Saxophone Forum


by Cannon
(23 posts)
10 years ago

Taming a vintage sax...possible?

Hi everyone. I'm a former clarinetist who switched to saxophone b/c i got hit by the jazz bug...hard. I took well to the switch (1st chair jazz alto) and am looking to continue my music at a higher level. I am entering college this fall and need a horn that will keep me competivive and not limit my potential. I am in the position economically, to buy a nice horn to study with. FOR VINTAGE HORNS SUCH AS A MK VI, ARE THE INTONATION PECULIARITIES AND PART RARITY TOO MUCH OF A HASSLE FOR A PLAYER OF MY EXPERIENCE TO OVERCOME? Even with a horn being set up by repair techs such as tenor madness with "its pads regulated and key venting optimized" to gain more accurate intonation..this still won't cure intonation problems fully or so i gather. Should i stick to getting a modern horn for my upgrade? Any suggestions from all you vintage sax players would be appreciated. I might not even be worthy of playing such great horns, but I would like to know your thoughts on how a player of my caliber could handle it.

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  1. by Cannon
    (23 posts)

    9 years ago

    Re: Taming a vintage sax...possible?

    So you guys would recommend buying the Mark VI over a modern horn such as the Selmer Reference 54 models? The price of the MK VI is actually almost on par with the Reference. Modern upgrades vs the character of sound the MK VI is known for....Also, is a different setup required for vintage saxes? I hear some modern mouthpieces just don't work with older horns.

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    1. by connsaxman_jim
      (2336 posts)

      9 years ago

      Re: Taming a vintage sax...possible?

      If you're sold on Selmer; yes, go with a Mark VI. The horn will only continue to increase in value. I think the quality of the Selmer reference series is noticably better than their Series II and Series III, but as for being on par with the original Mark VI?, that's debatable. Many people really like the new Ref. 54. I myself prefer not just the sound, but the character that the vintage horns have. It's kind of like buying a fiberglass replica of say; a 1932 Ford 3 window coupe. The fiberglass replica has it's advantages, but there's just something "extra cool" about a REAL 1932 Ford! As if the seats could talk.... There's a guy on here who has one he's thinking of selling! I'd drop him an email if you're interested! Jim

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      1. by blackfrancis
        (396 posts)

        9 years ago

        Re: Taming a vintage sax...possible?

        That guy may be me... If you're interested in a NICE Mk. VI alto, e-mail me and I'll fill you in (or look back in "free trading"). I once again agree with Jim-the character of a good older horn is much more to my liking. As for peculiarities, I have found that the good quality brands are not so fussy as one would think. Except for the Mk. VI, none of my horns are newer than 1953 and they all play in tune and sweetly, modern mouthpiece or vintage (except maybe the Conn 6M with a Berg 90/1... not exactly sweet-more like rage!) PS- the all metal '32 will be worth much more than the fiberglass one.

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    2. by Cannon
      (23 posts)

      9 years ago

      Re: Taming a vintage sax...possible?

      I've gotten over my intonation fear for the Mark VI possibility. However, should the availability of parts and repair difficulty aspect be a factor in my decision. I'm going to need a horn that is durable enough to withstand everyday use. I need something reliable that will be available for juries and auditions, and not be sitting in a repair tech's office in the middle of Wisconsin b/c no repair techs in the VA area are qualified for vintage horns. How big is the repair issue and the difficulty of finding parts? Summer is coming...and that means the time that i can finally get my sax! Thanks alot for your help guys.

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      1. by blackfrancis
        (396 posts)

        9 years ago

        Re: Taming a vintage sax...possible?

        Parts and repair are good points to ponder. I think the mk. VI has been the standard for long enough that any tech worth having work on it won't be too challenged by routine issues. I've had two Selmers (a mk. VI and a Balanced Action tenor) and both have been trouble free. As a repairman said to me when quizzed about rib and post flute construction, "You aren't going to use it as a baseball bat!" If you need a good tech in Va., I can point you at some.

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    3. by Cannon
      (23 posts)

      10 years ago

      Re: Taming a vintage sax...possible?

      The MK VI that is available to me potentially is a 5 digit sax with a serial code in the 77,000s if that affects anything.

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    4. by Cannon
      (23 posts)

      10 years ago

      Re: Taming a vintage sax...possible?

      The MK VI that is available to me potentially is a 5 digit sax with a serial code in the 77,000s if that affects anything.

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      1. by Rabbit
        (4 posts)

        9 years ago

        Re: Taming a vintage sax...possible?

        I bought a 76,000 alto from Randy Jones last summer. It is the horn of my dreams. Good intonation, great flexibility and power and Randy did a wonderful job setting my baby up. Saxophones are always going to have intonation issues, but generally speaking the VI's are pretty good, especially in the 70-90k range. But don't rule out a good modern horn. I have a Serie III alto with a red brass neck and it's a great horn too. A little easier for me to play 'legit' music with. Jazz=Mark VI (Conns, Martins too!) Classical (for me)=Serie III

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      2. by Rabbit
        (4 posts)

        9 years ago

        Re: Taming a vintage sax...possible?

        I bought a 76,000 alto from Randy Jones last summer. It is the horn of my dreams. Good intonation, great flexibility and power and Randy did a wonderful job setting my baby up. Saxophones are always going to have intonation issues, but generally speaking the VI's are pretty good, especially in the 70-90k range. But don't rule out a good modern horn. I have a Serie III alto with a red brass neck and it's a great horn too. A little easier for me to play 'legit' music with. Jazz=Mark VI (Conns, Martins too!) Classical (for me)=Serie III

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      3. by connsaxman_jim
        (2336 posts)

        10 years ago

        Re: Taming a vintage sax...possible?

        Mark VI's have EXCELLENT intonation. You would be hard pressed to find a horn, new or vintage, with better intonation than a Mark VI...this coming from someone who is not a Selmer fan. If you are having intonation problems with a Mark VI, you can try a different mouthpiece and/or reed, or have the horn checked and tweaked if necessary, but chances are, it's just your lack of experience.

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        1. by definition
          (963 posts)

          10 years ago

          Re: Taming a vintage sax...possible?

          Hey Jim, I've found an extreme odity for you! A 10M dated by serial # charts to 1950, but it still retains the rolled tone holes??? If I can borrow a digital camera ill snag some pics for you

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          1. by connsaxman_jim
            (2336 posts)

            10 years ago

            Re: Taming a vintage sax...possible?

            A 1950 10M with rolled tone holes? And you're sure it's a 1950? That surprises me, but I suppose it's entirely possible. The legend is that the original mold with the rolled tone holes was broken. Maybe it was, maybe that's just a mythe. Maybe a mold with rolled tone holes was eventually made to replace the original mold, but drawn holes proved to be more cost effective? Very interesting though. I'd love to see it. I'm sure it's a one of a kind!

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        2. by puppetmasta
          (3 posts)

          10 years ago

          Re: Taming a vintage sax...possible?

          Cannon, I can tell you that I started playing the sax in 6th grade with a Conn New Wonder II (might be chu berry, not sure, waiting for connsax_jim to respond :)). I got it from my grandpa and played it all the way through high school where I was first sax in symphonic and 2nd chair sax in alto in jazz. I had no troubles what so ever, if anything my horn always sounded better than others. The only thing I noticed was that it was harder to maintain. Could be the positioning of the pads (or my lack of care), but I would suggest any vintage conn b/c of this. I'm not an expert, but playing on a vintage sax is all I've ever known and have had no problems. Hope this helps, and good luck in college, you'll need a lot of dedication to stick with jazz throughout the next 4 years :) Dave

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        3. by johnsonfromwisconsin
          (767 posts)

          10 years ago

          Re: Taming a vintage sax...possible?

          I'll just ring in with this, Cannon: Woodwind design seems to be based on compromises in tuning between mechanical simplicity and accoustical perfection. Thus, no woodwind instrument will have "automatic tuning" or be perfectly in tune with itself without some sort of accomodation from the player. Though i've heard it's a much bigger issue on saxophone, you wouldn't be unfamiliar with these tuning issues as a clarinetist. The Mark VI sounds decent enough for tuning. Otherwise, how could it be tollerated as widely as it is used in conservatory settings? Of course, it matters if the horn is properly set up.

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          1. by connsaxman_jim
            (2336 posts)

            10 years ago

            Re: Taming a vintage sax...possible?

            "No woodwind instrument will have "automatic tuning" or be perfectly in tune with itself without some sort of accomodation from the player". ABSOLUTELY!!! Puppetmasta, The New Wonder Series II saxophones are often called the Chu Berry models. Chu was a big endorser of Conn saxophones during the time. It was said that Chu Berry had suggested the "nail file" G# key to Conn. The New Wonder series I and II (Chu Berry) models tend to require a little more maintenance than the later 10M and 6M. I think the locking set screws on the 10M and 6M made a big difference as to the frequency of adjustments. The rolled tone holes can cause difficulties with set-up also. Cannon, The Selmer Mark VI is known all over the world as a superior saxophone with acceptional intonation and playability. I own an early Mark VI tenor. Mine was handed down to me by a close family friend. It really needs an overhaul, and I am considering a relacquer. The Selmer plays very well, but I prefer the sound of my 10M. I recently aquired a Buescher Top Hat & Cane model tenor, and I have a King Super 20 tenor, and a Chu Berry tenor, They're all completely different. The Buescher sounds like a slightly "tamer" 10M. The King is very bright and LOUD! The Chu has a warmer, almost nasally sound to it that's GREAT for blues.

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