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Hello, I'm new to the sax, but always wanted to learn. Need some collective wisdom. I ended up with two vintage saxes, a 1924 Buescher True Tone and a 1958 Elkhart by Buescher, model 21A. I had a local repairman check them out, both are fine mechanically but each needs a full repadding and overhaul. Both have been stored unplayed for decades. The True Tone is yellow brass, the Elkhart is silver with a gold wash bell. The Elkhart also has a couple of minor dents, the True Tone doesn't. I was quoted about $500-600 for the overhaul of either sax. The repairman said that the horns are of about equal value, with either one to be worth about $1K after the overhaul.

My question is this: which of the two is the better candidate for a beginner to invest into & start learning on?

I posted the same question at Saxophone.org, but I think I'll get more replies here...

I'm aware that the True Tone is a bit antiquated with the fingering, but from what I understand, that was a pro horn in its day whereas the Elkhart was a cheaper line, correct? So how much quality and/or tone am I really giving up if I choose the newer horn for the modern fingering?

Also, are they really of equal value or is the Elkhart basically worth half the price of the True Tone - and still would be if, say, both received the same overhaul?

My plan is to sell off one of the horns to cover the cost of repairs on the other one. Just trying to make an informed decision, which to keep and which to let go.
 

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That's a tough call, but I'd be inclined to go with the Elkhorn. It has a high F and it probably will feel better under the fingers overall and chances are it will have better intonation.

However, you didn't say what series the true tone is. They also changed keywork and necks on those over the course of evolution. If it is a later one (series iv) with the neck that reportedly fixes many intonation issues, then I'd would consider fixing the true tone instead.
 

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Sorry to be a wet rag, but my advice is to sell them both and get a used Yamaha in playable condition.
I have owned a TrueTone and a Yamaha 280. The True Tone sounded lovely, but the Yamaha was easier to play and a lot more fun.

I've never played an Elkhart, but I doubt if the keywork is much more modern than the True Tone. It's worth trying them and twiddling your fingers to see if one of them feels more natural than the other.
Different people feel more comfortable with different horns.
 

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The Elkhart is essentially a Buescher Aristocrat body without the Norton springs on the keys (great, but not that meaningful in terms of function), without the snap-in pads (as much a nuisance than anything else -many techs don't know how to deal with them and brazenly remove them), and with basically the same keywork as the Aristocrat, save the different-shaped G# key. It should also have the 01 neck, which is their best in-tune neck, developed for the Aristocrat model.

The True-tone will have a gorgeous dark sound, however many people find they want to play extremely sharp from high A upwards (that has also been my experience), and the keywork is likely to be less snappy than the Elkhart.

Between the two, there is no question I would select the Elkhart. You are basically getting a Big B Aristocrat in silver plate minus a couple meaningless bells and whistles.

Alan
 

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The Elkhart is essentially a Buescher Aristocrat body without the Norton springs on the keys (great, but not that meaningful in terms of function), without the snap-in pads (as much a nuisance than anything else -many techs don't know how to deal with them and brazenly remove them), and with basically the same keywork as the Aristocrat, save the different-shaped G# key. It should also have the 01 neck, which is their best in-tune neck, developed for the Aristocrat model.

The True-tone will have a gorgeous dark sound, however many people find they want to play extremely sharp from high A upwards (that has also been my experience), and the keywork is likely to be less snappy than the Elkhart.

Between the two, there is no question I would select the Elkhart. You are basically getting a Big B Aristocrat in silver plate minus a couple meaningless bells and whistles.

Alan
+1
 

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Exactly. You want your experience to be like this :eek:ccasion: not like this :banghead:
I would go with the "Elkhart" to be put in playing condition, if it is basically an Aristocrat. It will never be worth $1000 but if you plan on playing it not treating it as an investment it will be money well spent. Personally I prefer to invest in investments and buy saxes to play. As such I don't care about ROI on repairs.

Keep the True Tone, though.

If you have a Buescher Aristocrat (though with different engraving) why would you choose a student Yamaha instead? Don't believe those who will try to tell you the older horns are SOOO HARRRD TO PLAYYY, WAAAAHHHHH! They are not, they are just different. If at some point you find that the key mechanism is hindering your ability to rip through a hundred choruses of Cherokee at MM450, then sure, think about something a bit slicker under the fingers. When you're still trying to master the C major scale at 60 bpm, you need a good quality horn in good condition, and your Elkhartocrat nails that one.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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If you have a Buescher Aristocrat (though with different engraving) why would you choose a student Yamaha instead?
"Student" Yamaha's such as the YAS23 are absolutely pro quality. I'd be totally happy using one. In fact, when Yamaha asked me to demonstrate, it was a 23 they gave me to use because they want people to know that these are capable of a "pro" sound.

Don't believe those who will try to tell you the older horns are SOOO HARRRD TO PLAYYY, WAAAAHHHHH! They are not, they are just different.
Very true, but there is no "standard" older horn. My 1930s 10m is very easy to play, but I would struggle with many aspects of a Truetone, both fingering and sound if I want something more versatile than a 20s sound. The Elkhart I'd be able to comment on a bit less to be honest because I don't think I've ever played one, but I would agree Aristocrats are fine horns.
 

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I would go with the "Elkhart" to be put in playing condition, if it is basically an Aristocrat. It will never be worth $1000 but if you plan on playing it not treating it as an investment it will be money well spent. Personally I prefer to invest in investments and buy saxes to play. As such I don't care about ROI on repairs.

Keep the True Tone, though.

If you have a Buescher Aristocrat (though with different engraving) why would you choose a student Yamaha instead? Don't believe those who will try to tell you the older horns are SOOO HARRRD TO PLAYYY, WAAAAHHHHH! They are not, they are just different. If at some point you find that the key mechanism is hindering your ability to rip through a hundred choruses of Cherokee at MM450, then sure, think about something a bit slicker under the fingers. When you're still trying to master the C major scale at 60 bpm, you need a good quality horn in good condition, and your Elkhartocrat nails that one.
Personally, I don't think that vintage horns are impossibly hard to play, but I find that modern ones are a bit easier.

I started playing alto on a True Tone. I loved it. It looked gorgeous (silver with gold-wash bell) and sounded great. It was perfect for playing scales at 60bpm. But when I played Eine Kleine Nachtmusik in a quartet at a considerably faster tempo I discovered its limitations. So I changed to a modern horn. I was prepared to sacrifice some sound quality for ergonomics.

I had a similar experience with bari sax - I started with a Buescher Big B Aristocrat, but have changed to a Yamaha and have never regretted it. The big band music we play is hard enough without having to cope with the Aristocrat pinky keys. The first time I tried out some modern baris I took the Aristocrat along and I thought it blew them out of the water sound-wise. But six months after getting the Yamaha I decided to sell the Buescher, so I got it out of its case to check that it was OK. Interestingly, I felt that I sounded pretty much the same on both.

We all have different priorities and tastes. Personally I have chosen ergonomics above sound, and I would advise a beginner to do the same. Let's face it - the beginner is not likely to to sound like a pro on any saxophone!
That's not a reason to buy a bad-sounding horn, but a beginner's priorities are not the same as an experienced player's. And personally I found that a Yamaha YAS-280 was more fun to play than my True Tone. As the player becomes more experienced, they may choose a vintage horn.
 

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1. My repairman is very good at repairs but has no clue about what a horn is worth on the open market. So I"ve learned to research what something is worth.
2. Im with Pete 100%. Ive gotten very easy to play Yamahas for 300 to 400 for students and its so much easier to deal with than the other horns. I had one student just pick up a "student" horn from a music store for 800. Selmer something. I'll be interested to see if its any good for twice the price of an older YAS 23or 21.
 

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Thank you, all! Good info here.

Yes, selling both my horns and getting a modern Yamaha is always an option. But I don't have much into them (yet), and I already have them, so unless it really makes no sense to invest into one of them, I'd probably feel better about owning a vintage instrument with some history to it. Once I get started and get a little feel for the instrument, I will try others (a Yamaha or whatever) and see if I like them better, and switch at that point, if it comes to that. I don't think I know enough for any comparison to be meaningful right now.

I see the consensus seems to be on the Elkhart. I was leaning towards it anyway, purely on the aesthetic level (I prefer the silver look, and '58 is closer to the kind of music I'd ultimately like to play - jump blues and early rock'n'roll - than '24). Plus of course the modern fingering. So I guess my choice is made.

The question now, I guess, is what would be a fair price to ask for the True Tone? The serial number on it is 151XXX. I can post additional pics if it helps.
 

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The question now, I guess, is what would be a fair price to ask for the True Tone? The serial number on it is 151XXX. I can post additional pics if it helps.
The TrueTone does not have the high front F and as you say it needs a complete overhaul, it has little value. I'd venture to say the value if it was overhauled would be about the same as the cost of overhauling it, so you can do the maths on that one!

If you are interested at all in learning saxophone repair, it's worth keeping and doing it yourself. If the instrument is not damaged and the key cups align, then it could be worth buying a set of Buescher snap in pads, these are easier for an amateur than the normal pads that need shellac or glue to hold them in.

However will only be viable if the key cups still have the little doohickeys that hold the snap in type pads.
 

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as stated a few times above,both of these vintage saxophones are not worth much,and even if they had a complete overhaul,neither would bring more than $500.
sell them both AS-IS and buy a yamaha yas-23 with the proceeds.
this is the best idea,in my opinion.
good luck.
 

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I'd probably feel better about owning a vintage instrument with some history to it.
Just a small observation.
For some folks, the personal attachment to the horn itself is important and that can get you through tough or discouraging times. If the work and investment you're putting in is meaningful to you, that feeling can be important as well as ergonomics, reliability etc.

Personally, I'm not like that. I got a 280 right off. I just wanted a plain vanilla instrument with little hassle. But people vary....
 

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You know, it's getting to the point where a YAS-23 could be considered a vintage instrument. Any you find will likely have the history of some kid or other playing it in school then giving it up for a) sports (likely) or b) a better horn (unlikely). They started making these in 1980 - stencils like Vito used the YAS 21 parts for another 10 years of so. YAS-21 started around 1970 or so.

I started on a Holton of about the same vintage as that Elkhart you have. While it was OK for a couple of years, but by the time I left high school and got a Selmer, the difference was simply amazing. I agree with those who recommend that you get a Yamaha or similar horn instead of fixing up either of these older horns. Vintage instruments are great for an experienced player to experiment with, but learning on one might lead you down the road of bad habits. Better to have a standard instrument, IMNSHO. These are all over Reverb at around $500, give or take $100.
 

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I started on a YTS23 but later became interested in vintage horns. I now play a Martin Indiana and love it for the tone. I don't notice the different ergonomics.... your fingers get used to where they need to be. I also have an EBIC Elkhart alto (1929) silver plate with a gold wash bell and love it.
Keep the one you feel most attached to.

If you can, and are mechanically minded, learn to do the repad yourself, there are heaps of online resources such as this forum. Play one and work on the other then swap
 

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Welcome to Sax on the Web forum, where some people, no matter what you say you want or like, will tell you to get a Yamaha 23. It's not necessarily wrong, or even bad advice, it just tends to be a default, so it is not always responsive to what is asked or wanted. I think Pete Thomas' last suggestion was a good one.

Me? I would go with the '58 Elkhart, knowing you probably won't get all your money out of it if you try to sell it (I agree with Pete that the value would be closer to $500 than $1000 even after the overhaul). But I like vintage horns.
 

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"Student" Yamaha's such as the YAS23 are absolutely pro quality. I'd be totally happy using one. In fact, when Yamaha asked me to demonstrate, it was a 23 they gave me to use because they want people to know that these are capable of a "pro" sound.
I mostly agree with all the comments, but I think we have to be fair and state that Yamaha's are great at almost everything [the anticipation of the one exception is building]. They have a "modern" tone. Some, probably a minority, may grow to prefer an older tone. For basic design, dependability, intonation, its hard to beat the Yamaha for the price. Once past all of that, Yamaha's have an almost distinctive modern sound - even my 1980 had it - and I loved it then. It was distinctive back then. I find today, I'm more motivated by earlier horns and that tone. An exception for the non-student, but an important point as a student becomes a player and chasing the tone.
 
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