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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
*recording shootout* what to keep, what to sell? Martin, Jupiter, Vito altos

I'm new to the saxophone (pretty much exactly one year) but I've been a musician for many years (mainly guitar) and know my theory, scales, etc. I messed around on flute for maybe a year before getting the sax, so I got a feel for the fingerings.

I did a lot of research before getting my first sax, and decided on a Vito YAS-23, made in Japan, because they were apparently made by Yamaha and have a good reputation but are inexpensive. I don't remember exactly what I paid but it was no more than $200. The neck needs re-corking, but otherwise it plays and sounds very well. It's dented on the bottom but otherwise in good cosmetic shape.

Then this fall I spotted a Jupiter JAS 769 on craigslist in great shape for virtually nothing ($20) and jumped on it. I've been playing that since.

And this past week I saw a Great American Gretsch straight c-soprano in working condition for $100 (plus 20 for delivery to my house by the seller) and thought that would be a fun birthday present for myself :). But then I saw the seller also had a working Martin Indiana alto for sale, and asked how much it would be for both. The difference was only $70. Hard to say no to that. The Martin could also use a re-corking (I have the necessary supplies and have found instructional videos... I just have to work up the nerve) and I was told the low Bb doesn't seal well... I found the Bb a bit harder to play well but not too bad. I rubbed a little mink oil on that pad with a Q-tip and it seems to be fine now. It's the model the guy on this page calls a "phase 3b" or "deluxe": http://www.themartinstory.net/version7/models-indiana.php

So now I've got three altos, and really only need one. I like how all of them play, and sound. I've been playing each one, trying to decide, and I'm really not sure. I'm kind of leaning toward the Martin (to keep) but then I'll pick up one of the others and the differences are so subtle. When I first got the Jupiter I thought it sounded clearly better than the Vito, but now that I pick up the Vito again I'm not so sure. Which also makes me think the reason I like the Martin best at the moment is because it's new (to me).

If I actually like them equally, maybe I should sell the one/ones that would fetch the most money? I really don't know what any of these are really worth. Would one of these be less expensive to repair if I need it down the road? Or less likely to need it? Are there factors to consider that I'm missing?

(off topic) The C-soprano is apparently a Martin stencil. It has beveled tone holes, which are chamfered at the ends, not straight like Coutourier made (they also sometimes used beveled tone holes, and made some Gretsch stencils). It came with a Lakey mouthpiece, which seems to be meant for Bb soprano... pushed all the way on it's about 50 cents flat, so I shortened it and now it plays in tune.
 

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Those horns are all so relatively inexpensive you may as well just keep all of them! Maybe paint the worst one orange and hang it on your wall for decoration or something.
 

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Well...first thing I would like to say is....perhaps you are the luckiest person alive and every instrument transaction you touch turns to gold.

But it's not all that likely.

Sssssooooooooo....I would strongly suggest you get all THREE horns (four, actually) to a professional tech and have them assessed. You may be able to make them play, but given you are new to the sax....there's a likelihood that they do not truly play well or correctly. I do not mean to be a wet blanket here, I am just giving you my honest opinion. When I rec'd the first used horn I ever purchased....after a couple hours I got it to play up and down for the most part (and as the seller had told me it played well, who was I to argue ?)...but upon a tech visit actually learned it was leaking all over the place and needed $400-1000 of work. At the time I thought the techs were snowing me...but now, 15 years later and a repairer/refurbisher myself....I know that they were being honest.
I could manage to play that horn, but it was far, far from respectable 'playing shape'.

Just saying.

Perhaps you truly have scored and spent a total of only $500 on Four completely well-serviced, in good-tack, reputable saxophones...I suppose it isn't impossible. It's just not all that likely.

After the assessments....which will be free, and which should include some repair estimates...start weighing which one you prefer to keep based upon how much you like them (as best as you can ascertain) vs. what the servicing costs will be on each one.

The 23 and the Jupe are at about equal footing as far as models go. Many people would not concur with this as 23's have attained a sort of 'budget Grail' status...but truth is, if the Jupe was made after '99....it's as good a horn as the YAS 21 or 23.

The Indiana is a classic second-shelf vintage sax. You have to weigh the tone (if it can produce one nicely) with the difference in the feel of the vintage keywork. Most folks who go vintage feel that getting older-style keywork under the fingers is well worth the result of having a horn which simply sounds MUCH better, and is built much better. But these are individual decisions.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Those horns are all so relatively inexpensive you may as well just keep all of them! Maybe paint the worst one orange and hang it on your wall for decoration or something.
They take up space, and my wife is not too happy about me accumulating stuff. Even if the sax were on the wall, the case would have to be somewhere.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the response, Jaye. Sounds like a good way to go. Makes me wonder what it's like to play on a well-serviced instrument. These all seem to play well to me, as far as I can tell, but I'm a novice.

Other than the left hand pinky keys, I don't seem to notice a lot of difference in the keywork on the Martin. I think I could get used to it pretty easily, which probably has to do with that I haven't been playing long enough to be all that used to the others.
 

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They take up space, and my wife is not too happy about me accumulating stuff. Even if the sax were on the wall, the case would have to be somewhere.
I feel your pain. I could have a lot of fun shopping pawn shops and yard sales but the wife would start complaining about the clutter. Sigh. It would be fun to set up a little shop in the garage and learn how to bring old neglected instruments back to life but something else would have to go.
 

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Thanks for the response, Jaye. Sounds like a good way to go. Makes me wonder what it's like to play on a well-serviced instrument. These all seem to play well to me, as far as I can tell, but I'm a novice.

Other than the left hand pinky keys, I don't seem to notice a lot of difference in the keywork on the Martin. I think I could get used to it pretty easily, which probably has to do with that I haven't been playing long enough to be all that used to the others.
Thanks for taking my reply the right way.

As noted by others, you have four good model horns there. And personally I agree with you...the whole "vintage vs. modern" keywork thing is way, way, way overblown and often misused by sellers of contemporary horns.

I have played plenty of "modern keywork" horns which were far from ergonomically satisfying. Likewise, there is great variability in vintage horns as well....but some older models have quite well-placed and responsive keywork....

I'd be interested to find out what a tech's eyes might show. Also, I forgot to add before...and since you are new to the sax world:

DON'T just go in to a repair shop and ask "what does it NEED ?" Because that is sorta like an Antelope walking up to a Lioness and asking "are you hungry, perchance ?"

Approach the tech along the lines of "I acquired these horns and I'd like to know how much it would cost to bring each into respectable playing shape - not good-as-new, but just a condition where I can get them to perform respectably".

Start there. Best of luck.
 

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If I had to make a quick guess, I would say keep the Jupiter. It’s a good horn as Jay says and it has a high F# which none of the other Horn’s have. You might not care about that now but it can come in handy in the future.

Another thing you can do is record a song on each Horn and then listen back.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
My first instinct after getting the Martin was to sell the Vito. I think that's what I'll do. And keep the other two for a while and make a decision later on. I can live with two altos, but I can't justify three.

Good point on the high F# key, soybean. I wouldn't have thought of that. I've messed around with altissimo once or twice but it didn't stick. I've got to relearn where the high F# key is!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
In some ways this forum is kind of like Saxophonists Anonymous. :) In the guitar forums, they call it "GAS" (gear acquisition syndrome). I've also got two tenors, which are both pretty good, but aren't as good quality as these altos, IMO, but they might just need a set-up. They're a Buescher Elkhart and a Czech Amati Classic stencil. I don't need two tenors.

What I'd like, ideally, is one nice example of each: soprano, alto, tenor, baritone.
 

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Without verifying by actual performance, I'd expect the Vito YAS-23 to be the keeper, all else being equal. And, I'd like to have that C-soprano for 100 bucks if its complete, and not bent. Weren't the Martins the better ones?
 

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Sell them all - upgrade.

Rinse. Repeat.

Play.

Tinker

Buy

Sell

In a few years you’ll be playing your dream horn.
... and it will be a tenor.

Just one horn to rule them all.

Enjoy the path!
 

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I'm sitting at my computer right now in my "man cave." Above my screen on the shelf are three alto cases. There is another alto on a stand in the living room. I rarely play alto, although I did for several months last year. I know that I should sell at least one, but which one? Unlike the OP's dilemma, mine are in good shape and I can do an apples to apples comparison. Still, that doesn't settle the matter.

For instance, my Kohlert is a blast to play. But last year, I played in a combo next to a tenor and we had to decide after tuning up and getting re-acquainted with the Kohlert's "flexible intonation" that I would tune to the tenor. Especially on half and whole notes, I would adjust to the pitch of the tenor. For a solo, I could cut loose, and that's the Kohlert's forte. That's why I took the Kohlert. But I finally decided after a couple of sessions to take my old Conn and ended up switching rolls with the tenor. Because of the Conn's solid intonation, we decided that the tenor would tune to me. And for solos I now had the sedate (in comparison) sound of the Conn. After 13 years, I'm thinking of selling the Kohlert for the first time.

But how do you make that choice between saxes that aren't put in top shape and haven't been played in the real world? I'm not sure. Likely it will be one of many situations where you will think "I wish I still had that old XXX. I never should have sold it."

I don't know anything about Jupiter, having never owned one, played one, or maybe even seen one. For that reason, and it isn't a reasoned reason, I probably let that one go first. Depending on what it fetches, it may be enough to get one of the other two altos in great condition. Both the Martin and the Yamaha have definitely depreciated as much as they can. The Vito/Yamaha has a solid reputation as an all around horn with solid intonation. The Martin Indiana, like the Yamaha, has a reputation as a student horn, but there are occasional posts by players who are thrilled by the power and intonation of the Indiana. You don't often see emotional gushing about a YAS 23, in fact, I'm not sure I've ever seen that. Maybe this post will bring out the YAS 23 fanatics.

If I could only have one car, would it be a daily commuter Yamaha or a (probably finicky) Martin sports car, neither of which are now in top shape? It would probably depend on if I needed to get to work on time. Since I don't, I'd probably go with the Martin. That would be a choice not based on any levelheaded analysis; simply on a hunch. And that is how the OP needs to decide, although his decision may be different.

Mark
 

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Discussion Starter #19
So... I did a little recording on each one, about a minute and a half per sax.
I hope I haven't embarrassed myself too much with these... bear in mind I've only been playing sax for a year and don't get to practice as often as I'd like. I tried to do as close to the same kind of thing each time, and used the same mouthpiece, same microphone (Electrovoice RE20 pointed into the bell from about a foot away). All of them sound very different recorded from how they sound to my ears, which may be due to a) poor mic placement (I haven't recorded sax before and took my best guess); b) the same psychological effect that makes your own voice sound weird to you recorded; or c) something else.

I'll need some time away from it before I can evaluate the recorded tone, but I did feel like there was a clear winner while playing, both in the feel of the instrument and the tone. I haven't given the recordings a solid listening yet but sampling from them didn't hear any radical difference. Maybe that assessment will change. I don't know.

Here they are, if anyone wants to do a "shootout" and can stand listening to my playing. The files are labeled horn1, horn2 and horn3. I'll reveal later which is which.

http://www.ubertar.com/horn1.wav
http://www.ubertar.com/horn2.wav
http://www.ubertar.com/horn3.wav
 
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