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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
(Yet another choosing a saxophone thread, sorry about that!)

My wife is a semi-professional oboe player with a local small
symphony. (She got her Master's in oboe performance.) She loves
this, but even more perhaps I think she loves being called to be in
the pit orchestras of various shows. Her chances of being called for
a show go up if she can double, and besides oboe (and english horn)
she's willing to take on clarinet and tenor saxophone in fill-in (not
solo) capacity. (She has done so already, more than once. Thought I
should make it clear that this is already a reality, not a wish.)

However, we don't _have_ a saxophone! Last time she doubled she
borrowed an old one of my aunt's, which was of questionable quality
and condition. We had it tuned up at the shop, and I performed some
case repairs. Call it our 'rent', my aunt was unwilling to sell us
the instrument.

Why rent when you can own? I want us to have one, but choosing the
right one is, of course, a tricky business. I'll try to spell out our
criteria as I see them. I am pursuing this, rather than she, as a
potential gift situation. Good gift ideas can be rather hard to come
by. Yes I know, buying an instrument for someone else can be rather
perilous, but I try not to let such thoughts stop me.

Naturally we don't want to spend too much money on something that'll
get, at best, played once or twice a year. On the other hand, she can
be a bit of an instrument snob, her double reeds are top-of-the line
horns. (As they should be.) The sax can't be too weird, or cheap and
nasty, else she can't hold her head up in the pit. (I guess.) I
suppose the ideal is a horn that can be handed to the _real_ saxophone
player, who noodles on it a bit and says "Hey! Not bad." One that he
didn't dismiss as crap out of hand, without even trying it. This counts
for something, if she wants to get called again.

And _I_ have a serious Jones for quality vintage instruments,
particularly 'sleepers' that can be had inexpensively. (I'm
particularly fond of silver finishes, as they can be polished up to a
rather nice appearance with nothing more than some time and elbow
grease.)

She doesn't like jazz, her forte is Romantic, lyrical, if this helps
in the selection for tone. (Of course, pit orchestras play the books,
whatever it is that's written. But Romantic is her preference.
Non-jazz on a tenor sax? Is this Heresy or what?)

I know little about saxophones, and I can't say that she knows enough
either to be entirely sure about which keywork style might be best for
her. There's entirely too much variation in the 'operating systems'
out there to suit me. (That's the trumpet player in me coming out!)
Something too old/weird/clunky/stiff would probably not be a great
choice. Need expert advice there.

I did drag home a nickel-plated Martin stencil C melody, LP. It was
cheap, and I knew what I was getting. I tried to pass it off as a Bb
tenor (because of the neck) that I 'got a real deal on' at the junkque
store. For some reason, she did not find this as amusing as I did!
She won't touch it.

She's quite careful with her instruments, we have no need for the
extra durability of a 'student' horn. She's taken the same
five-figures-worth of persnickety wooden double reed instruments to
her gigs for years, with never any damage.

Your mainstream Yamaha? OK I guess, but leaves me rather cold. Your
Selmer Mark VI? Nice, I'm sure. Won't pay for it! Your 1940's "Le
Boeuf" silver-plated oddity that's well built, in decent shape, and
plays superbly after being tuned up? Well hello there!

I am mechanically handy, though with no experience as an instrument
tech. I can/do work on small stuff all the time. Usually
successfully. I once re-padded my mother's old Noblet clarinet, well
enough to suit her anyway. A bent (sat-upon?) Gemeinhardt M2 flute
that I picked up as a challenge now plays, or so I'm told, and you can
hardly see the repairs. A horn with a few challenges to sort out
doesn't scare me, if they're reasonable.

Recent horns that have turned up locally are Antigua Winds, Yamaha,
and "ITO" (Vito?). I know AW is new and cheap-ish, but I've been
reading that they're not actually bad choices. I suspect the one we
didn't get that sold for $350 (before we could call) would probably
have been satisfactory, the price certainly was. Not very satisfying
to my penchant for oddities, unless you consider a decently-built
Chinese horn to be an oddity, but if it worked well at a good price...

Well, any suggestions? I'm hoping to find something that'll make us
_all_ happy---player, buyer, and colleagues, and, of course, audience.
 

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You want a sax for your wife? Probably a good trade, but first show a picture of her. Here's the sax:

Just kidding already!;);););););););)
Thanks to WWSAX for the great picture. Sarge will be glad to put this treatment on your horn!
 

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I believe the best place to start would be by clicking on the Kessler Music ad at the top of the page. Many here have bought Dave's very-respected but reasonably priced horns, and many more of us have been helped by him personally via email or on the phone. Dave also carries Antiqua's and will give you a very honest comparison between his house brand and alternatives.

Also consider the Phil Barone horns. You can find a ton of info on them here with the search function. Again, very reasonably priced and highly thought of. Phil also includes one of his mouthpieces.

These both offer solid Asian-made horns with final inspection and set-up here in the US by folks who take their reputations seriously. Let us know what you think.
 

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I'm not sure how much you want to spend, but my choice for used pro horns that are good value, maybe undervalued, are, in order of preference:

Selmer Mark VII (1st model after the Mark VI)(Potential for increase in value)
Almost any Yanagisawa, (These are really good horns, very well made) (many Vito models were made by Yanagisawa)
Yamaha YTS 62
Yamaha YTS 52
B&S (last choice, but they made some good horns)

With these you get excellent to good quality and stable value. Although many guys like the new Taiwanese and Chinese imports, either branded or stenciled, I tend away from them. I can't speak about the quality, since I've never owned one, but as an investment, they are likely to decline in value in time. If you're going to spend money, you might as well try to assure that you'll get your money back, if you decide to move up.
 

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A Selmer USA tenor, any of the top-line models made in Elkhart during the '80s and '90s, but particularly those with 82xxxx serials. Absolutely a decent sax and built like a tank. These have great variability, so you should play a few before buying if possible. Actually, the same goes for any of the Taiwan-made ones too. Some of them blow, and some are stinkers.
 

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Humm...

Let's see...

A relatively cheap, vintage sleeper of a tenor sax with a great unimpeachable reputation that even an instrument snob could love?

Well, there is one sure answer to this request and that answer is a properly vintaged Conn 10M from the 1950's, 40's or late 30's. The older the better.

And before everyone else chimes in, there is one very important thing to remember. When you buy something for a women, her perceptions of the gift are more important than any real facts. So feel her out as much as possible to make dead sure what she really wants. Many women can be vague about these things so the man has to guess. That way if the woman does not like it, she can blame the man without feeling any culpability herself. So you have to be very diligent and get as much out of her as you can before you even suggest a make or model of sax to her.

I've just gone through this, so I know. Boy, do I know. ;)
 

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Maybe a restored TrueTone? Check out some of the horns here:

http://vintagesax.com/tenor.html

Gayle is respected here as one of the Real Deal vintage horn dealers.
 

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10M's are generally a pretty good value for the money...but something like a Martin Indiana is a good 'sleeper'. They have a very big warm tone, and can generally be had in the 400-700 range. Most have nickel plated keys and lacquered bodies which means they aren't much to look at, but have all the tone to make up for it. IMO the keywork is a bit more comfortable than comparable saxes from its time...I really like the thumbrests these came with (both upper and lower) as they are very comfortable (and the lower thumbrest is adjustable, similarly to the Committee III AKA "The Martin").

Something like a Buescher true tone is another good idea, although ergonomics may or may not suit her. But again, these are a great value...I have a 1920 TT tenor and even with a few leaks it has a great sound (spread, warm and velvety...especially in the low end). And they have the added bonus of frequently being found in satin silver...bonus cool points if you're going for something silver.

My feelings are always that if a player is on a limited budget, vintage should be seriously considered. If she doesn't mind adjusting to the ergonomics of an older instrument, the pay off of tone quality is well worth it. I think it would be challenging to find a modern sax that would sound nearly as good as the previously mentioned vintage models within the same budget.

And I think while trumpets are generally layed out similarly there are notable differences. Such as an Olds Recording for ergonomic comfort. Or comparing a tightly wrapped "peashooter" to a more modern wrap. And even between models of similar styles I have found different likes and dislikes because of design. My burnished gold plated TT 'peashooter' isn't nearly as comfortable as my Conn Vocabell when it comes to comfort of hand position (both 'peashooter' trumpets). Or even among the more common 'modern' wrap...my Olds Mendez has two triggers while my Connstellation (28B) has one, and then there are the trumpets that don't have any at all. But I'll stop since this isn't trumpetontheweb :TGNCHK:.

Back to saxophones...

I would say the bottom line is to check out as many as you can in person to see what fits her the best. Vintage will probably be the best bang for the buck, and it sounds like it would be more enjoyable for the trumpet player in the house as well. And if the sax would only be performed on several times a year, I would personally put tone quality above ergonomics.
 

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I'm not sure how much you want to spend, but my choice for used pro horns that are good value, maybe undervalued, are, in order of preference:

Selmer Mark VII (1st model after the Mark VI)(Potential for increase in value)
Almost any Yanagisawa, (These are really good horns, very well made) (many Vito models were made by Yanagisawa)
Yamaha YTS 62
Yamaha YTS 52
B&S (last choice, but they made some good horns)

With these you get excellent to good quality and stable value. Although many guys like the new Taiwanese and Chinese imports, either branded or stenciled, I tend away from them. I can't speak about the quality, since I've never owned one, but as an investment, they are likely to decline in value in time. If you're going to spend money, you might as well try to assure that you'll get your money back, if you decide to move up.
Well, I'll tell you what happpened yesterday while plugging the heck out of my stuff but it's a true story and the guy that came is a member here but he doesn't post. His name is Thad Noland and he's in the midst of getting his masters at Berkeley.

he had a top of the line Yamaha they make and first he bought a mouthpiece, a Jazz model. He was playing a Runyon and when he played it at first, it didn't sound so bad but then he put on my Jazz model and it sounded much better then I asked him to put the Runyon back on and after playing the Jazz model it just sounded so awful. I always knew they weren't very good but I had no idea they were so terrible, just the worst. The Runyon had a huge baffle and a medium/small chamber and my Jazz model has practically no baffle and a huge chamber and the Jazz model was just as loud as the Runyon but the quality of the sound blew the Runyon away. When I made the Jazz model I was trying to copy an old Super ToneMaster from a period that was made in NY. It was a very short period but I think that was the best period they made.

Before I made the mold I worked on the mouthpiece a little; I raised the baffle by lowering the table. That closes the tip opening and shortens the facing when you do that so I opened it back to a 7* (.105) then I lowered the baffle just past the tiprail then I made a pin that goes in the barrel so when I make the mold no silicone goes into the chamber so the chamber gets a little smaller which I'm sure you know makes the mouthpiece a little brighter but that didn't happen, it actually got darker because it got a little more resistant. This was the first period and they didn't sell well because of that.

However I really liked them a lot because I played bari exclusively and I put a lot of air through the horn. After I made a whole bunch of them I started reaming the chambers which made them much more free blowing so they also got brighter but they didn't get thin and they really stayed nice and fat in all the registers, even the high notes; in all honesty I've just been lucky.

Everyone liked them so I reamed the model I made the mold from and made a new mold with the larger chamber. That was the second period. Now, the third period has the new larger chamber but the whole mouthpiece is machined from a solid piece of brass bar so they look very symmetrical unlike the old periods that were cast using the lost wax method.

So after he picked a mouthpiece out I let him try a horn, a Classic model
tenor and it just buried his Yamaha, it just buried it. It had so much more
overtones in the sound and this was a Classic model, not even a Vintage
model. Then he tried a Vintage model and it SMOKED the Yamaha, just smoked it as God is my witness.

He put a deposit down on a tenor and now he's going to sell one of his
other horns too so he can buy an alto. Theeeen, I can't leave this out. I've been playing bari exclusively for over twenty years and I have the best baritone I've ever played and whenever someone came to my flat for a bari mouthpiece I always let them play my horn, a Mark VI (72XXX) from around 1952 I guess and whenever someone tried it they always, ALWAYS, flipped out over it because it was so great and wanted to buy it, everyone except one guy in many years.

So I was selling these bari's that were great but then about a month or two ago I received a bari and it was different than the ones I was receiving before this one and it felt different than the ones I was getting before this one. The first thing I noticed was that there was three holes for a neck strap
and when I put it in my hands it felt just like my Mark VI and ya know what?
When I played it, it played just as good as my 72XXX Selmer. I couldn't
freakin' believe it but it's true.

So, I thought you'd like to hear about all this stuff. It's interesting and
it looks like I may finally make some money after many years of hard work,
being in debt and losing so much like my wonderful wife that put up with me
for so long. No women would have put up with me for as long as she did.
Anyway she's happy and I'm happy for her. Spread the word folks, I have a lot of really great stuff and the prices are just as good and with a custom neck and a one and only Phil Barone Barone mouthpiece you can't go wrong, you can't and the prices are undenieabley greatnBymthe nt, it supposed to snow so
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Perception is all? Yeah, you've got that right!

She seemed to think that Martin was a 'decent sax', so lately I've been surfing looking for those. Found a nice silver one, a $400 Handcraft from the 20's that was local enough, but she shot that down as being 'too old'. She perceives that the keywork in the pre-WWII era is too unrefined, and has told me to stick to things newer than that. For its proposed duty cycle I'd also put sound, cost, and appearance above ergonomics, but it's not my 'perception' that has to be satisfied.

Phil? Your stuff looks quite interesting, but is still priced out of our league. If there was anything new in our price range, I'm pretty sure we wouldn't want it.

I'll have to try looking for the 10M's and Buescher TT's as well, see if anything turns up. She's in no hurry to get one, so there's time. There was a Martin Indiana she liked the looks of, but it lies catty-corner across the country!

The "ITO" that is local turns out to be a Vito, probably a Yamaha. (Boy, that's hard to tell based on markings!) She had me proxy them a low-ball offer, I doubt they'll be interested. Me? I'd rather have that Handcraft than a Vitaha, even if the newer horn might play better. She's pretty lukewarm on that one anyway. I think the snob in her would really rather have the "pro" designation applied to the horn. That's what's too bad about that Handcraft, it was a "pro" horn and the price and appearance was right. Just too old for her. (If somebody could tell me that a 20's Handcraft had keywork and mechanisms just like modern horns, you can bet I'd be all over it!)

My crack about the trumpet doesn't refer to the variable ergonomics, but the fact that they all have three valves in the same pattern that operate the same way. (If it has three valves, I can probably play it, at least a little.) Saxes are a lot more variable, especially as you go older. Only thing I've ever done on the sax is honk away on that C-mel, I think I figured out how to get a basic one-octave scale out of it. (Maybe I should look at a book or something. I stuck a Rico #3 tenor reed on it, I'm pretty sure I got it in the mouthpiece right-side up!) So far as I'm concerned, they're all good enough so far as keys go.

I like silver, last year I got her a euphonium, for holiday church ensembles. It shined up real nicely. Before, and After. That and $15 worth of dent removal and I at least doubled the value of the horn!
 

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Surreal, just freaking surreal...
Although you claim yamaha's leave you cold, I can think of no better rational solution to your situation than a used yts-23 in decent condition.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
It appears the quest is over, at least for now. The (local) seller of the Vito accepted my wife's $450 offer (they've been asking $575 for awhile now) so we went to see it, and bought it. It was in pretty decent cosmetic condition, a bit dusty is all. (I'll look it over closely later.) Came with its hard case, a bit scuffed, and three mouthpieces: the original Vito 4C (?), a Selmer S*80 C, and a metal Rovner C-2R with fabric ligature. A couple of partial boxes of Vandoren 3 reeds, a nice neck strap, a Rovner (?) fabric ligature for the Selmer, neck and mouthpiece drawstring pouches, and some kind of neck swab completed the kit. The PO played jazz in school, this was his second axe. (The parents were selling it, kid didn't play any more.) My wife played a scale on it and said that it'd be fine. We are now the second owner.

Myself, I was hoping for something older and more interesting. (Our automotive stable is largely comprised of middle-aged Mercedes that I've bought cheap and fixed up. They look fine, and are much better vehicles than their purchase prices would indicate. That's the sort of guy I am.) But a Vitaha is, I'm sure, an eminently practical choice. If she turns out not to really like it, or her saxophile colleagues pooh-pooh it too much, I'm sure we can resume the search and flip this one.

That used Barone was certainly interesting, but hard to justify (for us). Somebody who really needs a good horn will be very happy!

Because she chose this horn, I'm pretty much off the hook. All I did was bird-dog her a bunch of ads, so if the Vitaha ultimately lacks snob appeal or doesn't work right it's not my fault!

I may play trumpet, however badly, but as a kid I nearly switched to saxophone, and tenor is my favorite sax. If I didn't play trumpet, I'm sure I'd be playing the sax!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I looked the Vitaha over, and it's in pretty good shape. The mouthpiece situation was a bit confused. What came with the horn was the original Vito 4C, a Selmer S-80 C* with Rovner C-2R ligature, and a metal Berg Larsen 110-1-M, also with a Rovner ligature. (Same style of construction, anyway.) I figure about $330 (retail) worth of mouthpiece enhancements. I suppose this was all a good deal, it's just kind of a yawner. Oh well! Once she (and others) gets a chance to play it I'm sure we'll know more. Thanks, all, for the help!
 

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I looked the Vitaha over, and it's in pretty good shape. The mouthpiece situation was a bit confused. What came with the horn was the original Vito 4C, a Selmer S-80 C* with Rovner C-2R ligature, and a metal Berg Larsen 110-1-M, also with a Rovner ligature. (Same style of construction, anyway.) I figure about $330 (retail) worth of mouthpiece enhancements. I suppose this was all a good deal, it's just kind of a yawner. Oh well! Once she (and others) gets a chance to play it I'm sure we'll know more. Thanks, all, for the help!
That is a great deal! With all the mouthpieces, it's almost like getting the sax as a bonus ;).
 

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Regarding the mouthpieces (mpcs):

You might be able to sell that Berg mpc here for around $200 give or take.
(Or - make a great trade with someone for a mpc more appropriate for her to play in the pit with. See below.)

Selmer S-80 C* is a long-time standard mpc but IMO and that of many other forum members, while that's a standard for alto, it's a bit small for tenor. C** or D work much better. You could get a refacer to open that up for you at a small fee.

Having said that, if she's playing pit work, I would rather recommend a Link Tone Edge, probably a 6 opening w/some #3 reeds.

Phil - that guy was probably from Berklee not Berkeley (different coasts ;))
Also, your description of Runyon mpcs was pretty sweeping. Runyon has many different models. I played one in a big band and my section mates and the band leader all liked the sound much better than the Jon Van Wie Meyer 6M I had been playing previously - one size doesn't fit all.
 

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Regarding the mouthpieces (mpcs):

You might be able to sell that Berg mpc here for around $200 give or take.
(Or - make a great trade with someone for a mpc more appropriate for her to play in the pit with. See below.)

Selmer S-80 C* is a long-time standard mpc but IMO and that of many other forum members, while that's a standard for alto, it's a bit small for tenor. C** or D work much better. You could get a refacer to open that up for you at a small fee.

Having said that, if she's playing pit work, I would rather recommend a Link Tone Edge, probably a 6 opening w/some #3 reeds.

Phil - that guy was probably from Berklee not Berkeley (different coasts ;))
Also, your description of Runyon mpcs was pretty sweeping. Runyon has many different models. I played one in a big band and my section mates and the band leader all liked the sound much better than the Jon Van Wie Meyer 6M I had been playing previously - one size doesn't fit all.
All Runyons suck. If they were any good there's be top players using them. And when I say top I mean TOP. They're okay when compared to store bought run of the mill pieces but they're a joke when you start comparing them to a fine hand-made piece, complete joke.

Your bud with the Meyer may sound louder on the Runyon but I seriously doubt that the quality of the sound was better. Give me over that Meyer and I'll turn it into a raging beast that Cannonball would envy with lots and lots of beautiful colors in the sound and will still get loud as anything out there. Just give me the chance. Phil Barone
 

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All Runyons suck.
As do all Bergs, as do all . . . heard it all before. :D
I am not recommending Runyons over anything else, just pointing out that Runyon have many different models. The one you described that sounded horrible does not fit the physical description of my Runyon at all.

If they were any good there's be top players using them.
No argument except to point out that Art Pepper played a Runyon Custom.

Your bud with the Meyer may sound louder on the Runyon but I seriously doubt that the quality of the sound was better.
The "Bud" was I. The sound was better - really. But I finally stopped using it because, as nice as the sound was (with a Conn 6M) it was a little one-dimensional for me.

Give me over that Meyer and I'll turn it into a raging beast that Cannonball would envy with lots and lots of beautiful colors in the sound and will still get loud as anything out there. Just give me the chance. Phil Barone
No doubt. It might be worth pointing out, however, that my Meyer had been worked on by Jon Van Wie, not exactly a rummy.
 

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All Runyons suck.
As do all Bergs, as do all . . . heard it all before. :D
I am not recommending Runyons over anything else, just pointing out that Runyon have many different models. The one you described that sounded horrible does not fit the physical description of my Runyon at all.

If they were any good there's be top players using them.
No argument except to point out that Art Pepper played a Runyon Custom.

Your bud with the Meyer may sound louder on the Runyon but I seriously doubt that the quality of the sound was better.
The "Bud" was I. The sound was better - really. But I finally stopped using it because, as nice as the sound was (with a Conn 6M) it was a little one-dimensional for me.

Give me over that Meyer and I'll turn it into a raging beast that Cannonball would envy with lots and lots of beautiful colors in the sound and will still get loud as anything out there. Just give me the chance. Phil Barone
No doubt. It might be worth pointing out, however, that my Meyer had been worked on by Jon Van Wie, not exactly a rummy.
Art didn't use one for very long, he basically used a Meyer and he's not my idea of a TOP player. I liked his playing but he was a third tier player.

Just because the Meyer was re-faced doesn't make it good. Jon didn't get into doing chambers until later in his career.

When are players going to realize that facings don't do very much to change the sound; facings have much more to do with feel than sound. Meyers need chamber work, not facing work. The facings on Meyers are fine unless of course it's too open or too closed.

If you want to see a dramatic change in a mouthpiece you won't find it by re-facing it and mouthpiece "techs" have managed to convince players that that's what they should be doing when in fact it's just not true.

And like I said, if you compare a Runyon to other over the counter store bought mouthpieces they'tr okay but no match for a great piece. Phil Barone
 
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