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Not sure if this young man will have to attend school bands, but I've seen stories here on SOTW that some US music directors don't appreciate vintage horns for that.

Otherwise I would let him play the horn with the best sound and tuning, since differences in ergonomics are normally not a big issue for alto's.
This one is a killer. Make sure he practices. The band directors will look for reasons as to why their kids aren't playing well and if there's an "ugly horn" that can take the blame, it will. Don't let these directors (who oftentimes are not saxophone players) throw out a 50+ year old saxophone in perfect condition for superficial reasons.
 

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Also, ask yourself the question "Why is the Selmer system now universally used"?
The answer is quite simple (and the exact same answer as to why the 'traditional system' was previously "universally used'")

Because it is industry standard now. Every contemporary maker does it. No mass-produced, contemporary maker has endeavored to develop and introduce another design (nor would it be penny-wise to, from a corporate risk-reward point of view).

I know folks might prefer the answer to be : "because over time it has proven superior, period".

But the likely alternate answer (if you didn't like my first one) is: "because when post-1980 companies were designing their horns, their R & D dept asked - "what is considered the best sax in the world"?- then came to the conclusion - "OK, let's copy THAT one !"

Some brands 'modern system' feels great, some don't. Some makers 'traditional layout' feels great....others, notsomuch.
 

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This one is a killer. Make sure he practices. The band directors will look for reasons as to why their kids aren't playing well and if there's an "ugly horn" that can take the blame, it will. Don't let these directors (who oftentimes are not saxophone players) throw out a 50+ year old saxophone in perfect condition for superficial reasons.
Depends on where the kid is as far as his musical endeavors. Grade school, middle school - notsomuch. But some HS and college, certainly you hear this now and again.

Should the player have a well-playing older horn and be approached by such a situation, I always suggest them to reply : "sounds good to me, Maestro. When are you taking me shopping ?"
 

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Not sure if this young man will have to attend school bands, but I've seen stories here on SOTW that some US music directors don't appreciate vintage horns for that.

Otherwise I would let him play the horn with the best sound and tuning, since differences in ergonomics are normally not a big issue for alto's.
A couple of notes......

  • I started on, and played a Conn 6M all through my elementary and high school career. I switched to a Mark VI for college and for the next 35 years. The transition was not difficult. The acoustic differences were more of a challenge than the ergonomics.
  • As a US music director, I would not agree that we are not fans of vintage instruments. We are not fans of old clunkers that do not play well. Many times I have had new students come in with instruments that have been in storage for 20 or more years after being played by a student for seven or eight years. These instruments are frequently in terrible condition and really require a full overhaul to be playable. In these cases, I advise parents that perhaps it would be better to find a more modern instrument in playing condition rather than investing more money than the instrument is worth. If it is a really good instrument, I recommend that it be overhauled and put back into service.
 

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I have a young man here who is going to start playing the sax in the fall. I found a sweet-sounding 1950s Elkhart Alto with awesome intonation that seemed perfect for him...then I started thinking.

If my son starts on a vintage horn with vintage ergos, is he going to be challenged later on if he swtiches to something like a YAS-23 or Jupiter? Is it better to start him with a modern ergo? I have a Chinese copy of a Yani A991 that he's tried...seems OK on both...ideas?

Thanks!
I'd be surprised if he encountered any problems switching from vintage ergonomics to modern. I would think it's harder (though still not super hard) to switch from modern to vintage.
 

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I'd be surprised if he encountered any problems switching from vintage ergonomics to modern. I would think it's harder (though still not super hard) to switch from modern to vintage.
I have a TT alto and a yas-23 and it isn't that hard to switch back and forth though the yas-23 is definitely easier to play. Presumably a 50s horn would have more modern ergos than my TT which doesn't have a front F and has a button G#. I can't imagine that anybody would find it much of a challenge after a couple of days.
 

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For a first horn I would never hesitate to suggest a Conn "shooting stars" Alto, 50's vintage but no later. Reasons......
1: cheap, even if you have to have a service and a few pads,
2: Solid and reliable.
3: key work/ergos. Yep for smaller hands these are much more comfortable to play than say a Selmer SA80 (or copy?). Key work can feel a bit industrial but certainly not bad.
4: they have that great Conn tone - something you will never get out of a Yahama!
 
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