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For the bari players out there who have played lots of both horns: Can you describe noticeable differences between the way low Bb and low A horns play?

I remember reading an article where a bari player said he preferred low Bb horns because "they speak better."
 

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If this hasn't been beaten to death I don't know what has. I prefer low Bb baris. To me they just feel better. Problem is this. When playing modern big band charts, the parts were written for low A baris, and as such, that low A is used A LOT. Try playing a Gordon Goodwind chart, I've played at least 15 of them and I think all of them have used it. Low concert C is a necessity if you're going to be doing the big band stuff and musicals. People have the same argument with low C bass clarinets. I tend to agree with them on both counts, but they are a necessary evil, and companies like Rampone and Cazzani, Selmer USA, Conn, and Keilwerth have seem to alleviate most of the differences with HUGE bell columns. Problem there is they don't fit in normal cases and they weight a pound or two more then normal low A Baris.

If you're doing combo work, or old school dance bands, or something similar than you can get away with a Bb. If you're doing big band, I wouldn't chance it. We have had two guys come in to take one of the bari spots in our big band that owned low Bb horns. He made them rent one of the schools low A baris because the parts sound stupid when taken up the octave since the bass bone is at the low C
 

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yeah, there are a lot of good opinions in the stickies. But here's something I don't remember reading (forgive me if it was mentioned, I don't have time to go reading through all of them again):

It's hard to empirically say what's better, low A or Bb, because in many cases the horns themselves are so different. My experiences are with Yamahas (YBS 62 and 52), school-owned, and when I made bari my main axe and bought my own pro horn, I got a very early Conn 12M. To my ears and those of my peers, the sound of the Conn just engulfs the Yamaha. Is that because it's lowBb or low A, or because it's Conn vs. Yamaha? don't get me wrong, YBS 62s (and 52s) are great horns, but for me, the Conn is the way to go.

it seems to me that the way to really test lowBb vs. A would be to try two of the same make of horn--Selmer Mark VI or P Mauriat or something like that--one low A and one low Bb. Then you could limit the variables when deciding which one played better.

I'll tell you what has worked for me. once I decided that I must have the Conn sound, I decided to work around the low-A issue. I play bari in a strong college band and gig around town on a regular basis, and to me, the sound of the Conn on 99% of the notes makes up for lack of low A on 1%. You can get away with making a low-A extension, which I'm sure they talk about in those stickies. I have one and it works great. The only time it doesn't work is when you have low A and low Bb in the same passage. If that happens, and you can't use the extension, you can either play it up an octave, play the note a 5th above, or stick your foot in the bell and drop your embouchure to get the low A (an idea I got from Barry Sachs, I think in those stickies, and that guy knows what he's talking about),

in all the big band charts I have played on bari, only one time have I encountered a spot where both the low-A and low Bb were both crucial. it was a Phil Woods chart that had an 8 bar soli where the bari and bass bone quote the Bird intro to All The Things You Are. well, the first phrase in that quote ends on Bb and the second phrase ends on A. Clearly Phil wrote for those two instruments because he wanted the low end to come out, so it wouldn't make sense to take it up an octave, and it was too fast to put in the extension. your "foot in bell" chops would have to be pretty good to play that line on a low Bb horn. luckily I had the Yamaha for that gig. but other than that, I think it makes more sense to have the horn that you prefer all the time rather than the horn that you don't prefer but can get that occasional note (especially since the low-A extension allows you to to play that note in 95% of places where it's needed).

In rock/Motown stuff the low A is absolutely crucial, but again, the extension works great in those situations...since that music is often diatonic, there are only two keys that on bari would need both low Bb and low A--concert Db and concert Ab, not the most common keys in rock music. So usually when you absolutely need the A, you won't have any Bbs so it will work fine.
 

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I've playtested the Keilwerth and Rampone Bb vs A baris and honestly couldn't tell a difference between the two. That's just me though, and both of them have sound reminiscent of the old Conn's. Not quite an old Conn, but their keywork doesn't blow, and I'd rather have something I'm comfortable playing than the "ultimate" in sounds for a horn I use in section playing.
 

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yup, both of those ideas make sense to me. what you said about the horns you tried leads me to believe that there's more than just low Bb vs. low A involved--the design of the horn itself is obviously a major factor. to compare a vintage Bb bari to a modern low A bari is comparing apples to oranges, and not just because of the extra note....everything about the horns is different.

i don't think the ergos of the Conns are bad at all, but i play it every day. my biggest pet peeve is that there is no articulated G#-this means that when I have low C# to G# (which occurs seemingly just as frequently as low A), I have to play both at the same time! that's a bear, but good for the left little finger.

but for a lot of people, modern bari's offer many advantages--easier to find the right mpc, ergos that are more familiar to some, etc. I solo on my horn in big band, small groups, latin, rock, whatever, so sound is most important to me.

jaysne...rather than just asking about Bb or A, could we ask, in what playing situations will you find yourself playing bari? it seems to me that that is the key question when finding a bari that fits a particular player.
 

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The whole sound deal is in the bell flares. Low A baris almost end up cylindrical in the bell flares where the Bb baris are tapered like they are supposed to be. The Keilwerth, Rampone, and Selmer USA bari's all have a natural bell flare to them. This makes them really awkward for some, slightly heavier, and damn near impossible to find cases other than stock and protec's for. Although BAM's apparently fit, but I can't afford an $800 case, that just ain't gonna happen.

If you can, play test the same model horn in Bb and A, you're only options are Keilwerth and Rampone, and good luck finding someone who has two of them, but you won't find a whole lot of difference in the two. Main point that people find in the sound is when they try to compare a Conn or King etc to a Yamaha or Selmer. That just isn't fair. Like taking a Hummer to a Lamborghini. Both top of the line vehicles in their respected categories, but they are in different categories for a reason.

Oh, and afterthought. You may be able to find an 11m to compare for the Conns, just make sure it's a 1960's model 12m that you're putting it up against. The 11m's are killer sounding horns imho, but the ergonomics put it so far back. I have enough hand problems as it is, fighting a bari to play the Gordon Goodwin charts just isn't worth it.
 

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[...] i don't think the ergos of the Conns are bad at all, but i play it every day.
Same here (well, at least every week).

my biggest pet peeve is that there is no articulated G#-this means that when I have low C# to G# (which occurs seemingly just as frequently as low A), I have to play both at the same time! that's a bear, but good for the left little finger.[...]
I had mine articulated. It isn't that difficult of a mod, it's reversible, and you really have to be looking at the back of the spatula to even notice it. I love having the forked-Eb. I'd probably go crazy with a modern bari that didn't have a forked-Eb....
 

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It seems to me that there is a difference caused by the BORE of the bari - not the bell flare or the low A specifically.

If you are playing a modern horn (ie copy of the Selmer mk 6 which all of them are now) it has a narrower bore, has better intonation (with less input from the player) and doesn't have the grunt or volume capability of a vintage Conn or Martin.

If you are playing a vintage horn (Conn, Martin, Non-Selmer) it likely has a larger bore - more grunt, better sound IMO and requires more air and more input from the player to stay in tune through the range of the horn.

The low A or low Bb seems unimportant.

My low A and low Bb The Martin baris play the same.

If Yanagisawa made a low Bb baris I bet it would play just like my Low A horn.

The bore is the difference.

Whether you need a low A or not is really determined by the music you are planning on playing and whether you'll be using that low A much or not.
 

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It seems to me that there is a difference caused by the BORE of the bari - not the bell flare or the low A specifically.

If you are playing a modern horn (ie copy of the Selmer mk 6 which all of them are now) it has a narrower bore, has better intonation (with less input from the player) and doesn't have the grunt or volume capability of a vintage Conn or Martin.

If you are playing a vintage horn (Conn, Martin, Non-Selmer) it likely has a larger bore - more grunt, better sound IMO and requires more air and more input from the player to stay in tune through the range of the horn.

The low A or low Bb seems unimportant.

My low A and low Bb The Martin baris play the same.

If Yanagisawa made a low Bb baris I bet it would play just like my Low A horn.

The bore is the difference.

Whether you need a low A or not is really determined by the music you are planning on playing and whether you'll be using that low A much or not.
Great post!!! My Selmer super action 80 series I does have better intonation than my Rampone R1 jazz low Bb but the rampone has a bigger fatter sound than the Selmer!!!!
 

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I've playtested the Keilwerth and Rampone Bb vs A baris and honestly couldn't tell a difference between the two. That's just me though, and both of them have sound reminiscent of the old Conn's. Not quite an old Conn, but their keywork doesn't blow, and I'd rather have something I'm comfortable playing than the "ultimate" in sounds for a horn I use in section playing.
I was told I have the only R1 jazz low Bb bari in N.america. How did you compare a low A rampone baritone w/ a low Bb one???? Perhaps there is a R1(not jazz) low Bb out there????
 

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yup, both of those ideas make sense to me. what you said about the horns you tried leads me to believe that there's more than just low Bb vs. low A involved--the design of the horn itself is obviously a major factor.
Agreed. I will chime in with this: I do think the impression that a Low A is somehow more ungainly, clunkier, and less responsive to play is a bit of a ...myth. Also, that one or the other has the fatter, bigger sound. Huh ? Because it happens to be a Bb or an A ????

I see some comments intimating that, "oh well...you need the Low A for most modern applications, but too bad because it's just the devil we know". I mean, it's one of those things which would seem to make some sense, but really...that's a hecka generalization to make. We need the Concert C, so we have to deal with the Big, Dopey Moron Brother Horn....(?)

...George...tell me about the rabbits.....

And when you think about it, it does certainly make sense that a BigHorn should go to low Concert C, yes ? Its actually a bit ludicrous that it didn't have that 3rd bellkey for so long, don't you think ??? I do. Although I understand why it wasn't...it still was a bit of a silly omission, IMHO.

So I don't buy into that thinking.

I do, of course, concur that it s a bit heavier and a bit more of a mass to move around and hang off of your body. But seriously...I play my low Bb's, and I play my Low A...and seriously, I cannot say my Bb's play quicker or snappier than my A. And if I could say that, it wouldn't mean it's because the horn is a low A...y'know ????
 

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...or stick your foot in the bell and drop your embouchure to get the low A ...
I've been using this method for years! Works great in every big band I've played in! Looks odd, but the Low A speaks just fine (maybe not as crisp as a Low A bari, but certainly audible!). Just doesn't work if you need to stand and Low A at the same time ;) .
 

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I've playtested the Keilwerth and Rampone Bb vs A baris and honestly couldn't tell a difference between the two. That's just me though, and both of them have sound reminiscent of the old Conn's. Not quite an old Conn, but their keywork doesn't blow, and I'd rather have something I'm comfortable playing than the "ultimate" in sounds for a horn I use in section playing.
I was told I have the only R1 jazz low Bb bari in N.america. How did you compare a low A rampone baritone w/ a low Bb one???? Perhaps there is a R1(not jazz) low Bb out there????
Playtested in England at sax.co.uk when I was visiting family. Had to check their showroom out and since Matt doesn't have a playtest policy and with no policy, it was worth the 2 hour drive to actually test the horns.
 

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I've playtested the Keilwerth and Rampone Bb vs A baris and honestly couldn't tell a difference between the two. That's just me though, and both of them have sound reminiscent of the old Conn's. Not quite an old Conn, but their keywork doesn't blow, and I'd rather have something I'm comfortable playing than the "ultimate" in sounds for a horn I use in section playing.
I was told I have the only R1 jazz low Bb bari in N.america. How did you compare a low A rampone baritone w/ a low Bb one???? Perhaps there is a R1(not jazz) low Bb out there????
Playtested in England at sax.co.uk when I was visiting family. Had to check their showroom out and since Matt doesn't have a playtest policy and with no policy, it was worth the 2 hour drive to actually test the horns.
you lucky dog!!!! SaxUKco is like being a kid in a candy store!!! I'm guessing SaxUKco does a great job setting the saxes up too!!!
 

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...or stick your foot in the bell and drop your embouchure to get the low A ...
I've been using this method for years! Works great in every big band I've played in! Looks odd, but the Low A speaks just fine (maybe not as crisp as a Low A bari, but certainly audible!). Just doesn't work if you need to stand and Low A at the same time ;) .
I dunno...I mean...I'm not Rubber Band Man. :shaking2: How the hell do you stick your foot in the bell even when you are playing it seated....?????

:scratch:
 

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You can get away with making a low-A extension, which I'm sure they talk about in those stickies. I have one and it works great. The only time it doesn't work is when you have low A and low Bb in the same passage. If that happens, and you can't use the extension, you can either play it up an octave, play the note a 5th above, or stick your foot in the bell and drop your embouchure to get the low A (an idea I got from Barry Sachs, I think in those stickies, and that guy knows what he's talking about),

in all the big band charts I have played on bari, only one time have I encountered a spot where both the low-A and low Bb were both crucial. it was a Phil Woods chart that had an 8 bar soli where the bari and bass bone quote the Bird intro to All The Things You Are. well, the first phrase in that quote ends on Bb and the second phrase ends on A. Clearly Phil wrote for those two instruments because he wanted the low end to come out, so it wouldn't make sense to take it up an octave, and it was too fast to put in the extension. your "foot in bell" chops would have to be pretty good to play that line on a low Bb horn. luckily I had the Yamaha for that gig. but other than that, I think it makes more sense to have the horn that you prefer all the time rather than the horn that you don't prefer but can get that occasional note (especially since the low-A extension allows you to to play that note in 95% of places where it's needed).
I don't do this just to tick off people with low Bb baris, but when I write quartets, the bari is carrying the bass line the majority of the time. When it isn't, chances are nobody else is either -- I just write in such a way that there isn't one. When walking my bass lines, there is absolutely no way you'd be able to get away with an extension. Also, those extensions adversely affect the intonation and tone of low B.

Usually this isn't a problem, as I prefer to play the bari part myself, but occasionally I have been thrust into the lead alto role on short notice. In such cases, the fill-in bari player has either had a low A horn or none at all (in which case he played mine).

If I ever get the "little big band" back together, you can bet a low A bari will be a requirement for that chair, though I will probably be filling it myself. If someone was unable to acquire a low A bari, they could play mine (even if it's inferior to their horn overall). If this was not acceptable to them, and they didn't want to move to the tenor or alto chair, I'm sorry to say they'd have to be replaced. I have a stack of charts literally two feet high (most of which I did not write), and I'm not adjusting it to accommodate them.
 

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...or stick your foot in the bell and drop your embouchure to get the low A ...
I've been using this method for years! Works great in every big band I've played in! Looks odd, but the Low A speaks just fine (maybe not as crisp as a Low A bari, but certainly audible!). Just doesn't work if you need to stand and Low A at the same time ;) .
I dunno...I mean...I'm not Rubber Band Man. :shaking2: How the hell do you stick your foot in the bell even when you are playing it seated....?????

:scratch:

While sitting lift left foot up over your up over your right knee and place in the bell of your baritone sax. I also am not as flexablie as i used to be but I could do it the first time i tried. Just now. I imagine with a little stretching for a couple of weeks I could do it easily.

Have you tried?
 
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