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After skimming through this hefty thread from the very beginning, the two advantages of Martin horns that were repeated over and over again were: 1) Their low price (numerous "bargains were cited), and 2) their big, beautiful sound. As far as I could see, only one member cited good intonation as a plus. Is it possible that their reputation as having poor intonation is in fact the main drawback of these horns after all, and the reason why the A-List pros stayed clear of them?

And they do have somewhat of a reputation for this, as I have read numerous accounts on this forum and other sources of pros who criticized the old Martins in this department. Now please notice that I stressed the word reputation, for maybe in this case the reputation is far worse than the reality. However, in this life I have found that most reputations (and most stereotypes for that matter) usually have some basis in reality (i.e., they were not invented out of whole cloth).

So as most of you have yet to address this aspect of your horns in this thread, it would be interesting to hear your reviews in this department. And please don't give me that line about "any vintage horn can play in tune if it's set-up properly." I can't tell you how many times I've read that on this forum--especially in relation to Martin's. Again, I think it's one of those things that just gets repeated over and over again, and at some point the "experts" don't even know what they're talking about.

Let me just say that I have played Buescher Aristocrats that have been sitting the case for decades with the original snap-in pads and multiple leaks that still played (albeit with some effort) with pitch-perfect intonation.

So I think a great horn will play with great intonation without having to throw the kitchen sink at it (constantly bash key heights, etc.), so to speak. Your thoughts, Martin faithful?
 

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You're criticism of "if its set up right" is actually the entire basis to whether or not a horn will play at its best. That includes intonation issues. Because you played one Buescher Aristocrat that had leaks, but 'near perfect' intonation means nothing in the whole of saxophone intonation, setup, and Martin saxes in particular.

The reason people quote Martins as being "set up right" is that they typically use thinner pads than most saxophones. Using anymore than a .160" pad on a Martin saxophone usually results in the back of the pad hitting the tone hole before the front, causing problems in response and intonation.

I've played many Martin saxophones and I think they're the best playing vintage horns out there. The entire "intonation" issue with vintage horns is completely relative to your situation.

When these horns were being made in the 30's, 40's, etc. the entire aspect of "intonation" was much different than it is today. Today you are expected to play a concert A and instantly be at 440, with the rest of your horn being "in tune" from an electronic tuners perspective. That is, falling into the appropriate MHz for each note. This is not how the saxophone exists (no horn will be perfectly in tune, no matter how it is made). Back in the 'vintage era', intonation was consistent with who you were playing with. For example, if the lead trumpet player, lead alto player, and piano player were tuned together at 443, the entire band was expected to follow. And they did. Vintage horns were created with that flexibility; to be able to alter your pitch to a varying degree. Hence, if an unexperienced player...or perhaps a player who is used to his intonation being slotted and unflexible...tries to play a vintage horn, he might find the intonation to be a bit wild. Whereas someone who is used to the flexibility of vintage horns will have no trouble playing in tune.

Certain notes have a tendency of giving intonation trouble on the saxophone. Middle D, open C#2 and C#3, the palm keys, the bell keys....all of these notes are usually places where intonation is at its 'worst.' But, if you view it in the realm of being 'flexible' it is actually an advantage. If you are playing with a combo, and they are all tuned at A=450....but you are playing "in tune" at A=440....guess what? You're the one who's not in tune. Once you get to A=450....then you'd be playing in tune.

For instance, if I'm playing second alto in a band...and the lead player is obviously sharp....I have to play sharp, too. It doesn't matter if he's "out of tune" or not at A=440....the section has to sound good, so you match the lead player. Having a modern horn...that could prove to be difficult unless you stopped playing and adjusted your mouthpiece. On a vintage horn, it's probably not as difficult....you could adjust via embouchure, throat changes, etc....thus learning how to better control your horn, while training your ear and playing together as a section.

Martin saxophones have this flexibility, and will have just as many intonation 'quirks' as any Conn, Buescher, SBA, Mark VI, or what have you. It will not be slotted intonation. If you want the intonation to be slotted without any effort, buy a Yanagisawa. They're absolutely great for that. If you want the flexibility of tone and intonation offered by a vintage horn, then go that route.

And don't even get me started about tone. ;) :twisted:

Saxaholic
 

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Hey Swingtone, I also wanted to add that your question was very well thought out, well spoken/written, and I appreciate your asking it. Hopefully my response helped a bit.

Saxaholic
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
You skirted my question.

There is numerous documented evidence that some vintage horn makes such as Buescher simply have CONSISTENTLY better intonation from horn to horn than brands such as Martin. That is what I'm trying to explore here--why Martin's have a bad rep in the intonation department, moreso than Buescher or Conn or Selmer. (I concede that King's also have somewhat of a poor rep in this dept., which further proves my point that all vintage saxes are not equal when it comes to this area, at least in terms of reputation.)

So please don't try to tell me that all vintage horns regardless of make--and free of a highly sensitive, fastidious setup using special pads, etc.)-- have the same propensity to play in (or out) of tune cuz I'm just not buying it.

BTW can't we just discuss this issue rationally (i.e., free of emotional outbursts)? I'll tell you, I have never encountered a group of vintage horn devotees as sensitive as the Martin folks. To be honest with you, I think it stems from a bit of an inferiority complex or insecurity of how other sax players (Selmer players especially) may view their choice of horn. If they really are great, in intonation or any other measure, then why be so defensive? It only raises suspicions of the possibility that these horns may be as substandard as the old pros seemed to think they were.

So please, anybody else care to comment on their MARTIN's intonation? (I am quite aware that intonation on a sax can be more unreliable compared to other instruments). If you want to try to shed some light on how or why Martin's acquired this reputation in the first place, I'm also "all ears." :D

BTW I have bought and sold dozens of vintage horns over the past several years; and I have played SEVERAL old Bueschers that were not regulated (set up optimally) that still played with spot-on intonation. Also, the Buescher Big B's I have played also had a lot of tonal flexibility when compared to modern horns. So how do you explain that they also had better intonation than most other vintage horns?
 

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Swingtone said:
You skirted my question.
I thought I answered it quite thoroughly, forgive me.

Swingtone said:
There is numerous documented evidence that some vintage horn makes such as Buescher simply have CONSISTENTLY better intonation from horn to horn than brands such as Martin. That is what I'm trying to explore here--why Martin's have a bad rep in the intonation department, moreso than Buescher or Conn or Selmer. (I concede that King's also have somewhat of a poor rep in this dept., which further proves my point that all vintage saxes are not equal when it comes to this area, at least in terms of reputation.)
Please show me this "documented evidence." I'd be extremely interested in seeing it.

Swingtone said:
So please don't try to tell me that all vintage horns regardless of make have the same propensity to play in (or out) of tune cuz I'm just not buying it.
Well, sir, then I suppose this discussion is closed.

Saxaholic
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Sorry, time's too valuable; but if you put the words "Buescher" and "intonation" in the search engine on here, I think you'll find a thing or two (or three or...) supporting my assertion.... :D
 

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Swingtone, perhaps you would might be better off discussing the issue of intonation with Bob Ackerman of Progressive Winds (whose horns are detailed by Randy Jones of Tenor Madness}, who states that with the Martin saxophone, "Intonation is the most stable of all American made vintage saxes". He also notes ,"There are no key bounce issues like you often have on Selmers. This is a good thing."

Here's the main link and then click on the article title, "Advantages of the Martin Saxophone."
http://www.bobackermansaxophones.com/articles.html

Bob Ackerman is a great jazz musician, vintage sax expert, recording artist, and has served as a columnist for the Saxophone Journal.
http://users.rcn.com/jazzinfo/v09n01May99/Ackerman.html
 

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Just as a reference..my first vintage horn was a buescher big B alto that nobody could play in tune for a million bucks. My second horn was a "the martin" alto that I didn't have any intonation troubles with.

Mind you, to this day, every other buescher I've played had great intonation and in general I prefer bueschers and conns over any brand. Conn and Buescher work best for me on alto, and Conns work best for me on tenor. Also, I ended up trading my martin after problems with response. I think it may have had a problem with the thick pads it had. At the time I was not aware that martins liked thin pads. I have played other "the martins" recently at junkdude and did enjoy them, even though every conn blew them away for me, and the bueschers were right up there with them.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Neil Sharpe said:
Swingtone, perhaps you would might be better off discussing the issue of intonation with Bob Ackerman of Progressive Winds (whose horns are detailed by Randy Jones of Tenor Madness}, who states that with the Martin saxophone, "Intonation is the most stable of all American made vintage saxes". He also notes ,"There are no key bounce issues like you often have on Selmers. This is a good thing."

Here's the main link and then click on the article title, "Advantages of the Martin Saxophone."
http://www.bobackermansaxophones.com/articles.html

Bob Ackerman is a great jazz musician, vintage sax expert, recording artist, and has served as a columnist for the Saxophone Journal.
http://users.rcn.com/jazzinfo/v09n01May99/Ackerman.html
OK, I'll definitely give that a look. But that still doesn't answer my question of why these horns have such a bad reputation in the intonation department, a reputation that goes back all the way to when these horns were new. The A-List pros tacitly said they didn't like them from the standpoint that they didn't play them, regardless of whether they had thin pads in them or not (and I'm assuming the new ones did, unless of course the people at Martin didn't know what they were doing back then).

Oh yes, please don't bring up Art Pepper again. I'm well aware that he played a Martin. I'm also aware that he had an endorsement deal with the company.
 

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Swingtone said:
OK, I'll definitely give that a look. But that still doesn't answer my question of why these horns have such a bad reputation in the intonation department, a reputation that goes back all the way to when these horns were new. The A-List pros tacitly said they didn't like them from the standpoint that they didn't play them, regardless of whether they had thin pads in them or not (and I'm assuming the new ones did, unless of course the people at Martin didn't know what they were doing back then).

Oh yes, please don't bring up Art Pepper again. I'm well aware that he played a Martin. I'm also aware that he had an endorsement deal with the company.
What reputation? I did bags of research on this before I got mine, and no-one ever mentioned intonation, in fact the opposite. The aforementioned Neal Ramsay, a very fine classical player, rated the "The Martins" as "extremely good" intonation wise, I would post you a copy of his email, but I would need his permission first.

Not wishing to butt in on this, but Art Pepper was probably the worst endorsee anyone could have. Please show me a copy of any promo material of him and his martin (I have lots of him with Selmer and Buffet) and I will pay you top dollar. If you read (as I am sure you have) his/Lauries book "Straight Life" there is only one mention of his Martin association, and that is by one of his students, saying that everyone in LA was playing "these old martin horns" (in the late 60's) in order to try and sound like him. A date well past any endorsement deal I would of thought.....

BTW, my martin is as accurate intonation-wise as my yamaha 62, want proof?

Look and listen here:

http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=63322

Also, Steven Howard, a very fine UK based repairer doesn't have any particular tuning issues with this old martin:

http://www.shwoodwind.co.uk/Reviews/Saxes/Alto/Martin_Handcraft_alto.htm
 

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Discussion Starter #11
The reputation is real. I don't have time to go look for and post evidence of it at this time. Just the fact that the A-List pros back in the 1940s and 1950s passed on them says way more than any words, however. They did, however, play Conn's, King's and Selmer's.

But since I know right where this one is, I guess it could be trotted out once again--

http://www.bigbandsandbignames.com/zickafoose.html

Make sure you read the whole article to find the part addressing Martin's and intonation. BTW this guy was no slouch. He's the real deal, having played jazz back when jazz was still Jazz (that is, mainstream and on center stage in the American consciousness, not just an obscure release for nerdy music majors). Whether deserved or not, this perception of Martin's was very common back in the day, and was mainly expressed by Selmer players.
 

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Swingtone,

I have never really played a well set-up Martin. My Indiana (based on handcraft tooling) had intonation problems but according to my tech "these horns generally play pretty well in tune when set up right." He is working on the key heights, etc. now. I will be able to say more when it's ready, but I just thought I would mention that probably some brands of horns had different tuning characteristics. Not that they would play out of tune necessarily, but it may be harder to find the center of each note. Perhaps a certain level of confidence is required with the player with a horn like this? Or, it just takes a little more work, like lipping up for the high notes and dropping the jaw for the low notes. It's possible the studio professionals just wanted the sax to play itself, more or less. Just some thoughts...





Swingtone said:
The reputation is real. I don't have time to go look for and post evidence of it at this time. Just the fact that the A-List pros back in the 1940s and 1950s passed on them says way more than any words, however. They did, however, play Conn's, King's and Selmer's.

But since I know right where this one is, I guess it could be trotted out once again--

http://www.bigbandsandbignames.com/zickafoose.html

Make sure you read the whole article to find the part addressing Martin's and intonation. BTW this guy was no slouch. He's the real deal, having played jazz back when jazz was still Jazz (that is, mainstream and on center stage in the American consciousness, not just an obscure release for nerdy music majors). Whether deserved or not, this perception of Martin's was very common back in the day, and was mainly expressed by Selmer players.
 

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Swingtone, but I actually OWN a 1957 model, and a brand new Yamaha YAS-62 for comparison and there are no intonation issues with the Martin, if anything the c# is nicer on the Martin.

I don't think I am that bad a player that I don't notice.....

What do we go on here? Reputation from 50 years ago? or physical evidence from today?

Just because something was not popular does not make it bad.

Reasons for possible "unpopularity":

1) Poor marketing strategy
2) High manufacturing costs and therefore price
3) Poor financial management
4) Strong, established competition

I can think of several other sectors where high quality products were not popular at the time. A bit like some of the music :)
 

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Re endorsement deals, Doc Tenney has an interesting observation in this thread
http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=26080&page=2&highlight=pepper

Also, I must confess to some difficulty with your statement: "the fact that the A-List pros back in the 1940s and 1950s passed on them says way more than any words", especially given this thread which notes that Zoot Sims, Buddy Tate, Gene Ammons, Hank Mobley, Sonny Simmons, Teddy Edwards, George Coleman, Earl Bostic, and more, all played Martins as well as the entire sax section of Woody Herman's first band.
http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=26080&highlight=pepper

Again, given your convictions, why not write to Bob Ackerman and Randy Jones and ask for their opinions? Given their extensive experience with a broad range of horns and players, they'll be able to provide an objective assessment of the intonation of the Martin compared to other vintage horns from that time period, as well as providing info as to who played what and why.
 

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In the interview with Bill Zickafoose all it says is this:

"I ran into Tex Beneke one time when he played in Richmond and I was kidding him about his old Martin saxophone. He played a Martin tenor saxophone with a terrible horn! He said ... well ... when you've got a winner, you stay with it (laughs). I played a Martin tenor and I couldn't stand it! The thing played real sharp in a high register and flat in a low register."

To me, he doesn't any meaningful comments about the actual intonation of the Martins; only that he couldn't play one himself. I'm thinking that no sax really plays in tune by itself, it's more about how well a particular design is suited to a particular player, so that they can play it in tune and get the sound they want with the least amount of effort.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
crazydaisydoo said:
Reasons for possible "unpopularity":

1) Poor marketing strategy
2) High manufacturing costs and therefore price
3) Poor financial management
4) Strong, established competition

I can think of several other sectors where high quality products were not popular at the time. A bit like some of the music :)
You might have wanted to do a little more research about the company before posting that. I'm not going to analyze each point to death, but poor marketing was not one of Martin's problems. They were a very prominent maker of musical instruments. Their trumpets, unlike their saxes, WERE the first choice of many top pros such as Miles Davis, and the photographic evidence supports this point. Also, I think it could be said that there was easily just as much or more advertising here in the States by an American firm like Martin than by a French firm like Selmer. With musical instruments, word-of-mouth advertising is even more important than an expensive ad campaign (just look at SOTW! ;) ).

One thing that you didn't touch on that I hit on a little above is the fact that saxes were not Martin's main bread and butter, their top product. Unlike companies like Buescher, Selmer and King who were known foremost for their saxes, Martin was known most for their trumpets. It's like the old saying: Do you order fried chicken at an Italian restaurant? Well, maybe, depending on the restaurant :D , but usually it's a safer bet to go with what that place of business is known for. Now I know this is a broad generalization, but it is worthy of consideration when considering the whole Martin reputation. I suppose that may tie into your "strong, established competition" point to an extent.
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
coolsax2k7 said:
In the interview with Bill Zickafoose all it says is this:

"I ran into Tex Beneke one time when he played in Richmond and I was kidding him about his old Martin saxophone. He played a Martin tenor saxophone with a terrible horn! He said ... well ... when you've got a winner, you stay with it (laughs). I played a Martin tenor and I couldn't stand it! The thing played real sharp in a high register and flat in a low register."

To me, he doesn't any meaningful comments about the actual intonation of the Martins; only that he couldn't play one himself. I'm thinking that no sax really plays in tune by itself, it's about how well a particular design facilitates a player's ability to play it. That depends in part on the kind of player you are.
I am going to leave this thread really soon because it appears I am arguing with teenagers again (heavy sigh). Just looking at the names he shared the bandstand with (ever hear of Django Reinhardt?) tells me he could have played rings around you, me and all the other non-professionals on this site--in ALL keys ;). Jazz was the rock music of his time, if that analogy aids in your comprehension. In other words, it was THE pop music of the day, and just being tapped to play in a major Big Band meant you had some talent and chops.

I may check back here again to see if anyone else has posted a review of their Martin's intonation (and please, keep the reviews honest ;). But I'm growing weary of arguing these points.

Also, if anyone knows where and why this reputation (for Martin's having bad intonation) came about, I'd still like to hear about it.
 

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Re-read my post, I have edited it. But anyway, why all the Martin bashing? Play what you like. Are you trying to prove your favorite brands are somehow superior? Is there a point to that?

Obviously, controlling the intonation of a Martin sax was not one of Earl Bostics problems. And btw, he was a teacher of and influence on John Coltrane, who played in Earl's Bostics band.

Earl Bostic supposedly knew more about saxophones that anyone on the planet. He played a Buescher Big B in the 40's when he was with his big band, and then switched to a Martin Committee in the 50's.



Swingtone said:
I am going to leave this thread really soon because it appears I am arguing with teenagers again (heavy sigh). Just looking at the names he shared the bandstand with (ever hear of Django Reinhardt?) tells me he could have played rings around you, me and all the other non-professionals on this site--in ALL keys ;). Jazz was the rock music of his time, if that analogy aids in your comprehension. In other words, it was THE pop music of the day, and just being tapped to play in a major Big Band meant you had some talent and chops.

I may check back here again to see if anyone else has posted a review of their Martin's intonation (and please, keep the reviews honest ;). But I'm growing weary of arguing these points.

Also, if anyone knows where and why this reputation (for Martin's having bad intonation) came about, I'd still like to hear about it.
 

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coolsax2k7 said:
In the interview with Bill Zickafoose all it says is this:

"I ran into Tex Beneke one time when he played in Richmond and I was kidding him about his old Martin saxophone. He played a Martin tenor saxophone with a terrible horn! He said ... well ... when you've got a winner, you stay with it (laughs). I played a Martin tenor and I couldn't stand it! The thing played real sharp in a high register and flat in a low register."

To me, he doesn't any meaningful comments about the actual intonation of the Martins; only that he couldn't play one himself. I'm thinking that no sax really plays in tune by itself, it's more about how well a particular design is suited to a particular player, so that they can play it in tune and get the sound they want with the least amount of effort.
Sounds like a case of trying to play the wrong mouthpiece on the horn more than a problem with the horn. What do you want to bet he was using some small chambered piece?

My experience with Martin horns is that they have a great tone and the intonation is alright.
 

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Hurling Frootmig said:
Sounds like a case of trying to play the wrong mouthpiece on the horn more than a problem with the horn. What do you want to bet he was using some small chambered piece?
Yes, I was thinking that too.

Why not bring up Art Pepper? Even if he had an endorsement deal with the company, so did Cannonball with King. Yet, we still look to Cannonball recordings as a way to judge the sound of the Super 20. By that notion we can look at early 50's Art Pepper, and he certainly played fine on those recordings.
 
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