Sax on the Web Forum banner
1 - 15 of 15 Posts

·
Distinguished SOTW Member and Champion of the Holt
Joined
·
1,477 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Looking to get a more comprehensive list on Holton Sax playing tendencies. There is much scattered info around concerning how these horns play, both positive and negative--some first hand, other info maybe not. . .
Also and unfortunately, the info seems to be much more contradictory than that of other makes, hence my post.

Looking for first hand info to either confirm or dispel what's been said over the years.

Specifically (and in comparison to other period horns as much as possible):

*Did the horn play in tune? If not, where was/is the problem (low register, upper register)?

*Did the tone tend to be bright or dark? Any other tone info of note?

*How was/is the keywork compared to other contemporary sax makes?

*How was/is construction quality overall?


With this info, also need to know which model you're describing, as well as your general judgement of the horn's state of repair, and your set up.

Mine was unplayable when bought and getting an overhaul currently, so I have no first hand playing knowledge yet.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member and Champion of the Holt
Joined
·
1,477 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Terrific input--just what I'm looking for--keep it coming!
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member and Champion of the Holt
Joined
·
1,477 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
Well, I just got my Holton "Elkhorn" Tenor back from a full overhaul. Some observations--bear with me though, I'm still getting my chops back as a returning player after many years away from sax.

I took the tenor to Les Arbuckle at Saxoasis and am very pleased with the results--thanks Les!!!:)

--The keywork feels light and precise, and the new pads have resonators. It was pretty clunky when I took it in, being an unplayable ebay special when I got it, but Les fixed all that. The springs all feel uniform, and the action is quick, quiet, and smooth.

--The sound, as mentioned in a couple of the previous posts above concerning Holtons, is BIG, warm, and rich. I normally play with a fairly bright tone, but the Holton is not overly bright. Bottom line--I like this horn's sound a lot.

--Construction: This horn seems to me to be built like a tank. Thick and heavily made. In an earlier post, I said I thought it may have had an oversize bell (relying on memory while it was in the shop), but no--the bell is the same size as my King 615.

--As far as comfort, the Holton feels great to me. For reference, my hands are small though. Even with the pearl button G sharp, the pinky cluster works better for me than the King 615 I've been playing. I may put and extender on the palm High F though--it's a bit lower than I'm used to.

Some other thoughts: I kind of wish I'd have kept an eye out for a horn with a high front F. Many of the Holtons of the same age range, and even 10K earlier on the serial number range have the spatula high front F. The ones with the spatula front F also usually seem to have a larger G sharp key on the LH pinky cluster (much like the difference between earlier and later Buescher True Tones). Oh well.

I'm using a new Otto Link HR 6* with the lig that came with it, and I also have a Rico Graftonite A-5 and a Rovner Dark to try. My main thought was to use something with a large chamber.

This tenor is serial number 39XXX, which more realistically works out to about 1928 (remember that published Holton lists are incorrect).
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member and Champion of the Holt
Joined
·
1,477 Posts
Discussion Starter · #21 ·
I'm very impressed with the one Holton (non-Rudy) i own. Estimated age is 1926-27. My feeling is, Holton was like Avis rent-a-car; they had to try harder. They were seriously trying to improve the saxophone in practical ways. Their new keywork and better intonation (mid 1920s on) really worked. They are the only company I have seen that moved the strap ring on their C-melody saxophones to a better position. Their saxes came standard with metal mouthpieces before anyone. So in many ways, they were trying to make a better horn. It would be fun to have a time machine and go back to 1929 to interview professional players about the Holton sax. Those guys may have had a lot of respect for what Frank Holton was doing.
I noted the picture of Charlie Parker playing a Holton in another recent thread about all the different horns he played.;)
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member and Champion of the Holt
Joined
·
1,477 Posts
Discussion Starter · #25 ·
Hi every body,
I am the happy owner of a Rudy Wiedoft soprano estimated late 20's. It is my first soprano, I was expected to buy a Conn or Buescher but a repairer/seller convinced me to try this Holton and I am really not desapointed. I bought it recently, he is in a bad shape (dirty and vey old pads) but relly playable, I will repad it as soon as I havetime for it and as soon as I accept to stop playing it!!

I am not familiar with vintage horns but I can try to give my point of view on this sax :
the construction is very heavy and solid, it is a bit built like a tank but quite easy to play.
The tone is very rich, full of harmonics, really a nice big warm tone.
The silver plated is really perfect my sax has 100% of the plating even after all those years of service.
It has a top F/C key and 2 trill keys, the palm keys are a bit tricky for me (familiar with a yamaha alto)
The pearl key are small for my fingers but I am used to it now.
The G# key is round a too close to the G key for me so my finger slip on it sometimes.

As a conclusion a really love this sax for the sound, I previously had played a Yani S981 and a far prefer the Holton for the sound.

In the future I will for sure consider Holton saxs for my next purchase!!

Hope this help.
Jojosax,
Thanks for the info, and it sounds like you have a great little soprano there. Nice to know we have SOTW folks all the way down in Gabon! I visited there last year (in Port Gentil) and had a great time.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member and Champion of the Holt
Joined
·
1,477 Posts
Discussion Starter · #27 ·
I don't know if you're averse to such things, but it looks to me like there is plenty of room to "acquire" a Front F from some junker and have it expertly modified and affixed. It's not like any new holes have to be drilled, and the repairer could bend the crap out of the key as necessary since it isn't coming off that horn.
I had been thinking about that as well. I wonder if the front F mechanism from an alto or C melody would work on my tenor, since I see many more of those than tenors for sale. Wouldn't the post(s) just need to be soldered on? I'm guessing here, since I'm not sure exactly how Holton affixed the "spatula" front F workings however. Anybody out there with an Elkhorn or Rudy with a front F willing to take a close up picture and post?

BTW Mal 2--what is that sax in your avatar? I saw it on another post earlier and meant to ask then. It looks quite striking.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member and Champion of the Holt
Joined
·
1,477 Posts
Discussion Starter · #30 ·
Years ago we added a frton F to a Conn soprano using parts from a Clarinet A key. For Tenor, an alto or bass clarinet A key may wor. You could remove the key cup, bend or lengthen the arm and use the mounting posts. Epoxy them on so the finish is not altered.
Great idea about the clarinet parts--it would certainly look similar to the Holton spatula key. I'll be on the look out for suitable parts.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member and Champion of the Holt
Joined
·
1,477 Posts
Discussion Starter · #35 ·
Just got my Holton sop back from a repad- the tendency is for it to play really nice!
Blackfrancis,
Did you get resonators put on, or did you stay with non-reso pads? If you added resonators, have you noticed any dramatic change in sound?
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member and Champion of the Holt
Joined
·
1,477 Posts
Discussion Starter · #41 · (Edited)
Looks like a Martin. All the details fit.
It's close, but not quite the same. I compared with some pics of a Martin Handcraft tenor on ebay, as well as info from Cybersax website.

http://www.cybersax.com/QA/Q&A_Stencil_Saxophones.html
http://cgi.ebay.com/Martin-Handcraf...9792448QQihZ005QQcategoryZ16234QQcmdZViewItem

My Holton's soldered tone holes are not beveled. Neck tenon on my Holton tightens from left hand, vice from the right as Martins are said to do. F-F# trill keys are different (Martin is teeter-totter, Holton has lever rotating on perpindicular plane to length of sax.) LH palm keys are different (Martin F3 key curves around E flat tone hole, mine doesn't). RH pinky key spatulas are shaped differently. Bell braces are different too. Mine "Y's" out along width of bell, Martin looks in pictures like it goes up bell.

update: Found a pic of a Handcraft with the non teeter totter trill key (the Brass HC tenor on Saxpics). I couldn't see serial numbers, but the brass tenor looked older than the other (silver) examples. Also with the HCs--some have protruding supports on the bow, some don't. My Holton does not (it is "Conn-like"). Still lots of differences.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member and Champion of the Holt
Joined
·
1,477 Posts
Discussion Starter · #42 ·
As to the front F key: Holtons after approximately #18000 have them, placing this addition to around 1924. They, along with King and Conn, had this feature in the 20s. As Rascher's altissimo fingerings came into use, other companies added this feature in the early 1930s. Holton used the spatula type front F vs. Conn and King who used the pearl finger key. Keilworth and Selmer used this the spatula key off and on to the present. If you are a clarinettist, you realise the advantage of the spatula, as in the middle A key. The side of the finger can reach it quickly, without a direct finger placement on a key, as in the Conn design. Other than that odd low C breather key, which was used only for about five years, all those odd Holton features are very useful. For you concert players, that C to D trill key makes the very last phrase of Wiedoeft's "Saxophobia" relatively easy. Try that very rapid move from G# to mid C to mid D numerous times. It is extremely difficult with any other horn except the Holton. I'll call Frank Holton on the Psychic Hotline for more information.
It must have been optional. Rudy's have the front F, and I've seen many tenors and altos from mid 20XXX serial number range that have it, but my 39XXX does not. Mine doesn't have the extra keys down by RH palm keys either. I saw a 26XXX tenor in NYC yesterday that had all of these. It also had the larger G# on the LH spatula vice the pearl button. An earlier horn, featuring what I would consider more modern and desirable features.

Another couple of variables between this fairly short year range was the LH palm keys, and the octave key thumb actuator.

Some horns have a round tear-drop octave key thumb actuator. Mine however has a ridge on it, with a crescent out of the bottom to match the contour of the thumb rest below. ( I think the teardrop key would be more comfortable).

The LH palm keys on my horn have long skinny "buttons" on the end, and the keys are very low. The 26XXX horn I saw yesterday also had much higher (farther out from sax) levers, with much rounder "buttons" on the end

These changes don't seem to have any rhyme or reason. In every case, I would have preferred the version on the earlier horn I looked at. Don't get me wrong, I still dig my horn, but the random and seemingly regressive changes baffle me.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member and Champion of the Holt
Joined
·
1,477 Posts
Discussion Starter · #43 ·
Well, some updates on my Holton tenor, detailed earlier in this thread.

(quick recap: approx 1928 Holton Elkhorn silver tenor, with gold wash bell, recently given top notch overhaul and set up).

First off, the sax is not as touchy concerning mouthpieces as I would have thought. I haven't tried any screamer pieces like Bergs or Dukoffs yet, but I started out conservatively on a new HR link 6*. It works great. I tried a Rico Graphtonite A5 and Metalite M5 too. I also bought a WWBW labelled Vandoren Blue Java MS (whatever MS works out to). Lastly, I just bought a Metal Link STM 8 from SOTWer Chitownjazz that SOTWer EZ had reworked for him and opened to a .113 tip. (I highly recommend Chitownjazz for any transactions too!)

The HR link worked terrifically, with a lush low end. The Rico Graphtonite was similar, but just not quite as refined--certainly OK given the price though. The WWBW blue piece simply didn't want to work for me--maybe just not my style (?) Stuffy and squeaky. The Metalite made the top end of the horn really come alive, with still a decent bottom end--and LOUD. Lots of fun with that one.

But. . .the refaced STM link brought the horn to life in a way that really startled me. WOW. Power, low end, high end, clarity, super response and a really precise feel. This is the first piece I've ever owned that's been worked on by a refacer, so maybe that has a lot to do with this, but still--WOW.
(all mouthpieces used with Rico Royal 2.5s).

The horn: The low end that this thing gets is very impressive. Lush. Full. Beautiful. Effortless. I'd really like to compare it with a Martin, given comments about Martins. Like I said in an earlier post, this Holton is really heavily built. I compare it often with my other tenor--a King 615. The Holton seems to have a much deeper and more complex sound, if that makes any sense (and I like the King). Downsides: C3, C#3, and the palm keys can play flat. A and B below them can get a little "reedy", but both the Metalite and the STM experience much less of a problem with the flatness. The STM does away with the reediness of high A and B too. Ergos: Old, like the time frame would suggest, but quick and quiet following the pro set up. RH thumb hook is comfortable, and neckstrap hook position is good too. The octave key is a little uncomfortable--I wish it were the teardrop-shaped one many other Holtons have--it is crescent-shaped around the thumb rest, with a horizontal ridge on it as well. The LH pinky key cluster, with pearl G# takes geting used too as well, but I'd bet it works as well as any others of the era. Level of effort is good, just a little awkward angle of the entire cluster, and of course the pearl key requires precision.

I have a lot of fun with this horn. I would really like to see a comparison with other horns of the era--unfortunately, I don't have any others from that time. I (obviously) think this horn is underrated. Fixing up a Holton isn't going to give you any sort of an investment, but against any of the others of the era, I think this could be surprisingly pleasing.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member and Champion of the Holt
Joined
·
1,477 Posts
Discussion Starter · #57 ·
Felix,
I just call it the "Big H" because it is just my big Holton (I'm originally a Clarinet and Alto sax player). I am quite proud of the horn as well. One interesting thing--I was comparing the soldered tone holes (non beveled unlike Martin) to my Conn 10M, and I think the Holton's tone holes have a larger flat surface area than the Conn. If the roll is good for pad longevity (or whatever else) with the Conns, then the Holton should get the same effect and then some.

Anyway, the serial number is: 39448, written in a big arc, with a little Bb centered right above. Nothing about low pitch noted on the sax--just sn and key.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member and Champion of the Holt
Joined
·
1,477 Posts
Discussion Starter · #62 · (Edited)
Holton fans,
I know there are a lot more Holton owners out there reading the board that the handful that regularly post. I would ask that you update this "playing tendencies" thread, per the original post. The good, bad, and ugly is all welcomed--no need for only "rosy" observations. As always, pics are a plus too! :D Let's get to the bottom of the Holton reputation, whether it was deserved or not, and if any particular model may be to blame.

On the flip side, if you're playing a horn found at a garage sale with 80 year old pads and damage, and it sucks, then that is an important caveat too. (that is the case with someone who was thrashing Holton on the board a few years back---several posts about how bad their horn was, then in a later post, an admission about its sorry state of repair.)
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member and Champion of the Holt
Joined
·
1,477 Posts
Discussion Starter · #69 ·
Thanks for the input on the Collegiate Tenor and Rudy Bari, Baltimore B!
 
1 - 15 of 15 Posts
Top