-up with real corks and felts.
 

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If my information is still accurate, there are only two factories who make these tipped bell sax now. Allbest in Taiwan and Mercury in China. Other manufacturers go to these factories to get them made for them.
 

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TENOR, soprano, alto, baritone
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Discussion Starter #7
Look on ebay - he lists them at different prices/different shipping depending on how he feels that day, but you should be able to get one on your front porch for about $450. Be prepared to wait - sometimes they have to make them. Also be prepared to find odd little things that you will have to fix/adjust. The horn should play when you get it but the more you look, the more little things you see, like palm keys opening too far, slop in the octave mechanism, yadda, yadda. This is why you can get them cheap. If you know how to adjust keys with cork and do a few things for yourself you can live with one of these, especially if its not your primary sax. I'm actually not playing soprano on my gigs at this point because there's no call for it with the music I'm playing, but I spent all day yesterday preparing it to play anyway. This involved sanding down the neck cork to fit my mouthpiece and just basically playing it, trying reeds, checking intonation, etc.
 

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TENOR, soprano, alto, baritone
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Discussion Starter #8
If my information is still accurate, there are only two factories who make these tipped bell sax now. Allbest in Taiwan and Mercury in China. Other manufacturers go to these factories to get them made for them.
Plus R&C in Italy, which is a one-piece horn. Had one, liked the Chinese one better.
 

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If my information is still accurate, there are only two factories who make these tipped bell sax now. Allbest in Taiwan and Mercury in China. Other manufacturers go to these factories to get them made for them.
I played some mercury sopranos at the Musikmesse Frankfurt some years ago and thought they were great horns (not only great for the money)!
 

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TENOR, soprano, alto, baritone
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Discussion Starter #10
I was impressed with the three necks, but I'll probably never play the straight one. The medium-curved neck is also a new one on me - I've only seen previously the straight and curved. I haven't tried it yet because the cork's too big but I'll get around to it someday. Most likely It'll be okay if it has enough bend to let me use the strap and I'll keep it in the case as a spare. I'm not sure they will continue to provide three necks. On the auction I won, there was no mention of three necks, just a picture of them. They were not prepared to ship it with three and they had to order it from the factory. So if they don't mention it or picture three necks, don't expect anything but a straight and a curved. They probably ought to supply the full-curved and medium-curved and forget about the straight neck. Not only does it cause the strap and buckle to be in contact with the sax, it makes me feel like I'm playing a golf club with the turned-up bell. Finally, the straight neck absolutely brings out the worst in the Chinese 'saxello' - you could call ducks with it. However, with the right set-up, even this neck could be used but it does make it pesky to use the strap, and the horns are heavy, so you really need it.

 

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Distinguished SOTW Member
TENOR, soprano, alto, baritone
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Discussion Starter #11
The mouthpiece that came with the original soprano was not a mouthpiece at all in my book, not even a good doorstop. The mouthpiece that came with the new one is a legitimate mouthpiece, albeit better for a beginner, being probably equivalent to a #4. My plan was to include it with the old soprano if I sold it or gave it to one of my granddaughters who wants to play sax - and believe me, at only 6 she is loaded with musical talent. It will be up to her dad (good sax player) whether to inflict a beginner with a soprano. Heck, he could get a better mouthpiece and play it himself. But all these plans were contingent on getting it playing properly. I had to change the cork on the curved neck to fit the mouthpiece and it needed a new octave pad - I had been using a cork one which I do not recommend after having several of them cause stuffy, leaky saxes. I went to the music store that has a good shop and got the right one yesterday. Finished up fitting the mouthpiece this morning and tried the sax with a 1 1/2 Plasticover - pretty good match but the main thing was the sax played great. It actually was in tune before I hit the chime to test it - I knew it was because I was playing something that had 'B's in it and the 'A' Concert chime was sitting there singing with sympathetic vibrations. Now all I have to do is clean the body and pads and oil it and it will be ready to go.

Differences between the old Taiwan (LA Sax/WWBW) horn and the new Chinese one; the new one is a little lighter and the rods are visibly smaller in diameter. Key layout is identical (Yanagisawa-type). Tone on the new one is a little brighter. All told, the new one feels and plays a little more 'refined' than the old but is definitely still 'honkable'. The old one seems to be more durable, and in fact it has survived a few knock-overs. My homemade stand that you can see in the above picture (made out of a guitar stand) is good and I put a Velcro strap on it that holds the sax in the stand if its tipped over. The upper 'forks' would tend to take the impact and the lower forks retain the bell). I would definitely buy a stand made for the saxello but I don't know of one. It would also have to be light, packable, quick to set up and better than what I came up with.
 
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