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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Looking for advice on my first college+pro-career alto saxophone purchase

I'm looking for brutal opinions and recommendations on my top-three choices. I've narrowed my search down to: a King S20 Series V, a Selmer Omega Series 162, or a P. Mauriat System 76.

I've tried about 15 saxes in the last month and these three ended up being my favorites of the bunch for a lot of different reasons. The first being that I felt like I was really compatible with the S20 and the 76. It felt like a wand-chooses-the-wizard sort of thing...sax-chooses-the-wizard... :oops: I tried the Selmer Omega today. It isn't my favorite by any means, but it is significantly less expensive, probably the least expensive horn I have tried (aside from my student model). What's throwing me about it is that it played about as well or better than a Martin or a King Zephyr that's worth around $2000, which is the only reason I'm still considering it. But I'm looking for a horn I can really throw-down with in my college big band, and that will last me into my early pro-career.



HERE'S THE RUN DOWN:

King Super 20 (427xxx)
$2500
Great intonation
No f# key of course
Really played well with my Lakey 7*3
Stylish, unique tone which I LOVED
On the same day I tried the S20, I tried a Selmer SA III & a Keilworth MKX (both out of my price range), and I honestly liked the S20 better, it just felt and sounded right. But am I going to be spending a lot of time in the shop with this horn? It's hard to tell.

Selmer Omega (820xxx)
$1400
NICE intonation
Pads are in good shape
F# key
Felt more like a classical horn
Decent action
I could definitely make do with this horn, I think it's a good price, I think I could even get it for $1200-$1300, but this is such an important purchase in my career that I'm not sure I want to settle for something I could just "make do" with.

P. Mauriat System 76 2nd Edition
$2700
Bright, versatile sound
EXCELLENT intonation
Excellent action
Brand new pads
F# key
Played like a $4000 horn
When I played this horn I was kind of starstruck, but I don't know enough about P. Mauriat. Am I overpaying? Should I negotiate? What will its depreciated value be if I decide I don't like it any more?
I'm looking into some of SOTW's archives on these guys.

Let me hear your thoughts!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

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I have no technical knowledge to offer here (except that you could ask the previous owner how the horn behaved, when possible), but... it seems to me you already fell in love. ;)
Sometimes, it doesn't get much more complicated than that...
 

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For me- all of the "what if I decide it I don't like it later" or "what about resale" are questions I ask when buying a horn. And I think it is responsible and reasonable to do so. But when I get a horn I love, all of the monetary and sensible stuff gets thrown out the window. The worth of the horn in joy it gives me in making music is far greater than the market value of horn.

It is true that you may later find you love another horn more than the Mauriat down the road, and "lose" money on the Mauriat.

But now you have to get the P. Mauriat. You'll never forget it if you buy one of the others anyway. That feeling you got when you played that particular Mauriat ruined it for the others. Done deal.
 

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How old are you? How long have you been playing? Who do you listen to? What is your sound concept? What is your actual career going to look like (playing for a living, teaching for a living??) Are you going to college to major in music?

You wanted brutal, so here it is: From the way you phrase things, it SEEMS like you want to play for a living. I can tell you right now that will NEVER happen. Not in today's world, unless you want to eat sphaghetti every night and worry every month whether you'll pay the rent on your really small, awful apartment. Even the top, top, top pro's teach to generate extra income. Unless you're the second coming of Trane, which you're not, you won't play for a living.

That being said, the horn is only an extension of you. Comfort of play should rise above most things. If you're going to major in music (which you should if you're aiming for a career in music of some type), I would take the Mauriat. It is going to play classical music more easily than the S20 and be more acceptable to a classical professor, and the action is modern, it includes a high F# key which is almost a necessity in most college music programs. (playing your scales in 16th notes at 200 bpm is tough without that high F# key).

Also, get a new mouthpiece. The Lakey is not going to cut it for what you're going to need to do in college. If you need a powerful lead alto sound, try a 10mfan Showboat. His Daddy-O model is coming out shortly and would be another alternative if you're looking for less brights. Maybe he'll chime in here and reach out to you. He's been where you're at and knows more about mouthpieces than almost anyone. For classical music get a Selmer S80 C* and a Vandoren Blue Box reed and you'll be fine.

Don't worry about the money aspect. Be happy with your purchase. Forget the Omega. Decide between the S20 and the Mauriat...of the two, the Mauriat would be my choice based on action, intonation, and versatility of tone.

- Saxaholic
 

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Discussion Starter #5
How old are you? How long have you been playing? Who do you listen to? What is your sound concept? What is your actual career going to look like (playing for a living, teaching for a living??) Are you going to college to major in music?
I'm loving the very whimsical advice I'm receiving so far! Thanks everyone!


Saxaholic,

I like your suggestions and the bonus career advice. Thank you! I have played guitar (and sang) for over a decade as my first instrument, and sax almost as long. I'm nowhere near the best, but I love it more than anything. I listen to a wild variety of music from funk to alternative. My favorite sax players include Parker, Brecker, Ben Wendel, lately Bob Reynolds. But I'm a big fan of Esperanza Spalding, and soul vocalists like Duffy. I'm a music composition/mathematics dual major. Thank you for your interest!

Since you obviously sound concerned for my pro-career, I want you to know that I'm not planning on singing in the streets dragging my card board box around. I'm also a mathematician and plan on pursuing a lucrative career in finance or engineering! -- but never will I give up music. Who knows? Maybe I'll drop the next Giant Steps :twisted: but you're right! I want to pave my own way.

Love the mouth piece recommendation. I will look into it! Do you have an ligature recommendations?
 

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None of the folks here giving advice are going to play the sax. You are. ;) If you play well enough to play in a college big band, you certainly play well enough to choose a saxophone that feels right ergonomically and matches your "concept of sound". I could tell you I love my "Whiz Bang" sax so you should go out and buy one of those, but that would be arrogant of me to recommend an instrument for you based on my personal taste. There are no right or wrong choices, just different. Find a shiny one that fits your budget and go forth and make music. Whoops. . . there I go giving advice. Sorry. :)
 

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Sounds like you have a good plan for your future.

If that's the case, then get whatever you love playing most!

Ligature wise - phew, there are a lot of them. Get a mouthpiece first, then try out a bunch of ligatures that fit those mouthpieces. I personally like the Francois Louis "Pure Brass" ligatures. The silversteins are pretty popular these days too. I've tried them on alto and they're nice, but weren't super special to me. The Ishimori ligs are also really nice (and really expensive).

Hope this helps!

- Saxaholic
 

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Brutal opinion?
Don?t use a Claude Lakey to choose a saxophone.

I think we need a lot more information to help you make a decision.
Like are you majoring in college? If so, what proposed degree? What were all fifteen Saxes tried? What did you play in high school?

Out of all of that, testing a future horn for college (where you will largely learn to play) shouldn?t be decided with a Claude Lakey.

(No, I am not hating on Lakey?s I played that in high school as well)
 

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annabella,

First, I'm going to disagree with those above who suggested that you use another mouthpiece when making your decision. Assuming that the Lakey is part of your regular setup, then you've done the right thing. If the Lakey is what you're comfortable with, then you should stick with it while evaluating horns. You want to eliminate as many variables as possible when testing out different horns, and you'll have plenty of time to mess around with mouthpieces later.

Second, I would suggest that you get the Mauriat (or some other modern horn) as your first purchase. Vintage horns can be great and can provide character to your sound, but they tend to be quirky. For example, vintage horns tend to have far more problems with intonation and uneven timbre than do modern horns. Furthermore, while it might not be obvious in a short play-testing session, they will almost certainly need some adjustment in a repair shop. When you're ready to get a horn overhauled if necessary and you're experienced enough that it takes less effort to smooth out the horn's quirks, then you can decide to get a vintage horn. For college, however, I would suggest that you stick with a modern horn. You'll be working hard enough trying to balance practice and coursework, you don't want to have to spend time fighting the horn.

Regarding your concern about Mauriats: I wouldn't worry. They are solid horns with a good reputation. You'll have no problem getting a good return on your investment should you decide that you want to switch horns again in a few years.
 

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The best horn that you can buy is the one that you are going to stay with the rest of your life.

If any horn electrifies you that is the one to buy.

If you LOVE the Super 20 ( love that I share myself) I?d buy it .

The sound and look are distinctive. I have a 460xxx and it is great.

They can even be found for less and sometimes they are spectacular. Some offered even here.

The keywork of a late ?60 early ?70 King Super 20 is modern and has nothing of the caveats that older horns might have.

THE ONLY CAVEAT are the band directors that you would be playing for (if any).

Many are snobs and think that only a Selmer will do and the/y are going to give you a lot of stick if they are people like that.

My second choice would be the Mauriat but I?d negotiate since even the best Taiwanese horn gets to lose more than half his price when sold secondhand.

The Lakey is not my choice but it is apparently yours and if that is your mouthpiece that is the mouthpiece that you should use to test anything with.
 

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Re: Looking for advice on my first college+pro-career alto saxophone purchase

Anabella, I'm not sure how patient you are or how important cost is, but I would just make sure to cover all options when considering to purchase. At least for me, I've been fairly fortunate on ebay and craigslist, although i would reccommend craigslist if you aren't as familiar in costs or issues with certain makes and models ect. Music stores are probably a safe bet, and if you try and buy your horns from here it's certainly less risky. That being said, you do learn a lot more if you are patient and do your research on horns you see on craigslist or maybe ebay, and if your lucky you could get quite a deal. In general, seeing saxophones come and go in these marketplaces will give you an idea of what to expect and what to reallistically pay for a certain one. As for advice when trying the horn you may get, use your choice setup, it doesnt matter what the piece is as long as its comfortable for you. Another thing to remember is that every horn is different, especially in vintage horns, some could be great and some bad all in the same model. Therefore, no matter how you buy your horn, patience is the key to finding the right one. But if you are set on those three, I'd probably pick the super 20
 

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Time and patience are your best friends right now. If you are not in a time crunch, look around at even more horns, because like everyone says, every vintage horn plays differently AND you may stumble upon a great deal, either on Craigslist, ebay or even here.

But it seems like you like the P.Mauriat the most. Go with your gut. You have to play the horn, not us.

good luck at school.
 

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Welcome, Annabella.

If you dig the Super 20, and it works well with your Lakey, that sounds like a great way to go. Regarding your question of whether you will spend more time in the shop with it - not necessarily. The parts that tend to go out of adjustment easily are the soft parts - corks, felts, etc. - that are easily switched out on ANY horn if need be. I had a Super 20 from the ‘50s that was set up with modern choices and was as stable as any of my other horns.

I, too, have played Lakey mouthpieces in the past. Although they don’t serve my current choices, if you are happy with yours, then go with it - response, intonation, personal concept, etc. matter.
 

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For my personal taste, I'd grab that Super 20 and never look back.

Careers in music are possible. Even if the OP has a plan that precludes that, it's always worth pointing out the truth when geniuses say it's impossible to play for a living. The bottom fell out of my private lesson practice a couple years ago and I'm down to teaching 3 hours a week, but I'm playing enough to live comfortably. Haven't made spaghetti in years, and I went out for a nice chicken parm for lunch a few minutes ago. :) It helps to not suck, develop relationships, live in the right region, have some understanding of running a business, stay on the scene, etc... all the obvious stuff that everyone who actually plays for a living knows.
 

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This is one of those times it would be really nice if there was some way for Anna to know who’s opinion is the most reliable.
I really wonder how someone in her situation, being a new member, discerns various opinions.
I personally think she should find a medium chambered and facing mouthpiece and wait until she gets to college and used to that mouthpiece to decide. There is so much we don’t know right now to try and help her choose between three instruments.
 

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Ligatures: A good two screw lig is all you need - Rico-H is one example. I also like the Francois Louis Ultimate and Vandoren Optimum, if you prefer a single screw lig. The Silverstein and Ishimori are silly expensive. I have an Ishimori and don’t use it.

New mouthpieces: Be wary of buying anything on recommendation that you cannot trial and return if it doesn’t work for you.
 

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Dan,

I'm not sure why you felt the need to throw veiled insults at me. It's not really necessary in this discussion. You can disagree with me without being a jerk about it.

The reality is that the vast majority of people who want to perform for a living aren't going to make a good living playing saxophone. I congratulate you if you've managed to make it happen; it's rare and you deserve kudos for that. All those things you mentioned: skill, the right area, great relationships, building networks, business acumen....it's rare to find that combination of skills in a person.

I'll share what the great Clark Terry said to me at a masterclass back in the early 2000's. "If you can do anything other than play music, do that instead. Only play for a living if you can't do anything else." I thought that was interesting coming from one of the all-time greats. I think what he meant by it was "If it consumes you so completely that you're impossibly unhappy with anything else in life, then play music for a living. If other things can make you happy, do those instead, because you'll never fully devote yourself to playing." But of course it's open for interpretation.

- Saxaholic
 

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The Selmer 162 is a great playing Selmer Paris copy and a very versatile horn, but the one you're considering is a tad over-priced. I recently sold an early-800s serial in very good condition and playing perfectly for a little over $800. It cost me less than 1/2 that less than a year ago. I found another late-800s serial in like new condition in a brand new condition case for $975 only two months ago.

So, I say eliminate the Selmer from consideration. Seems it's only its (comparatively) low price that attracted you anyway.

***. Listen to a little Grace Kelly. Not her jumping around the room stuff, her good playing. ***
 

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First of all, I assume we're talking about altos here due to the Claude Lakey reference.

I think that before you make a commitment, you should review your intended course of study. If you are going to have to take a lot of classical saxophone studies, I suspect many classical saxophone professors will look askance at a King Super 20, and in that case you might have better acceptance with a Selmer-copy instrument. So, if you have a lot of classical saxophone in your future as an undergraduate, I would call up the professor(s) and find out: Are they a Mule or Rascher school, and will I be acceptable if I play a King Super 20? One other note: given your imputed age, I expect your existing sax is a Selmer-copy, so maybe that would be the horn for the classical studies (again, ask the professor(s)).

If you will not be required to do a bunch of classical studies, then I would probably go straight to the King. It is a higher quality instrument than either of the alternatives you mentioned.
 

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First of all, I assume we're talking about altos here due to the Claude Lakey reference.
FWIW, I played Lakey mouthpieces on sop/alto/tenor in the early ‘80s. Claude sent me a box with about 4-5 of each, encouraged me to select my favorites, then return the balance. Great guy.
 
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