Sax on the Web Forum banner
21 - 40 of 104 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,759 Posts
Hi Pablitus!
As the others said, this comes up regularly but since people have different opinions, the replies are always interesting to read. Here is my opinion:
I like listening to the older saxophones but that may be influenced by my preference for music. However, I got my paws on a modern saxophone (for the first time and it is a Selmer Series II low a bari) and, a bit disappointingly, I just sounded like myself. There were some differences but much smaller than I expected. So now I am willing to admit that I probably would have been equally happy with another brand than what I have. Having said this, all my saxophones are Martins, all lovely instruments, so I will keep them and not look for anything else.
Martins are the best bang for buck vintage saxophones around in my opinion. Those comm III tenors are so juicy in the lower register!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,704 Posts
Hi Pablitus!
As the others said, this comes up regularly but since people have different opinions, the replies are always interesting to read. Here is my opinion:
I like listening to the older saxophones but that may be influenced by my preference for music. However, I got my paws on a modern saxophone (for the first time and it is a Selmer Series II low a bari) and, a bit disappointingly, I just sounded like myself. There were some differences but much smaller than I expected. So now I am willing to admit that I probably would have been equally happy with another brand than what I have. Having said this, all my saxophones are Martins, all lovely instruments, so I will keep them and not look for anything else.
Well, yeah, you sound like yourself, with some small differences. That's pretty much how it is for all of us. Horns, mouthpieces, reeds et. al. make small differences but we never really change the concept we hear in our head once it's fully formed. The vintage sound thing really just another folkloric aspect of the saxophone. Yeah, I know, Dexter's sound changed from how he sounded on his 10M VS his MK-VI. But did it really? When you listen to Dexter can't you still identify that it's him? Isn't his sound still large and robust? What about recording techniques? How much did that change the sound of our saxophone idols throughout the years? All of the great players kept moving forward with their equipment. Dexter, Trane, Bird and many others kept upgrading as they went along. I had some sweet sounding vintage horns years back. And now, I have some sweet sounding modern horns. My opinion is, if you can buy a vintage horn in good condition at a really good price go for it. But, if it costs more then a brand new top of the line horn. Well, think twice!
 

·
SOTW Columnist, Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
23,686 Posts
I mostly play my '64 MKVI tenor. On this thread I guess it's considered a modern horn, but some would call it vintage. If it's vintage, I definitely prefer vintage horns. However, I also really like my two vintage Buescher tenors (series one and 156 Aristocrats). In some ways I prefer the tone quality of the Bueschers. They have a certain 'spark' to the tone and they are fairly easily played in tune (yes, it's up to you to play the sax in tune, vintage or modern, but if you can't play one of these Bueschers in tune, I doubt you can play any sax in tune). And a vintage horn needs no more care or maintenance than a modern horn, unless it's been seriously mistreated. So that's a non issue.

The only real issue I have with the Big B is the placement of the RH side keys, especially the Bb. It's considerably lower placed on the horn and I really have to play it for a couple of hours before I start getting used to having to almost literally lower my right hand to play a side Bb.
Hey jgreiner, are you sure those side keys are lower? The right hand side keys on my Bueschers are definitely higher than the ones on my MKVI. But as you say, it takes very little time to adjust. For me, it's about 2 minutes, if that. But I'm used to playing both the VI and the Buescher, so the transition isn't a big deal. I agree with everything else in your post, but am really curious about those side keys.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
30 Posts
"Ergos" is SUCH an overrated thing in my opinion. I play Selmer Supers (both alto and tenor). Every once in a while, someone who plays a modern ergos horn checks out my horn(s) and asks me how in the hell I manage to play on something that feels so weird to them. My simple reply is "well, your Mark VI/Yamaha Custom, etc. feels weird to me and how in the hell do you play on that thing"? Seriously, play on ANY horn with whatever kind of key layout for a certain amount of time and if you're a competent player, you'll easily be able to get around on that horn just as good as anything with "modern keywork". I'm serious. I've been playing on my Supers since 1993 and whenever I hold a "modern" horn, I can't wait to get back to my horn and feel comfortable again.
As for the sound, that's even more subjective than ergos. Ask 10 people and you'll get 10 different answers. Obviously, I'm a big fan of horns from the 30's and I do believe there's a difference in sound, but I also firmly believe it depends a LOT on the ability of the player and the style of music being played as well. No matter what my or anyone else's opinion(s) are, my advice would be for you to go with what YOU feel is right. Afterall, you're the player!
I agree that's ergonomics are the digression of the player, but it's pretty much a fact that the keywork is more efficient on modern horns. Older horns sometimes have a lot of flex in the metal which gives a spongey feel a lot of player hate, but that typically isn't the case with the french horns like Selmer Buffet and SML, more so with American horns like King Conn Buescher and Martin. If you are comfortable with that, more power too you, but a lot of people who justify modern horns do so for this reason.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
47 Posts
Larger hands - me too. Very difficult to be comfortable on a Mk VI or similar action. They also put a lot of pressure on my R thumb joint, causing pain.
I'm much better on my Comm III tenor, and also play kings. Everything has to do with hand size and finger position. 10 M is also good, but the Martin and King Zephyr feel better to me.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,814 Posts
I agree that's ergonomics are the digression of the player, but it's pretty much a fact that the keywork is more efficient on modern horns. Older horns sometimes have a lot of flex in the metal which gives a spongey feel a lot of player hate, but that typically isn't the case with the french horns like Selmer Buffet and SML, more so with American horns like King Conn Buescher and Martin. If you are comfortable with that, more power too you, but a lot of people who justify modern horns do so for this reason.
I guess we'll agree to disagree. I've also owned and played a 10M (from around '52 if I remember correctly) and currently own a Buescher Big B from 1941. While I prefer the overall and more spread sound of my Selmer Super, neither the 10M or the Big B have any kind of spongy feel or flex in the metal in any way. Maybe you know something I don't, but I honestly don't believe the Conn or Bueschers of that time frame were made with thinner or more spongy metal. I'd wager it's more about how the horn is set up than the metal. Trust me, there's nothing flimsy about how 10M's or any model of Bueschers were made. If anything, I've heard more fellow players say the contrary, that they feel those horns are built more like a tank than a saxophone (which I also disagree with). I'll leave it at that.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
82 Posts
Did we get to the part where we start arguing about whether all Taiwanese horns are the same and all Chinese horns suck yet?
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,844 Posts
I guess we'll agree to disagree. I've also owned and played a 10M (from around '52 if I remember correctly) and currently own a Buescher Big B from 1941. While I prefer the overall and more spread sound of my Selmer Super, neither the 10M or the Big B have any kind of spongy feel or flex in the metal in any way. Maybe you know something I don't, but I honestly don't believe the Conn or Bueschers of that time frame were made with thinner or more spongy metal. I'd wager it's more about how the horn is set up than the metal. Trust me, there's nothing flimsy about how 10M's or any model of Bueschers were made. If anything, I've heard more fellow players say the contrary, that they feel those horns are built more like a tank than a saxophone (which I also disagree with). I'll leave it at that.
I agree. This is the first time I have seen someone suggest that there is spongy metal on older horns. I do believe that there are often softer thicker pads on some vintage horns. Buescher and Conn for sure. If the metal could bend it wouldn't stay playable.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,555 Posts
I think the spongy feel comes from poor setup which may be impossible to correct due to worn out components (tolerances no longer in spec). I've played many vintage horns that feel like that. I attribute it to part of the pad coming in full contact with the tone hole before the rest of the pad. So you feel a soft contact when the pad first touches, then mushiness until the rest of the pad closes. You ultimately seal the pad with enough finger pressure, but the net result is a spongy feel up and down the horn. I've been banned from certain music store because of my futile attempts to get vintage horns regulated properly. If they do manage to get rid of the sponginess, it eventually comes back.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,814 Posts
Hey jgreiner, are you sure those side keys are lower? The right hand side keys on my Bueschers are definitely higher than the ones on my MKVI. But as you say, it takes very little time to adjust. For me, it's about 2 minutes, if that. But I'm used to playing both the VI and the Buescher, so the transition isn't a big deal. I agree with everything else in your post, but am really curious about those side keys.
If I get a chance to check tomorrow, I most definitely will and let you know! My B is an early one with the small bell flare. Who knows? Maybe they moved the height of them from the earlier to later ones? Again, I'll definitely let you know!

Did we get to the part where we start arguing about whether all Taiwanese horns are the same and all Chinese horns suck yet?
Patience, grasshopper.

I think the spongy feel comes from poor setup which may be impossible to correct due to worn out components (tolerances no longer in spec). I've played many vintage horns that feel like that. I attribute it to part of the pad coming in full contact with the tone hole before the rest of the pad. So you feel a soft contact when the pad first touches, then mushiness until the rest of the pad closes. You ultimately seal the pad with enough finger pressure, but the net result is a spongy feel up and down the horn. I've been banned from certain music store because of my futile attempts to get vintage horns regulated properly. If they do manage to get rid of the sponginess, it eventually comes back.
You're absolutely correct. I just got an old King alto from a customer to do a PC, but it needs a complete overhaul. Not sure if the pads in it right now are original, but they're damn old and yes, it feels like there are sponges in the key cups instead of pads! Not sure when they quit using the small rivet in the center of the pads and went to even semi larger resonators, but this horn has the very small rivets and while many of the pads still seal, it makes your fingers feel like they're in quicksand. I gotta do some quick research to see what variant/model this thing is. I has split bell keys, a brushed/satin gold body and lacquered keys. Very pretty horn.
*Edit* I just looked up the serial # and yikes.....this thing is known as the "HN White" model and dates to 1919-1920! I seriously doubt any of these pads are original, but I know they're VERY old.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
8,616 Posts
For me the vintage horns offer a far more comfortable key spread.
I really am starting to think that 99.999% of sax players must have tiny little fingers and hands.
Using the VI as a template for pretty well all modern horns is testament to this.
I have a VI Baritone that I’m really trying to love, but that incredibly close tilting table is killing me.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,808 Posts
Well, I don't have tiny little hands like a 6 year old girl or anything, but I've got pretty short fingers and I am way more comfortable on a Conn than a Selmer. It's the abominable tilting low Bb that gets me every time.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
112 Posts
Well, I don't have tiny little hands like a 6 year old girl or anything, but I've got pretty short fingers and I am way more comfortable on a Conn than a Selmer. It's the abominable tilting low Bb that gets me every time.
I've got small hands and I agree completely on the tilting Bb. I don't like it at all. My two current altos are a King Super 20 and a Yamaha YAS-62 Purple logo. I much prefer the lh table on either of them, but particularly the King.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Coffee Guru
Joined
·
41,663 Posts
Well, I don't have tiny little hands like a 6 year old girl or anything, but I've got pretty short fingers and I am way more comfortable on a Conn than a Selmer. It's the abominable tilting low Bb that gets me every time.
There is a technique to play the Bb by tilting to the left and lower the hand (while fingering any other key of the LH plateau or not) activating the Bb with the side of the proximal falanx. Try it it will help.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,808 Posts
There is a technique to play the Bb by tilting to the left and lower the hand (while fingering any other key of the LH plateau or not) activating the Bb with the side of the proximal falanx. Try it it will help.
Nah, I think I'll just stick to my Conns and Bueschers and the like.

The whole Selmer left hand table bears all the hallmarks of having been designed to a theory (in this case it's "because all the other fingers use a clamping motion, the little finger should too, rather than a pushing motion"). Which is fine except it fails to take into account the actual anatomy of the little finger, the disparity in strength, and the different functions of the little finger as against the others.

Then because it's darn near impossible to activate the low Bb without cracking open the C#, they had to put a separate hold-down for the C#, that has to be regulated too. Funny how no sax design before the Mark 6 needed this. Frankly if I'm going to have an extra mechanism down there to keep adjusted I'd rather have the fork Eb.

Nope, I'm going to stick with horns that have a clean positive action that doesn't fall away from under your finger just when you need it to be solid.
 

·
SOTW Columnist, Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
23,686 Posts
If I get a chance to check tomorrow, I most definitely will and let you know! My B is an early one with the small bell flare. Who knows? Maybe they moved the height of them from the earlier to later ones? Again, I'll definitely let you know!
I also have a series one with the smaller bell flare and it has the RH side keys in the same place as the later 156 'Crat. Higher up than on a Selmer. Bottom line, they are in a different place (than modern horns & Selmers) and you have to adjust so your observation is valid. But I bet you'll find them to be higher, not lower. But it's really not a big issue because it takes very little time to adjust to those keys.

I totally agree with you, though, on all the points you've been making. The notion that vintage American horns have "spongy" metal or keywork is just not true. Unless the springs are worn out or something like that, which can be remedied. I love the ergos on my VI (I've been playing it for well over 30 years, which is certainly a factor), but the Bueschers also have very nice ergos, imo. The only thing I did was to add a cork riser to the D palm key. The key action is very clean and responsive.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2017
Joined
·
6,295 Posts
The answer is obvious - Vintage instruments are just far cooler. They got Mojo - Anyone who thinks otherwise is simply wrong.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
182 Posts
It's a very subjective argument. I have modern horns and vintage horns. I love my Yanni tenor, and Yamaha alto, they have great intonation and keywork. But the horns I am most likely to take out and play for sheer enjoyment are my Mk VI tenor (ergos are perfect, and the keys so light), My scrappy looking mid 60s 10M (the LH pinky table is a bit of a challenge, but NO horn (IMHO) has that big rich Conn sound), and my Martin Committee alto ( the great tone). All horns are different, they all have personalities. I wouldn't say which was better, there are too many variables.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
129 Posts
Martins are the best bang for buck vintage saxophones around in my opinion. Those comm III tenors are so juicy in the lower register!
Martins are great for sure. Yesterday I got to try a Conn Ladyface, though, and it was magnificent. Very different and, for me at least, hard to control, but awesome sound and very good intonation.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,510 Posts
I had a similar issue - I had a 10M (and a King Cleveland) where the fingering was too spread for me to play fast. The closest I have come to a Conn sound with better small-hand ergos are the vintage Keilwerths (New King and Bundy Special) and the Dolnet BelAir. They're not the same as the Conn, but the closest I have found to that combo.
Did you own the 10M and Cleveland at the same time? I own both, and I find the touches a bit cramped feeling on my Cleveland, after playing the 10M exclusively, for months.
 
21 - 40 of 104 Posts
Top