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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This past summer I bought a used Selmer Paris SA80 Series II Alto for $2300. At first a sort of struggled with it, knowing that the lower area of the horn is hard to play amongst other things. I thought it would go away. I'm still having some trouble with it, because the tone is turning out to be really airy and not as... Just not what I was expecting.

I recently played on a friend's Yamaha Custom EX alto. The tone was not airy, the sound was more full, less edgy or grainy, so to speak, and the lower notes were easier to hit. I thought it was a lot better than the Selmer I have now.

So my question is, should I continue working with the Yamaha to see if it's definitely what I want, sell my Selmer, and buy a 875 Custom EX alto, or stick with the Selmer since I just got it in the past 6 months? My lesson teacher is a big fan of Selmers which in turn influenced me to get one. Now I'm not so sure what I should do for the long run.

Thoughts?
 

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I played a Selmer S80 Series II for about ten years. They are great horns. Very versatile.

You didn't mention if you'd taken the horn to a tech. There might be some kind of mechanical problem. Just a couple minor leaks can cause REAL problems in the lower range.
 

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What JRMSax said. I prefer Yamahas, but there's nothing that should make the Selmer harder to play necessarily.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I have, but it was only a few days after I got the Selmer. Do you think leaks may have shown up between then and now? I might take it in again to see. Is there a possibility that my alto is one of the "inconsistent" ones?
 

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Sounds very much like one or more leaks, as the others here suggest. If there is some native inconsistency between Selmer horns--assuming they are all well set up and sealing properly--it's usually in intonation or overall tone quality, not so much in 'playability'--the horn should play up and down, no problem. You are having real response problems down low, and that sounds like a leak, not a problem with the horn's construction. It will play like a different horn if you get it into the hands of a good tech who can go over it carefully and get it sealing properly. Anyway, if you get it sealing perfectly, and you still prefer the Yamaha, you will want the Series II well set-up anyway for selling it. Personally, I dig the Selmer sound a bit more than Yamaha's, but Yamahas have great ergonomics and are often built better. Life is about trade-offs!
 

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Was your Selmer "airy" and hard to play when you first got it back from the tech last summer? Also, do you trust the tech you took it to? Some techs are better than others. He might have overlooked something. And yes, it could definitely have developed leaks since then. You bought it used. What condition are the pads in? It's possible one or more of them could've given up the ghost, especially if the horn sat in the case for a long time before you got it and started playing it a lot. I would recommend taking it to a good tech and having it gone over. If it gets a clean bill of health and you still don't like the way it plays then, and only then, would I consider trading it. Another question is how new is your friend's Yamaha? If it's new and properly regulated you might not be comparing apples to apples. Not that I have anything against a Custom EX. They're great horns. My tenor is a Custom 875 and I love it. But I have also played some Series II tenors that I thought were great horns as well. My experience is that the Series II and the Custom 875 are very comparable horns. Each has its own character but the differences are rather subtle.
 

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Get the leaks out - you've got a great horn.
 

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Several years ago I bought a Selmer Series II tenor and had exactly the same problem as you describe. A very experience tenor player (playing a Mark VI) told me that "weak in the bottom" was a known fact about that model. I then contacted another saxophone player and he told me the same thing. I then tried a Yamaha - and was convinced that they were right.
 

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The only weakness I ever had with my Serie II alto was the right hand side keys were not positioned as accessibly as the Yamaha altos, and the middle C# was a little flat - neither problematic. Also, and of course this could be personal, but I never played a Yamaha that had a "fuller", less "airy" sound than a Selmer - that sort of jumped out at me when I read the OP, and made me wonder if the Selmer doesn't need a good checking out.
 

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More factors are to be looked at here. I believe you have a great horn and shouldn't have to worry about a professional model like this being "weak in the low end." Its made well, and needs to be properly maintained.

I've also found that when I change horns, I don't necessarily do all of the same things I would on a different model. I started on a Bundy, and I would play with a lot of air, push very hard for lower notes, and struggle with certain changes in register. It was maintained well, I just was inexperienced. I dealt with it, and got more experience and better control, but still struggled. Then I bought my P. Mauriat. The register of the horn didn't play nearly as easily as I had hoped, but indeed easier than the bundy. After a little internet searching, before my SOTW days. I decided to look at my mouthpiece. It wasn't in good shape. A few scratches and dings into the facing and table. It had been through hell. Invested money in a new mouthpiece, and I was able to play the range of the horn no problem and with a lot less force on my new horn.

At that point, I decided to go back to see if that made my bundy play better. It did slightly better than before, but still struggled, particularly down low. Then I changed my embouchure to not be nearly as clinched. The horn played far better.

Just to reiterate, I'm saying there are a multitude of things that can make a horn hard to play vs another horn. Player, Mouthpiece, proper tech tune up, and then the overall horn. Check all your factors before changing horns.

First adjust yourself, cheap(free) and easy, see if there is a way that works for you that makes the horn play better (and still in tune of course). There are a lot of different positions and embouchures out there, and there is no "100%" right way. Find something that could work. http://tamingthesaxophone.com/saxophone-embouchure This link can definitely show you some interesting ideas (not trying to say that you don't understand embouchure, just using it as a reference to the idea of changing things up).

Next, mouthpiece. You can get a decent mouthpiece for relatively cheap, and it could just match your horn better. Then if that doesn't work, find a well qualified tech. You said it was done fairly recently, so this would be my third step. Make sure it seals perfectly all the way down.

Finally, if none of these factors apply or help, you should look at getting a new horn. Maybe you and the horn just don't work well together. No one is going to bust your chops about finding a horn that suits you.
 

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but I never played a Yamaha that had a "fuller", less "airy" sound than a Selmer - that sort of jumped out at me when I read the OP, and made me wonder if the Selmer doesn't need a good checking out.
Have you ever played an 875? Not your typical Yamaha.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks for all the replies- I think I'm going to stick with the Selmer and get it repaired so I don't have these issues. Thinking about it though, the Yamaha sound is sort of sterile, so to speak. I like the Selmer sound more.
 

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The only weakness I ever had with my Serie II alto was the right hand side keys were not positioned as accessibly as the Yamaha altos, and the middle C# was a little flat - neither problematic. Also, and of course this could be personal, but I never played a Yamaha that had a "fuller", less "airy" sound than a Selmer - that sort of jumped out at me when I read the OP, and made me wonder if the Selmer doesn't need a good checking out.
I don't think I've ever played any leak-free horn that had an inherently "airy" sound. If a sax is properly maintained, then my experience has been that an "airy" tone is a product of the mouthpiece/reed setup, e.g., too hard a reed.
 

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I played an 875EX tenor for about 5 years. I have always liked the Yamaha horns better than the new Selmer horns. I never enjoyed playing any of the Super Action series horns from them. That said, I actually sold my 875EX tenor and am about to sell my 62 Mk 1 alto and now play Cannonball Big Bell Stone Series horns. It is more of a personal preference in the sound and feel more than anything. I will say that my Yamahas always played well, are by far in my experience the most in-tune horns in relation to themselves, and are definitely durable and built well.
 

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Thanks for all the replies- I think I'm going to stick with the Selmer and get it repaired so I don't have these issues. Thinking about it though, the Yamaha sound is sort of sterile, so to speak. I like the Selmer sound more.
Ah yes, the internet myth of the sterile Yamaha sound rears its ugly head once again.
 

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It is very important to make sure that you horn is well adjusted with no leaks. If you happened to be interested in the 875EX I think it would be best to see if your Selmer was in optimal condition, and to play test the Yamaha for a very long period of time (also check to see if the Yamaha is in good condition so that you know that any faults are the horn needing work, rather than the horn being a not so great horn). That is the only way to get a balanced comparison. Choose which sax feels best for you.
 

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Ah yes, the internet myth of the sterile Yamaha sound rears its ugly head once again.
Yeah, I think that's crap too. Yamahas tend to be a little brighter, but I don't even know what "sterile" means. There are thousands of players who play Yamaha, and I've never described ANYONE as having a "sterile" sound, and even if I did, it would be because of the PLAYER, not the instrument.
 

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Ah yes, the internet myth of the sterile Yamaha sound rears its ugly head once again.
I guess that makes the Selmer "fertile" in contrast?
 

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