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Mark VII Tenor with V16 7M
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I finally bought a sax after playing a rental for about a year... a 1976 Mark VII tenor!

I went to several shops, and tried out horns. I'm really glad I did, because I didn't end up with the horn I would have expected.

Some thoughts from the different saxes I tried:

In terms of altos, I tried a purple logo Yamaha YAS-62, Yanagisawa a-992 and a-902, and a Selmer SA-80.

Really didn't like the a-902. If I had gone with an alto, I would have hesitated between the purple log and the a-992... slightly leaning towards the purple logo. I was surprised at the difference my regular YAS-480 and the purple logo.

In terms of tenors, I tried a bunch of Selmers (Series III x2, SA-80ii x2 and the Mark VII I bought), a Yanagisawa T902 and a YTS-82IIZ Custom Z. Again, the T902 (new) was a disappointment. I was pretty surprised at this because if I had bought blind, I would have likely gone with a Yanagisawa (either a 902 or 992) given all the good online press they get.

My final choice was this beauty (in my eyes at least). Its tone really spoke to me: clearly darker than the others, and with a nice core. The ergonomics weren't as bad as what I expected (again from reading other people's opinions online).

As far as I understand, all of the Mark VII were lacquered, so I guess this one just lost most of it or was delacquered at some point. 🤷‍♂️ The metallic areas (bottom of horn and near the keys) are all coppery pink. I'm unsure if this is lacquer or just the original body colour. I'll be researching ways to clean it up a bit. There is tons of wisdom here on the forms. Lemon Pledge seems to be the "go to" for this sort of thing as far as I can see.

Today's lesson: Definitely try before you buy if you have the luxury to do so. 🎷🎶

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Congratulations!

I never played a Mark VII tenor, but I tried an alto (a friend had one for sale sometime ago), and the ergonomics (including the pink tableau) were fine for me.
 

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Don’t start rubbing on it with anything. Leave it alone. I doubt I’d want to smell Lemon Pledge every time I pick up the sax, much less all over my hands,
I’ve never really understood the complaints about the ergonomics on a Mark 7, ( That‘s what’s on the neck badge), when there’s guys on here who rave about 10Ms and Suoer 20s. Those don’t even seem like they were made by someone who played the sax.
I bought a mint Mark 7 alto a couple of years ago and it’s a great playing sax It’s not quite the mint SBA that was stolen from me years ago, but it still has the Selmer Paris sound
 

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Don’t start rubbing on it with anything. Leave it alone. I doubt I’d want to smell Lemon Pledge every time I pick up the sax, much less all over my hands,
I’ve never really understood the complaints about the ergonomics on a Mark 7, ( That‘s what’s on the neck badge), when there’s guys on here who rave about 10Ms and Suoer 20s. Those don’t even seem like they were made by someone who played the sax.
I bought a mint Mark 7 alto a couple of years ago and it’s a great playing sax It’s not quite the mint SBA that was stolen from me years ago, but it still has the Selmer Paris sound
A 10m and a Super 20 are not even close in ergonomics. I've owned both, The Super 20's came close to Selmers IMO.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2012
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Hi, welcome, and congratulations.
The MkVII tenor is one of the best kept secrets.
The left hand pinky cluster is definitely of a suboptimal design and make.
The high arch neck shape is another disputable feature.
I play mine with a S-III neck.
Once you adjust to those specific aspects, you can rely on an excellent build, excellent intonation, and a horn with a very broad scope.
Mine « survived » several attempts to move to other horns. It’s low market value also helped me to keep it, but I’m really happy each time I play it live. That thing speaks and roars.
Speaking of King S-20, a good friend and sax fellow has one; what is cool is that the rather « power horn » character of the MkVII is quite similar to the S-20. With better keywork and intonation.
Looking forward to hear your impressions.
 
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S: Antigua Powerbell; A: Martin Comm III; T: Buffet SDA
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I played my university's Mark VII as a gig horn for a while and liked it quite a bit. The pinky table didn't bother me. I actually liked it being a little farther away - I'm 6'4" and could palm a basketball when I was 11 so that setup really leant itself well to my larger mitts!

Kinda the same reason I prefer in-line tone holes to offset. My hands feel less cramped.
 

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1955 Conn 16M + 1973 Bundy 1 alto
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Even though you didn't "own" it, your 1st sax was the rental. The MkVII apparently is your 2nd and the choice to buy it was guided by the insight and skill you were able to gain from the rental. Well done.

I bought my 1st sax and I sometimes regret not renting before buying so I could have made a better choice. My rationale was that I'd be more committed to practicing if I bought rather than renting, probably a valid concern in my case, but your approach clearly led you to the right horn for you.

I agree with others about the lacquer loss possibly being a good thing. A lot of the nitro lacquer is missing from my 2nd sax, a 1955 Conn 16M, and much of what remains has darkened. I take that to mean this sax has spent a lot of time outside of a case and in people's hands. The bare metal has a nice patina and I don't do anything more than wipe it with a cloth.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015-
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My completely unscientific opinion is that saxes with lots of lacquer wear are great players.
Extreme finish degradation is often not due to “wear” as much as it is due to environmental exposure. If the finish is worn in areas beyond touch, how does it get worn away?

When I see a lot of “wear” I am concerned about the potentially related mechanical wear. What of the wear between rods and tubes? What of the wear at the ends of the keys? Does this horn need a full mechanical restoration?

One can believe that a horn looks “experienced”, but the question should be “How does it play now?”

Congrats to the OP for taking the time to play some horns in person. There is really nothing like personal experience.
 

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A tech I know here in Melbourne liked his VII Tenor so much (except its ergos) that he went to the effort of changing all its keys with that of a VI (thus rendering that VI useless I'm assuming.- but he may well have thought: so what?) Edit: [I just remembered - he did similar with his Conn 10M, so I hope I didn't mix up the story. He definitely favored the VII over the VI though]. Cheers...
 

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Nancy Wright, the great blues player out of San Francisco (John Lee Hooker, Lonnie Mack, Elvin Bishop, Katie Webster, Jackie Ivory, Tony Monaco, Kid Andersen), has played a VII for years. In the Amazon ebook, "A History of Rock Sax", she described how she found it:

"Junior Walker, King Curtis- I was very influenced by both tenors. I loved that sort of more muscular style of playing, like the Texas tenors Arnett Cobb and Illinois Jacquet. I remember the time when I was playing on stage in Dayton and all of sudden it felt like King Curtis had stepped inside me and he was playing. That’s how big an influence he had.
I did a track on my CD ‘Playdate’ entitled ‘Back Room Rock’, and that came off a King Curtis cut with Sam Price on the album ‘Rib Joint’. To me, that album is early rock n’ roll, r&b…whatever you want to call it. Every part on that album is important and King Curtis’ playing is just fabulous. I used to dream that one day I’d find musicians who could play every tune on that album, it is that good.


Which brings me to my sax.

In my last year of college, the music instructor told me that for my senior recital, I needed a good horn. I looked around the music stores in Dayton, but nothing impressed. The following Monday night- and this is in February in Dayton Ohio with freezing temperatures and a blizzard roaring away- a friend of mine was playing in a club with three floors. There were only stairs, no elevator, and I don’t know that many people ever made it all the way to the third floor, but that’s where she was playing.

I got up there and there was like eight of us in the whole place. During a break, a musician comes wandering up the stairs on a break and asks, ‘Does anyone want to buy a saxophone?’
That was my Selmer Mark VII, the horn I’ve played ever since. I’ve tried VIs, but I don’t think I can get out of a VI what I do with my VII. They were designed for a basketball player’s kind of hands, but I had a guy in Boston who built up the little finger keys that helped a lot. I’ve always played with a metal Berg Larsen 95 O M. Once while playing a street festival, somehow I dropped the mouthpiece and the sidewalk took a little chip out of the edge, but I think it actually plays better that way! I use Rico Plasticover reeds. Have used them for years, gives me a bit more edge to my tone."


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Nancy Wright Music » Tracks from PLAYDATE!
 

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MK.VIIs are under-appreciated, although that's changing lately. My casual observation is that the quality is better than the later Mk. VI run, although a lot of people made altos and tenors, so it's hard to make a generalization. I think the VII is a little thicker than MK. VIs, which may suit you fine. I think the keyword is typical very nice Selmer. I have also owned SA80MkIIs and thought they were great. Regarding the Yanis: I have a TW02 which is the basic un-fancy single post pro tenor, and its great. I don't know why, but prior to this current series, I thought the Yani tenors were sort of blah without having anything actually wrong with them. Sopranos, altos and bari Yanis have always been great IMO. I have an A991... wonderful.
 

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mk 7desighned by fred hemkie who a huge man with giant hands. i owned 2 and played them while i was flipping them. lucky i have large hands also. now kinda wish i had kept one of them. they say the alto version is the best and sat next to several classical players who loved them.
 

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OP, congrats on the horn! I have a friend who found a MkVII tenor in good shape for about $2400 from a shop a while back. He tried a bunch of horns in his budget and just really connected with that one. It's a solid horn with a good tone. It's got a cleaner and maybe darker tone than my MkVI, which has a fuzzier, buzzier kind of tendency that I like, but my friend prefers his VII and I can see why.

Those horns got a bad rap, but I think they are as good as any of the great vintage horns, though I've admittedly only played a few and none for very long. The VII's main crime was being different to a VI when that was all anybody wanted, but they have their own thing going, IMO.
 

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Mark VII Tenor with V16 7M
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks for all the kind words folks. Really loving this sax! 😎

My completely unscientific opinion is that saxes with lots of lacquer wear are great players.
I like this theory. The worn out parts of this saxes' lacquer all appear to be where you hold / touch it, so I imagine it's worn because it's been played a lot, and not from the weather. :)
 
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