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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
American instrument makers sold very few soprano saxophones after the depression of 1929, when the instrument virtually disappeared from popular music. Most of those sold in the previous decade had been straight sopranos, which were a common double for dance band saxophonists in the mid-1920s. The straight horn could rest on a peg-type stand like a clarinet, much more convenient than the curved, which required its own stand and a separate neckstrap. Sidney Bechet and Don Redman, the two most important sopranoists of early jazz, both played straights, and the sound of a three-part chorus on "fish horns" was characteristic of many '20s big bands.

Yet in the '30s, almost all of the very few sopranos purchased were curved. It isn't clear today who wanted them, but they were almost certainly non-doubling non-professionals. Conn promoted the curved horn's compact key layout as ideal for small children. Curved sopranos were also traditional in all-saxophone bands of six or more players. These peaked in popularity around 1920, but survived as community organizations and occasionally on the vaudeville circuit for some time after.

Any soprano sax is a challenge to play in tune. In 1928, Conn had introduced the "stretch" model 18M straight soprano - a total redesign, with greater projection and improved intonation. But it required a special mouthpiece design to play in tune at all, and it arrived too late for the professional market. The "fish horn chorus" was now an outdated arranger's device. And the easy-fingering-and-intonating Boehm clarinet (which became standard in America in the mid-'20s) supplanted first the Albert clarinet, and then the soprano saxophone.

The 18M was a very quiet failure. Conn sales literature through the 1930s did not promote the new model soprano, unlike the 6M alto, 12M baritone or other re-engineered saxes. And indeed, two horns recently sold on eBay (May 2011) suggest that Conn may actually have withdrawn the stretch 18M in favor of their old straight model – or that both models may have been available for a time.

First, here is my own stretch 18M, #235685 (1930).

It is engraved in the Art Deco "Jive" style used from late 1930 to early 1932, indicating it sold during that time. The horn is 26 3/8" long without the mouthpiece. Note the rod-type touch for Bb-bis, shown here.

Here is stretch 18M #235647 (1930), recently auctioned at eBay.

It is engraved with the Naked Lady design and U.S., indicating sale to the U.S. Army sometime after the "Lady" period began in 1932. This horn is less than 40 units from my 18M and is identical in design, but stayed in Conn's inventory much longer. Military bands had used small numbers of straight sopranos for some time, but whether the Army knew what they were getting is anybody's guess.

Here is "old model" straight soprano #236045 (1930), also recently sold at eBay.

It is engraved in the "mixed salad" style used until late 1930. The seller listed the horn as 25 1/2" long. Note the old-type pearl Bb-bis button here. Confusingly, the serial is stamped inside a "shield" shape, usually thought to indicate the stretch model. This may have been an engraver's error. (Neither of the above stretch 18Ms have the shield.)

Once again, the above three horns sold in reverse serial number order - latest first. The numbers are the latest known for any Conn straight soprano, unlike the curved model, which is known to exist as late as #28xxxx (1937).

The saxophile may draw whatever conclusions s/he wishes from the above - perhaps none at all. But to me, it seems very likely that there were still orders for the old model straight soprano, which is, after all, an excellent playing sax. Whether any more late-serial examples exist can't be known - unless and until they surface.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you. I may ask Harri to make this into a front page article - many more read than replied!
 

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Did your 18M come with the specially-designed mouthpiece? Do you have trouble finding a mouthpiece that plays in tune on it?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
No and yes.

I had 2 made by Keith (MOJO) Bradbury from unfinished Buescher C soprano blanks. There was a big batch being sold off on eBay several years back - complete with casting flash and .000" tip opening.

It was a tricky project, because I had no original Conn piece for Keith to model - they're even rarer than the 18Ms, most of which have lost their mouthpieces. I sent him the pieces that worked best on the 18M - one was a Keilwerth and the other a very old Selmer, both of which had had the shanks cut down. From there he got it pretty darn close. Only the low Bb is even a little below pitch with his pieces, and it's not hard to lip up.
 

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I am sitting with an original Conn Eagle "Stretch" mouthpiece right now.
It is smaller overall (narrower, shorter, squeeze throat as well, smallish chamber).
The sidewalls are straight, not concave, and the baffle/roof is considerably higher than the low-baffles Conn pieces we're used to seeing.
There's a side-by-side comparison with a normal Conn Eagle soprano piece, which is a large chamber, open throat piece.

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As far as I've encountered and read, while all stretch conns have the serial # in the shield, not all serial # in the shield are the stretch model.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Actually, there are exceptions both ways (such as the 235k horns upthread).

Joe, could you copy that mpc? There would have to be some demand.
 

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Joe: How long are those two mouthpieces in the photos? DAVE
The S2 is 2.41 inches.
The regular Conn is 2.64 inches.

About a 1/4 " difference in length.

"Joe, could you copy that mpc? "

I don't know where I'd start without a very small blank. The Buescher C soprano blanks have an open throat so they wouldn't be the way to go, although they'd work, as you know. But they would be different, not a copy of the stretch model piece.

AHA! I just had a BRIGHT:scratch: (maybe) idea. Let me sleep on it.
 

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Paulwl, didn't you have a straight Buescher sop with a soldered on bell? If I'm remembering correrctly, was that Buescher's answer to Conn's stretch?
That's interesting. The only Buescher sops I've seen with a soldered on bell were the "tipped-bell" and the later CSop keyed to High-F.
 

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Joe: Thanks. I have one of those Conn Eagle soprano pieces and against a standard ruler, it is approximately 2 5/8". Very difficult player for me. I haven't had a Conn sop (C or Bb, straight or curved, all of which I've owned) for several years now, but I found this thread interesting just the same. DAVE
 

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Discussion Starter #14
That's interesting. The only Buescher sops I've seen with a soldered on bell were the "tipped-bell" and the later CSop keyed to High-F.
Mine is a C. I don't think it was an "answer," as it dates to 1927, the year before the stretch Conn came out.
 

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Mine is a C. I don't think it was an "answer," as it dates to 1927, the year before the stretch Conn came out.
OK, that makes sense. Like I wrote, I've only seen Buescher that had soldered on bells in the "tipped bell" and later Csop variety. I've never seen a straight Bb Buescher sop with a soldered on bell.

Does your C go to High-F?
 

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I have seen two (on ebay) with the soldered bell that was not the tipped bell. Could be that they had some tipped bell bodies and just soldered a piece on them to sell. I remember a discussion here about one that looked to be an aftermarket job.
 

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I once had a vintage soprano mouthpiece that had the shank cut off. I wonder if at one point someone tried to adapt it to one of these stretch models. I did not know about these horns till now. Thanks Paul!
 

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Discussion Starter #20
OK, that makes sense. Like I wrote, I've only seen Buescher that had soldered on bells in the "tipped bell" and later Csop variety. I've never seen a straight Bb Buescher sop with a soldered on bell.

Does your C go to High-F?
Yes! It's the same horn pictured at saxquest.com (and in LittleSax's post).
 
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