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Hi folks!

So, this is my first post, and I'm sure someone is willing to please give me some insight into intonation stuff on C-Mel saxes :toothy7:

I've recently reseated the pads on a Wurlitzer C-Sax with an S-shaped "tenor-style" neck and the intonation is rather peculiar. So, I'm using the stock MP that came with it and a Zinner MP with tenor reeds, Vandoren reeds, classic blue and Jazz series, in 2 and 2.5, to be exact. The immediate response of the sax is pretty good, so I guess there are no leaks. Three quarters of the intonation are pretty good:

The lower stack, and also including the G, is pretty much perfect in both octaves.

The upper stack is quite acceptable in the upper octave, depending on the reed, perhaps a wee bit too sharp.

But the upper stack in the lower octave gets worse the higher I play. A is about 20 cents too flat, C is 40 cents too flat, for C# I get a very very sharp C, or I need to press the D key :/

After close inspection of the instrument it's pretty clear that the neck has been resoldered. When I feel inside the neck there's a bit of a gap between the neck itself and the part which fits into the sax. I'd say it's less than half a millimeter. I don't think half a millimeter should be that much of an issue 🤔 But I'd be happy to be wrong :mrgreen: The neck itself is airtight by the way.

Also, the pads are all over the place, there's pads with rivets, metal resonators, plastic resonators, and pads sans everything, old pads, new pads, light and dark pads, but they are all in good working condition, leak-free and have about the same height.

There's some dead travel in the upper stack, but if I would fix that, it would get even flatter.

So, how shold I proceed? Order Bass Clarinet reeds, bring the neck to a professional for resoldering or mumble magic incantations on the next full moon?

Any and all help is appreciated!
 

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…Also, the pads are all over the place, there's pads with rivets, metal resonators, plastic resonators, and pads sans everything, old pads, new pads, light and dark pads, but they are all in good working condition, leak-free and have about the same height.…

But the upper stack in the lower octave gets worse the higher I play. A is about 20 cents too flat, C is 40 cents too flat, for C# I get a very very sharp C, or I need to press the D key :/
Welcome to SOTW!

1. The first thing to do is have the pads checked out by a professional. They may look leak-free and still leak.

2. C-melody saxes are well-known for having intonation problems. But it is a myth that they are worse than other saxophones from the 1920s. It is hard to comment on your post without knowing some background. Are you an experienced player with strong embouchure? Do you play other saxes that do not have intonation issues? Saxophone designers have improved the intonation greatly over the years. But it is still an out of tune instrument if the player does not adjust for intonation as he or she is playing.
 

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Yeah, my C in lower register is really sharp, I have to loosen the embouchure on just that note. This is on my Buescher TT from 1921

This little guy chronicled his way of adjusting the tone hole by placing something like a new Moon shape in the tone hole. I haven't ventured to try this yet on mine, but it made sense to me as he discusses how he fixed a new Chinese C-Mel
https://bandestration.com
 

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Hi folks!

So, this is my first post, and I'm sure someone is willing to please give me some insight into intonation stuff on C-Mel saxes :toothy7:

I've recently reseated the pads on a Wurlitzer C-Sax with an S-shaped "tenor-style" neck and the intonation is rather peculiar. So, I'm using the stock MP that came with it and a Zinner MP with tenor reeds, Vandoren reeds, classic blue and Jazz series, in 2 and 2.5, to be exact. The immediate response of the sax is pretty good, so I guess there are no leaks. Three quarters of the intonation are pretty good:

The lower stack, and also including the G, is pretty much perfect in both octaves.

The upper stack is quite acceptable in the upper octave, depending on the reed, perhaps a wee bit too sharp.

But the upper stack in the lower octave gets worse the higher I play. A is about 20 cents too flat, C is 40 cents too flat, for C# I get a very very sharp C, or I need to press the D key :/

After close inspection of the instrument it's pretty clear that the neck has been resoldered. When I feel inside the neck there's a bit of a gap between the neck itself and the part which fits into the sax. I'd say it's less than half a millimeter. I don't think half a millimeter should be that much of an issue 🤔 But I'd be happy to be wrong :mrgreen: The neck itself is airtight by the way.

Also, the pads are all over the place, there's pads with rivets, metal resonators, plastic resonators, and pads sans everything, old pads, new pads, light and dark pads, but they are all in good working condition, leak-free and have about the same height.

There's some dead travel in the upper stack, but if I would fix that, it would get even flatter.

So, how shold I proceed? Order Bass Clarinet reeds, bring the neck to a professional for resoldering or mumble magic incantations on the next full moon?

Any and all help is appreciated!
C melody saxes are notorious for intonation issues. I don't think the resolder is the problem. With the exception of the straight-neck Conns, C-Melody saxophones were junk marketed to amateurs to play at home along with a pianist, taking advantage of the saxophone craze of the 1920's and the average person's ignorance at the same time. Conn was the one company, in my opinion that refused to crank out garbage for short-term profits and made their C-Melody saxophones every bit as good as their other horns of the era. I love my 1926 NWII C Melody. It is by far my favorite saxophone to play and I own about 20 right now, including a 143K Mark VI tenor, two 10M's, a 1946 6M, a 1948 Buescher TH&C tenor, a 1928 Conn soprano, 1926 Buescher soprano, Keilwerth Toneking alto, King Zephyr tenor and others. The C Melody gets more play time than all of them simply because I love it, and I do a lot of duo gigs with a pianist and playing a C-sax simplifies things considerably.

Something that might interest you is that I own a Martin Wurlitzer C-soprano, and it is the ONLY C-soprano I have ever played that has spot-on intonation.
 

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Something that might interest you is that I own a Martin Wurlitzer C-soprano, and it is the ONLY C-soprano I have ever played that has spot-on intonation.
Is that true?? I've never scored a Martin Wurlitzer C-Mel.....I know I refurbed two Martin Alto's from that era, but never a C-Mel. Based on what you stated, I think I'll try to make the next horn I buy one of these and try one out.

I don't agree with the "Junk" statement though. With the major manufacturers back then being Conn, Buescher, H.N. White and Martin, almost everything I find is a stencil of one of those horns. That being said, one of the cleanest, most pristine horn I found was a "Grand Opera" and it was clearly a Conn NW I stencil. And yes your "Junk" statement 'may' have applied as, for instance, the keys had no pearls etc. but it was still a Conn.

I play the Buescher TT for the most part and though I have an actual Buescher, the stencil that is my #1 is a "Royal Artist, Bruno NY", I have a Conn NW II sitting over here in the case , but I seem to prefer my Buescher (can't say why really) I got in a H.N.White King model 1005 with a serial that has to be 1912-1913ish that came in Yesterday. I'll be watching for the "build" aspects but, again, I don't care for the "junk" statement.....but it's all cool, I understand what you are stating and it's just a different view on things.
 

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Is that true?? I've never scored a Martin Wurlitzer C-Mel.....I know I refurbed two Martin Alto's from that era, but never a C-Mel. Based on what you stated, I think I'll try to make the next horn I buy one of these and try one out.

I don't agree with the "Junk" statement though. With the major manufacturers back then being Conn, Buescher, H.N. White and Martin, almost everything I find is a stencil of one of those horns. That being said, one of the cleanest, most pristine horn I found was a "Grand Opera" and it was clearly a Conn NW I stencil. And yes your "Junk" statement 'may' have applied as, for instance, the keys had no pearls etc. but it was still a Conn.

I play the Buescher TT for the most part and though I have an actual Buescher, the stencil that is my #1 is a "Royal Artist, Bruno NY", I have a Conn NW II sitting over here in the case , but I seem to prefer my Buescher (can't say why really) I got in a H.N.White King model 1005 with a serial that has to be 1912-1913ish that came in Yesterday. I'll be watching for the "build" aspects but, again, I don't care for the "junk" statement.....but it's all cool, I understand what you are stating and it's just a different view on things.
It's not a Martin Wurlitzer C-Melody, It's a Martin-Wurlitzer C-Soprano. They made soprano saxes in C at the same time they were making C-Tenors, aka C-Melody. But the C-sopranos made by Conn and Buescher were notoriously bad in intonation. Only Martin perfected the C-Soprano.

Conn stencil C-Melodys were probably as good as their brand name horns. It's the Martins, Kings and Bueschers I think were junk horns. I have tried them all, the only one even close to being worth bothering with was the Conn models. The rest are lamp material, fountains, scultpures, wall hangers, whatever. But they are not good at all as playing horns.
 

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You guys haven’t played Holton c soprano or c melody
 

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C Melody's - and all other 90 year old saxes including tenors and altos and sopranos and baritones - are notorious for intonation issues. Those who discount C Melody's uniquely, know not of what they speak.

Get thy horn to a proper tech with haste. After you *know* its in good condition and regulated, you'll need to do two things:

Find a modern mouthpiece that works with it for best intonation. I decided trial and error was warranted. I didn't get much out of researching recommendations, chamber sizes, etc., because too many folks that weigh in on C melodies either don't have one, or don't have any usable experience with them. A Quantum works very well on mine, not the intuitive choice most folks would believe would work.

And second, play it a lot so you can learn how to compensate - exactly like any other horn from that era.
 

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IMHO, assuming the horn is in good shape [your description of the pads and key action play lead me to suspect otherwise] it just takes time playing it like any other sax to make the small adjustments that we all make with any horn. Now I will state that mpc made a huge difference for me on my conn C. The original eagle played mostly in tune but was horribly closed and tubby. One needs like a popsicle stick reed to keep it from closing off and I do not enjoy playing a horn with a hard reed. I experimented with tenor pieces, alto pieces, Aquila dedicated C pieces and finally settled on a babbit manufactured Faxx hard rubber piece for C mels. It was relatively inexpensive, plays in tune, has a large round chamber, and a tip that can accommodate a medium strength reed. Even with that I find that if I don't play the horn for a long time, I need to "relearn" adjustments when I pick it up again. I have not played the martins or kings from the era so cannot comment other than repeat what others add that the conn is on par with their other pro horns of the period. I have seen Wurlitzer branded horns that were martin stencils, conn stencils and/or bueschers.

Also agree with soybean above regarding Holton. I have a C sop from Holton from the 20s. It has excellent intonation, quick action, serious projection etc. I have not tried their C mels.
 

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It sounds to me like you just need to try different mouthpieces. I have an early 1920s Conn that I could play mostly in tune with a Rico graftonite C chamber (C5) mouthpiece. But the middle C was quite flat and the middle C sharp was extremely flat (almost a sharp C natural). I switched to a B chamber (B5) which needed to be pushed on farther to tune and now those two notes are acceptable. Because of the micro tuner, I had to saw off a bit of the shank of the Rico graftonite B chamber so that it could be pushed in far enough. Middle C sharp is still a little flat but I can bring it into tune by either adding side C or G key with octave key to increase the venting.
 

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You guys haven’t played Holton c soprano or c melody
You're right about that and I have seen the Holton C sop sell for high prices on ebay. I always wondered about that, thought it was just because it had a high F unlike the others. But now I am even more curious. Holton made good C horns, huh? I'm going to have to put those on my snipe list.
 

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C Melody's - and all other 90 year old saxes including tenors and altos and sopranos and baritones - are notorious for intonation issues. Those who discount C Melody's uniquely, know not of what they speak.

Get thy horn to a proper tech with haste. After you *know* its in good condition and regulated, you'll need to do two things:

Find a modern mouthpiece that works with it for best intonation. I decided trial and error was warranted. I didn't get much out of researching recommendations, chamber sizes, etc., because too many folks that weigh in on C melodies either don't have one, or don't have any usable experience with them. A Quantum works very well on mine, not the intuitive choice most folks would believe would work.

And second, play it a lot so you can learn how to compensate - exactly like any other horn from that era.
Disagree, respectfully of course. I have a sizeable collection of vintage horns and many others I have bought and sold and others that I have at least tried out. If you think all saxophones that age have intonation issues than you are the one who knows not of what you speak. There are lots of 90 year old saxophones with spot-on intonation, like the Conn NWII, of which I currently own three, and Martins and Bueschers as well. I have tried all major brand C Melodys from the 1920's except Holton. With the exception of the straight neck Conn, I have yet to encounter a C Melody from that era worth bothering with, and not just because of the horrible intonation, but also the extremely awkward egonomics. The side palm keys especially are positioned way off, and the horns are awkward to hold like a normal saxophone. Someone told me they were designed to hold up in your armpit while you stood over the shoulder of a piano player. That might be the reason, but no modern players are going to want to hold a horn like that. I sold one of my Buescher C mels to my repair tech who was fed up with his Martin C Mel, and he worked that thing over top to bottom and did a pro set-up on both stacks and raised the palm and side keys beautifully with layered cork, did everything possible to make it a players horn. He still couldn't get it to play in tune or ever feel comfortable playing with it and sold it to someone else. C Mels were quick-buck scam pushed by music stores taking advantage of the saxophone craze during the golden age of jazz, designed quickly and poorly, manufactured by D-list craftsmen in third-rate auxillary factories. Only Conn took the time to design and make them correctly, as a legitimate addition to their line of pro-quality saxophones. If only they had done as well with their C-Sopranos, which are loads better than the Buescher C-Sop but still have wacky intonation. Of the three vintage C-sops I've played, only the Martin was spot on in-tune. Another poster here mentioned the Holton C-Mels and C-sops which I have not yet tried but may also be worth the money and time to restore.
 

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The intonation issues may be related to the MPC. Many c-melodies are sold with shortened tenor MPCs that are notorious for all kinds of issues. Get a real c-melody MPC or better, one of the https://www.morganmouthpieces.com/collections/all/c-melody-mouthpieces (you can try it for a restocking fee) and see what happens. My 1941 Martin (Wurlitzer) is exquisitely in tune with that MPC - not inexpensive, I paid way less for the actual horn. Martin, Buescher, Conn and Holton are worth all the (little) money that these horns command. I may be wrong but my "theory" is that because they are keyed in C, and were primarily played in chamber music ensembles, they were manufactured and tuned more carefully then the tenors and altos.
 

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IMHO, assuming the horn is in good shape [your description of the pads and key action play lead me to suspect otherwise] it just takes time playing it like any other sax to make the small adjustments that we all make with any horn. Now I will state that mpc made a huge difference for me on my conn C. The original eagle played mostly in tune but was horribly closed and tubby. One needs like a popsicle stick reed to keep it from closing off and I do not enjoy playing a horn with a hard reed. I experimented with tenor pieces, alto pieces, Aquila dedicated C pieces and finally settled on a babbit manufactured Faxx hard rubber piece for C mels. It was relatively inexpensive, plays in tune, has a large round chamber, and a tip that can accommodate a medium strength reed. Even with that I find that if I don't play the horn for a long time, I need to "relearn" adjustments when I pick it up again. I have not played the martins or kings from the era so cannot comment other than repeat what others add that the conn is on par with their other pro horns of the period. I have seen Wurlitzer branded horns that were martin stencils, conn stencils and/or bueschers.

Also agree with soybean above regarding Holton. I have a C sop from Holton from the 20s. It has excellent intonation, quick action, serious projection etc. I have not tried their C mels.
You've touched on one of the reasons that even the Conn C Mels are not popular. There is a very limited choice of modern C Mel Mouthpieces, and the vintage ones don't have a modern sound and are mostly very closed. You can get them reworked to sound fantastic, by experts like Bill Street who in my opinion makes the best C-Mel mouthpiece ever made. Most of the modern C-Mel mouthpieces are not C-mel mouthpieces but actually Bb tenor mouthpieces with a cut down shank. You can use a lot of different tenor mouthpieces if you cut part or all of the shank off (or grind it off,) so you can push it in far enough to get it in tune. I tried the Babbit and I thought it was playable but the sound wasn't bright enough for me, as Conn C-Mels have a naturally dark sound, supposedly due to having an alto body with an elongated bell. It was also inconvenient to buy bass clarinet reeds just for that mouthpiece. The one I had was plastic though, not HR. They are currently available on ebay from a couple different sellers for very cheap.

I also have a Runyon C-Mel, another cut down tenor mpc, but have yet to work with it much.
 

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It's not a Martin Wurlitzer C-Melody, It's a Martin-Wurlitzer C-Soprano. They made soprano saxes in C at the same time they were making C-Tenors, aka C-Melody. But the C-sopranos made by Conn and Buescher were notoriously bad in intonation. Only Martin perfected the C-Soprano.
I have a King C Soprqno that has spot on intonation.
I prefer the Buescher Cmelody to the Conn, for what I play.
What mouthpiece do you use? In my experience the Conn will do well with an alto mouthpiece, but Martins Bueschers and Kings will do better with a tenor mouthpiece.
 

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Disagree, respectfully of course. I have a sizeable collection of vintage horns and many others I have bought and sold and others that I have at least tried out. If you think all saxophones that age have intonation issues than you are the one who knows not of what you speak. There are lots of 90 year old saxophones with spot-on intonation, like the Conn NWII, of which I currently own three, and Martins and Bueschers as well. I have tried all major brand C Melodys from the 1920's except Holton. With the exception of the straight neck Conn, I have yet to encounter a C Melody from that era worth bothering with, and not just because of the horrible intonation, but also the extremely awkward egonomics. The side palm keys especially are positioned way off, and the horns are awkward to hold like a normal saxophone. Someone told me they were designed to hold up in your armpit while you stood over the shoulder of a piano player. That might be the reason, but no modern players are going to want to hold a horn like that. I sold one of my Buescher C mels to my repair tech who was fed up with his Martin C Mel, and he worked that thing over top to bottom and did a pro set-up on both stacks and raised the palm and side keys beautifully with layered cork, did everything possible to make it a players horn. He still couldn't get it to play in tune or ever feel comfortable playing with it and sold it to someone else. C Mels were quick-buck scam pushed by music stores taking advantage of the saxophone craze during the golden age of jazz, designed quickly and poorly, manufactured by D-list craftsmen in third-rate auxillary factories. Only Conn took the time to design and make them correctly, as a legitimate addition to their line of pro-quality saxophones. If only they had done as well with their C-Sopranos, which are loads better than the Buescher C-Sop but still have wacky intonation. Of the three vintage C-sops I've played, only the Martin was spot on in-tune. Another poster here mentioned the Holton C-Mels and C-sops which I have not yet tried but may also be worth the money and time to restore.
SaxBum, I have a Buescher c-sop in original (restored) condition including snap-on pads. All the work was done by Paul Maslin and it is spot on, using a Morgan c-sop MPC. I lucked out on that one, it was a custom build that the customer apparently did not like with a 3.47 facing and it is phenomenal to play. Point being that a lot may depend on the regulation (Paul mentioned it was a bitch to get it right) and the MPC. Needless to say that I paid about at least 2 x the street value but that was my own mistake and in retrospect, I am glad I did (from a playing perspective).
 

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Disagree, respectfully of course. If you think all saxophones that age have intonation issues than you are the one who knows not of what you speak. There are lots of 90 year old saxophones with spot-on intonation, like...

and...

With the exception of the straight neck Conn, I have yet to encounter a C Melody from that era worth bothering with
I didn't say they have intonation issues. I own several vintage horns, actually all my horns are 50+ years old, with several from the 20's. Lets restate and correct the record: they have no *additional* issues that aren't common for all horns from that era, due to known things like octave pip locations, poor condition, and whatnot. Its widely known the players from that era played 20's horns without intonation issues, as evidenced by the many excellent recordings.

We are always in error to assign our experience as the convention for all. My experience is opposite of yours for instance. I found the Buescher's C melody were superior to the Conn straight neck, the Martin, and the Holton. But I wouldn't broad brush my tiny sample, and incorrectly discount all others; that would be incorrect, because the reputable makers of that period had no reason BUT to make a quality horn for all the obvious reasons. Maybe something else influenced my experience, and yours.

I believe, based on experience, its not true that C melodies have inherent flaws, even though the internet and schools seem to reject them, and I believe its not true that Martins and Bueschers are faulty or inferior to the straight neck. All the Martin and Buescher C Melody owners who traded several and settled on their choice believe similarly.

We don't have to agree, but I'll suggest innocent till proven guilty is the best policy for these horns and brands for the prospective C melody buyer. I'm very glad I didn't listen to the nay sayers.
 

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I didn't say they have intonation issues. I own several vintage horns, actually all my horns are 50+ years old, with several from the 20's. Lets restate and correct the record: they have no *additional* issues that aren't common for all horns from that era, due to known things like octave pip locations, poor condition, and whatnot. Its widely known the players from that era played 20's horns without intonation issues, as evidenced by the many excellent recordings.

We are always in error to assign our experience as the convention for all. My experience is opposite of yours for instance. I found the Buescher's C melody were superior to the Conn straight neck, the Martin, and the Holton. But I wouldn't broad brush my tiny sample, and incorrectly discount all others; that would be incorrect, because the reputable makers of that period had no reason BUT to make a quality horn for all the obvious reasons. Maybe something else influenced my experience, and yours.

I believe, based on experience, its not true that C melodies have inherent flaws, even though the internet and schools seem to reject them, and I believe its not true that Martins and Bueschers are faulty or inferior to the straight neck. All the Martin and Buescher C Melody owners who traded several and settled on their choice believe similarly.

We don't have to agree, but I'll suggest innocent till proven guilty is the best policy for these horns and brands for the prospective C melody buyer. I'm very glad I didn't listen to the nay sayers.
+1 And I can't even recall the times I pulled out my c-sop or c-mel and the resident sax genius just upped his nose and told me that those are stupid horns. In those cases, I let my horn speak for itself, in fact, with certain players I make a point of taking those "stupid" c-horns, just because I can :twisted:
 
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