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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've discovered a problem on my Ref 54 LE. The problem has probably existed since I got the horn, but I recently had it checked over and set up by a tech, and overall the horn is much better for the maintenance.

The horn is relatively new, having been a closet horn since it was new (2004, I think) and used only occasionally since I bought it last year.

I discovered the problem when I changed mouthpieces. (Keep reading before leaping to any obvious conclusions, please. :))

I noticed all along that every now and then D3 won't speak. I have been playing a Barone Jazz 8. I figured it was just me. (I always figure such problems are just me, and I'm usually right.)

Recently I switched to a Jody Jazz ESP 7*.

With the new piece on the Ref, D3 plays okay, but F3 doesn't want to speak at all. The problem is more prominent with the front F key than with the palm keys, but it exists with both key usages. What I hear is something like a very thin E2. A honk, really. It's consistent, and the only way I can make the F speak is to walk up to it from lower notes or drastically change the angle of the mouthpiece and push up on the sax with my hands. Even then, the note is weak.

When I put the Barone back on, I can play the F3, but now I realize that it's not only weak, but sometimes it fails with the Barone.

To put the problem in perspective, I have three other tenors (Mark VI, Super 20, Barone), and none of them exhibit this problem. Which makes me think it's the horn and neither me nor the JJ piece.

BTW, these ABs are with the same reed and ligature, just to keep the number of variables down.

Not using the JJ is not an option. I absolutely love that piece. I'd stop playing the 54 before I'd do that. (BTW, the JJ piece brings out the very best in the Barone sax.)

Is there a small adjustment I can look at on the Ref 54 to correct this problem, or does the horn need to go back to the tech?
 

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I can't solve this problem, but I had a similar experience with the three Ref 54 tenors I've played. The tone was great and most of the notes responded easily, but some of the notes from D3 to F#3 gave me a very hard time and did not want to speak clearly. I figured it was nothing a little adjustment wouldn't fix, but your post makes me wonder . . . .
 

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Take the neck off of one of your other horns and put it on the Ref. If you still have the stuffy F3 then you might have any of these problems or non of these problems.

There are number of fixes. You can slightly file(with a round hobby file) and increase the diameter of the octave pip on the neck. Very slight adjustment is all that is needed, too much and your intonation is screw ball.

You need to make sure your neck tenon fits tight. Tight enough that you don't need the tension screw.

Cork needs to seal on the mouthpiece. Put the mouthpiece on the neck and cover the end of the neck with your palm and hold the octave lever down, suck all the air out and check to see if you get a pop on the reed. If not you've got a potential leak. Usually you can hear the leaks if you reverse this and blow into the mouthpiece and neck with the hands covering the holes.

All else fails you're now the happy owner of a stuffy Ref horn. Welcome to the club man, there are many of us that are members. I fix the problem by hunting down good necks that are more responsive, but I still keep the Ref 54 neck on the 54 and the 36 on the 36....it's the way the horns were meant to be.

Also keep in mind the ref horns are resistant. You think you're having problems with the Ref 54. Trying playing altissimo on a Ref 36. It's work, and it's worth it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
heath said:
Take the neck off of one of your other horns and put it on the Ref.
Cannot do. The Ref's neck tenon is smaller in diameter than those of the other tenors. None of the other necks will go in. And the ref neck rattles around loosely in the other horns, so I cannot test to see if the problem moves with the neck.
heath said:
If you still have the stuffy F3 then you might have any of these problems or non of these problems.
This isn't what I call, "stuffy." I'd almost settle for stuffy. This is a note that won't speak. Sometimes it does when I first pick up the horn. But after a toot or three, it just simply stops working.
heath said:
You need to make sure your neck tenon fits tight. Tight enough that you don't need the tension screw.
It does.
heath said:
Cork needs to seal on the mouthpiece. Put the mouthpiece on the neck and cover the end of the neck with your palm and hold the octave lever down, suck all the air out and check to see if you get a pop on the reed. If not you've got a potential leak. Usually you can hear the leaks if you reverse this and blow into the mouthpiece and neck with the hands covering the holes.
It's tight. No leaks.
heath said:
All else fails you're now the happy owner of a stuffy Ref horn. Welcome to the club man, there are many of us that are members. I fix the problem by hunting down good necks that are more responsive, but I still keep the Ref 54 neck on the 54 and the 36 on the 36....it's the way the horns were meant to be.
It is difficult to believe that any horn was meant to be this hard to blow up there.
heath said:
Also keep in mind the ref horns are resistant. You think you're having problems with the Ref 54. Trying playing altissimo on a Ref 36. It's work, and it's worth it.
Thanks. Is there a particular neck you recommend? I have a Barone that fits my vi loosely, and I could be persuaded to have it reduced to fit the 54 if there's a chance it will fix this problem. The vi can make do nicely with its own neck.
 

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Just some possibilities:

1. Is there any hint of WOBBLE of the mouthpiece on the neck, suggesting that the cork may not seal at the OPEN end of the tenon, even though it does further up the cork. Some saxes seem fussy about air gaps here.

2. Some of the recent Selmers are very fussy about how far the mouthpiece is on the neck, even with no cork showing. Try pushing it on further.

3. For front F, I find that the high F key often opens too far. After all, its function is similar to that of an octave vent. Try playing the F by fingering C, and MANUALLY operating the high F key with a very small opening.
 

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Actually stuffy ref horns aren't that unusual. Some people can't believe this, but as I own both the ref horns and have sat down and blown several 54's and 36's I can assure you they're many stuffy necks on the market.

I've nailed it down to a neck issue. Notice I didn't say neck problem as everyone likes necks that have a certain amount of built in resistance. Some people like a neck that backs up on them when blowing and others like a totally free blowing neck of which the reference isn't known for. Also take note that I'm in the camp of using large traditional chamber mouthpieces. Many people have said they they've never an issue, but then you ask them about their mouthpiece and of course it's a small or medium small chamber piece and it never dawns on them that this is providing the antidote for resistance in the altissimo.

I have one question for you. Does your 54 neck have a guard that keeps the octave lever aligned near the octave pip. It looks like this: http://img.villagephotos.com/p/2003-11/513693/000_0020.JPG

If so it's one of the older Ref 54 necks.

And of course I'm taking it that you've read my neck article: http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=67155
Were I test out several different necks on my Ref 54.

In the end if you want a an easy responding horn that will blow altissimo notes with little effort your choices are two. Either hunt down another Ref 54 neck....not easy since you don't have the matte 54 and you'd have to special order the LE54 neck, or buy a goldbrass III neck from kessler as it will match up with your horns honey gold lacquer better than the yellow brass III neck. The III neck is brighter and faster responding, but you lose the darker sound of the Ref 54 and I feel it neuters the 54's core tone. So I don't use it on the Ref horns.

Basically I had to do what you're doing with my ref 36. I went on a neck hunt and found another 36 neck that improves response, notice though it's still resistant, but to a lesser extant. Those that like easy responding horns should stay away from the 36. 54's are hit and miss, but they are generally easy(easier) to play up high, once you've had the thing slung around your neck for a few years. So slap a decent 54 neck on that 54 and practice only with that horn. Quit switching back and forth between horns as this makes the differences more obvious between your other tenors. Put your VI and Barone tenors in the closet or better yet sell them off it's very liberating, that's the best fix in the long term for mastering those high notes on the 54.

I tell you this though. If you read my neck article you'll notice that I'm not a big fan of after market necks. I think 9/10 times they screw up something on the horn. Selmer actually knew what they were doing when they designed the Ref horns and those ref necks(the good ones anyway) are the best match for the ref horns. I came to the conclusion that these after market necks are a distraction and I sold them on Ebay for cheap. Now I just have my Ref necks and a Series III as a back up neck should I get the itch to experiment with easy altissimo again in the future. Although the III neck will end up on Ebay eventually I'm sure.
 

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heath said:
Actually stuffy ref horns aren't that unusual. Some people can't believe this, but as I own both the ref horns and have sat down and blown several 54's and 36's I can assure you they're many stuffy necks on the market.

I've nailed it down to a neck issue. Notice I didn't say neck problem as everyone likes necks that have a certain amount of built in resistance. Some people like a neck that backs up on them when blowing and others like a totally free blowing neck of which the reference isn't known for. Also take note that I'm in the camp of using large traditional chamber mouthpieces. Many people have said they they've never an issue, but then you ask them about their mouthpiece and of course it's a small or medium small chamber piece and it never dawns on them that this is providing the antidote for resistance in the altissimo.

I have one question for you. Does your 54 neck have a guard that keeps the octave lever aligned near the octave pip. It looks like this: http://img.villagephotos.com/p/2003-11/513693/000_0020.JPG

If so it's one of the older Ref 54 necks.

And of course I'm taking it that you've read my neck article: http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=67155
Were I test out several different necks on my Ref 54.

In the end if you want a an easy responding horn that will blow altissimo notes with little effort your choices are two. Either hunt down another Ref 54 neck....not easy since you don't have the matte 54 and you'd have to special order the LE54 neck, or buy a goldbrass III neck from kessler as it will match up with your horns honey gold lacquer better than the yellow brass III neck. The III neck is brighter and faster responding, but you lose the darker sound of the Ref 54 and I feel it neuters the 54's core tone. So I don't use it on the Ref horns.

Basically I had to do what you're doing with my ref 36. I went on a neck hunt and found another 36 neck that improves response, notice though it's still resistant, but to a lesser extant. Those that like easy responding horns should stay away from the 36. 54's are hit and miss, but they are generally easy(easier) to play up high, once you've had the thing slung around your neck for a few years. So slap a decent 54 neck on that 54 and practice only with that horn. Quit switching back and forth between horns as this makes the differences more obvious between your other tenors. Put your VI and Barone tenors in the closet or better yet sell them off it's very liberating, that's the best fix in the long term for mastering those high notes on the 54.

I tell you this though. If you read my neck article you'll notice that I'm not a big fan of after market necks. I think 9/10 times they screw up something on the horn. Selmer actually knew what they were doing when they designed the Ref horns and those ref necks(the good ones anyway) are the best match for the ref horns. I came to the conclusion that these after market necks are a distraction and I sold them on Ebay for cheap. Now I just have my Ref necks and a Series III as a back up neck should I get the itch to experiment with easy altissimo again in the future. Although the III neck will end up on Ebay eventually I'm sure.
Al, several weeks ago my Serie III was finally ready for pick-up. I found a great used one that was playable when I found it but it did get a complete overhaul. Coming from a Buescher 156 (and occasionally playing a 10M) I had some issues with D3 and up on the Selmer, ok when running a scale but not with intervals and using the front F was almost always a no go.
Tech played it (he's a teacher also) and no problems at all. I started looking at what I felt when these notes did speak and came to the conclusion it was a very small adjustment of the throat. I started playing scales without using the octave key to be more aware of what my throat did (the feeling Phil described in his excersize) and used this feeling with D3 and up. So I stopped blowing my III like it was my Buescher, problem solved, pp to ff no problem anymore.
 

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heath said:
I have one question for you. Does your 54 neck have a guard that keeps the octave lever aligned near the octave pip. It looks like this: http://img.villagephotos.com/p/2003-11/513693/000_0020.JPG

If so it's one of the older Ref 54 necks.

Heath,

I noticed in your pic that the pip opening seems much larger than my stock 54 neck. Has it been altered? If so could you comment on the improvements that increasing it made?

If not, I'm wondering why my pip opening is so small.....

Thanks,
Dwayne
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
This is a lot to think about.

(Heath, the 54 neck does not have the guard.)

I spent some time this morning with the 54 and an array of mouthpieces. The JJ ESP 7*, the Barone Jazz 8, two different Ponzols (ML 110 and M2 105), a Link STM 7*, and a Tenney slant sig 7*. (I need to have a garage sale.)

I used a nice, well-broken-in Rico 2.5 throughout these tests, trying various ones from the reed holder to ensure that it wasn't just a reed not getting along with the Ref 54.

What I learned is this.

First thing in the morning, F3 on the first piece I tried is no problem. That lasts for about 2 minutes. After then, F3 is a challange on all the pieces, some more so than others.

With huge effort I can sound the F3, but I can't just blow one out of nowhere like I can on the other three horns. It's the same thing Grumpie describes. Ok when running a scale, not ok with intervals, particularly when playing C3 to F3.

So, what changes after 2 minutes? Two things. The reed gets wetter and softer, and maybe my chops get tired.

No way it can be my chops. Yeah, right. When in doubt blame something you can fix.

I switched to a La Voz MS and just stayed with the JJ piece, with is where all this trouble started. Much better result with F3. An occasional blip, but not if I am ready for it and well-focused on the note. If that makes any sense. The rest of the horn is less easy blowing than with the 2.5, but I think I can get used to that.

I tried a harder reed (Van Doren 3) with similar results, but the F3 has a tendency to squeak unexpectedly.

So, the advice I received here is sound, and the speculation leads to reasonable conclusions. I need to concentrate on one configuration and stay with it until I get where I want. That's hard to do with two other good playing horns standing neglected in the corner.

But sell my VI? Bite your tongue! (I'm keeping the Barone, too.)

Thanks to all for helping as I make my way through this Middle-earth called the saxophone.
 

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Yeah guys that photo was of another ref 36 neck. Don't open your pip that much please. I'll try to get a photo of my pip up on the forum later today so you can see my most recent 36 neck and the very small adjustment made to it.
 

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Al it's a saxophone neurosis that causes us to use the gear in the ever elusive quest for easy altissimo. A friend of mine is a trumpet player and the one thing I noticed about him is that he uses the same trumpet all the time, the same mouthpiece all the time. If he wants to hit the high notes it's all him and no one else.

The main problem is that the ref 54 was in the closet. If it's hanging around your neck all the problems will be sorted out eventually with the horn and you'll be squared away. Every horn has a tough spot or wall that you hit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Yeah, I've been a trumpet player for over 50 years, and I understand the equipment issue. I have a trumpet, cornet and flugelhorn and use the same size mouthpiece on all three. It's a muscle size thing. You develop muscles in your lips that fit the cup. If you change pieces, your chops don't fit. It is "all him" because "him" is what vibrates.

I played 10 1/2 C for years and switched to 3C a few years back to get a fatter tone at the sacrifice of range, which didn't matter to me. Not a screamer lead player. That was a long and painful adjustment.

Sax is a bit different and far more complex. All the reeds and mouthpieces have approximately the same outer dimensions (assuming metal pieces). Kind of "one size fits all." It's the reed that vibrates and the physical variables are mostly in the equipment assuming the player has the fundamentals nailed.

Adjusting ones self to different sax equipment is a much more complex adjustment than with a trumpet. They both take time, but different things have to change. With a trumpet, a muscle has to be rebuilt and reformed. With sax, a lot more of what has to change is in the player's mind, I think. You change what you do more than what you are.

I've been playing sax only about five years now, and I learn something new every day, and every day is a surprise.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
By the way, depending on the definition of "altissimo," that might not be what I'm after. I don't care to play notes above F3. The altissimo range is not part of the music I play. That's why Adolph invented the alto and soprano. But there are times when I really want that F3 to be there.
 

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Al Stevens said:
Thanks, I needed a good laugh.

.... and here I thought that I worded that safely. I was going to say "I wonder why mine is so little" ... boy that would have started something :)
 

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Al Stevens said:
I learn something new every day, and every day is a surprise.
Yeah, and I HATE surprises. :shock:

:D
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
heath said:
Some photos of the Ref 36 and 54 neck.

The octave pip on the 54 stock never touched: http://img.villagephotos.com/p/2003-11/513693/MMVJQ-100_0551.JPG

The octave pip on the 36: Modified with a little round hobby file. http://img.villagephotos.com/p/2003-11/513693/PSKRO-100_0550.JPG
Interesting. The 54's pip opening looks to be about the same size as on my 54. No surprise there. And the same as on the Barone. But your modified 36's pip opening looks to be about the same size as on my '56 Mark VI and my '60s Super 20.

The 54 gives me trouble in the upper register as discussed here. The Barone is touchy on low C, B, and Bb as discussed elsewhere. But the VI and S20 are okay on both ends.

Absent other variables, a person of logic would draw the obvious conclusion and reach for that hobby file. But I am not a person of logic, saxophones don't obey the rules of logic, and we are never absent other variables.
 

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Al Stevens said:
Absent other variables...
Like common sense and a fear of the irreversible?
Al Stevens said:
... a person of logic would draw the obvious conclusion and reach for that hobby file. But I am not a person of logic, saxophones don't obey the rules of logic, and we are never absent other variables.
"Sir, step away from the hobby file. Just put it down and no one will get hurt."
 
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