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Discussion Starter #1
I often think about how odd it is that almost, if not all, of the great American saxophone companies are "gone".

Conn and Buescher are both owned by the Selmer conglomerate and manufactured outside the US, correct? (if I am wrong, please set me straight)

I don't know whatever happened to Martin and King, perhaps bought out by Leblanc or someone, and since dissolved...

All of this is immaterial to the thought exercise at hand however.


If you will, outline what steps YOU would undertake to resurrect a truly "American" saxophone. Built in America.

What would be the first steps, where would you set up shop, would you produce copies of great American designs, would you produce a "Buescher" style horn, a "Martin" style horn, a "King" style horn, or offer a line in each style?

Where would you start?

dv
 

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I would take a bussiness plan. Offer very good quality control. Each horn would be play tested before it was shipped out. They would get payed by the hour. Also I would go to Jamacia. Also I would offer very good deals to people here on the forum who have very good reputation. I would also offer some choices Each horn would be custom made. I would stick with quality not quantity.
 

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Carbs said:
I would take a bussiness plan. Offer very good quality control. Each horn would be play tested before it was shipped out. They would get payed by the hour. Also I would go to Jamacia. Also I would offer very good deals to people here on the forum who have very good reputation. I would also offer some choices Each horn would be custom made. I would stick with quality not quantity.
How many people would buy a less well made equivalent to a Cannonball for more money just because it was American made? Didn't work for Buescher, Conn, Martin, Holton, King etc etc. The market is not there, and even if it was the people to make it have long since moved on.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I would want to improve on the quality of the offshore brands, build a solid, classic saxophone. Plus, I'd just like to be able to buy an American horn. Don't get me wrong, I love my made in the USA Selmer, but it seems wrong for a country that had so many world-class, dominant, domestic manufacturers, to have none that produce...

Yeah, I kind of feel the impossibility of an all American made horn.

Still think the idea is neat though.....
 

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Canadiain said:
How many people would buy a less well made equivalent to a Cannonball for more money just because it was American made? Didn't work for Buescher, Conn, Martin, Holton, King etc etc. The market is not there, and even if it was the people to make it have long since moved on.
Would it HAVE to be less well made? I realize that there is the question of labor cost. . . .

But we could treat this question as a utopian hypothetical one: not about the logistics, the economics, or the politics, but about the instruments. What features would they have that would make them distinctly American?

French brass anyone?

How about if we use the Super 20 as a design starting point?
 

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danarsenault said:
I would start with a business plan. When I was done running the numbers I would go to asia.
Sad, but true. I remember stating the obvious a few year ago when I said that the European makers would be the next to go one by one, and we would be left with Asia as the major, and eventually ONLY steady supplier of new production Saxophones in the world.

A lot of people snub the current instruments coming out of all but perhaps Japan (even though there are some very good horns being made in Taiwan and elsewhere if you actually try them). Better get used to it, because the day will likely come when you either buy used/vintage, or you buy new/Asian.

The rather odd angle to the Asian manufacture vs. quality control debate is that cutting costs and quality to increase production was learned from the West i.e. Western capitalism and Soviet communism. Asian cultures have traditionally produced both utilitarian and art objects with an obsessively high degree of perfectionism, at least for the classes that could afford them.

I think, given the motives to do so, they will return to that inclination and standard if we are willing to pay more than $400.00 average for one of their horns. ;)
 

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Reedsplinter said:
Would it HAVE to be less well made? I realize that there is the question of labor cost. . . .

But we could treat this question as a utopian hypothetical one: not about the logistics, the economics, or the politics, but about the instruments. What features would they have that would make them distinctly American?

French brass anyone?

How about if we use the Super 20 as a design starting point?
Good points.

I think in terms of classic American sound ideal, and whatever bore/tone hole dimensions and construction it takes to achieve it, the King Super 20, Martin Committee/Magna, and Conn 10M (in the case of the Tenor) are good places to start. All embody a classic American sound.
These would, if nothing other than for the sake of current marketability, be models for creating a "Sound", but with the improved tuning (where possible without destroying the core sound) of a more updated design. I doubt this discussion is aimed at simply duplicating an existing American horn in total.

Bueschers are wonderful horns, but their closest cousin sound wise (and largely the progenitor of that make), Conn, seems to outsell them and reap all the praise over the decades. If one is to go by popularity and sales alone, Conn would be the winner in that race. The Martin would of course fail the sales records test compared to the other two as well, but I love that make/model, and it's my business plan I'm writing about (didn't Reedsplinter mention Utopia?).:D

American horns are not coveted for their keywork designs, as efficient if not outdated as many of them were. I would thus assume that a French pattern, if not a fully new keywork design all together (after all, we Americans ARE pioneers at heart;)) would be applied.
 

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First, I would build a time machine to go back to when it was an honor to be working at a saxophone factory, and a high-wage skilled job to be working on professional quality musical instruments. Imagine if every programmer or network engineer was instead a skilled factory worker! That was the climate "way back when".
 

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abadcliche said:
First, I would build a time machine to go back to when it was an honor to be working at a saxophone factory, and a high-wage skilled job to be working on professional quality musical instruments. Imagine if every programmer or network engineer was instead a skilled factory worker! That was the climate "way back when".
Very true. But this takes us back to issues of saxophone realpolitik. I'd still like to hear more about what features, given ideal conditions (which is what you are asking for -- assume you have those craftspersons), you'd build into the Great American Saxophone.
 

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To be a true American product it must be:

  • disposable
  • recycleable
  • upgradeable
  • manufactured in Mexico or Canada
and it must have:

  • planned obsolescence
  • emission controls
  • out-sourced technical support
  • a strong lobby
 

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Call me crazy, but I don't think that a great American sax is that hard to imagine: what if a company, say Keilwerth, were to put together, a la Martin, a committee of really knowledgable American sax gurus and players and ask them to produce a revamped version of the SX90R, with the proviso that the horn has to come around $4000. I'm thinking of Mr. Barone, but there's no need to name names: it seems to me that with a reasonable amount of financial encourage/support this committee could produce a pro-line, "great American" sax that would simply kill the competition. I'm not sure it would matter exactly where it was made, but I don't think it's impossible to imagine a US locale--either way it'd still count as American in my books.

Would I look at a Keilwerth Classic USA model tenor sax if I knew that it had been play tested at the design stage by Scott Hamilton and Sonny Rollins, that the neck had been designed by Phil Barone, the engraving by Jason Dumar, the finish by Bear at Cybersax, etc. etc.

You bet I would!

Rory
 

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Reedsplinter said:
Very true. But this takes us back to the real of saxophone realpolitik. I'd still like to hear more about what features, given ideal conditions (which is what you are asking for -- assume you have those craftspersons), you'd build into the Great American Saxophone.
Here are a few features I would like to see:
1. Mechanically simple, like a VI. No spring loaded pivot screws!!
2. The return of the bead blasted silver body with burnished engraving and keys
3. Nice engraving, something I think is missing on modern horns
4. Regular neck AND a tunable neck (call me crazy, but experimenting with tuning the neck in/out at the same time as pushing your mouthpiece in/out is really fun and you can get a lot of different timbres out of the same horn)
5. Hiscox case standard
6. extremely high quality brass
7. bore like a pre-war Keilwerth except more mouthpiece friendly
8. top and bottom stack ergos like a 6M, except with a spatula type of front F
9. LH pinky table like an SML
10. toneholes that come level from the factory
11. tech-cork for adjustments
12. adjustable stack feet like a 26M
13. three vent octave system like a 28M
14. soldered body to bow, but with a removable guard like on VIs to cover up the solder marks if you have to take the horn apart. no epoxy used to hold the horn together!
15. adjustable bell key felts like on modern horns
16. VI-style body to bell brace
17. reusable flat metal resonators like SBAs and early VIs
18. sterling neck

That is all I can think of off the top of my head. Those are things I like personally as a tech and as a player, some for logical reasons and some just for aesthetics.
 

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The easiest solution is to simply find and buy the old horns remaining, and have them rebuilt; and many are doing just that. Those old horns were great due to the competition. Unfortunately, with the bigger companies swallowing up the smaller ones, we're not likely to see much of that anymore.
 

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Don't forget to check out this related thread/poll (though dormant since May): http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=58798

In terms of the horn's concept, this discussion reminds me of the Miles Osland interview with Jerome Selmer regarding the Ref 54 alto concept:

http://www.milesosland.com/mp3/jerome_selmer_interview.mp3

At the end of the interview, Jerome acknowledges that we are in such a "retro" state of mind and seems to pine for a period of innovation (that is my interpretation, anyhow). I agree with this sentiment; I would like to see something very new and innovative. It would be good to embody the characteristics that people want from the old horns, but why try to emulate an old model? Right from the start you will be up against the myth and mystique surrounding the original. For Selmer, this appears to be a successful marketing technique (especially given the wildly inflating values of the old models), but IMHO, this is dangerous territory. What if it doesn't live up to the image of the namesake?

To more address the question at hand, I would do as much research as possible into reducing labor requirements and automating fabrication, especially with things like keywork, silver soldering, buffing, polishing... Is it possible? I don't know. But what if it could start to open the window for an American-made horn? And perhaps I am being a bit sentimental, but I'm not ready to give in and resign myself to the idea that "everything will be made in the far East eventually, so just go with it." I'm very sick and tired of how my home town has been left ravaged by factories who have picked up and left town.... Call me a dreamer, but I would be thrilled to see more products made in the US.
 

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backer said:
.... Call me a dreamer, but I would be thrilled to see more products made in the US.

I second that motion!

I work in the high end machining industry which seems to be one of the last holdouts for work being farmed out to cheaper labor countries (specifically China).

As far as labor goes (and these days increasingly even SKILLED labor) we Americans cannot come close to competing dollar for dollar. We have an aluminum extrusion vendor that was approached by a Chinese supplier (think of aluminum extrusion as aluminum bars created with a special shape--like the Play-doh fun factory).

The Chinese supplier's quality was good, but the vendor already had enough similar products in his repertoire that he didn't have a need for another supplier of those same products. He told the Chinese supplier that if he could figure out how to make heat-sinks with super-tall fins (just like the ones used in computers) that he would be able to sell that and represent the Chinese supplier in the US.

The problem with making that kind of heat sink is that the fins have a very high slenderness ratio and come out all warped and funny looking, even folding over. No one had been able to successfully make this product.

The Chinese supplier went back to China and hired 50 engineers to work on this problem for 2 months. It cost him $15000.

After two months, they had solved the problem and now this particular Chinese supplier makes almost all of the heatsinks used by Intel.

In my opinion the only way to make a great American-made horn and have it be sucessful would be to have a completely new design that lended itself to easy manufacturing (i.e. high precision, high quality, and low labor content).

Of course there will be the niche markets for hand-made instruments (there always will be) like the Inderbinen (which even uses Yamaha key-work) and Jim Schmidt but for something on any kind of larger scale that would be affordable to you and me, it would have to be mass produced ("mass" being a relative term--could be in batches of hundreds or thousands).

The only way that it's possible for America to compete is to be innovative.
 

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Enter "liquidmetal", to cast super-strong, extra light keys with extreme precision, almost as easily as casting plastic. http://www.liquidmetal.com/

However the inherent flimsiness of saxes, especially the body, seems to go against mass production by machine/robot. Precision parts are not likely to fit together well (without high labour adjustment) unless much more dimensional stability is somehow introduced.
 
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