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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Most of you have probably seen that video were Phil Woods says he was going to hang it up because he couldn't play his old Selmer anymore. Then he goes on to say that the Yamaha Custom Z Unlacquered horn was so easy to play that it kept his career going.

So I was wondering- Are Yanagisawa alto's just as easy to play as Yamaha's? Easier?

I don't have experience with Yanagisawa. I have played Yamaha's and my feeling is Yamaha's are generally easier to play than Selmer, but I prefer the sound of Selmer.
 

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I have not seen that video, nor have I ever heard Phil say he was going to hang it up. I have three Yamaha's, soprano, alto and tenor. All great players. For some reason I couldn't get the feel for the keywork on the Yanagisawa's. They are a quality instrument though.
 

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The Yamaha 82ZII feels more free blowing to me, even more so than the Yanagisawa WO-1.

At one time when I had my Yani 991 (unlacquered), a new Yani WO1,a student’s month old Yani WO2, a Yamaha 82ZII, and a R.S. Berklee virtuoso all at one time, I played them a lot back and forth and recorded videos.
Another adult student of mine wanted to know about the sound and resistance of these particular horns. He actually ended up buying a 990 from a SOTW member.
During the play test, I could not believe how easy the Yamaha 82ZII was to play. It really is very quick. However, while it makes a very good sound, I feel limited with what it can do.
Part of the reason I went Yani versus going Yamaha 82Z at the circus is that I did need some tonal flexibility. The Yamaha definitely gives you a quick, bright, and powerful sound that I could totally understand why Phil Woods played on it. I did hear mixed things about whether he played it full time until his passing.
In my opinion, the next fastest and next less resistance is the Yanagisawa WO-1. I haven’t played them back to back, but would guess the 902 is a little easier than the WO1. I have always felt like the Yanagisawa is placed tonally, resistance, and bright to dark spectrum between the Yamaha horns and the Selmer horns. What is very great about it, is that Yanagisawa offers various weighted models and materials to go closer to whichever direction you want. (If you believe in that type of thing that is)
If you are looking for easiest blow with a great sound and excellent intonation, go Yamaha 82ZII! If you want various levels of control and flexibility, check out Yanagisawa. If you need the legendary core with the most tonal manipulation, and don’t mind a little more voicing and singing through the instrument, go for Selmer. I think that is what Phil was talking about. Less work for a great sound with Yamaha compared to Selmer.
:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Reet I was looking for the video on yotube and need to look a little harder. I know I saw him say this! -)

andre- wow thanks man. super helpful. I was thinking the AWO33 because it reminded me of the King Super 20 that Bird played and I've read it was somewhat inspired by that horn. I've played some King Super 20's under 380XXX which I've heard is generally considered the cut off point for the best horns. Anyway I liked the power and ease of play of those old horns and could see why Bird would like them. I wish the AWO1 came with underslung neck which I think looks really cool.

If I look at the Yamaha's any tips on which Custom Z Unlacquered to get?

Thanks man. Ok back to shedding....
 

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I was thinking the AWO33 because it reminded me of the King Super 20 that Bird played
And Cannonball, right?

Just happens to be one as-new, at a nice discount...

May well be my own deficiencies, but as an advanced novice or beginning intermediate I find all three brands in modern editions to be equally "easy" to play (Selmer Paris alto Ref 54 and tenor Ref 36; Yamaha tenor 82Z Atelier; Yanagisawa AWO33) and with the same intonation tendencies--D2-E2 sharp, B3-Bb3 flat--which are equally easy to correct with voicing. I don't deny differences in resistance, although my tech I believe adjusts key heights to approach as closely as possible to his ideal of resistance. I've just found that several hours a day over time on any one horn pretty quickly results in adaptation and comfort after some work with set-up and Tunable.

I believe you've said elsewhere that you do not have access to a good tech, and that is a shame because I think it is the ESSENCE of great playability and your enjoyment of any given horn. My Yany AWO33 arrived new in perfect playing condition from Mathew Aaron at saxforte, but the Selmers needed substantial pad and timing adjustment, and surprisingly the new YTS-82ZASP required work on six pads and regulation of the upper and lower stack.

In my experience so far, no matter what the reputation of a dealer for pre-sale inspection, an independent tech with a good reputation working directly for you will give you your best set-up, and I now expect that additional $100-200 cost and a week away from me to be part of the new horn acquisition process for my greatest satisfaction and playing enjoyment. Even if the tech finds nothing (one time new--with AWO33, and then at 1-year check of Ref 54 he had previously set up), peace of mind is worth the inspection for me.
 

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I do recall seeing the interview with Phil Woods where he spoke of the differences between his new 82zul and his Selmer mkvi. By then Phil had played assorted Selmer for 50 years, off the top of my head he played an 82,000 mkvi that Marcel Mule helped him select out of 30 others in 1959? He also had an 80,000 which may have been the one he had gold plated, after which it was never the same for him. Aging musicians typically experience hearing loss in the higher frequencies, and your strength and lung capacity decreases too, such that an objectively brighter horn at 70 might sound like the darker one you had at 30 when you had the wherewithal. There are many recordings of Phil playing his 82z, it records very well with a big clean voice, I like it, but what attracted the 70year old Phil who was running a little low on air at that time, was the efficiency and ease of the machine. The 82z has a great action, terrific response and intonation and a really cooking sound. For me a good 82zUL offers a voice with sizzle which I like for jazz, it is lively and there is some character there, perhaps there is more character in the 82zul than the Yanis.
The Yanagisawa altos are terrific too, and as is mentioned above you can choose what body parts you like. For me I like the silver neck and body, or silver neck and bell combination above the entirely silver horn, which was just too pure for me there are many other options.
There is no way of making an easy choice with all of these great horns,I resolved this problem by at one point having all of the above, and a few others. When I listened to my own demos I hardly knew which was which, it was madness but also fun and I had a full time gig playing alto so they were tax deductable. Now I have just two altos: a S20 308K and a MKvi 75K. Perhaps the hardest horn to get your hands on now is a medium bow late 50s mkvi like the one Phil played, until he gave it up for the Yamaha. I think the Yamaha 82zul horns are fantastic, what is great is that you can just go to a shop and buy one, no vintage horn hunt required, and they are cheap. As for your question about the ease of playing, if you are a youngster and you can spend a couple of hours a day playing the saxophone, the question of the ease of playing a Yamaha versus a Yanagisawa or even a Selmer mkvi is not much of an issue, they are all ridiculously easy to play, if you have an impairment of some kind you might want an easy option, otherwise go with what sounds best.
Phil Woods sounded great on his Yamaha well into his 70s, but when you heard him playing his Selmer, still in his sprightly mid 50s, he was a force of nature. Check out: Body and Soul - Phil Woods 1986 on youtube. I had to remove the link I posted as I was still signed in!
 

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I can't tell you if it's easier than a Yamaha, but I can tell you my new AWO20 is very easy to play. I struggled with a few student and intermediate Alto's until I just decided to go for a
top of the line horn. Maybe it just makes me want to play more, I don't know, but I love it!
 

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Phil had lung issues due to heavy smoking, so he would probably need a little help playing in his latter years. In my opinion, a VI isn't a difficult horn to play if it's set up correctly, but I have come across some VI's in the 89,000 range that are pretty resistant blows. That may have been a bit much for him at the time. Yamahas are freer blowing, while maintaining a similar midrange punch to the Selmer. Every Yanagisawa I've ever tried has been considerably darker, and extremely easy to play throughout the entire range. They're not necessarily my flavor, but I do know some teachers who recommend them for students who are having trouble taming the lower range. That also isn't necessarily the method I would use, but they are extremely easy horns to play.
 
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