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Discussion Starter #1
I've got a late chu alto I love, but the key heights are very open. Annoyingly open. Way open even for vintage horns. Sounds great & the intonation is good, but I don't play it as often as I would because of the hugemongous key height.

I've had it for years, it's a bit of a closet queen, only had to replace a couple of pads to get it running (they are all Conn reso-pads), but at that time I didn't have the key heights fussed with.

So I'm going to get my tech to fuss with them because one of my summer saxophone projects is to get all my horns in solid playing shape so I can decide which ones to let go -- I need to thin the herd!!

Any conventional wisdom out there about Chu alto key heights in particular - issues to look out for, etc?

Fyi, I suppose this horn qualifies as an early "Tranny"; it's got the angled side F key and the left palm keys appear to be improved over earlier horns as well. Other than that, looks like standard Chu to me.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member/Technician
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A good place to start would be to take some old reeds and use them as wedges to close down the existing key openings. Maybe experiment by placing them under the RH stack keys on F, E and D. Play G and slide the reed on F in a bit until you find a spot where the tone is muffled, back out a little at a time until you find it does not change the tone much. Then try F and move the E key reed, etc. Once you determine where opening up a key does not make a lot of difference, you should be at a good opening. For the LH stack it is not as easy as the 1+1 Bb is governed by the F>F# opening so you need to set the LH stack to match the LH Bb pad. Now, remove the keys and recork the tails to your new specs.
Closer keys=smoother action but can muffle the sound. Open keys=have a point where the sound does not change much.
 

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Forum Contributor 2012, SOTW Saxophone Whisperer,
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I have a 1929 chu I used for YEARS as my main giggin horn and my experiment horn for different ideas. When I was playing with key heights - all I will offer you is that these horns were made to have the heights much more open then modern horns. When I closed up the heights, it lost that stereotypical conn huge sound and intonation gets all sorts of wacky.

Bruce's suggestion above is great - however another idea to at least read : http://www.musicmedic.com/info/articles/num_25.html

good luck

Charlie
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Well I definitely want to avoid closing them up too much, then. One thing I like about the horn is that it's a free-blowing shouter.

I've done a little experimentation with it sort of as described by Bruce, and I'm sure the keys can be lowered some without choking the horn, but I can't really figure out how far down they'll go before they hit the sweet spot.

On this horn, any lowering will be an improvement. I guess I'll just have to work with my tech to find the lowest point of greatest return.

As a side note, the real saving grace on this horn (other than it's tone and response) is they key work. It had very little play on it when I got it; other than the few pads I had to replace, they are probably original. The action is actually very slick. The only other Chu era altos I had played seemed a bit more clunky, or slow. As this one is in the early Tranny serial # range, I suppose it could be that Conn had already tweaked the key work in ways I can't see; or it could be that it just didn't have much play on it and the key work never got molested. Or; could be the original owner wanted the keys open as they are & had his tech set it up that way & also adjusted spring tension etc. for a faster horn. Who knows. . . .
 

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all I will offer you is that these horns were made to have the heights much more open then modern horns.
Would you say the action has to be high enough to the point where it slows you down, or requires some serious re-acclamation?

Also, where would you say the necessary spring tension should be? Stiffer than usual? Looser?

Finally, how much of this was re-engineered on the 6Ms? Mine play very powerfully with relatively low and fast action.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Would you say the action has to be high enough to the point where it slows you down, or requires some serious re-acclamation?

Also, where would you say the necessary spring tension should be? Stiffer than usual? Looser?

Finally, how much of this was re-engineered on the 6Ms? Mine play very powerfully with relatively low and fast action.
Both 6M's I've owned, an early and late one, were set with low (but not super low) actions as well; they were both punchy horns. Sounded like Conns! While I had the later one I had the opportunity to frequently A/B compare it with an early Mark VI alto; in terms of key height they were pretty much the same.
 
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