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Discussion Starter #1
Hi folks

I've been playing a council-owned yani 902 for the last four years, and the time is drawing close when I'll have to give the thing back. Can I pick your brains as to thoughts on other bari's? I wouldn't mind looking at some slightly older models rather than getting a standard off-the-shelf job, but don't know much about what's available or guide prices. Also, although I could probably live without it, a low a would be preferred as, along with the big band stuff, it would get a fair bit of classical and saxchoir music thrown at it as well. I'm hoping to get hold of a Conn Crossbar (to b flat..) for a trial fairly soon, so I'll see how that feels. Any thoughts/things to try and have a go on?

I know this is fairly similar to the 'what is your favourite bari' thread, but if you could tailor it slightly to stuff I'm likely to be able to find in the UK and not have to spend two years' student loan on, that'd be great!

Cheers!
 

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I would say that the Conn is the way to go, if you fancy a big rich tone. All of the serious baritone men blew Conns. Harry Carney, Gerry Mulligan, Danny Bank, Joe Temperley (still playing a Conn) Charlie Fowlkes...

Unless you're playing funk or Broadway (in your case, West-end) shows, you can live without a low "A".

The baritone should sound like a woodwind instrument, not a bass kazoo or chain-saw.
 

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I recently played three baris, a Big B, a Weltklang (low A), and my Dolnet (low A). The Big B had a beautiful big tone but it was fairly resistant and the key layout was not good. The Weltklang--with rolled tone holes--had pretty good response, tone, and keywork. The owner of the Big B said he thought the Weltklang was a little better horn.

I then played my Dolnet. The keywork is pretty good and the tone is excellent. It has a bigger bore than the Weltklang and Buescher, and requires a large-chambered, low-baffled mpc. It does not sound good with a bright mouthpiece.

These were all pretty good baris, and can usually be had for $1000-1500. If you want the Conn sound with the low A, Dolnet might be the way to go. You don't see them for sale very often though.
 

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I recently switched to a Yani 900 after playing several Martins and a Buescher. IMO the Yani keywork is more ergonomic - even slightly better than my "The Martin" and the intonation is better than most vintage horns I have played. I have found the Yani slightly more "polite" sounding - to the point where I am playing a Link STM with a fibracell in Symphonic band - and nobody even bats an eyelash.

I don't have much experience with Conns - but I am guessing that the keywork will not be as smooth as you are used to - and you may have to shed for a while to get the intonation under command - since most of the vintage horns - although they seem to have a broader/deeper voice - they also need a bit more shed time to make the intonation and sound what you want.
YMMV

Try a few - report back what your experiences are.
Always curious.
John
 

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The best low Bb bari I've played was a Buescher TrueTone - this, compared to some prime examples of Selmer Mk VI low Bb and Conn "Mulligan-era" horns.

Of modern low A horns, the Yanagisawa 992 was tops - compared to Selmers and other Yanis (including the 9930).
 

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Look for one of the Yanagisawa stencil horns - Whitehall and Vito come to mind. These are excellent low A baritones with modern keywork and superb intonation. Plus, since they don't say "Yanagisawa" on the bell, they can be found for lower prices than you would think. I recently picked up a Vito VSP (identical to the Yanagisawa 901) for US $2500.
 

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I would say that Pepper Adams, Nick Brignola, Glenn Wilson, and Ronnie Cuber are all serious bari players :)

I played a 12m that one of my students owned and it was amazing. I really don't like the ergonomics of the Mulligan-era Conns. I like my front F. I have a 10M tenor that I wouldn't trade for anything, but that doesn't mean I didn't like the Selmers and Super 20 I have played over the years.
 

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The Yamaha 62 is the way to go, IMO.
 

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Conn 12M Transitional Baritone pre 250K is the desired choice or there is the Holy Grail model, Martin Magna Low A. The only Low A Bari with the correct size bell so that it roars in all registers like a low Bb and then allows you to drop a almighty great thunderous Low A as well. For those who are into serious low notes, it is time to buy a Bass sax and then think about one of those new Brazillian Contrabasses.....must resist.......the lure of the Contrabass.
 

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Let's complete the cycle...I'm in love with the Selmer SA80-II bari. It ain't cheap, but it doesn't sound like a brass kazoo either!

I'm no pro player, but I wanted a certain sound in my bari playing. I do a lot of trio and praise/worship band music, besides the occasional pit orchestra and city band gig. This is my bari of choice.!
 

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GAS, the II is a fantastic horn.

If you dare, pick up the Antigua bari (new one). It is a sublime II copy. I see no reason to get a II when this horn is available, unless you don't like plain lacquer!;)
 

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Low Bb Mark VI. Not the biggest sound around but plenty of power with the right piece. Great ergonomic keywork (for my hands anyway) and doesn't weigh a ton like the low A baris. Very comfortable to play for hours on end.
 

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I have owned a Selmer low A baritone from the Mark VI era, and I currently am playing a Yamaha YBS 62 horn that I acquired used back in 1986 or so. And, I have played a wide variety of baritones as well, save only the odd brands (Couf and the like).

Having been impressed by my Conn artist level model alto that I had rehabbed back in the early years of this decade, I have been on the lookout for a Conn baritone from the same era for many years now. Sad to say, I have yet to find one.

I will readily admit that the sound that you can draw from a well set up classic Conn horn is without compare. It has more "roundness", more "belly", more presence, and more volume with less effort that do other horns commonly played. (In this respect, it is apparently joined by those from the Martin firm; I've only played one so I don't qualify as a competent judge there.)

There are various reasons why this is so, but I can't say which one it is. I do notice that the vertical portion of the sax going down to the bow upon which the bell is mounted is not circular in cross-section, but rather oval or "D" shaped.

I go so far as to call the Conn sound the "American" sound, as contrasted with the "French" sound of most others. The first time you ripple through a chromatic scale on one, you will almost certainly say "Wow!".

That's the good side. Now, let's look at the bad side.

There are several problems that mitigate against acquiring one, at least from my point of view.

• KEYWORK

First and foremost, the keywork on the 'old' Conns is horrible with a capital H. It's not fast like on a Selmer horn, and many of the mechanisms that the good colonel used are not as responsive as those used by a "French" style horn. While this is a minor inconvenience on the alto and tenors so prized by aficionados, on the baritone and bass horns it is a major negative.

I'm not just talking about the problems with the left hand little finger here, although they are major enough to scotch a sale on their own for many players. The good colonel or his agent must have envisioned his saxophones for members of the ape family, for you have to reach, twist and apply pressure that works 'sideways' on the thumb hook thumb in order to make them work.

I have quite large hands, and have well developed muscle groups operating them as well (years of working as a bricklayer and playing ice hockey tend to do that to your hands). While I can exert enough force with my little finger to operate the left hand little finger keys, it is not a pleasant experience. Unlike all of the other "finger moves" on a horn, you are not pushing down but also sideways. (The palm keys function this way, but they are well spaced out, not concentrated in a three-quarter inch square area.) If you have the slightest bit of problem operating that LH little finger cluster on any other baritone, then steer well clear of the Conns.

There is no such thing as a graceful move from low B to low C# on a traditional Conn horn, no matter how good your technique may happen to be. It's not a matter of the player, it's a matter of how physics allows you to apply force to the keywork.

Incidentally, this is not exclusive to Conn instruments. On my Oehler clarinet (German style system), the "long key" for the F#/C# is operated in a similar fashion. It is quite cumbersome to use, and I usually use the "patent C#" mechanism for almost all moves to those notes.

However, in addition to the LH little finger problem, everything else on the horn is spaced out in a "funky" fashion to one accustomed to saxophones based largely on the Selmer designs. On alto or tenor, this is not a major problem, although irritating to some. On the baritone or bass, it is much more obvious.

(Just yesterday, I played two performances of Crazy For You, and the baritone part in that show involves a lot of movement from low C# to other low notes (including low A). Often I will practice a new baritone part on my Conn alto when working up such a job, just to get the fingerings figured out without hauling out the big horn. But, whenever the low end figures prominently in music, I know that it is futile to bother with the Conn system of little finger keys. Had I been using a Conn baritone, the fast moves(quavers and semiquaver) from C# to other notes in the vicinity just would have been impossible (never mind the low As).

• OVERALL LAYOUT

The second issue that would mitigate against going the Conn route (for most sax players is the overall arrangement of the horn. The factory original thumb hook is a device of torture, plain and simple. The Conn baritones that I've tried (all from the "good old days", one of them equipped with a finish straight out of a Rustoleum spray can) don't seem to balance as well as the newer horns. Both of these problems can be fixed, but they do require a little more than minor work by a repair technician.

• MOUTHPIECE ISSUES

The third factor against the classic Conn instruments is the mouthpiece that you may be using. On my alto, things just did not tune or sound right until I got myself a stubby rubber mouthpiece. My choice of a Berg Larsen for my normal playing setup just would not work on a Conn alto.

(This might be a part of the reason why the Conn baritones that I've tried were not barn-burners, but I had no such problems with the altos that I've used them on (just with the tuning). So, you may have to change your "setup" if you go the vintage Conn route.)

• THE STINK FACTOR

Next, they all seem to stink. The horrid, left in a damp climate and moldering for thirty years stink. Even if you get a Conn saxophone stripped down to bare metal and have it re-plated, with all new "non-metal" items like pads and corks and felts, there is still a little of the residual smell present. Not a deal killer for many, but I've known many people who wouldn't go near a moldy horn. If you're one of these, then pass the old horns by.

• PRICING CONCERNS

The next factor has little to do with musicianship and a lot to do with your pocketbook. There's no denying that saxophone are expensive items. However, they are comparatively expensive as well.

An alto horn may set you back a thousand or so (talking about a Conn in superb playing condition, but see below). A tenor will set you back proportionately more, particularly as these horns are sought by jazz folks who will trade just about anything for the sound that they give out. However, the baritone of the species (assuming superb playing condition) starts to drive the price point off the charts.

I have play tested every Conn baritone that I have been able to get my grubby hands on. Of these, all but one was in playable condition. (However, had I made the purchase, I would had them completely overhauled and refinished (and would have burnt the cases toute suite). Those that were playable had prices approaching a used YBS-52 in ready to run condition. And, all but one of them came with a case that stank to high heaven.

So, if I had taken the plunge on any of these horns, I would have been out at least three thousand dollars, and maybe more depending on the level of rebuild. While I can afford that kind of tin, most cannot. And, if you had to borrow your previous horn (from what appears to be a United Kingdom "city" or "county government", if I understand it correctly) you too are probably not in the position to "take a plunge" on something that is almost certainly a "work in progress" when you purchase it.

While the Conn sound is something that every saxophone player needs to know about and experience even if only once on a borrowed horn, it comes with a lot of negatives. Only you, of course, will know if the positives outweigh the negatives. For almost everyone on the planet, I would say that they don't.
 

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I don't know which Conn is most desirable (I didn't know my student's serial number). His looked very similar to my tenor (320,xxx). It had the naked lady and the front F but not the nickel keys of the later Conns. It was a tremendous horn and I would gladly have one in my collection
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Cheers for all the input, especially that vast essay from SOTSDO. Certainly some things to think about, especially as I will have to play a fair bit of fiddly stuff and, much as I'd love to have a vast sound as well, I can't afford to sacrifice the ability to blend in places. Have to see how this Conn plays and then work from there. I'm not so strapped for cash as I've made out, as I'm prepared to take out a loan to cover the cost of buying a worthwhile bari. Plus I've got a fair bit of overlap before I have to return the 902, so have time to get any new purchase rebuilt if necessary. Suspect the Martin's will be out for the above reasons, might try and get hold of a Selmer or Buescher...
 

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I've been looking for a low A bari to replace my old Buescher, and recently had a chance to play four of them loaned to me by friends: an Artist (Yani stencil), a Selmer SA II, a Mark VI, and a Yamaha 61. I didn't care for the SAII - not as responsive as the others. The others were all excellent horns, but to my surprise, I preferred the Yamaha over all of them: best response, easy to play, good intonation. I know that individual samples of horns can vary as can individual preferences, but I'm planning to buy a Yamaha.
 
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