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Discussion Starter #1
I've been kicking around the possibility of picking up a bass sax recently, and came across one on ebay which looks intriguing. It is a very early Conn (serial number 10,xxx according to seller). It has no engraving on it, except for the very small Conn stamp on the bell, which I think is relatively common for a very early Conn. According to the seller though, there is also no pitch indicated. I'm not sure what to make of that! Would the default be LP, or HP? Is there any way to tell via measurements, since it isn't in playing condition?
 

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I've been kicking around the possibility of picking up a bass sax recently, and came across one on ebay which looks intriguing. It is a very early Conn (serial number 10,xxx according to seller). It has no engraving on it, except for the very small Conn stamp on the bell, which I think is relatively common for a very early Conn. According to the seller though, there is also no pitch indicated. I'm not sure what to make of that! Would the default be LP, or HP? Is there any way to tell via measurements, since it isn't in playing condition?
Well, I'm not a Conn bass sax expert by any means, but I have a strong impression that the basic design was essentially the same until the "14M Lady Face" bass sax was manufactured for a hot minute in the 1930s. And because the bass sax is so huge, the differences between low and high pitch should be easily measured.

I'd suggest asking the seller to measure the length of the straight body tube from the upper ferrule to the lower ferrule, and seeing if someone on this forum with a known low pitch Conn would do the same. (You'd probably want to be a little more specific about the measurement, maybe attaching a marked-up photo.) My bet is that the difference between low and high pitch would be at least a couple inches, so minor errors of measurement wouldn't matter.
 

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That serial number range puts its date of manufacture between 1905 and 1906.

I believe HP preceded LP with Conn. If there is no "LP" on it, be very wary. turf3's suggestion about asking the seller to measure it is important.

Lack of front F should not be a deal breaker, but is the instrument keyed up to F with the palm keys ?

Frankly, I personally wouldn't consider any Conn saxophone with a serial number under 50,000, unless I was looking for a wall hanging, or lampstand material.
 

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I just looked at the listing and the neck appears to have a substantial extension on it. To me, that is a strong indication it’s a HP horn... still not positive, but it would drive me away.

Personally, I’d follow up on the one for sale here on the forum. He even has an audio clip from a gig.
 

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That serial number range puts its date of manufacture between 1905 and 1906.

I believe HP preceded LP with Conn. If there is no "LP" on it, be very wary. turf3's suggestion about asking the seller to measure it is important.

Lack of front F should not be a deal breaker, but is the instrument keyed up to F with the palm keys ?

Frankly, I personally wouldn't consider any Conn saxophone with a serial number under 50,000, unless I was looking for a wall hanging, or lampstand material.
Definitely not keyed to high F. Only to high Eb. Conn didn't go to high F on basses till the 14M Lady Face model in the 1930s. Also no bis Bb. Both of these things are also the case with the Buescher basses. It's pretty easy to add the bis Bb, as for high E and F they have to be played using altissimo fingerings with some modifications. I can attest that it's pretty easy to do this on a Buescher bass but can't say anything about the Conns.

If (and that's a big IF) the horn in question is a low pitch horn, I doubt very much whether there are any significant differences between it and later Conns of the up to Eb only variety except for soldered tone holes and mechanical details.

However, OP should confirm that it has an automatic octave key!!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Well, I'm not a Conn bass sax expert by any means, but I have a strong impression that the basic design was essentially the same until the "14M Lady Face" bass sax was manufactured for a hot minute in the 1930s. And because the bass sax is so huge, the differences between low and high pitch should be easily measured.

I'd suggest asking the seller to measure the length of the straight body tube from the upper ferrule to the lower ferrule, and seeing if someone on this forum with a known low pitch Conn would do the same. (You'd probably want to be a little more specific about the measurement, maybe attaching a marked-up photo.) My bet is that the difference between low and high pitch would be at least a couple inches, so minor errors of measurement wouldn't matter.
Thanks for the response, and great idea! Although, some other responses below have made me a bit more leery of this horn, so I'm not going to trouble anyone else to measure their horn just yet. Not until I've done a bit more research.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
That serial number range puts its date of manufacture between 1905 and 1906.

I believe HP preceded LP with Conn. If there is no "LP" on it, be very wary. turf3's suggestion about asking the seller to measure it is important.

Lack of front F should not be a deal breaker, but is the instrument keyed up to F with the palm keys ?

Frankly, I personally wouldn't consider any Conn saxophone with a serial number under 50,000, unless I was looking for a wall hanging, or lampstand material.
Thanks for the info. I did not realize that HP was the norm prior to them making both. I read something on the Saxpics website that indicated that it was right about this time that they started offering both HP and LP ("in an attempt to increase international sales"). I had taken that to mean that LP was the norm, and that HP was added, because I thought that was always more popular in other countries. Upon re-reading that, I realize the wording is somewhat ambiguous, and who knows how accurate it is anyway!

I thought that key-work only up to Eb is pretty standard on any 1920's or earlier bass, is it not? That's not really a deal breaker for me. LOL, I'm not buying a bass sax to play in the high range anyway! It would, in fact, be somewhat of a novelty instrument for me. I'd be using it mostly for the sake of making a, pardon the pun, BIG impression on stage at certain shows for a handful of songs. I was actually inspired to get one after recently seeing Angelo Moore ( of Fishbone) play bass on a few songs at a live show. I guess my point is, I wouldn't be using it for heavy classical playing in a sax chamber ensemble, or anything like that, so key-work to F isn't the most important thing to me.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I just looked at the listing and the neck appears to have a substantial extension on it. To me, that is a strong indication it’s a HP horn... still not positive, but it would drive me away.

Personally, I’d follow up on the one for sale here on the forum. He even has an audio clip from a gig.
I thought it looked kinda long, but didn't realize it was an extension...that definitely makes me shy away from this one! Thanks for the heads up on that!

I did see the one for sale here, and it is also definitely on my radar as a possibility. Only thing is he doesn't want to ship it, and I wouldn't particularly want to have a horn that big shipped either, knowing that risk of shipping damage increases exponentially as the horn gets bigger. The Conn is in OH, which is a doable drive for me. The one for sale here is in NYC, and a drive there isn't in the cards until at least after the summer is over...maybe if it is still available then...
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Definitely not keyed to high F. Only to high Eb. Conn didn't go to high F on basses till the 14M Lady Face model in the 1930s. Also no bis Bb. Both of these things are also the case with the Buescher basses. It's pretty easy to add the bis Bb, as for high E and F they have to be played using altissimo fingerings with some modifications. I can attest that it's pretty easy to do this on a Buescher bass but can't say anything about the Conns.

If (and that's a big IF) the horn in question is a low pitch horn, I doubt very much whether there are any significant differences between it and later Conns of the up to Eb only variety except for soldered tone holes and mechanical details.

However, OP should confirm that it has an automatic octave key!!
It does look to have an auto 8va...I did look for that, as dual would certainly be a deal breaker! I didn't realize though that these horns didn't have a bis though.
 

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It does look to have an auto 8va...I did look for that, as dual would certainly be a deal breaker! I didn't realize though that these horns didn't have a bis though.
Bis key is an easy add.

I would not assume that a neck extension tells you the horn is high pitch. For one thing, you can extend a high pitch horn's neck all the way out to Californian and there will still be absolutely nothing you can do to get it to play in tune with itself at A=440. For another, neck extensions on older horns of the larger sizes aren't that unusual as people try to play them with mouthpieces whose chambers are too small, with tight embouchures appropriate for smaller horns, and they can't get them to tune without pulling way way out. Then the thing teeters on the end and they solder an extension on. If this extension was done before say 10 years ago, that was in the time when bass sax things were extremely rare, so they were probably playing it with a baritone mouthpiece, and thus making this issue even more likely. So that in itself would not rule the horn out. I think the only way to rule it out is by measurement, or by practical matters like how far you have to drive to try it out.
 

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Bis key is an easy add.

I would not assume that a neck extension tells you the horn is high pitch. For one thing, you can extend a high pitch horn's neck all the way out to Californian and there will still be absolutely nothing you can do to get it to play in tune with itself at A=440. For another, neck extensions on older horns of the larger sizes aren't that unusual as people try to play them with mouthpieces whose chambers are too small, with tight embouchures appropriate for smaller horns, and they can't get them to tune without pulling way way out. Then the thing teeters on the end and they solder an extension on. If this extension was done before say 10 years ago, that was in the time when bass sax things were extremely rare, so they were probably playing it with a baritone mouthpiece, and thus making this issue even more likely. So that in itself would not rule the horn out. I think the only way to rule it out is by measurement, or by practical matters like how far you have to drive to try it out.
Fair point!

That extension still throws up red flags for me, I'd worry the neck extension may have been a band-aid to get a HP horn 'close enough' by a previous owner (perhaps a school where the kid is basically playing 1&5). You certainly are correct about the possibility of mouthpiece issues, but I haven't run into issues that were so severe I considered a neck extension on my Conn. Perhaps, as you say, it was a desire to play a specific mouthpiece with a really tight embouchure that led to that decision. Who Knows?

There are enough big horns out there in that price range ($4k in need of an overhaul with no mention of a case) that I'd be looking elsewhere.
 

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Is there a link to this listing someplace? I'm not in the market since I'm already playing my Beuscher bass, but if it's in Ohio I might be able to check it out.
 

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They actually list the serial in the description as 10,xxx so you're really close, roughly 1906 according to charts?
 

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The given serial number range dates it to 1905-1906, as I said in Post #3.
 

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The given serial number range dates it to 1905-1906, as I said in Post #3.
Yes true,but not all sellers will offer the Sn#. So a ballpark guesstimate by the bell engraving can help date too.
Just adding to the conversation. The two baris shown are not the same year either. Big body changes, but hp/Lp neck.? The attached link provided relevant information to the OPs question.
 
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