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Discussion Starter #1
Hello!

I've been lurking a while, and finally signed up so I could lurk some more... while trying to decide what make sax to start on. So this is kind of an introduction for me as well. I already play clarinet - not a genius or anything - I play for fun - and want to start learning the saxophone as well.

Now, I know from lurking I'm gonna hear it (and how!) about my choice. I'm getting a C Melody. but my dilemma is..............

Should I hold out for the Series IV Buescher True Tone C-mel I really want, or just get a C-mel and worry about chasing that "me and my (sound/ergos/beauty queen) horn" later once I can play it?

My logic for getting a C-mel is this:

1. I will be playing at home, so less volume is not a negative
2. My clarinets are all vintage, including metal ones, so I know and expect the "vintage intonation"
3. I like to play along/improvise with old records - on clarinet, and my boyfriend and I make up lyrics and sing with old foxtrot records - the steel needle 1924 console Victor is the showpiece in our living room
4. I own Frankie Trumbauer records (78s) and other 20s/30s stuff (I have close to 200 78s)
4.5 I love the old-timey sax sound, warm, sweet, and a bit of a tease (not dissing the ballsy jazz, swing, & modern sounds, I love them too, but they can wait till I grow into them)
5. I suck at reading music, and found I actually play better by ear than by chart (so it doesn't matter what key all the sax how-to stuff is in. I have made more progress on clarinet without a book than with.)
6. I have old piano/vocal sheet music, but see #5
7. I'm a late bloomer playing for my own/family amusement, so I don't have to worry about school or a band where Bb/Eb tuning or modern sound are required.

The reasons for the query are:

For waiting on a late Buescher TT:
1. I have seen and handled a 1929 Buescher C-mel (not played it, it was at an antiques store) and, even in its 'as found' condition, I liked the how it felt
2. Bueschers sound amazing - I can imagine myself playing with that tone - and wanting to practice a lot to get it right
3. I don't know if I will love or hate them (or not care at all), but dang those snaps were innovative 20s tech!

For getting started with another horn and circling back later:
1. I can't play what I don't have, which means I'm not practicing sax at all
2. King has a similar sound and pinky table
3. Conns have a nice tone too, ya know (plus better ergos earlier)
4. I could learn on the pearl G older Buescher. Since I don't know anything else it won't be a "downgrade" or "poor ergos" to me. Plus the next horn will feel better.
5. There are several horns available from reputable shops in my budget for a starter sax

What do you think about my options?

I'd also love to hear about how you decided on your first sax (that you got for yourself - the one your parents picked for lessons doesn't count). What was your process and logic? Do you still have/play that sax?


And if you got through all that, thanks for reading!
 

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C-mels are a lot of fun, I love playing my Buescher (has the pearl G#). I think getting the right mouthpiece is more important than the horn; Conn, King, Martin and Buescher all made great C-mels but the mouthpieces that came with them make the horns sound quite dull IMHO. I use an older Brilhart Special tenor piece and that works great. Morgan also has a C-mel mouthpiece, I believe they are sold by Junkdude.
It can't be too hard hard to find a Buescher Model IV (I think that's the one that has the G# roller), so I'm sure you won't have to wait long.
Have fun!
 

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C-mels are a lot of fun, I love playing my Buescher (has the pearl G#). I think getting the right mouthpiece is more important than the horn; Conn, King, Martin and Buescher all made great C-mels but the mouthpieces that came with them make the horns sound quite dull IMHO. I use an older Brilhart Special tenor piece and that works great. Morgan also has a C-mel mouthpiece, I believe they are sold by Junkdude.
It can't be too hard hard to find a Buescher Model IV (I think that's the one that has the G# roller), so I'm sure you won't have to wait long.
Have fun!
I (very respectfully) disagree. On my C-mel (Hawkes and sons "Picadilly circus", I think it is an Evette-Schaeffer stencil), the Buescher mouthpiece is not at all dull. For the sound the OP is looking for, I think a Buescher mouthpiece would be appropriate.
 

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Hooray for another C-mel player! The first saxophone I bought out of my own pocket was also a C-mel (a 1920 Buescher with the pearl G#), and I love it. The ergos are a little awkward, but they're easy enough to get used to once you really start playing.

I'm not particularly great when it comes to giving advice, but it doesn't hurt to consider all your options. Is there a place near where you live that has C-mels available for test play? Sometimes you end up making a surprise connection, and the horn you set out to get might not be the one that resonates with you the most. That being said, if you're determined to get a Buescher, I'd definitely suggest going after one with the snaps. I love my own Buescher, but I've heard numerous people mention how convenient the snaps are, and I've always somewhat regretted that mine was too early to have them.

I second the above opinion about the Buescher mouthpiece. I had been led to believe that it would be dull and stuffy, but my experience with it has been anything but.

Another thing to consider is that, depending on where you get your horn, it might require some work before you'll be able to get the most out of it. Sometimes a horn will still play well on old pads, sometimes not, and almost all vintage horns require some adjustment before they'll be at their best.
 

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Formerly mdavej
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I’ve been looking for a good C Mel for 20 years and still haven’t found one.

You can get a vintage sound on any sax with the right MP and technique. Since that’s your ideal, it will come out when you play. Just listen to some old recordings. All the saxes sound vintage because that’s how everybody played them back then.

Tenor is much easier to find and is in the same key as clarinet. So some of the patterns you already know will transfer over. But comparing clarinet pinky tables, etc. to sax doesn’t work at all. They’re too different.

Vintage horns can be challenging and expensive to maintain. Every C mel I’ve looked at from my local Craigslist over the years has been unplayable and would have been very expensive or impossible to get into playing condition. Plus a beginner needs a working horn, not the uncertainty of knowing if your playing issues are because of you or because of the horn.

Lastly, since you won’t be reading much, the key of the instrument makes no difference. The main advantage of a C inst is reading piano and guitar charts. Sounds like you won’t be doing much of that.

I say go ahead and get started on sax, any sax, and you won’t have to settle for a bad C Mel.
 

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Problem with C-Mels is getting one in excellent playing condition. From my limited experience trying then (only 6 or so) I enjoyed the Conn straight necks the most.

Welcome to the board! I highly recommend the Morgan C-Melody mouthpiece. It is hand-finished by some of the best in the business and will serve you well.

- Saxaholic
 

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I always thought ergonomics was a non-issue on saxophones until I spent some time trying to play my Buescher C-Mel (with the button G#). The thing is downright painful. I wish mine was a straight-neck Conn, but it is too late for me. I am not going to pursue C-Mels (or equipment for one) now.

Being a fan of Tram (and Bix), I like to listen to C-Mels in old-tyme jass, and I understand the old-mouthpiece approach to them.

I'd say get one (any one as long as it is leak-free) and get started on it. You can always change up the whole thing as time goes by. DAVE
 

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You sound like someone who's going to have a hell of a good time regardless of what sax you're playing. I'd say jump right in, the sooner the better. The world needs more people who play along with Frankie Trumbauer 78s.

My first sax was a beat up alto I bought on impulse from a pawn shop. I didn't know anything about the brand (it was a Vito, probably a Yamaha stencil) or what to look for. All I knew was I wanted a sax, and this one I could afford. Looking back, it was probably barely playable, but it got me started.
 

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If you are mostly going to play by ear then the key of the horn doesn't matter does it? The main (only?) advantage of a C mel as I understand it is reading along and playing in tune with the piano in the parlour, which doesnt apply here. I would strongly recommend getting a Bb tenor instead, same key as your clarinet, so some playing patterns are a direct translate for you, and it going to be a lot more convenient to own and keep in playing shape, and get reeds and mouthpieces for.

How much of that vintage tone is more to do with the limitations of the recording technology of the day I wonder?
 

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Problem with C-Mels is getting one in excellent playing condition. From my limited experience trying then (only 6 or so) I enjoyed the Conn straight necks the most.

Welcome to the board! I highly recommend the Morgan C-Melody mouthpiece. It is hand-finished by some of the best in the business and will serve you well.

- Saxaholic
Agreed. It is getting harder and harder to find C-Melody horns in excellent playing condition. Five or ten years ago, it was still fairly easy to find overhaul prices in the $400 - $500 range. Now, many of those overhauls are North of $1000 making it difficult to justify having done on a C-Melody. Back then, we always had 2-3 C Melody horns in the shop ready to play. Now, I turn most of them away especially if they need much work. If you find one in nice playing condition, I would say go for it. I like the straight neck Conns the best, but that's personal preference. You really cannot go wrong with a Conn, Buescher or Martin.

We do stock the Morgan C-Melody mouthpieces and they can make a C-Melody horn sing. Most older C-Melody pieces have a really small tip opening and tend blow stuffy. Also, the original C-Melody mpcs were designed for C-Melody reeds which are no longer available. The Morgan piece is designed for the C-Melody horn but also designed to use Bb Tenor reeds. The Morgan maintains intonation, blows much more freely, and is available in playable tip openings. These are always available at: https://www.junkdude.com/ or https://www.morganmouthpieces.com/
 

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Sure! Go for the C-melody if that is what calls to you! I've got a goldplated Buescher that puts me in the right mood every time I play it. It's not often, but there is something very motivating about playing it. Yes, it's easier to find a standard-voice horn in good playing shape, but if you want to play c-mel, go for it! I love Bix & Tram as well as their contemporaries. I say the world can use more C-mels and bass saxes. :)

I'd almost say to forget about brands and go for something that is local that you can try out. Yes, it's easy to find a c-mel, but everyone is correct, it's harder to find one in good shape. Either try before you buy or purchase online from a reputable seller. I'll has to save my pennies and try one of those Morgan mouthpieces one of these days...

Good luck and keep us posted!
 

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Not sure why members are having trouble finding good playing C-melody saxes, unless they're capping their search price unrealistically. I sold three of them at under $500 each within the past two years, and they were all great players with their original mouthpieces and in original finish. I bought a gold-plated one with all new pads and cork for only $600 about a year ago.

You're in Ubiquitous, so finding one should be easy. Just don't think someone is going to take the time to repad any 80-100 year-old horn and then sell it to you for 200 bucks.

If I were you and wanted a sax tomorrow, I'd get a refurbished alto, any maker or stencil, with the 3-in-line left pinky table. Conn, Buescher, King, etc. up through the '60s-'70s. For one thing, coming from clarinet you'll have a far easier time with alto embouchure. And altos are especially ubiquitous in Ubiquitous.
 

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Formerly mdavej
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Not sure why members are having trouble finding good playing C-melody saxes, unless they're capping their search price unrealistically. I sold three of them at under $500 each within the past two years, and they were all great players with their original mouthpieces and in original finish. I bought a gold-plated one with all new pads and cork for only $600 about a year ago.

You're in Ubiquitous, so finding one should be easy. Just don't think someone is going to take the time to repad any 80-100 year-old horn and then sell it to you for 200 bucks.
That's what I would have thought. I'm willing to pay $200 for a fixer upper. But even the $500 ones I've run across are in crap condition. They look good in the pictures, but when I go to play them, pads are missing or fall out when I pick up the horn. I'll give you $200 for that condition, otherwise, no thanks.

If you run across a good deal that you're going to pass on, please post it.
 

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Formerly mdavej
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How much of that vintage tone is more to do with the limitations of the recording technology of the day I wonder?
That's certainly part of it. But whenever my big band plays a tune from that era, the whole sax section darkens their tone, cranks up the vibrato to 11 and plays the swing as square and hokey as possible, and we sound just like those old recordings. I don't need no stinkin' C mel to sound like one ;-) But I'd still love to own one for the sheer novelty of it and read C charts with it.

Just check out this contemporary recording by the Beau Hunks (one of my all time favs). They absolutely nail it on modern instruments (sop, alto, tenor, bari) and modern recording equipment (except for the period mics). Their love and commitment to this music is incredible.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beau_Hunks
 

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Thanks. That's a beauty for sure, but well over $500 and impossible to play test before hand. Guess I'll have to keep searching a few more years ;-)
No one play tests a horn bought online before buying it. No seller that I know of ships a sax to anyone for free in hopes of the person paying for it. So you'll have to stumble on one locally. And after 20 years trying would you agree that prospects are slim?

OK, let's say you find a $200 complete and dent-free fixer-upper. What would you say is a fair price to pay a skilled tech to completely overhaul and repad a horn?

Not meaning to pick on you, because you're not alone. But that's the problem. Techs are not going to put old C-Melody saxes back in top shape for free.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Wow! I am really grateful for all of the replies! (and the Little Rascals I'm listening to right now - you're right, mdavej, that is surprising on modern tech & equip).

Not sure why members are having trouble finding good playing C-melody saxes, unless they're capping their search price unrealistically. I sold three of them at under $500 each within the past two years, and they were all great players with their original mouthpieces and in original finish. I bought a gold-plated one with all new pads and cork for only $600 about a year ago.

You're in Ubiquitous, so finding one should be easy. Just don't think someone is going to take the time to repad any 80-100 year-old horn and then sell it to you for 200 bucks.

If I were you and wanted a sax tomorrow, I'd get a refurbished alto, any maker or stencil, with the 3-in-line left pinky table. Conn, Buescher, King, etc. up through the '60s-'70s. For one thing, coming from clarinet you'll have a far easier time with alto embouchure. And altos are especially ubiquitous in Ubiquitous.
I'm only having trouble finding a Series IV Buescher C. You are quite correct that altos are ubiquitous in Ubiquitous. I stumbled on a Buffet alto for sale at a pawn shop this afternoon. No mouthpiece (and I don't have one yet...) so I couldn't try it. Repair shops, on the other hand, are not ubiquitous in Ubiquitous, but at least there is more than one BIRT in a reasonable radius. Does anyone expect a repadded horn for $200? I would be suspicious of that horn, especially on a non-standard pad job like a vintage Buescher. I have realistic expectations of cost and have padded my budget (pun intended) to cover the possibility of repairs/mouthpieces/etc.

Sure! Go for the C-melody if that is what calls to you! I've got a goldplated Buescher that puts me in the right mood every time I play it. It's not often, but there is something very motivating about playing it. Yes, it's easier to find a standard-voice horn in good playing shape, but if you want to play c-mel, go for it! I love Bix & Tram as well as their contemporaries. I say the world can use more C-mels and bass saxes. :)

I'd almost say to forget about brands and go for something that is local that you can try out. Yes, it's easy to find a c-mel, but everyone is correct, it's harder to find one in good shape. Either try before you buy or purchase online from a reputable seller. I'll has to save my pennies and try one of those Morgan mouthpieces one of these days...

Good luck and keep us posted!
I've got a goldplated Buescher you say - and I've got green-eyed jealousy!! Those are real lookers. And yes, I keep finding $500 junkers, too. The one I got my hands on at the antiques place was hella high for a horn that was a bit worn down and missing pads (but the snaps for them were in the case - I don't think the seller knew what they were). It had problems, but I liked the weight and the hand positions. More on that below.

...But comparing clarinet pinky tables, etc. to sax doesn’t work at all. They’re too different.

Vintage horns can be challenging and expensive to maintain. Every C mel I’ve looked at from my local Craigslist over the years has been unplayable...

...you won’t have to settle for a bad C Mel.
Sorry for the confusion! I was comparing the pinky tables between the Buescher Series IV C and the King C of the same era. They both have a two- rather than a three-across, with one above and one below (although the roller positions are different). I think this would be easier to get the hang of coming from clarinet since all of those pinky trills are vertical with no more than two across. The Conn with the three-across looks awkward, but in practice, it may be great.

I will not not not be getting a sax off Craigslist. I tried once (and only once) to get a Silva-Bet that way. What a mess. 'Nuff said. I have gotten a couple of excellent clarinets for good prices on that auction site, but the caveat there is knowing what to look out for.

I do know of one C I am actively avoiding - the Holton Wiedoeft model with the oddball extra keys. Love his music, too, although I have yet to find any 78s of him while combing the thrift stores. I read he never played that model sax, it just had his name on it. I hope he was well paid for that endorsement!

This is a cool novelty song he did:

 

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I (very respectfully) disagree. On my C-mel (Hawkes and sons "Picadilly circus", I think it is an Evette-Schaeffer stencil), the Buescher mouthpiece is not at all dull. For the sound the OP is looking for, I think a Buescher mouthpiece would be appropriate.
No worries. It's been ages since I played the Buescher mouthpiece. I should try it again maybe (if I can find it).
 

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Formerly mdavej
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No one play tests a horn bought online before buying it. No seller that I know of ships a sax to anyone for free in hopes of the person paying for it. So you'll have to stumble on one locally. And after 20 years trying would you agree that prospects are slim?

OK, let's say you find a $200 complete and dent-free fixer-upper. What would you say is a fair price to pay a skilled tech to completely overhaul and repad a horn?

Not meaning to pick on you, because you're not alone. But that's the problem. Techs are not going to put old C-Melody saxes back in top shape for free.
You're absolutely right. I've spent at least $500 to overhaul my Mk VI tenor (my main horn that I play on gigs). So I know it's not cheap. I'm looking for someone who's already sunk the money for a good overhaul but is selling at a loss, i.e., $500. I've done it several times before with instruments, cars, even houses. I have a playable $300 bari ($800 value) and a nearly mint $200 alto ($1500 value) and nearly mint curved $100 soprano ($300 value). I can be very patient. It took me literally 30 years to find a certain vintage electronic device on ebay at a price I was willing to pay, but I finally snagged it. I have lots of saxes and don't need another. So I have the luxury of holding out for a good deal.

Forgive me if it seems like I keep moving the target.
 
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