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Discussion Starter #1
Hello SOTW!
This is my first post on this forum, but I've been lurking for some time :)

I have been playing for a year, and am not claiming to know anything (although I hope I've picked up a thing or two). I rented a Jupiter...model (can't remember which, but maybe the 578? 787? Retail price was around 1200€), but returned it since I was about to start a sixmonthtravel (still ongoing, half way through). I play an Otto Link True Tone Rubber 6 (or 9!!) with a medium reed.

I play in a jazz band, at least, we attempt to play. We play things ranging from traditional up to 40's stuff. The band is doing gigs without me, but I will join them in Vilnius in May for a gig, and will therefor need a sax.

I would prefer something vintage since I'm a vintage person: vintage clothes, vintage dance, vintage...music. However, I understand that saxophones have evolved and older is not automatically better.

My main concern is the sound and playability. Looks and age comes second, although I will express my thoughts on those too.
I am looking for a tenor with an in-the-middle-on-the-mellow-scale sound: not too boomy or rocky, but not Mel Tormé creamy.
I might have the opportunity to pick up a PanAm Conn for 290€, serial is 47xxx. How does that sound? Towards the bigger sound if I understand things correctly?
Playability wise: well, the easier the better since I'm not that experienced. How much harder is it to play the old horns? Pinky cluster and such? What is split bell keys? What's a nailfile G#?

I haven't tried a big range of Tenors. I found a very nice one in Singapore, new made, Korean, with a very nice action and pinky cluster, in that coppery finish. Didn't have the money, 1000€.

I am travelling through Europe atm, and will have the opportunity to try horns, just need to know where. The travel plan is: Köln (where I am atm), Prague, Munich, Vienna, London, Vilnius (more stops after that but I plan to have a sax by then:))

Budget wise: preferrably under 400€, but could stretch it to 500€. I'm in Europe, so I'd be happier to spend less money on freight, buying the horn here, rather than from overseas.

Looks! I like an old look. Anything is better than gold laquer: silver/nickle, that copper look is nice. Oh, not a blue/red/red/flowers one.

In short: looking for a sax, preferrably vintage, with a mellow sound. Tell me what to get, or rather, what NOT to get! Up to 400€+

What did I forget?
 

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Forum Contributor 2010-2016
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Wow, what a lot of questions. I'll have a go at answering the one that I feel most competent about (or at least have the strongest conviction).

Mellow sounding tenor. My view is that in 40 years of playing I've never experienced "mellowness" in the horn itself. There have been a few attempts on SOTW to put percentages on the contribution of the various components to the overall sound. I hold the view that the biggest contributor which, to some extent you're stuck with, is your own mouth/teeth/jaw. The next biggest thing is the mouthpiece/reed and here you get the biggest variability: small changes in the structure give large changes in sound. Then comes the neck, but you can spend a lot of money here for no discernible difference to the sound. Last comes the body where the important things have to do with the comfort and playability although horns differ in their internal geometry and this can affect timbre.

I'm glad to hear you're playing in a band - it's the best incentive for improvement that there is.

As for getting what you want at the price you're prepared to pay, well there are some great bargains to be had and there are some shocking rip offs. It's entirely possible that you'll find your dream sax first off - it happens. But it's more likely you'll start down the path of finding bits of what you like in a number of horns that pass through your hands.

I should be able to find a used horn that plays in tune and that is in reasonable mechanical condition for the price you mention. Once you have that, you can make a hell of a lot of progress toward the sound you want by practice, listening and mouthpiece/reed selection. I should add that I'm not advocating wide experimentation with mouthpieces yet.. That can be a slippery slope. Keep playing and playing that Link until you're convinced that it's holding you back. Then borrow some other pieces to try.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2016
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Well, just to confuse you more, I will come in with the opposite view. Folks say that contribution to the tone is primarily from mouthpiece/reed and player. I say that's very misleading. I say (respectfully) that Pat has misnumbered his list.

Horns have different designs, different specifications. Different body tube designs, different bow radii, different tapers, different tonehole diameters, different neck profiles...need I go on ?

So, different horns sound...different. Some are bright, some are dark, some are edgy, some are smooth, some are raspy, some are mellow.....need I go on ?

And no matter what player plays 'em, no matter what mouthpiece setup they use...their design is gonna contribute to that sound type. Period.

Not a wee-bit. Rather, a hecka, hecka lot.
There are no end-arounds. Some things cannot be conquered by we humans.

You ain't gonna make no Keilwerth bright...and you ain't gonna make no YAS 23 dark.
You ain't gonna mellow out a Super 20. And you ain't gonna give no Cannonball a 10M-esque wide bottom spread.
Whatever you do, whoever you are, you ain't gonna take the nice edgy 'bite' out of the Martin sound...nor are you gonna give a Yani a Buescher-esque combo of lushness and oomph.

Period.

You may be able to move the sound a little this way or that, but a player and mouthpiece cannot make an orange an apple.
Nor can they make a princess out of a pig, regardless of the lipstick they slather on.

So with that said....a Conn PanAm ain't a bad choice at all for the sorta sound you describe. Matter of fact, it's a pretty good choice. Matter of fact...if it plays up and down and is in good shape...and you like it...I would be inclined to suggest you just end all of this NOW, & grab it. Those are good, solid players with a nice old-skool Tenor tone.

If what you wanna do is take some more time to try more horns..I'd imagine our European pals will be by shortly to suggest music stores to you. You have a fairly limited budget and I don't know what sorta vintage horn you can get in EU for that sorta price....but if there are any, I would suggest some nice European makes such as Vito/Beaugnier, R. Malerne and his stencils, old Orsi, Grassi or R&C's (or their stencils), and the Keilwerth/D&J stencils.... things such as that. I would imagine one can practically trip over these in EU (?)

The older Italian horns have very, very sweet tones...almost lyrical. The Keilwerth designed horns are massive and smoky in the low overtones. The old French ones have a tad more pop to them but are still nice and round in the midrange.

(It's really no 'harder' to play a vintage horn than a, um....'modern' one (and I use that word with more than a bit of sarcasm). Takes a couple of weeks to get any horn under your fingers...then once you do...the train's gonna leave the station.

Very few vintage horns have a keywork design which is so...archaic...that they actually handicap a player. Just like not all...'modern'...horns with what appears to be, um...'modern'...keywork design...actually feel good or right).
 

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Welcome to SOTW, your one stop shop for completely different viewpoints! :lol:

Here's a video that's been posted here before. Watch and listen carefully from about 5:00.

 

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Now, I know you’ve had seemingly contradictory advice in the first two posts, dontcha just love Internet advice? To add to the confusion, I’m gonna give two stories that actually even seem to contradict each other.

First, I’m going to agree with Pat

I have a 10 year old Chinese horn. My teacher has a pro Yani. I play a metal Berg Larsen, he plays a Metal Otto Link.

One day we decided to experiment. We each tried all combinations of horn/mouthpiece to see the difference. The horn made no appreciable difference. The Yani had better ergonomics and was easier to play, but as for sound, I sounded identical on either, Jez little different. Second, the mouthpiece did make a small difference, I did sound different on the Link, the difference was more pronounced with Jez, the Link had more ‘sound’, the Berg more ‘edge’. Interestingly I found his Link easier to play than my Berg, which surprised me.

So, score one to Pat.

Then, just to confuse matters, I’m going to agree with Jaye
When I started, I used a Runyon 22 mouthpiece. I found it quite perfect as a beginner’s mouthpiece, allowing me to sound the entire range of the horn in reasonable tune. i.e. it didn’t really hold me back as a beginner. But as I progressed, I just felt the sound was a little bland. It didn’t have the edge that I really wanted. I felt I had reached the stage where it was holding me back. So, I bought the Berg Larsen (well, actually my teacher told me to get one based on previous conversations).

So, I put it on and blew with an eager sense of anticipation...and was immediately disappointed when a bland sound came out, pretty much identical to the Runyon. I actually phoned my teacher and told him that I sounded no different, but he told me to persevere and the changes would come.
And you know what, he was right. Over the next few months, my playing developed at an increased pace. Not just the technicalities, but the sound developed too, becoming something that was much more recognisable as my own sound (not saying it’s any good, just that it is recognisable as ‘mine’).

So, conclusions?

Well I think there’s a few. First, I agree with Pat, I think the person is probably the most important contributor to the sound. It’s not something you ‘seek’, but it is something that will develop quite naturally over time. Second I agree with Jaye, I think the equipment you choose will allow you to develop that sound, whatever it may be. It’s going to be difficult to fight the equipment, so choose it to compliment you.
 

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Welcome to SOTW, your one stop shop for completely different viewpoints! :lol:

Here's a video that's been posted here before. Watch and listen carefully from about 5:00.

That was interesting. I have caught myself puffing my cheeks out and tried to stop it. Now I'm just going to do what feels natural. It's the same with the trumpet. Most teachers will tell you never to puff your cheeks out on the trumpet but some of the great players did it. I guess this just proves that teachers can be dead wrong.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for the welcome!
I should add that I'm not advocating wide experimentation with mouthpieces yet.. That can be a slippery slope. Keep playing and playing that Link until you're convinced that it's holding you back. Then borrow some other pieces to try.
I will, I know I'm the weakest link. I don't know how big the placebo effect was part of it, but I felt a difference switching from the Jupiter MPC that came with the sax to the Otto Link I bought from a friend. But I like it, and will stay with it.

As stated earlier, I'm in Cologne. Today I went to 2 horn shops. At the first, they had a Keilwerth for 650€. I tried it with my OL MPC: I couldn't get a proper tone! I haven't played for 2 months, but nothing worked! I'm glad I was alone in the test room. After a while, I could play it a little, but it jumped all over the place, and needed alot of air. I went to the next shop.
He had many saxes and clarinets, quite the original fellow. I tried a Selmer Bundy in really bad shape, I could only play it from D (palm key) down to A, the G pad was cracked. But! I really liked the sound from those few tones :) I'll keep Bundy in mind :)
Then he had a Roy...Ogson? Benson! for 450€. Didn't like it, felt flimsy, and the tone was honky. I also tried a Weltklang, from the 60s i think. Good, but not great. The search goes on :)

So with that said....a Conn PanAm ain't a bad choice at all for the sorta sound you describe. Matter of fact, it's a pretty good choice. Matter of fact...if it plays up and down and is in good shape...and you like it...I would be inclined to suggest you just end all of this NOW, & grab it. Those are good, solid players with a nice old-skool Tenor tone.
My caveat is that I will not be able to play it before the gig in May. Well a few days before, but if I could choose I'd rather pick up a horn whilst travelling. Sorry for not stating this, the PanAm was on a Swedish (where I'm from) auction site. Although, I could buy it, and have it shipped to London or such. Hm...

That video was really great. I don't know many (living) players, I listen to old jazz, but I can tell when someone is good. Don Menza is :)
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Ok, for all you interested :)

I've been looking all over Prague, here's the results:

Many Keilwert's and Amatis. No real surprise I gess. I've tried about 5 Amati's, didn't like any of them. They weren't bad, per se, but we didn't hit it off. I'm faaaar from experienced, but all (not only Amatis) needed more or less techlove.
I have serial numbers/info/prices written down if anyone should be interested.

I found one tenor that I really liked. A Tone King, serial 19XXX. Marked JKG, the best in the world. Rolled toneholes, nickle (I think) plating, nice patina. It had two types of pads, 1 red type I haven't seen, and the "normal" brown (I know the color isn't the only difference :) ) But pads seemed ok. I really liked the sound, mellow and soft. I couldn't get a good sound in the top register, the LH palm keys. Might be me of course. Price was €300. I am going to London soon, and could get it looked at there.

Ball park figure for a check up, replace a few pads, trim the action and such and such?
 

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Most teachers will tell you never to puff your cheeks out on the trumpet but some of the great players did it. I guess this just proves that teachers can be dead wrong.
No. It tells you that once you've learned to play your instrument as well as those great players, you can find your own way to play the horn.
 

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Ball park figure for a check up, replace a few pads, trim the action and such and such?
dont know what the prices are in England, but in Holland it`s the same price as the sax, but it will be completely disassembled and everything checked out and replace bad pads, (mini overhaul) and 600 euro`s for a Complete overhaul -> (everything replaced ant disassembled i.e. filt, cork, pads everything.)
 
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