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I recently purchased a Buescher "Big B" bari from the late 40-early 50's era. It has been completely overhauled and has been set up with pretty high key heights. I have only been playing bari for about 12 months, but have been playing tenor and alto for over 20 years. When I started working on my bari chops with this Buescher, I had a lot of problems with mouthpieces. A vintage Berg and a Florida Link were both very bright and chirpy in the low register when I played with any kind volume. By chirpy, I guess I mean that the sound had an edgy, undesirable bark at the attack of the note. I knew it wasn't the pieces because the Link sounded killer on a Yamaha 52 that I used before I got the Big B. The Buescher only started to sound good when I started playing a Morgan "vintage". The problem with the Morgan is that it pretty much hangs on the end of the neck before it is in tune! I recently read a description of the same bari for sale by maddenma which brought up the same quirks that I am having with my horn! So I am wondering why are these horns "mouthpiece picky" and what are some solutions to eliminating this tuning problem? Should I lower the action? Thanks for any advice!
 

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Indistinguishable Resident Buescher Bigot and Foru
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So, a few answers, perhaps generating more questions.

The Big B baris are mouthpiece sensitive, as are MOST 1950's and earlier baris -- but that affects the intonation, not the attack problem you're describing. Chirping, as near as I can tell, is a function of the rails and table of the mouthpiece, or it could be the reed. I have not once in 40 years found a horn that caused an otherwise working mouthpiece/reed combination to "chirp" on attack unless there were issues with the horn sealing somewhere.

By chirp, I mean a squeakiness on attack -- not a bark. I'm not quite certain what you mean by bark, but if it's something else other than a faint squeak on attack, then please describe it a little more.

Back to the intonation issue. My layman's explananation, from what I can tell, is that most of the pre-60's baris were designed with large chamber volume mouthpieces in mind. In the case of your Big B, the basic body tube goes back to 1914, when large chamber pieces were all you could get. There have been a lot of discussions on the forum regarding the length and taper of the truncated cone that is the saxophone, and the volume of the beginning of the cone has a great deal to do with the sound and overall acoustic properties of the instrument. A large chamber mouithpiece has the effect of lengthening the cone, while a smaller chamber piece shortens it -- which is why most modern pieces tend to play quite sharp on very old horns.

One solution to this is to lengthen the neck, which can solve the base tuning issue. But in doing so, you change the overall taper and relationship of each key to the over all length -- making some notes sharp and others flat (or stuffy). There are some folks on the forum that can actually tell you why this is so.

I have tried a number of mouthpiece and neck combinations on my Big B. I have found that the very largest chamber pieces, sometimes called pickle barrel mouthpieces, work flawlessly with the original neck. Intonation is right on the money and does what you'd expect a Buescher instrument to do. Unfortunatly, they also tend to be quite dark (define dark, actually) and while they work well in a legit sax quartet, don't have the muscle needed to do much else. Let's call the a buttery sound. The Rascher and Buescher mouthpieces fall into this catagory.

You can add a bit of baffle to these and brighten them up a bit, but that does seem to reduce overall chamber volume and raise the pitch a little. You can also modify an existing brightish piece by making the chamber much larger and that will help with the intonation, but also makes the piece play darker -- which is what I had Erik Grieffenhagen do with my Bilger-Morgan 7J.

FWIW, I bought a Wanna Durga "True Large Chamber" piece. Not sure what the True Large Chamber bit is here, but it's clearly not large enough for these horns, as it still plays quite sharp and isn't useable on the original neck.

You can get a longer neck from a 60's horn. This gentleman always seems to have one that's "just unwrapped".

http://cgi.ebay.com/GORGEOUS-NEW-NE...381?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item415782029d

This is what I did for mine, but it's not a perfect solution. While this solves the base tuning issue, most medium chamber pieces will have some quirky intonation issues in other areas of the horn and will almost always play a bit flat in the palm keys.

I found one exception, so far. My Strathon Adjustatone, for some reason, does not have an issue in this regard, but it's the only piece I've found so far that isn't flat in the palm keys above D3 with the Bundy/Selmer/400 neck. That said, it's not perfect either. The Bundy neck tends to make A2 and Bb3 pretty stuffy from what is likely a less than ideally placed top octave pip on the neck. Also, B1 tends to warble with this neck, regardless of the piece used. However, given that one seldom plays above Eb3 on a bari in a band setting, it's a workable solution.

There are also people that will sell you a mouthpiece shank extender that effectively lengthens the shank of the neck. I have not had a chance to try one of these yet, but you can search on eBay to find one. The thought is that since you aren't lengthening the neck, then the other issues with the longer neck shouldn't be there. I can't vouch for this, but it might be possible.

So, at the end of the day, if you like this horn but want it brighter that you can get with an "original style" pickle barrel, I suggest contacting Erik Grieffenhagen for his "double large chamber" modification. It does work. You can get an edge and get these horns to bark by modifying a more modern piece with a very large chamber and using the original neck while avoiding the other issues. You can also find a bari Strathon and a Bundy neck and go to town drilling holes in concrete as I also do. In any event, it's a case by case basis with that long neck and you will find yourself with mixed results going down that path.

HTH
 

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Indistinguishable Resident Buescher Bigot and Foru
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