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Discussion Starter #1
This question may sound dumb to those of you who have purchased or traded multiple horns over several years, but here goes:

I am in the market for a new tenor, I have never purchased a horn for myself (my alto is the same student horn my father bought for me decades ago, and I am currently playing a Mark VII tenor that belongs to the college I work at), and I really want to try out as many horns as I can before settling on one. I want to buy a horn that I can play and be happy with for at least the next 30 years or so. The problem is that I have little intention of buying one from either the local music store, which doesn't carry all of the horns I would like to try, or from one of the larger or smaller merchants in the larger cities I could drive to from where I live, for the simple reason that the best deals seem available over the internet or from reputable dealers in other states. So my admittedly naive question (because I think I know the answer already) is this: Is it acceptable to drop by a few shops and ask to play test several horns when your real intention is to gain enough experience with these models to make a more informed purchase elsewhere? Is it necessary to feign real interest in buying from a dealer in order to get permission to blow on a few horns? And also: How willing are the brick-and-mortar dealers to come down in price, throw in a mouthpiece, etc. if you indicate that you know you could save money buying elsewhere?
 

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If I were a store owner, I wouldn't like it if you tried one of my horns and then went and bought it online.

I would really recommend that if you try one out and you really like it, to just buy that one. You could try and work a deal with the local company, but it really depends on the actual store on how much they will lower the price.
 

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It's OK to go in to a shop to test what they have in stock. Most sales personel know that the musician needs to try before they buy and that you need to compare horns to make the best decision.
Make sure that you have your OWN mouthpiece and reeds for play testing. You'll be taken a bit more seriously.
I wouldn't count on a brick and mortar dealer to come down too much on price or throw in a different mouthpiece. It can't hurt to ask if you are truly serious about purchasing an instrument from them.
 

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I understand your reluctance to impose on a local dealer then buy from an internet retailer. My take is that each saxophone is normally different, even among same brand/same model horns. Maybe some individual design feature could be identified by playing a local store's in-stock version, but the overall playing quality may differ significantly.

When I was looking at pro-level Yamaha altos, I found a significant difference among all the ones I played from store-to-store. But with Selmer's Ref 54, I found significant similarities (among the five or six I tried and later played, all were amazingly similar). So, you may walk into a local store, see a nice saxophone, try it, like it, then buy another from the Internet - and end up with something you don't like.

In the end, maybe you'd be better off visiting as many brick-'n'-mortar stores as you can and buy one you like, even if you have to pay a little more than an Internet seller. I'm guessing most dealers would rather negotiate than see you walk out without their horn. I sure would. They know their competition - only a fool would NOT understand this dynamic in today's instrument market. DAVE
 

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When you visit a shop with new horns, you're giving them every chance to make a sale; even if your initial intention might be to find the horn for less elsewhere. If you do find a horn you like, you can always ask the shop keeper if they will match a price you find elsewhere. Nothing wrong with walking if they don't come down in price. It's just business.
 

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The lowest price is almost always available on the internet. But it may or may not be the best deal. If an area store has a good service department that is worth some extra on the price. And as Dave said, not every sax plays the same. You have nothing to lose by negotiating with a local dealer. Give them a chance. If they won't at least try to deal with you, you can buy elsewhere with a clear conscience.
 

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When you buy a horn online it is really a crapshoot regarding set up and playing regulation...You can usually count on spending some extra bread at the tech shop. At least if you play one in a shop you can make sure it is in great playing condition before you leave with it. Or if you play it and don't think it is set up well, but they say it has already been regulated, you can just walk away.

I got a good deal on my tenor because it had been sitting in the store for so long that it was literally collecting dust. It played well as it was, but they insisted on running it through the shop again to at least clean it up. I got a great set up on a nice sax for much less than regular retail. It was a Cannonball, so there is no online shopping.
 

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When you buy a horn online it is really a crapshoot regarding set up and playing regulation...You can usually count on spending some extra bread at the tech shop.
Yup, I agree. Take that into consideration when doing your price comparison. Plus the fact that individual horns can and do vary, so what you get online may be quite different from what you played. The price benefit on going online is not so clear cut as just looking at the brand/model and price.

I also agree with most of the other posts on here, esp. Dave Dolson and retread.
 

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The really good online sax shops I know of have a trial period.
 

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I would be upfront and say I can get this online for....; but I would add, I know you have overhead and as such I am will to add a reasonable amount over the online price. There is a certain mental benefit from being able to have a place to comfortably take the horn after you have it rather than dealing with an online merchant. With that said, I recently went to a local music store to buy an item; compared the price to the MSRP and the online price, and the local music store was about 7-8% over MSRP! Needless to say, I didn't buy at the local store. I guess it depends on the circumstances.

Also, I don't know about all local music stores, but these days, lots of them make most of their money from school rental, rent to buy, and sales of music to local schools. They don't make a lot from new instrument sales from you and me. As longs as there are school music programs (and I hope forever) , these merchants will be in business, making a good living regardless. They don't really depend on selling new instruments, even though they are there on display with a price tag.
 

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I never have a problem getting a brick and mortar store to match an Internet price. I've gone so far as to say, "let's look it up online and see what the going price is..". They cringe. Then we go on-line. It helps to have a relationship probably.

That being said - the best deals are private party used sales. Wait patiently for a deal on Craigslist or, if your brave - e-bay. There are reputable sellers there. Just do your homework and learn what questions to ask. Do not be impatient. I shopped for over a year for a Bari abs found a good one for around $500 on CL.
 

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I still have some questions - assuming we're talking about name brand horns.
Where do you find out about low prices from the Internet dealers? I haven't seen any internet prices on Selmers (for instance) that are below the manufacturer's minimum advertised price.

My fantasy is to go to Las Vegas and spend two days at Kessler's trying every top line tenor they have. But then having selected one, what do I say next? Hey Dave, what will you sell me this for? It would be nice to have some basis for talking price.
 

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I think the set up and regulation is the big selling point of buying one from the local shop. Plus it's good karma.

There a music store warehouse here in Minnesota that has a room full of saxes for you to try out -- from Antigua Winds all the way up to Ref 54, King Super 20s....I mean you name it, they pretty much have it. They get people in alll the time doing that (myself included) the downshot is that most of the horns have just been taken out of the box and put up on the wall -so they're not nearly as good as they could be. But still worth a look if you're ever out this way...

http://www.schmittmusic.com/band-orchestra/sax-shop.php
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thanks for all of the feedback.

Regarding my local shop, which is the kind of place that sells pianos and organs in addition to band instruments and supplies, but also carries some pro spec instruments: I would actually like to buy a horn from them, I have bought reeds and other supplies from them before, they are nice folks, etc. They also do good repair work. I'm open to the idea that a purchase from a store with a good repair shop is the beginning of a long term relationship. When I asked their salesman about pro spec horns, he said that I could come by anytime and play a few Yamahas, Selmers and Cannonballs. Which is fine, but when I asked if they also carried Yanagisawas and Keilwerths, he replied that they could order anything--but not to compare with their other stock. In other words, if I want to try anything other than the horns they carry before buying, I will have to do this elsewhere. Since I'm planning to buy a tenor for life, I would really like to try everything I can, but having had a little too much time perhaps to think about this I've done a lot of online comparisons as well, and realized that I can probably save a lot of money by going elsewhere--perhaps taking advantage of a trial period, for example. This rules out trying out several examples of the same horn, however. But since I've never been in the position of choosing a horn before--I've always played whatever was available--this isn't as important to me as it might be to others. Granted, no two horns will sound or blow exactly the same, but I'm more concerned about feel than anything else. The Mark VII tenor I've been playing for the last year or so sounds good, but I don't think it's the best fit for my relatively small hands (I realize that the Mark VII might be an extreme example).

Maybe the real problem is that the internet has spoiled me--I'm used to buying books and lots of other things with a few clicks, but now I want to put a lot of money down on something that I really need to be sure about, so I'm perhaps vainly thinking that I can both try everything I can AND get the best possible deal.
 

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To get a deal on a new, name brand instrument, you are best off negotiating in person. With cash in hand. With new gear, listed prices are fixed. Everyone is pretty much the same. Either go where you have a relationship developed, or go one state over and have them ship across state lines to avoid sales tax. ;)
 

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If everybody went to a store to "test" saxophones, but then buy them online... You wouldn't have stores to "test" them at.

I work full-time selling instruments at Sam Ash Music. I love being able to help musicians get that new horn that will get them through years of gigs and concerts. I can tell when someone comes in to "test" and then want to buy it elsewhere. I always tell them upfront that I will beat anybody's price on identical items. I do what I can to keep the business in the store, and most stores would be smart to follow suit.

I wish I could say that the market is doing well, but it's not. Because of this, the likelihood of a store ordering in various horns they don't normally stock for you to try out, is low. There was a time I could do this without concern of being stuck with a horn for a long time. But this economy and buying patterns of consumers has made it hard to sell inventory. Like I can tell you that I will sell 4 pro Cannonball horns before I sell 1 pro Yamaha horn, and I will sell 100 pro Cannonball horns before I sell 1 pro Selmer horn. So when I get a customer who wants to try out a few different pro selmers...It's not gonna be in my best interest financially to order anything in for him.

Hope this is helpful.. Also if you are looking for a particular model horn and want to find a good price, just let me know what you are looking at. This is how I make my living...as little as it is :)
 

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Discussion Starter #20
If everybody went to a store to "test" saxophones, but then buy them online... You wouldn't have stores to "test" them at.

I work full-time selling instruments at Sam Ash Music. I love being able to help musicians get that new horn that will get them through years of gigs and concerts. I can tell when someone comes in to "test" and then want to buy it elsewhere. I always tell them upfront that I will beat anybody's price on identical items. I do what I can to keep the business in the store, and most stores would be smart to follow suit.

I wish I could say that the market is doing well, but it's not. Because of this, the likelihood of a store ordering in various horns they don't normally stock for you to try out, is low. There was a time I could do this without concern of being stuck with a horn for a long time. But this economy and buying patterns of consumers has made it hard to sell inventory. Like I can tell you that I will sell 4 pro Cannonball horns before I sell 1 pro Yamaha horn, and I will sell 100 pro Cannonball horns before I sell 1 pro Selmer horn. So when I get a customer who wants to try out a few different pro selmers...It's not gonna be in my best interest financially to order anything in for him.

Hope this is helpful.. Also if you are looking for a particular model horn and want to find a good price, just let me know what you are looking at. This is how I make my living...as little as it is :)
I agree that we should be supporting our local shops. It's also good to know that brick and mortar merchants are willing to negotiate. I get the sense, though, that the advice often given here and elsewhere, i.e. "try as many examples of as many horns as you can," has always been hard to follow if you don't live near stores that carry lots of models, and is perhaps (if I understand your example of Cannonball vs. Selmer correctly) getting even harder. I suspect that in some ways the internet is to blame for this situation: More inventory is available to more consumers than ever before, but more online purchases result in fewer places to go to actually try out multiple instruments, not to mention develop a relationship with a good merchant and repair shop. It may be apples and oranges, but a good comparison would perhaps be bookstores and record stores. Smaller towns used to have at least one good one of each of these, where you could at least order what they didn't have. They were more expensive, but at least you could go there, browse items (by actually touching them, listening to or reading them, etc.), and if you went there often the owners and employees would get to know you. I wouldn't trade what we have now for a return to that situation, not only because now is less expensive, but also because back then you couldn't dream of finding, for example, out-of-print or foreign language books as easily as you can these days. On the other hand, our one local privately owned bookstore seems to be struggling, and I heard that even the Borders at the mall may close. The local record store closed down a few years ago.

In any case, all of the responses to this thread have encouraged me to give the brick and mortar stores an honest try. I really appreciate all of the feedback.
 
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