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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have had bad luck with the last 2 vintage sopranos I tried to buy, a Conn and a Martin. By some amazing streak of bad luck, both had been "circumcised" to fit a particular mouthpiece, about 1/4" cut off the tip with a pipe cutter. The first was a 1928 Conn and the mod was verified by my tech. The Martin I was informed by the seller, AFTER he shipped it, a preemptive move I think, since I told him I'd be taking it to my tech for a once over after I got it.

Not sure how common that is, but I want to be damn sure it doesn't happen a third time.

Also wondering how likely that is to affect the intonation? The Conn had great intonation except for the palm key notes, and they were standard not the in-line variety. So not sure if that was due to the mod or just because it's a vintage horn. The Martin had perfect intonation top to bottom in spite of the mod.
 

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Yikes!! Lucky you ...
mostly i end up with the mp stuffed onto the cork quite far. Seems to me missing neck section would make the mp volume effectively greater, so i would end up stuffing the mp on even more.

Aside from some clueless hooligan damaging a nice sax, i would not expect a big change in overall intonation.

On topic, no straight Conn sopranos here ...
 

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I have two Conn straight sopranos. One is a New Wonder Series II from 1926: it measures 64.6cm in length. The other is an 18M "Stretchy" from 1929: it measures 67cm in length.

I can't speak about Martins (I know nothing about them) but I wonder whether your "1928 Conn" was in fact a "Stretchy" which someone had butchered to try and get it to play in tune, because they didn't have the right mouthpiece for it. Stretchies are wonderful sopranos, but they came with a specially-designed smaller-than-usual mouthpiece; if that got separated from the instrument, the owner would be in trouble, because most other mouthpieces just wouldn't suit. (Joe Giardullo of Sopranoplanet has recently come up with a mouthpiece design which suits the Stretchies extremely well, by the way.)
 

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Related to this topic, is there really such a thing where different manufacturers have different lengths for the sopranos they make?
 

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If it was possible for one manufacturer, Conn, to redesign their Bb straight sopranos so as to increase the overall length from 64.6cm to 67cm, it would be no surprise if other manufacturers made their sopranos in different lengths ! The relationship between the the conical bore and the length of the instrument is quite flexible, the only imperative being that all notes speak in tune, according to the predetermined pitch scale.
 

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Cutting necks is not about fitting a mouthpiece, which is done by adjusting/replacing the cork. It is done when a sax is too flat for a particular player and his set-up. So when you get a sax with a chopped neck or in the case of a one-piece soprano, a chopped mouthpiece end, you simply do what you need to do to the cork to fit your mouthpiece, then play the sax and analyze the tuning. You should be able to play it. The missing length also can be restored, but if it is a 'stretchie' you will then need the appropriate mouthpiece to make it work.

'Related to this topic, is there really such a thing where different manufacturers have different lengths for the sopranos they make?'

Absolutely. There is no standard length. The length of a sax depends on it's overall design. Different makes that measure the same would be the result of coincidence or cloning. BTW, I've never heard of players comparing measurements of saxes. What you do is you play the sax and analyze it's tuning. If it's okay, it's okay. It doesn't matter if a Selmer is 1/8" shorter than a Yamaha or whatever. All that matters is how you can play it.
 

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IMO cutting the end off a sax can have more effects than just pitch.

1. There is a considerable step in bore diameter at the top of the sax inside the mouthpiece. The location of that step may well have acoustic repercussions for the sax, for certain notes more than others.
2. At the location of that step there must be significant turbulence as the air vibrates up and down the sax. The extent of that vibration is different for different notes, so I would expect the turbulence to be different for different notes. I would expect the turbulence to have an acoustic effect, on some notes more than others.
3. The effective length of a sax is the length it would have if the mouthpiece was removed and the bore was extended, tapering down to zero diameter. The space inside a mouthpiece is supposed to match the volume of that non-existent tube tapering to zero diameter. If the mouthpiece is kept in the same location, and the end is cut off the sax inside the mouthpiece, then the volume of the mouthpiece has been changed, so the effective length of the sax is changed without it being any longer. in total actual length. That is likely to affect some notes more than others.
4. If the end is cut off a sax then certain mouthpieces can be pushed further onto the neck, sharpening all the notes, but affecting the short-air-column notes more than the long air column notes.

Especially for sopranos, 1 &/or 2 &/or 3 - I don't know which - can introduce a "burble" to the low notes, especially C and B.
No doubt they can also affect the ease of production of certain notes, or their pitch or their tone.
 

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My 1927 Conn NWII Bb soprano is 25 1/2 inches long (measured with a metal tape measure from bell rim to top end, holding close to the tube). My 1926 Martin sop is 1/8" longer (25 5/8") measuring that way.

Sopranos that I've passed on were once measured by standing them up, placing a straight object on the neck and measuring top to bottom in a straight drop from the object on the neck to the platform on which the horns rested, rather than along the tube. I don't know if that matters - or not, I did not bother to do that this evening after reading this thread.

My Yanagisawa S901 measured 25 11/16" and my 1928 Buescher TT soprano measured 25 3/4".

I would never alter the length of any soprano. All of the ones listed above played just fine with most of my favorite mouthpieces. With the TT's I owned (three, as I recall), I had to cut off the barrels of some of the mouthpieces so they could shove on far enough without being hindered by the upper octave ribbing. DAVE
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Cutting necks is not about fitting a mouthpiece, which is done by adjusting/replacing the cork. It is done when a sax is too flat for a particular player and his set-up. So when you get a sax with a chopped neck or in the case of a one-piece soprano, a chopped mouthpiece end, you simply do what you need to do to the cork to fit your mouthpiece, then play the sax and analyze the tuning. You should be able to play it. The missing length also can be restored, but if it is a 'stretchie' you will then need the appropriate mouthpiece to make it work.

'Related to this topic, is there really such a thing where different manufacturers have different lengths for the sopranos they make?'

Absolutely. There is no standard length. The length of a sax depends on it's overall design. Different makes that measure the same would be the result of coincidence or cloning. BTW, I've never heard of players comparing measurements of saxes. What you do is you play the sax and analyze it's tuning. If it's okay, it's okay. It doesn't matter if a Selmer is 1/8" shorter than a Yamaha or whatever. All that matters is how you can play it.
Well I have had mouthpieces that would not push in far enough because the neck tip would hit the edge inside the chamber bfore you could get it in tune. And it sounded like that's what the Martin seller was saying was his problem. I don't know how the length of the cork could fix that.

The seller I bought the Martin from told me he specifically had his tech cut it so he could use a Buescher mouthpiece that he otherwise could not push in far enough. The Conn was looked at by my tech and he said it was short and he showed me the sharp lip where it had been cut with a pipe cutter. He also told me he talked to someone who was cutting them down, for the asenine reason that they are "low pitch and therefore need to be corrected."
 

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Yikes! In general. Friends don't let friends cut saxophone bodies. Not even 1/4".

Gordon, I generally agree with your reasoning. Yes, moving the step might change the tuning, and some notes more than others.
So would fitting a different size/shape mouthpiece. So would a large movement of the mouthpiece accompanied by a change in embouchure (due to a different player). Etc.

But the turbulence issue? That is overstated. Air speeds in saxophones are quite low.
What is resonating inside the saxophone is pressure waves, traveling @ speed of sound.
Bouncing back and forth along the effective length of the horn right then.
The bulk velocity of the air moving through the horn is maybe 1% of that speed. Or less.
Turbulence does not have much of an effect at those speeds.


dsm
 

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"Related to this topic, is there really such a thing where different manufacturers have different lengths for the sopranos they make?"

It is the length of the cone which is the primary factor in pitch.

http://newt.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/saxacoustics.html#pipe

[this info is over my head]

Am I correct in assuming that a very wide bell flare could be very long, yet not alter the pitch of the instrument?

What i am supposing is that the column of vibrating air breaks down once the tube/cone gets too wide too fast, and the brass that is hanging out after that is just decoration or style. If my supposition is correct, a soprano could be extremely long and still be in tune (think a soprano fixed to big enough pipe). Such an instrument would sound muffled, but would be in tune as a soprano voice.
 

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Well I have had mouthpieces that would not push in far enough because the neck tip would hit the edge inside the chamber bfore you could get it in tune. And it sounded like that's what the Martin seller was saying was his problem. I don't know how the length of the cork could fix that.

The seller I bought the Martin from told me he specifically had his tech cut it so he could use a Buescher mouthpiece that he otherwise could not push in far enough. The Conn was looked at by my tech and he said it was short and he showed me the sharp lip where it had been cut with a pipe cutter. He also told me he talked to someone who was cutting them down, for the asenine reason that they are "low pitch and therefore need to be corrected."
We are calling the same thing by different names. 'Fitting a mouthpiece' refers to adjusting the cork so the mouthpiece fits correctly. it has nothing to do with your problem. 'Shortening a neck' so a very flat sax can be tuned up is what you're talking about.

BTW, I don't recommend doing this as the arguments against it are well known and for the most part true. Since you already have it, that's why I said you first have to see if you can get it tuned on whatever note you use, then analyze it's performance by playing it for an extended period possibly with the help of a tuner to see what its doing. You can get by with this on some horns and some you can't. Maybe it will be great for you or not. You have to find out before deciding what if anything to do with it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
We are calling the same thing by different names. 'Fitting a mouthpiece' refers to adjusting the cork so the mouthpiece fits correctly. it has nothing to do with your problem. 'Shortening a neck' so a very flat sax can be tuned up is what you're talking about.

BTW, I don't recommend doing this as the arguments against it are well known and for the most part true. Since you already have it, that's why I said you first have to see if you can get it tuned on whatever note you use, then analyze it's performance by playing it for an extended period possibly with the help of a tuner to see what its doing. You can get by with this on some horns and some you can't. Maybe it will be great for you or not. You have to find out before deciding what if anything to do with it.
Why would it have anything to do with the sax being flat? Maybe if it's flat with a particular mouthpiece, but I'd be more likely to call that adapting a horn to a flat mouthpiece rather than altering a flat horn. Are there really horns out there that are too flat? With any mouthpiece and any player? I can't imagine how shoddy your manufacturing standards would have to be to actually build a horn so far out of spec that it's noticeably flat and can't be tuned normally.

I don't have either horn anymore, BTW. I returned the Conn for a refund and I sold the Martin, which had no intonation issues at all, but was ergonomically very awkward to play and hurt my hands after only a few minutes. I'm asking this because I don't want to get burned a third time. There apparently are or were people out there circumcising vintage sopranos and don't want to get stuck with another modded POS I can't easily sell, at least not honestly.
 

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I love the Conn sopranos, specifically the NWII which is what I have (1928, 205xxx). They range from ~160xxx to I believe ~235xxx (or is it ~225xxx?). Even there, you of course have to make sure it's not high pitch (which the length would tell you as well as the HP marking).
Gordon is right about the step in the bore... I thought it was unique to the Conn soprano since I never played any others. Anyway, it's like what I would call a "bushing" in there. And to remove that, not to mention several mm of length from the horn, I would regard as criminal.
I had issues with my (unmolested) NWII in the palm notes (very hard to keep them in tune... they were way sharp), until I got a Selmer S80-type mouthpiece, which also sounds VERY sweet and mellow (I demand more than just ease of pitch). That said, the horns were sold with the exact opposite kind of mouthpiece (and could be played well in tune with it obviously), so I guess it's all in player preference/chops/approach.
Yes, avoid horns from "chop shops"!
 

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"Related to this topic, is there really such a thing where different manufacturers have different lengths for the sopranos they make?"

It is the length of the cone which is the primary factor in pitch.

http://newt.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/saxacoustics.html#pipe

[this info is over my head]

Am I correct in assuming that a very wide bell flare could be very long, yet not alter the pitch of the instrument?

What i am supposing is that the column of vibrating air breaks down once the tube/cone gets too wide too fast, and the brass that is hanging out after that is just decoration or style. If my supposition is correct, a soprano could be extremely long and still be in tune (think a soprano fixed to big enough pipe). Such an instrument would sound muffled, but would be in tune as a soprano voice.
The bell (the zone where the air column transitions to the exterior air) is a difficult problem. I think your conclusion is too schematic.
Also, I'm not sure that such a wide bell would be a good thing -I see that you don't pretend it anyway. The difference in tone between Bb and the other bell notes would be very noticeable.
 

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The "fitting of mouthpieces" issues have been discussed around here before. There are a few considerations . . .

1) The inside of the barrel of the mouthpiece where the neck of the horn goes is too short . . . I have experienced that issue once with a Runyon mouthpiece. In my view, rather than shorten the horn's tube, I'd just move on to another mouthpiece. There are SO many good-playing soprano mouthpieces that will work on vintage sopranos.

2) The inside of the mouthpiece's barrel (where the neck of the horn goes), is either too tight or too loose on the neck cork . . . an easy fix by either sanding down the cork OR wrapping the cork with paper/plumber's tape, etc. No need to alter the horn or the piece.

3) The horn's design won't allow some longer mouthpieces to shove on far enough for the player to come to pitch . . . Buescher TT's are notorious for this because they have a rib supporting the upper octave pip and the longer soprano mouthpiece's may butt up against that rib before proper pitch is achieved. Either use a shorter mouthpiece OR cut maybe 1/8" to 1/4" off the barrel of the mouthpiece. I've done this with Selmer S-80's and Morgan Vintage mouthpieces to great success.

As far as the ergonomics of vintage sopranos, that is a subjective matter. Some are bothered by some saxophones, others are not. I've played all sorts of saxophones (mostly sopranos, but a lot of altos, too) and have only been bothered once by ergonomics . . . the button G# on a Buescher TT C-Mel. My vintage sops (Conn, Martin, and previously owned TT's and King Saxello) lack/lacked the connected G#/C# feature, and no front F, but the rest of the horns were good enough to cause me to work around that issue and really enjoy the horns.

Even the in-line left palm keys of the old Conns and Selmers were not a concern IF the horn played those notes clearly and accurately. I had one MKVI that had a horrible high end and only then did those in-line palm keys become an issue. Once I found MKVI's that spoke well up there, the issue with the design of the palm keys suddenly became a non-issue for me.

Like I said elsewhere, I'd gladly put up my Conn NWII against any of the newest sopranos out there - for pitch, for tone, for ease of play (well, once you decide that a connected G#/C# and front-F doesn't matter). And yes, I've played and owned several new sopranos in my time.

Whether or not a saxophone owner decides to alter the length of his soprano, that is HIS decision to make. I sure would never do that, though. And of course, full disclosure when selling an altered soprano is necessary. DAVE
 

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3) The horn's design won't allow some longer mouthpieces to shove on far enough for the player to come to pitch . . . Buescher TT's are notorious for this because they have a rib supporting the upper octave pip and the longer soprano mouthpiece's may butt up against that rib before proper pitch is achieved. Either use a shorter mouthpiece OR cut maybe 1/8" to 1/4" off the barrel of the mouthpiece. I've done this with Selmer S-80's and Morgan Vintage mouthpieces to great success.

DAVE
Two things:

1) I want to reiterate the point that cutting some length off the exterior of the MP so it doesn't run into a post or other feature has no acoustical effect, other than allowing you to push the MP on far enough.

Mouthpieces vary a great deal in shank length (although there are those who dispute this).

2) It beats me why the Buescher guys didn't just use a curved arm on that top vent pad and locate the post in a better place (leaving the vent in the same place, obviously). At some point I may just do that to my new TT.
 

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Yikes! In general. Friends don't let friends cut saxophone bodies. Not even 1/4".

Gordon, I generally agree with your reasoning. Yes, moving the step might change the tuning, and some notes more than others.
So would fitting a different size/shape mouthpiece. So would a large movement of the mouthpiece accompanied by a change in embouchure (due to a different player). Etc.

But the turbulence issue? That is overstated. Air speeds in saxophones are quite low.
What is resonating inside the saxophone is pressure waves, traveling @ speed of sound.
Bouncing back and forth along the effective length of the horn right then.
The bulk velocity of the air moving through the horn is maybe 1% of that speed. Or less.
Turbulence does not have much of an effect at those speeds.

dsm
I know that the overall airflow down the bore of a sax is very slow.

However a standing wave is created by creating nodes and antinodes.
Near open tone holes (and other locations for overtones of the fundamental) there is a pressure node. That is created by having an air movement antinode. That means air is oscillating very fast in and out of the tone hole (or other location) at a frequency matching the pitch being played, in order to keep the air pressure reasonably constant - at atmospheric pressure.
If that air were not dashing in and out of the tone hole, then there would be no pulses in the air pressure to create the travelling wave that enters our ears.

It is that oscillation I am talking about. For that, the air speed is very fast.

....What is resonating inside the saxophone is pressure waves, traveling @ speed of sound.
Bouncing back and forth along the effective length of the horn right then...
Yes. In order to produce those pressure waves, air particles (the molecules) are dashing a little, up and down the bore at certain locations, oscillating at the frequency of the fundamental.

It is like comparing direct current electricity (which you are thinking of) with alternating current, which ends up making the sound in a speaker.

That is unless my knowledge of acoustics is extremely faulty.
 

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Yikes! In general. Friends don't let friends cut saxophone bodies. Not even 1/4".

Gordon, I generally agree with your reasoning. Yes, moving the step might change the tuning, and some notes more than others.
So would fitting a different size/shape mouthpiece. So would a large movement of the mouthpiece accompanied by a change in embouchure (due to a different player). Etc.

But the turbulence issue? That is overstated. Air speeds in saxophones are quite low.
What is resonating inside the saxophone is pressure waves, traveling @ speed of sound.
Bouncing back and forth along the effective length of the horn right then.
The bulk velocity of the air moving through the horn is maybe 1% of that speed. Or less.
Turbulence does not have much of an effect at those speeds.

dsm
I know that the overall airflow down the bore of a sax is very slow. I am not talking about that.

However a standing wave is created by creating nodes and antinodes.
Near open tone holes (and other locations for overtones of the fundamental) there is a pressure node. That is created by having an air movement antinode. That means air is oscillating very fast in and out of the tone hole (or other location) at a frequency matching the pitch being played, in order to keep the air pressure reasonably constant - at atmospheric pressure.
If that air were not dashing in and out of the tone hole, then there would be no pulses in the air pressure to create the travelling wave that enters our ears.

It is that oscillation I am talking about. For that, the air speed is very fast.

....What is resonating inside the saxophone is pressure waves, traveling @ speed of sound.
Bouncing back and forth along the effective length of the horn right then...
Yes. In order to produce those pressure waves, at certain locations air particles (the molecules) are dashing a little distance up and down the bore, oscillating at the frequency of the fundamental.

It is like comparing direct current electricity (which you are thinking of) with alternating current, which ends up making the sound in a speaker.

That is unless my knowledge of acoustics is extremely faulty.
 
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