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Discussion Starter #1
The 6M was designed for big band and jazz play. It's great! But how does yours sound for concert/symphonic band or occasional classical-like solos? I've tried multiple mpc, reed and lig. setup combinations, even a "double embouchure", and don't get close enough to my perceived "liquid gold" tone. Maybe it's mostly me? What's been your success producing a "respectable classical tone" on a 6M - clear, round and resonant? If reasonably good, what's your setup (names, please), esp. mpc chamber shape and size, narrow, medium or wide tip opening, length of lay, baffle or none, single or double cut reed and strength? Is yours a dark (Rauscher), American or bright (French) sound? What embouchure and tongue position do you use? More than one setup for different styles? Any tips? Yes, I know - check for leaks, adjustment, more long tones, more air support from diaphragm, open throat more, don't pinch the reed, shoulders back, back straight, chin up, etc.! What else ... please?! Or, maybe a "respectable classical tone" on a 6M exceeds its design capabilities, as it was not also intended for classical concert or orchestral performance, a la top Selmer, Buffet, Yamaha, etc. Thanks for sharing your experience, insights and observations!
 

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The 6M was designed for big band and jazz play. It's great! But how does yours sound for concert/symphonic band or occasional classical-like solos? I've tried multiple mpc, reed and lig. setup combinations, even a "double embouchure", and don't get close enough to my perceived "liquid gold" tone. Maybe it's mostly me? What's been your success producing a "respectable classical tone" on a 6M - clear, round and resonant? If reasonably good, what's your setup (names, please), esp. mpc chamber shape and size, narrow, medium or wide tip opening, length of lay, baffle or none, single or double cut reed and strength? Is yours a dark (Rauscher), American or bright (French) sound? What embouchure and tongue position do you use? More than one setup for different styles? Any tips? Yes, I know - check for leaks, adjustment, more long tones, more air support from diaphragm, open throat more, don't pinch the reed, shoulders back, back straight, chin up, etc.! What else ... please?! Or, maybe a "respectable classical tone" on a 6M exceeds its design capabilities, as it was not also intended for classical concert or orchestral performance, a la top Selmer, Buffet, Yamaha, etc. Thanks for sharing your experience, insights and observations!

Man, you are some kind of optimist!

I like my Conns. A lot. Grew up (literally) with the 10m tenor. My first and best sax.
Have a 12m bari and two 6m altos. Your 6m is a dance hall girl. She don't do no opry.


You need a different alto for that.
Want to buy a nice Yanagisawa? I have several.
Send me a PM if you are interested.

Or get one from somebody else. Or... Selmer, buescher, yamaha, buffet.


Dat
Sax
Man
 

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I've never known anyone to use a Conn (or King or Martin) in serious classical circles. That doesn't mean that it can't be done, but there is no tradition for these horns so it will be a lot tougher to get a classical sound because there isn't a lot of precedent. There's also the matter of intonation on these horns; a lot of the "character" of the Conn 6M is due to intonation quirks (as it is with any horn).

If you were going to try it, you may need to try some different types of mouthpieces than what might be considered the norm. I'd start with the Rascher type pieces since they're designed for vintage horns of the same time period and because Conn and Buescher have a little bit of shared design history. You might even want to work with a refacer to get a custom piece with the sound you want.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Shame on me if my general question was somewhat "fuzzy". My target "respectable classical tone" is for playing in concert/symphonic bands and solos therein, not playing Ibert, Glazunov, et. al. in concert. I wouldn't ask or expect a 6M (or me) to attempt the latter. As J. Max said above, "...there is no tradition ...". Does that clarify and lower the bar enough to make it feasible for a 6M to hit the target with an "appropriate" setup on (and behind) the horn? I think it's asking a lot, maybe too much. But maybe more experienced players than I have done it and could pass along some guidance and encouragement it can be done as an alternative to buying a rather expensive "classical" horn, whether vintage or new. And thanks for the link, TrueTone!
 

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If that's the case, you actually should be fine. There are a bunch of variables here though...A big one is what everyone else in the ensemble is playing and if you can blend with it. It also makes a difference on the level you are playing at...If you're in a high level college group or better, it might be tough.

TL;DR It can be done, but it could be tough depending on the situation.
 

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The basic 6M body tube is a 1931 design, made at a time when basically all saxophone tone was what we today would call "dark classical" (without the strict tone matching and overtone training that that implies today).

The difference is that Conn engineered the 6M for commercial playing and its needs in the early 1930s - dynamic variation, accurate intonation, and ease of response. Buescher took a more conservative approach, making their new 1931 offering, the New Aristocrat model 135, merely a refinement of the acoustic principles of Adolphe Sax's alto "#36," on which Gus Buescher had modeled his first custom-made saxophones in the 1880s.

The first priority in the new 6M was what Conn called "reserve power" - an extra ease in volume that comes at a cost in resistance. Here we run into a peculiarity of classical technique: resistance - the need to put more air pressure into the horn to make a tone - is a good thing. It means a purer tone that will come out with greater control. And 6Ms just aren't resistant enough. That quality was engineered out of the horn by the best R&D department in the business. Sonically, it lends the 6M tone a very slight, but tangible and perceptible, buzz or rattle thruout the dynamic range - a bright upper harmonic that lies "on top" of the round tonal core all the way from ppp to fff. The horn is just too easy to make speak, and that rattle is an unavoidable by-product.

Then there's the matter of overtone harmonics. Given that no saxophone will play in tune at all without a stable overtone series, there then comes the matter of whether a player uses overtones rigorously - whether you do the overblowing exercises and base your sound on natural, stable harmonics. The issue with the 6M: it was designed without awareness of the overtone series. Sax was aware of it, and Buescher, intentionally or not, incorporated it into the horns they modeled on Sax alto "#36" (all the way up to the 400s in the early 1940s). Bueschers have certain tonal idiosyncrasies that can't be changed without messing with the harmonic temper of the scale. In contrast, Conn considered tone and intonation a property of isolated notes. In the design of the 6M, they tweeked those notes without regard for overtones. The result is a saxophone that's actually harder to play in tune with an overtone-based technique.

All this said, the difference is very subtle and very slight. It would take a Buescher-trained classical player to detect it, and even they would have trouble articulating it. But they would tell you, without any hesitation, that there is a difference - and that that difference makes (say) the Aristocrat, New Aristocrat, or even the Conn New Wonder Transitional suitable for their work, and the 6M unsuitable. And we have to give them the benefit of the doubt on that.
 

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The basic 6M body tube is a 1931 design, made at a time when basically all saxophone tone was what we today would call "dark classical" (without the strict tone matching and overtone training that that implies today). The difference is that Conn engineered the 6M for commercial playing and its needs in the early 1930s - dynamic variation, accurate intonation, and ease of response.

The first priority was what they called "reserve power" - an extra ease in volume that comes at a cost in resistance. Here we run into a peculiarity of classical technique: resistance - the need to put more air pressure into the horn - is a good thing. It means a purer tone that will come out with greater control. 6Ms just aren't resistant enough. That quality was engineered out of the horn by the best R&D department in the business.

Then there's the matter of overtone harmonics. Given that no saxophone will play in tune at all without a stable overtone series, there then comes the matter of whether a player uses overtones rigorously - whether you do the overblowing exercises and base your sound on natural, stable harmonics. The issue with the 6M: it was designed without awareness of the overtone series. Sax was aware of it, and Buescher, intentionally or not, incorporated it into the horns they modeled on Sax alto "#36." Bueschers have certain tonal idiosyncrasies that can't be changed without messing with the harmonic temper of the scale. In contrast, Conn considered tone and intonation a property of isolated notes. In the design of the 6M, they tweeked those notes without regard for overtones.

All this said, the difference is very subtle and very slight. It would take a Buescher-trained classical player to detect it, and even they would have trouble articulating it. But they would tell you, without any hesitation, that there is a difference - and that that difference makes (say) the Aristocrat series 1 or Conn New Wonder Transitional suitable for their work and the 6M unsuitable. And we have to give them the benefit of the doubt on that.
Paul, is this history of the development of the 6M something that you actually know for sure, or is it what you have inferred from the behavior of the instruments?
 

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Part of it is based on the claims of each manufacturer; another part on what I (note: not a classically trained player) have noticed in 20+ years of playing these altos; and still another on the advice and experiences of classically trained players I have consulted. Several have tried to use 6Ms in their studies. None have stayed with them for long.
 

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Then again, it might be perfectly appropriate to use a 6M (or indeed an Aristocrat) in a concert band or wind ensemble (as OP proposes doing). That's a much more accepting tradition of tone and blending than a) orchestras or b) chamber ensembles. Indeed, Conn was intimately involved with the band movement, and encouraged and shaped its development, all thru its history as a manufacturer.
 

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I use a Selmer S-80 D for everything on all brands of horns. For concert band work you have a fine horn. Use it and find a mouthpiece that suits your environment. Slemer, Vandoren, Brilhart....
 

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Part of it is based on the claims of each manufacturer; another part on what I (note: not a classically trained player) have noticed in 20+ years of playing these altos; and still another on the advice and experiences of classically trained players I have consulted. Several have tried to use 6Ms in their studies. None have stayed with them for long.
Interestingly enough I find the overtone series on my 6M to be exactly where it's supposed to be. (Also not a classically trained player, though.) I have no trouble playing all the way up to F above the standard high F when I am in practice - which is way more than I can say for myself on tenor or baritone or bass sax. To be honest, though, I don't play Bueschers or Selmers and the few times I've tried altissimo on a Buescher I found it way easier than on my Conns, though using the same fingerings which (maybe) indicates that the overtones are pretty close between Conn and Buescher. (Was that a confusing enough sentence structure?)

I also suspect that the extreme opprobrium to be encountered by anyone who tried to introduce a 6M into the classical sax professor's studio is the main reason no one does it. The degree of inbreeding in classical music performance can be just stunning to behold. Woe betide the flute student who would show up with a closed hole, offset G, low C foot, not all solid sterling silver flute to his lesson - even if it were an original Theobald Boehm flute!
 

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It's really only the Rascher tradition that is so specific about back pressure and overtone series though...the French and American guys don't worry about it so much, just the end result of the sound. The Yamaha horns are designed to be free blowing, for example.

The problem from this perspective with Conns, Martins, and Kings (and Holtons and whatever other vintage horn you want to throw in) is that the bore is designed to produce a characteristic sound. So it isn't that you can't do it, it's that it's just much harder. Combined with the ergonomic challenges, it's not the optimum situation.
 

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I've really enjoyed the discussion in this thread. Paul, your remarks about the design history of Conns were fascinating. I just want to add some comments about blending in a concert band saxophone section.

I played a Conn for a year in high school, but only in the marching band, because I played clarinet in the concert band. Since then, I've accumulated a large amount of experience with concert band saxophonists, from both my own current band (an advanced amateur symphonic band) and many other bands with which we've come in contact. We host an annual community band festival, and we've also participated in the Association of Concert Bands national convention several times. I can say that Conns and their ilk are a rarity in this musical milieu. Partly this is a result of self-selection: Rascher School adherents aside, people who dig vintage American horns generally want to play jazz or blues as soloists, not symphonic band music. But it's also because most modern saxophones offer exactly what concert band performers need: predictable intonation, easily controllable dynamics, focused tone, and comfortable ergonomics.

Our alto section is currently all Selmers plus a Yamaha. In the summer, I swap my Selmer for my Yanagisawa. Thinking back about other players and horns that have come and gone, this French-Japanese emphasis has remained pretty steady. Other Selmers ... there was a Buffet too. No Conns that I can recall over 15+ years. Of course, we don't all use the same mouthpiece or reeds, but the mouthpiece spectrum is short, with traditional Selmer or Vandoren classical pieces at one end and conservative jazz pieces (e.g., Morgan, Meyer, Jody Jazz HR) at the other. No high baffles, and no metal pieces.

OP, with respect to the tone expected from you, much will depend on how ambitious your band is. Some bands have a "happy to have anyone who is willing to play" attitude, which naturally results in a somewhat casual approach to performance standards. In my experience, however, I have found that blending properly is challenging enough even with a horn and setup that facilitate it; I wouldn't want to attempt it with equipment that could serve as a partial obstacle. You must blend well not only with the other saxophones, but with any other section or instrument in the band, when a particular score demands it. Last year we performed a piece by Maslanka in which I had to play a sort of mournful solo along with a single flute. So, "Will your horn enable you to blend with one flute without overpowering it?" is not a ridiculous standard to apply.

More generally, it's essential to be able to play at pp over the full range of the horn. A booming or blaring tone can really stand out, negatively. There's another local concert band in which one of the alto players has a kind of cutting, "lead alto" jazz sound that penetrates far too much for a sax in a concert band. Many of the lines he plays end up as solos even though they weren't written as such. In the professional concert band recordings that I've heard, the sax sections tend to be a bit too submerged even for my taste. When you do hear an alto, however, the tone is always very dark. The players seem to be striving for the tone one would use to play the orchestral solo in "The Old Castle."
 

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^That post is a very well written and accurate post that LostConn made.
And on most Classical Sax circles being rather French-and Japanese-centric, I've noticed that a lot of that here too. Out of the better saxes in my high school band, there's 1 Selmer, 3 Yanis, 2 Bueschers, and 4 Yamahas, mostly with either Vandorens or Selmers. (and you could count me on a third Buescher in jazz band if you wish)
 

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I have noticed that some concert bands are much more classically-oriented than others. I play a Conn in a brass heavy concert band that does some classical type stuff but mostly popular and big band with Christmas and fourth of July stuff too.

Most of the people I have played with over the years played Selmer or Yamaha saxes. I think this is just because that is what is available in local music stores. I could try a number of Selmer or Yamaha saxes today but would have a hard time tracking down anything vintage in good playing condition.

I have heard people play with excellent intonation and not so great intonation on both Selmer and Yamaha saxes. I have heard people that had a difficult time playing quietly on Yamaha. Players and mouthpieces are a big part of the equation too.

For me, the Conn works great in my situation. Quiet to loud with good intonation. I agree that it is work, but not impossible, to get a 'pure' tone when called for. I suppose I might consider something else if I was mainly playing in a quieter classical group.
 

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I've never known anyone to use a Conn (or King or Martin) in serious classical circles. That doesn't mean that it can't be done, but there is no tradition for these horns so it will be a lot tougher to get a classical sound because there isn't a lot of precedent. There's also the matter of intonation on these horns; a lot of the "character" of the Conn 6M is due to intonation quirks (as it is with any horn).

If you were going to try it, you may need to try some different types of mouthpieces than what might be considered the norm. I'd start with the Rascher type pieces since they're designed for vintage horns of the same time period and because Conn and Buescher have a little bit of shared design history. You might even want to work with a refacer to get a custom piece with the sound you want.
J Max - You might want to check out David Wright (alto on "At Dawning") and John Moore (tenor) who play Conns very much in the Rascher tradition.
 

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Dave and John both play New Wonder split bells - Dave an alto from 1930 and John a tenor from I think the mid 20s.
 

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Please excuse my constant harangue . . . I still cannot accept the concept that a certain saxophone was designed for a certain style of playing, even if professors and purists argue that Conns or Bueschers or Selmers have only certain roles to play in music. DAVE
 
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