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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015-
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I have back-ups for all my horns except for my bari. One night during a show a trombone player's slide hit my tenor's neck (on a stand while I was on alto), knocked it onto the floor and screwed up the palm keys.
Yet another reason not to play alto!

Tenor - It's all that matters.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Technician, Forum Contributor 2
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Same way that a car does. If you don't have it regularly serviced it can end up being a bit of a gamble knowing when something's going to fail.
I have a back-up car for those times when my daily-driver is in the process of getting serviced. I am my own mechanic so something like replacing intake manifold and valve cover gaskets may take me two or three evenings to complete. I am happy to have a backup car for those times.

Same situation with my horns. They don't get a full overhaul but every few years, but when they do, I can take my time since I have back-ups. Buescher New Aristocrats are my main horns (alto and tenor) and I have Buescher 2nd-line horns as my backups. They sound and respond much like my main horns and only feel a little different under the fingers. Best of all, they were cheap. For soprano, I have a Venus curved soprano that plays well enough. I often leave my Martin curvie at home since it is a one-of-a-kind customized horn that took me a couple of years to build and couldn't be replaced.
 

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I definitely have a backup horn. I have a backup tenor and a backup bari. When you play 5-6 nights a week, you can't afford to be down for even a day. Borrowing is not a good idea in my opinion. Whenever I borrow a horn, that seems to be the time it falls off the stand or something. Then you're stuck spending money to fix a horn that isn't even yours. Plus, having a backup horn means I can lend it to another brother in need should the situation arise.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2008
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I have multiple of several horns. I’m not sure I’d call them backups. It’s more of I like having the horns that I need the backups, but for the times that my horns are beings serviced, it is nice to have. That said, I play a 10M in the big band I play in but otherwise play a VI. I like having the 10M for those gigs.
 

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I have backup horns but also like the idea that they serve slightly different purposes (e.g. a Tenor Madness unlacquered tenor that’s great for jazz and a Yamaha purple label that is great for rock n’ roll, but either can work for any gig).
 

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I'm torn on this question; most of my life I just had a tenor. There is something to be said for playing the same horn all the time. Once I bought a cheap horn in nice shape when I had to send my main one off for an overhaul, then sold it when I got my horn back. Later on I finally got a nice alto but still had just the one tenor. During this time I playing a lot too, but the six-nighters were a thing of the past. That really ages a sax. Next came my first 'back-up' tenor, a Selmer USA. The original neck was in great condition but was awful - if I didn't have a replacement MK VI neck to try, I would not have been able to use the horn - but fortunately, that neck was very good on it. I soon got a baritone too, then a soprano.
So the real question is whether or not you 'need' a back-up for your principle instrument. I'd say that depends entirely on how much you play, and whether you always work from home or you tour.
I find myself now with a back-up that I'd rather play than my #1. The good thing about that is, I'll sooner or later swing the other way and play the VI for a few months. I do use the same mouthpiece on both. The bad thing about this is every horn is different - I know its true that if you stick to the same horn you will usually be better/more accurate, but in my situation of nearing the end of my playing time, I'm going for the fun. I don't care about the future or my 'career'. I just want to play whichever tenor suits my fancy on a given night. As far as having all the other saxes, playing them does not seem to affect my tenor playing even though mostly the mouthpieces are wildly different from the tenor and from each other. I said in another thread that I believe you get used to a certain mouthpiece on each sax and this does not cross you up going directly from horn to horn. For example, I played Level Air on tenor, alto and bari for many years. After I changed to Guardala on tenor and alto in 1989, after I started using it on tenor I could no longer play the Level Air. I mean I could make it play but it was just too 'foreign' - after using it for 23 years! Now here's the strange part - I can happily play Level Air on baritone and go directly back and forth with no problem!
Anyway, there are different ways to approach the back-up horn, and I think most guys are like me - we end up with two or more principle saxes and they both/all play great. The other way, which is probably not worth the trouble, is to have an 'emergency' principle sax that you really don't like that much but will get you through a gig. I think most of us will not keep a horn that 'won't blow' and/or just doesn't cut it on your gig - it's pointless.
 

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As a professional musician that's bad with my money... I think having a spare horn isn't a bad idea. When I've got a little extra money I invest it in a horn. Then if something happens to my main horn while I'm flat broke, I've got the other to last me for a while. Or, if I'm really broke, I sell it. Then a couple years later when I have some extra money, I start over.
Kind of how I treat sopranos in general.
Recently picked up a Toneking Exclusive tenor that's in the shop now. Even needing an overhaul it sounded great and played easier and more in tune than my Conn. I might use it on gigs that are mostly reading. We'll see how it sounds when it's not leaking profusely...
 

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Depends on your financial situation. If possible, have a backup. Sooner or later, your main horn will need major work or an overhaul. No really good repair person will get it back to you fast. The ideal backup is an exact duplicate of your regular horn, but it can be prohibitively expensive.
If you need all your money to pay bills, pay bills. If you have liquid cash, a spare horn isn't the worst way to spend it. Money in the bank doesn't earn much interest today, but a carefully chosen musical instrument will go up in value.
The next time you play a sax and think "Wow, this plays great for a horn this cheap," buy it! Then keep an eye out for a sax that beats your #2 horn and sell #2 to finance the purchase. Play your cards right and you'll have good stuff without spending money.
Never sell your #1 horn unless you spend a loooong time making sure you have something better. With a spare horn you can do that. Also, when you know your best saxophone needs a lot of work, you'll be able to allow your repairman time enough to do his best. Often you don't need a new horn, you just need a good repair job.
 
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