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Hi All,
I’m only new to this forum so probably going to get a baptism of fire.
I’ve been playing for a little over 6 months with one hour of tuition per week and an average of 6 to 8 hours practice per week on my own. I’ve just turned 50 so am somewhat of a late starter (something I’ve always wanted to do).
My teacher is awesome and I’m moving alone at a good pace of learning and am actually quite proud of myself for having achieved what I have so far.
I purchased a Yamaha YAS 26 brand new when I started and now feel I would like to move it up a notch to next level. I’m tending towards jazz and blues rifts and am enjoying it a lot.
My question is, I’ve been looking at a brand new Selmer Reference 54 alto as my next step. I know it’s jumping straight to one of the top models but would rather drop the coin on a forever than step up gradually. I haven’t played a 54 (or even seen one) as there are currently none for sale where I live. I have a reasonable quote for one online so am ready to make the commitment. Can anyone see any issues is playing such a professional horn at such an early stage in my learning ? (Apart form the sac religious of a total beginner on a quality instrument). Would this model be harder to play than the current Yamaha I have ? (I will be trading/selling as I don’t want to have two altos )
Thanks for any advise
Kind Regards,
Greg
 

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A friend of mine who started playing at age 60 bought a new Yamaha Custom for a bit over $3,000 after playing only about 18 months. It inspired him, and he's been playing it every day for 15 years.

Most members will advise buying a used horn in as-new or excellent condition, saving 30% or more of the cost. That would have been my advice to him, had he asked. Seems you're a bit impulsive, as he is.

I have no ideas why you want that particular horn, since you have not played one. Play some professional level saxophones that are available near you, wherever you live. And, in the interim while shopping, buy one or two good lightly used professional mouthpieces at around $100 apiece (Meyer, Link, Selmer, Vandoren, etc.). Your Yamaha is a good alto, and it should respond well to whatever you find.
 

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There is absolutely no harm in buying a top quality instrument as a beginner. The value of the "step-up" instrument, compared to a new Yamaha student horn in good condition, is probably near zero.

Frankly I suspect that your Yamaha has settled in and needs a follow-up adjustment and you'll find it plays better than before.

A "professional" instrument will not be harder to play than what you have now. You'll find the mechanism is somewhat slicker and more refined. The sound quality may be a bit richer.

If you think about the world of saxophones circa 1930, for example, there weren't "student" or "step-up" instruments, not really. You went to the music store and they had a Conn saxophone. If you bought it, it was the same model Chu Berry or Lester Young was playing, only maybe plain brass rather than gold plated.

If, like most of us, you need to prioritize your spending, I would recommend a good adjustment on the Yamaha, then purchase of a good quality mouthpiece (there's no need for this to exceed $200), and then see what you think. I would not bother with a "step-up" - if it's an off-brand it probably won't be as good as what you have, only with a fancier finish; if it's a Yamaha or equivalent it'll probably be exactly the same as what you have only with a fancier finish.
 

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There is a lot of wisdom in turfs post. There is absolutely no reason to think you shouldn't get a top horn, and no reason to think it might be harder to play, but if you are considering spending new selmer money do yourself the favor of seeing and playing some of the many other horns that are out there, especially if you have no direct experience of the horn you are looking at buying sight unseen. You may well come back to the Selmer, but why rule out the other "big four" options or the many vintage and different brand options.

If you have a large budget to indulge your new hobby go somewhere where you can play a number of different horns and see what floats your boat. Sounds like you are a progressing player, so you should be able to make some judgments for yourself about the characteristics of different horns and how you feel playing them.

Is there such a thing as a forever horn? Lots of top horns for sale on the used market would tend to suggest that many players are still looking for theirs;)
 

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I’ve been playing for a little over 6 months....


I purchased a Yamaha YAS 26 brand new when I started and now feel I would like to move it up a notch to next level.
You purchased a good student horn and have been playing for only 6 months. What, by your definition, does 'moving up a notch' mean ? Where is the 26, in your opinion, 'holding you back' ? What are the parameters, as a player, you are using to come up with this conclusion ?

As others have gleaned, there is no necessity to leave your 26 at this point. That horn will serve you well thru the first 5 years of playing. And as already noted, you can do a lot with mouthpiece setups to massage the 26 in various sonic directions (once you have enough experience under your belt to have an idea what sonic directions you wish to pursue).

I’ve been looking at a brand new Selmer Reference 54 alto as my next step.

I haven’t played a 54 (or even seen one) as there are currently none for sale where I live.
OK, so...as others have also mentioned, it simply sounds like you want to buy a professional horn, now, and have the money to do so. And you have scoped out this top-line French Selmer...which, if one uses a certain line of reasoning - "Selmer, France is the 'best' brand - and the 54 is their top line current-production model...ergo, a 54 is the best saxophone made" - would lead to a conclusion that this is the top-notch horn out there.
And you want it. And you can afford it.

So...you are asking us if there would be any negatives (?)

No. It will do no harm to you as a player.

But let's rewind it a bit, as other replies have motioned toward.

1) The 26 is fine for years to come

2) You are preparing to blow loads of $ on an Alto sax...unseen, untested, and possessing beginning-player abilities (albeit your progress has been good).

3) You have not considered or playtested any other professional models (or 'intermediate' for that)....and there are a lot out there: Keilwerth, Yamaha, Yanagisawa, Buffet, Cannonball, Mauriat, and various boutique brands just off the top of my head....

Most players with more experience might say if you proceeded with the 54.... this would not be a particularly 'informed' purchase. Many might also say it would be better to hone your playing skills a bit more so you can begin to develop and ability to identify and distinguish the intrinsic qualities of various models of sax (particularly if we are talking top-shelf, expensive horns). This, BTW, would likely include actually playtesting various models of sax (even if you are planning on buying online) and being able to take them thru their paces.

Some might also point out that sometimes, the one-rung down model of a mfr's line ends up being the horn the player prefers. I know a few folks who, for example, having played Yani 8XX's vs. 9XX's, preferred the 8XX.

All of the above would be sound advice.
 

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Use your money for twice a week lessons. I can afford anything I want and I have a used 82Z I got for 1800. But since I jones to get better I study with two guys on sax and a lady on flute.( every week)

I think of a different analogy when posed this question. I can buy you a used junker or a brand new car to drive when you are 9 years old. You still need to learn how to drive and it will be years before you know the difference. Make the upgrade decision in a year. I'd be much more interested in a mouthpiece upgrade than a sax upgrade in the first two years of your playing. That will make much more of a difference but you need to have developed your air and embouchure first. K
 

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Yes I make mouthpieces but putting that aside its a boatload less expensive to try a couple of good quality pieces. I dont think a new player should get on the mouthpiece changing merry go round but you will likely notice a bigger difference in a good mouthpiece that leans towards the sound you want (of course depending on what you currently play) than a student mouthpiece on a multi thousand dollar horn. I know a number of really excellent gigging players who spent years on an intermediate horn with a good mpc.

...but practice rules all.
 

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Buying a new horn is like buying a new car. You will loose money immediately on the purchase. A used mint condition ref 54 alto can be found for $3500-4000. People buy new because they like new stuff. That is your business. Like everyone said here you can progress just fine on your current horn. Yes there are other really good altos out there. I have bunches of them and sold bunches. I prefer vintage, but I have a ref 54. In my opinion it is the best alto made period.
 

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I have a beautiful 54 that I'm not using, since I switched to VI. If you ever happen to pass by in Holland, you can try it out! :)
 

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As many have already said, a used horn can save you some money.

But if you can afford it, and you want it, my vote is to go for it as you only live once. There is no playing issue that could harm a player to going to an advanced horn.

I do however recommend that you include your teacher in the decision just because there are a lot of fakes out there and hopefully he can help avoid you from getting one of them.
 

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I can't see any practical reason a new player would need to "step up" from a YAS-26. Those are good horns! Assuming it's in good working order, it's doubtful that it would be holding you back in any particular way.

As for just *wanting* a nice new Selmer, well, I think we can all relate. SOTW is filled with discussions of "GAS" (or gear acquisition syndrome) in which the player becomes convinced that some piece of equipment, a new mouthpiece or a new horn, will suddenly take their playing to a new level. I dare say most of us indulge in the occasional GAS attack, even though we all know that the only thing that makes you better is practice, and in particular practicing the things you do NOT do well.

And, as others have said, if you DO decide you MUST get a new horn, it's a lot better in most cases to buy used.

But, all that said, it's your money, you earned it, you do what you want with it.
 

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Greg: Welcome to SOTW. I agree with all the posts. But I get it, too. I bought a new Ref 54 alto years ago, not too long after they hit the market. My adult daughter has it now. It is a fine saxophone and she loves it. I did too, but I have too many good ones already.

If that's what you can afford and if you enjoy fine things (cars, watches, guns, whatever), there is a certain pride of ownership that comes from such a purchase.

When I was doing my search for a Ref 54, I played several of them and concluded that those Ref 54's require some dealer-prep before they play well. Once they are properly set up, I found they had a rare consistency in tone that other brands didn't. Oh, those differences are subtle, but for me, they were obvious.

I for one support your desire for a new Ref 54. Yes, a used one will be cheaper, or sticking with your Yamaha will work, etc., etc. But wow, those Ref54's are gorgeous. DAVE
 

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I may be going out on a limb here, but say (god forbid) that all your gear was stolen out of your car, and you had a gig to play three days from now, is it just me that would hurriedly track down another similar MOUTHPIECE to the one that went missing, and be happy to play the gig on any decent functioning horn I could beg borrow or steal in the time available?

I guess my point for the OP is that a nice horn is great to have, but for me its really just a mechanical amplifier for what is coming from the pointy end of the thing. When you find a mouthpiece that you are sympatico with, everything else gets so much easier. A good horn can of course fix some intonation issues, and resolve some clunkly mechanism foibles and ergonomic discomforts, but the core of the sound and the subtleties of playing music for me stem from the mouthpiece that trial and error has brought me to.

Ive not been in this situation but I suspect I would much rather play a gig using a good condition yamaha student horn with my mouthpiece than having to use a Yamaha 4C or Meyer 6m on my "forever" pro german horn, so maybe the focus here should be on seeking a mouthpiece that sings to you (unless you are lucky to have already found that) rather than a mailorder horn after all.
 

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Ordinarily, I'd say that six months is far too soon to move away from a very good student saxophone. But adults can do what they like with their money. I agree that fancy saxophones are very pleasant objects to own, as well as to play. BUT I think that you shouldn't buy a pro horn, especially a brand new one, until you are experienced enough to know which horns you are likely to prefer, and why, and how to test them adequately if you can find them available to play. Choosing a new sax purely on the basis of brand, model name, and/or external aesthetics seems imprudent, even when one can afford it.

Buy a new voice when you're closer to figuring out how your voice should sound and feel. That's my suggestion.
 

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In my opinion it is a waste of time and money for someone to spend the big bucks on "the ultimate" horn before you are skilled and experienced enough to know just what the "ultimate" is for you. At this stage, you really have no idea what your personal sound is going to be, what does and does not limit you equipment wise, what your priorities are with a professional horn etc.

I'd stick with what you have, which will carry you far, and keep woodshedding.
 

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I have a beautiful 54 that I'm not using, since I switched to VI. If you ever happen to pass by in Holland, you can try it out! :)
How much is a new 54 ?

How much is a plane ticket to Holland ?

:bluewink:

But seriously, as LostConn and Saxismyaxe stated far less verbosely than myself, it isn't just a matter of the model horn, it is a matter of the player having acquired the personal musical tools/abilities to discern the differences between top-shelf pro models, an thus make an informed decision.
 

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If you buy what you want, you'll be more likely to spend more time using it -- so just go for what you want. If you discover something else you like better later, buy that and sell the old one. Most of the players I've known have done exactly that, I cycled through a bunch of horns before winding up with the ones I have now. A pro horn won't be harder to play. New horns are (usually) way prettier than old ones.

The first new instrument purchase I ever made was a brand new Martin D-35 guitar in 1975. Martin guitars are da bomb, even more so then than now -- I don't have it anymore, currently Taylors and a James Goodall. I was toting it around high school one day when my Spanish teacher asked, "What makes YOU rate a Martin?" I said, "$705." They cost a lot more now. So I wouldn't let any misapprehension like that hold you back from what you want.
 

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As many have already said, a used horn can save you some money.

But if you can afford it, and you want it, my vote is to go for it as you only live once. There is no playing issue that could harm a player to going to an advanced horn.

I do however recommend that you include your teacher in the decision just because there are a lot of fakes out there and hopefully he can help avoid you from getting one of them.
This is the best answer right here ..... get the horn you want and have fun!
 

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I read the thread but I don't see where it says why the OP settled on the Ref 54. WWBW wants almost 7 grand for one.
Even excluding all the arguments for used classics (Super 20, mark 6, etc), aren't there a lot of new modern horns to choose from with this budget?
I see one line of thought is, stick with what you've got tilll you've developed more. And a mouthpiece will make a bigger difference. However reading the original post it seems the OP would like to buy a new horn and can afford to do so. That's great. But I'm not getting how that equals Ref 54.
But then, that wasn't the question. He asked "Can anyone see any issues in playing such a professional horn at such an early stage in my learning ?"
Well, it certainly won't make playing harder. However it is also reasonable advice as others have said that he could buy one used and save a bundle, or wait till he has developed more and has a clearer idea of what he wants. I guess it just comes down to personal preference. But even buying new there are lots of cool horns within that price point.
 

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If you can afford it, buy it. A good horn can be a powerful inspiration on its own. That is probably where the real transformational power lies compared to your existing instrument.

As others have pointed out, there are a number of new and vintage horns that could fill the role of your “grail” horn, and maybe your desires will change as you progress. Trying a few different ones to get a sense of different characteristics would be useful to make sure you find a perfect match for you. Then again, the Ref 54 isn’t likely to hurt your playing.

Personally, I was gifted a brand new, hand-picked and well set-up Selmer Super Action 80 alto when that model quite new to the market. I was 14 at the time (this was a confirmation gift), and had been playing for two years. That instrument really inspired and motivated me as a young developing player, and it’s still my one and only alto, 35 years later.
 
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