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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello, I've been playing my sax for 5 years, and alas, I have to give my current alto to my little brother. In turn, I may get a new sax :D , but I don't know if I should look into getting a new sax or a vintage one. I've tried a few makes and models, but I really haven't tried the vintage approach. I know that I'm not going to get a Cannonball, I've had a bad past with them, but I'm interested in yamaha and selmer yet. What should I expect for >$2000? I want a sax that I can play all the fun stuff on (big band, jazz, fusion, rock & roll) since I don't have to worry about classical, I play bassoon for concerts.

Thanks,
Jim
 

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What are you playing on now?

The alto that all others have to measure up to in the world of vintage is the Selmer Mark VI. There's a host of other horns that play really well but won't cost as much as a VI. Of the new horns I really like the Yamaha 82Z alto. Others prefer the Reference 54. Others the Keilwerth SX-90's. Others love the B&S horns (if you can get one). Some are partial to the Yamaha 875. A lot of people play and love their Yamaha 62's.

The key is to play everything you can get your hands on and buy the one that you like the best. Then play it as much as you can.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
I currently play on a Alto Evette Buffet Crampton, but I don't have a clue how old it is. I've looked around @ serial numbers but my sax's serial number is always higher than the ones listed. If I had to guess, I would say that the sax is just a student model from a decade ago, but I'd love to be proved wrong! I just checked my sax and the serial number is 551XXX
 
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My suggestion would be to play as many horns as you possibly can. As a contemporary saxophonist, my problem with vintage horns is I dont feel they can handle our music. They dont "hold up" with the demands that we need. But for the styles you suggested, just go to as many sam ash, woodwind brasswind type stores as you can find. Take a trip to your nearest city, and play every horn from a mark vi, to a series iii, to a crappy old conn stuck in the corner. You never know what will fit you best. Play each horn with a tuner, even intonation is a major problem in vintage horns. Whatever you do, dont rush into buying this. Its a big investment, take the time to get your moneys worth. I tried about 200 horns before I decided on mine. Good luck in your search
 

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Sugarsax35 said:
even intonation is a major problem in vintage horns.
This is not completely true. Vintage horns were designed for open chamber mouthpieces. If you use a modern medium to small chamber mouthpiece you will definatley have intonation problems. The instrument makers of the past could hear just as well as we can. The mouthpiece design of the first part of the 20th Century was different and horns were manufactured in conjunction with this design. This is not to say one or the other is better (vintage or modern) but with an understanding of how things were done during each time period one can make a better decision about the equipment that best suites the sound in your head.
 

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I second the Yamaha 62 - High quality instrument that can go many places. Also very affordable - not really Vintage but that term is getting over-used lately. You may also consider a Selmer Series I or II.

I don't agree that older - vintage instruments can't handle the "new" music - it's really a case by case issue. Intonation is also another misleading issue about older horns - musicians played in-tune - EVEN in the OLD DAYS.

Good Luck with your search.
 

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I have a student who just got a used Series II Selmer from Saxquest.com and he loves it and sound so much fatter on it.
 

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Do you consider mark VI's, BA, and SBA selmers to be vintage horns? If so I think you'll find you are very wrong in the thesis that they are not equipped to handle modern music. Countless players have shown it to be possible, and in many cases downright astounding!
 

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Try a lot of horns. Pick the one that feels and sounds best for you. I feel like a broken record...

For ~$2000, you should be able to get almost any horn you want, except for the Reference 54.
 

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I have to do my daily plug for the Kessler Customs. They are among my favorites. Check out the link to Dave's website at the top of the page. However, I discovered the Yamaha 62II before the Kesslers, so I bought that, and I swear by it. Great horn!
 
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Yes i do consider mark VI's to be modern horns, and as I said before, the majority of the classical/contemporary saxophone world do not use them. One exception would be Gary Louie, who uses a Mark VII. The ones ive played have been ghastly, but yet he gets an amazing sound out of it. And as I mentioned, I am not speaking in absolutes. These are just what I have found over the years to be generally true. And as for the intonation comments, yes the player is what makes the horn in tune. However, once a player learns to play in tune and control his intonation, he should look for a horn that has a good even intonation. And i have played over two hundred vintage horns, (i know that may not be a lot to some people, but i feel it is a decent amount to post comments about them) and i do feel that vintage horns, GENERALLY, have more intonation problems than vintage horns. Yes, of course, these problems can be worked around and solved by a good player, by adding keys, and voicing and such. But I think when searching for a new horn, one of the important things is finding a horn that works for you. Not one where you have to deal with (whether you can solve them or not) these mentioned intonation problems. All im saying is, bring a tuner when trying out instruments. And if you can, have someone else holding and watching the tuner when you play. We tend to compensate when we are looking at the tuner ourselves, so it is sometimes better to have someone with you. Last, in reference to the "vintage horns not holding up for contemporary music". It is an opinion. And one that is shared by many professional saxophonists, but it is still an opinion. I feel that vintage horns dont have the technical consistency to hold up for a lot of modern pieces. and to the "The instrument makers of the past could hear just as well as we can." comment. Yes of course. perhaps even better than today. Today we are semi-spoiled with all the gadgets we have. You hardly see a musician without a tuner, metronome, etc. They werent as common back then so many musicians relied on their ears, and in turn, developed a highly valuable skill that is often lacking today. However, we have had many technological advances, and I trust the good people at selmer, and I like many of their innovations. (except maybe the octave mechanism on the series III) So again, these are all opinions, and many of them are shared by leaders in the field of saxophone. Yes you can pull it off with vintage, but I just cant help but feel that theres a reason why Claude Delangle and his entire studio play on Series III's, and Dr. McAllister, Nobuya Sugawa, James Umble, Jean-Marie Londeix, and many others all play on modern horns.
 

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Sugarsax,
I respect your opinion. You make some very valid points. I would like to present a counter argument, but not for the sake of saying one is better than the other. But to show that the opposite is also true, though admittedly not to the same extent. One point you made was that there is a reason why there are many high level professional players playing on modern horns. There are also a number of high level professional players playing on vintage horns. Players such as Harry White, Ronald Caravan (vintage Selmer, Cigar-Cutter I believe, and Conn soprano), John-Edward Kelly, David Wright, Lawrence Gwozdz, all of the players in the Rascher Quartet (and maybe even the Rascher Saxophone Ensemble, though I'm not sure on this), and all of the players in the Tetraphonics Saxophone Quartet (a great saxophone quartet based in Germany, www.tetraphonics.de/menue_engl.htm ). All fine players. Again I'm just presenting another perspective and not saying one is better than another.
 
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Thank you. I love being able to discuss with someone, without fighting. I also see validity in your points. However, and this is just an observation, while all the players you mentioned are fine players, and well respected, we are comparing Delangle, McAllister, Sugawa, to John Edward, Harry White (who i happen to like a lot), and Lawrence Gwodz. I respect all these players very much, however I feel the previously mentioned are much better players. Of course, this could start a whole string of arguments, so let me stress this is my OPINION guys. But Im just saying, in my experience, which has led me all over the world, studied with some of the best players...in todays saxophone world (specifically contemporary (meaning the classical side of current saxophone), it seems to me that I could find 50 saxophonists who play on modern horns, to every one that plays on vintage. The habanera quartet is an amazing quartet. all of the members play on series III's. PRISM all play on modern horns. I am not making a statement that vintage dont work, and are not possible to use. Im saying, that in my opinion, modern horns are more properly designed to handle modern music, and that the majority of modern saxophonists use modern horns. (being repetitive on purpose). PS. When i say that i dont feel vintage horns "hold up" for contemporary music, i dont mean they are gonna fall apart if you play to fast or something. I mean, in todays world, with the music that is being composed for our instrument, the demands on us as players, and our instruments, are incredible. I feel that vintage horns, such as mark vi's, are not capable of handling all of the things we need to do as players now, as well as the modern instruments can.
 
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PS. a bit off topic, but i would like to stress the importance or recognizing these forums as opinions. while there is validity in them, they are still peoples opinions. I read one post that said that growling and multiphonics are only used in jazz. And while i wont list the many reasons why that is rediculous, or the hundreds and hundreds of pieces that call for those techniques, i just want to say that these posts are opinions. not all truths
 

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Sorry to highjack your thread Jim. This is a fascinating discussion. Sugarsax I'm curious about your perspective of the Mark VI not holding up in contemporary music. I've never run into this view before. To me the Mark VI is more modern horn (only because I play on a earlier type of instrument, 1936 Aristocrat). Would you be willing to share some specifics on this?
 

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Sugarsax35 said:
Im saying, that in my opinion, modern horns are more properly designed to handle modern music...
Yes, specifics please. One can certainly argue that modern horns are not as well equipped for older styles of music (lack of trill keys), but I'd like to know specifically how modern horns are better equipped for modern music.
 

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Sugarsax35 said:
Thank you. I love being able to discuss with someone, without fighting. I also see validity in your points. However, and this is just an observation, while all the players you mentioned are fine players, and well respected, we are comparing Delangle, McAllister, Sugawa, to John Edward, Harry White (who i happen to like a lot), and Lawrence Gwodz. I respect all these players very much, however I feel the previously mentioned are much better players.
I respect your opinion, but I'm curious as to why you think that all of the former players you mentioned are better than the latter ones. I'm not trying to pick a fight here, but I'm just curious as to what aspects of their playing you like more than John Kelly, Harry White, and Gwozdz. I love Delangle's playing, as well as Sugawa's, but I would not put McAllister above someone like Kelly, Gwozdz, or White. This is just my opinion, just like you've shared yours. I'd be interested to hear your response.

As for why more players use modern instruments, part of it is personal preference, but another may be that they are not accustomed to hearing or using these instruments. Some one who studies with Londeix, for example, would want to use something similar to what he uses to get those results. Same thing with John Kelly, for another example. Just some thoughts here...
 
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ill respond to the latest one first, and then give me some time so i can respond properly to the others. First, 3 years ago, i would completely agree that McAllister would not be listed above kelly, gwozdz, and especially white. However, i have studied with him (which im not going to pretend doesnt make me semi bias, but i have studied with many players) and since his return from Bordeaux, where he studied with Jean-Marie Londeix, he has become an even more incredible player (if you havent heard him since then, you need to. his playing has changed drastically). Of course, i feel you have to hear a musician perform live to get a good perspective, but take a listen to his new cd, In Transit. It is an absolutely amazing cd, and displays levels of virtuosity that i dont see in Kelly, Gwozdz, and White. ANd his recording of the Albright is stunning. And in my opinion, and from all the reviews ive read a lot of other peoples as well, we finally have a difinitive recording of the Albright Sonata. To be completely honest, i hated mcallisters playing before studying with him. I was much younger and a bit immature, and i just thought, wow he has chops. Then i heard him play live and could really appreciate the level of musicianship he has. And then 3 years later i study with him again, and i was amazed at the changes. I dont think i really need to support my claim for Delangle and Sugawa, that is just something that we will need to disagree on if you dont feel that way, but one could certainly feel comfortable saying that they are among the best, easy. And while im not very partial to Gwozdz's playing, i do like Kelly and White. (i really like whites playing). But listening to his Spectrum Saxophonis CD, i just dont feel he is at the same level that mcallister has (recently) obtained. I am definitly curious to hear your response to this though, i like discussing without arguing. Thanks for being appropriate guys
 
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Ok. back to original question. First, and this is extremely important, I am not a tech, so give me a break here. This is going to be an experimental post for me, but i will do my best. I was looking through my old emails to find one from Tim McAllister on this very subject, but alas, no luck (my stupid email erases old ones for me).
So, the reason i feel Mark VI's arent built as well for contemporary music comes down to many reasons. But the biggest, is playing testing hundreds of Series III's, and hundreds of Vintage horns (id say ive played about 50 mark VI's). Sometimes you have to just trust when you play. I cant necessarily say when im playing, this one is accoustically designed to ...so and so. But i think i can bang out a couple specifics for you. First, i think that the keywork on the modern horns, (im especially comparing the Serie II, and Serie III because ive played those horns the most), are more properly built for contemporary music. Often with the older horns, the palm keys are in an awkward place, or, with mark VI's, often the palm keys are extremely low and often raised with cork. I also feel that the mechanisms being designed by selmer, except with the exception of the octave mechanism on the III, are extremely innovative and are great improvements. (i just realized i have a mark VI bari sitting next to me, maybe i can get more specific...) I have to say, that in your defense, a lot of times, its just due to the vintage horns being so old and not taken care of properly. I played on a mark VI bari in quartet last semester, and it was just awful. The intonation on the horn was terrible (and yes i can fix that as a player, but it was a lot better playing the schools series II bari). The keywork felt awkward for me and uncomfortable, especially for some of the more demanding works. Back to vintage vs. modern in general. One thing we have to realize is how far sciences have come in the past 50 years, and that while music is passion and musicallity and all of that, sciences do help in the making of instruments. I was lucky enough to catch a presentation by Jerome Selmer a couple days ago in NYC, and we discussed many of these things. For instance, while many of the processes in making an instrument are done by hand, almost the entire process is guided by computers and machinery. Which we can only trust, has improved in the last 50 years. My point, is that i feel the accoustical properties of the Serie II and III, are much more for modern music than that of the mark VI. that is not to say, you cant get the same sound, but correct me if im wrong guys. Many jazz musicians go for mark VI's because, hey, they just have the sound of a mark VI. They are great vintage horns and are associated with that sound. One of my problems (accoustically), with the mark VI, is that i still feel it has a distinct sound, and one that i dont like for classical/contemporary. I mean, listen to old recordings of Mule, Rascher, Al Gallodoro, etc. They were all great, great players. However, if they sounded like that today, playing the music of today, there sounds would not be so easily accepted. (I saw Gallodoro play a week ago. Great player still, even though hes going on 93. and he plays on an original year mark VI, and i could hear it in his sound) In my opinion, you get a much different base sound with vintage then modern horns. So yes, vintage works. But i can always tell when someone is playing classical or contemporar on vintage, and i think most people can as well. And that "vintage" sound is getting less and less acceptable in todays contemporary world. I feel that for music such as the lauba etudes, or bolcom's concert suite, or the berio sequenzas, you need accoustical MACHINESSSSSS. and i dont think you get that from vintage.
Also, and this is a lesser observation, but if you pick up a vintage horn right off the bat and play in front of a tuner. then you pick up a new selmer, and d othe same thing. 9 out of 10, the modern horn will be better in tune. Even if you have the right mouthpiece arrangement for it. And this is a personal observation that i have tested. I lived about 20 min from NYC, and used to go into WWBW, Sam Ash, Robertos Woodwind, Pro Winds, etc every weekend and play test horns and mouthpieces. for years.
Ok. next, and this is kinda lame, but i told you this is a new post for me, so im throwing everything i can at you.
Mark VI were invented in i believe 1954. There has been 52 years of new music since then. And especially in the last couple decades, the music that composers are starting to write for our instrument are becoming increasingly more demanding. So how can an instrument designed before this music was around, possibly be best suited for it. When these modern horns are designed with contemporary music well established and in mind.
I realize that last one was a long shot, but hey, im trying.
this post is gettin long, but ill definitly update if i think of some more stuff. Looking forward to your response
 

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Sugarsax35 said:
First, i think that the keywork on the modern horns, (im especially comparing the Serie II, and Serie III because ive played those horns the most), are more properly built for contemporary music. Often with the older horns, the palm keys are in an awkward place, or, with mark VI's, often the palm keys are extremely low and often raised with cork. I also feel that the mechanisms being designed by selmer, except with the exception of the octave mechanism on the III, are extremely innovative and are great improvements.
Wouldn't this just make them better for all music then?

Sugarsax35 said:
My point, is that i feel the accoustical properties of the Serie II and III, are much more for modern music than that of the mark VI. that is not to say, you cant get the same sound, but correct me if im wrong guys... One of my problems (accoustically), with the mark VI, is that i still feel it has a distinct sound, and one that i dont like for classical/contemporary...In my opinion, you get a much different base sound with vintage then modern horns.
Aren't these really preferences? Rather subjective.

Sugarsax35 said:
And especially in the last couple decades, the music that composers are starting to write for our instrument are becoming increasingly more demanding. So how can an instrument designed before this music was around, possibly be best suited for it.
Give a little more credit to the player, why don't you. I'd think you'd have to produce an example of a piece that can't be played by a vintage horn.
 
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