Saxophone Forum


by loates
(4 posts)
9 years ago

Good Intermediate Alto Sax

Okay - I have an 8th grader who has been playing since 5th grade. She's been playing on an old Conn (I don't know what kind, a student of some sort from around 1955 - 57) that we purchased on ebay when she started. Her music instructor tells me she should move up to an intermediate model (which she is dying to do.) He says that she is their best sax player and the move up would be beneficial. So....I've done quite a bit of research and realize that there is some subjectivity involved but, what brand/model should I look into and in what price range would I expect to find one? We are intending to purchase used. Thanks so much for your input.

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  1. by gregoryrh
    (21 posts)

    9 years ago

    Re: Good Intermediate Alto Sax

    How about a Stephenhauser. I have one and like its tone. Anybody else have one? What are your thoughts?

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  2. by Radjammin
    (255 posts)

    9 years ago

    Re: Good Intermediate Alto Sax

    Everyones giving great feedback, but I think you really need to list the serial number of the sax, and the exact mouthpieces she plays on. If you don't know what size mouthpiece, at least list the manufacture and aprox. amount you paid for it. From your mult. responces, you must have a little time to just see what the serial number is. Maybe you already listed it, and I missed it. From the Serial number we can tell you the exact match of when it was made, and stop all this guessing weather it's a good horn. If it really is a conn from the fifties, then it is definatly a good horn, but isn't it more helpfull when we all know for sure. What if it just looks old and turns out out to be a 1970's sax. Well then your talking about an entirely different beast. Good vs. Bad. I waited a little while to add another post ad I am glad I did. People really brought up some productive comments. IF it's a 1950's conn, it will not only be better then most of the saxes under $2000, it will also have a very unique play, both fingers and feel. It will take her a while to get used to the new horn. One major difference is the Spatula keys you control with your left pinky. Way differnt, bends the other way on modern horns. Altisimo(the really high notes) plays differently on that horn because the keys close differntly then modern horns. Overall alot of work, to sound the same. Take the one comment about mouthpices. If she's not playing on good mouth pieces go buy them. Again the not knowing exaclty what you have comes into play. If she already has a setup for legit and jazz playing they might be good mouthpices, having 2 suggest that. But we dont' know? For legit playing, Just go buy a Selmer C* (S-80) mouthpiece. It is my favorite Classical mouthpiece. Nice size chamber, Open facing(for a legit mouthpice), well made, focused tone. I would say it even open enough for jazz playing, I personally think you would want a bigger mouthpice for jazz playing, but if money is tight the Selmer C* is open enough.

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    1. by loates
      (4 posts)

      9 years ago

      Re: Good Intermediate Alto Sax

      You're right, the responses have been really helpful and I truly appreciate all of the effort everyone has made to give me advice. As for her sax, I don't have it here with me, she left it at school Friday and then picked it up yesteday and took it to her dad's. I won't be able to examine it again until tomorrow night. The reason I believe it is a 50's horn is because someone else told me that based on the serial number, it was from that time period. I believe it began with an eight, but I could be remembering wrong. It did not have any letters in the serial number at all. It does have the shooting star design. I have no idea what kind of mouthpieces she is using - one came with the horn and the jazz mouthpiece was given to her at school (in fact, until recently, I didn't even know that mouthpieces were sold separately or made a difference). I'll need to wait until she comes home from school tomorrow to ask her that question too. Anyway, thanks for all of the help.

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  3. by Dave Dix
    (421 posts)

    9 years ago

    Re: Good Intermediate Alto Sax

    As she has got use to a conn from the 50's a great horn to get would be a pre 1963 buescher aristocrat. This is a top draw professional saxophone and she should be able to play it without any worries about having to streatch for any keys Dave

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    1. by piro
      (7 posts)

      9 years ago

      Re: Good Intermediate Alto Sax

      I would say a good intermideate would be a Vito, i dont play alto and dont know much about them, but im told that they come off of Yanisagwa, and theres a kid in my school with a Vito and he seems to like it. Dunno much about wem other thn that, if she sticks with it for a while then you might want to chech out a couple used cannonballs, try one out at a music store and see if shee likes it. There good horns, i like my tenor and it has a sweet tone in it, but then again it might be too nice for an 8th grader, i know how i treated my horn in 8th grade and hopefully she dosent treat her horn like that. Well i need to get back to my school work beforei get into trouble, but wut ever ur descion im sure itll be a good one, parents are good at these things wen they research stuff. Piro

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      1. by Radjammin
        (255 posts)

        9 years ago

        Re: Good Intermediate Alto Sax

        Are you on crack? Give a cannonball to an 8th grader? Why don't you just take a sledge hammer to it now? How about give her your Cannonball for 2 months while she thinks about it. Why not let her beat up a Yamaha 52. It can take it. Vito or Jupitor are fine too. Just don't give her the pretty cannonball until she can take care of it. besides, the cannonball used will still fetch over $1250, more then most used saxes in the intermediate price rance.

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        1. by mattMrozinski
          (35 posts)

          9 years ago

          Re: Good Intermediate Alto Sax

          i got a cannonball excalibur (intermediate) the start of this year 3 months of back and forth all i have is a couple small scratches on the bell from my belt and some on the bow from the chair. its not the black nickel like i had hoped but it was a big relief from the bundy ii i was playing and since getting the CB i have had a great increase of ability as i was neglecting the instrument when i had the bundy. the mpc that comes with it is garbage and for christmas or my birthday (feb) im getting a meyer 5 which i tried out earlier with a rovner ligature and i walked out with the rovner, a big improvement in sound already. and i am using la vos medium hard reeds. my band director in jr high was a jerk and there was always PLAY SOFTER etc etc and i was put off playing as well as dicouragement from the less than up to par horn. now in high school jazz band i play every opportunity and im having a blast. if it is a pro conn and only needs a set up and what not and you find the perfect match of mpc and reed more power to ya and good luck!

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        2. by connsaxman_jim
          (2336 posts)

          9 years ago

          Re: Good Intermediate Alto Sax

          I think her band director is smoking crack! If that Conn alto was made in the 1950's, it's a great horn. You can't buy a horn that good today without spending a couple thousand dollars. It might need pads or an adjustment, but I can assure you that it is NOT a student model horn. Even the Directors model horns are a good intermediate model horn. Check the back near the thumbrest for "6M". If it is a Conn 6M, it is a pro model horn, and one of the best alto saxophones ever made! Some of these idiot band directors think that unless it says Selmer on the bell, it's student model. Cannonball saxophones are alright, but I absolutely would not give one to a jr. high or high school student. They will not take the abuse over time. A Yamaha YAS 62 would be a good choice in a new horn. I'd just put some new pads on that old 50's Conn, have it properly set-up, and enjoy the sweet sound that you're not going to find from any newer horn! Jim

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        3. by piro
          (7 posts)

          9 years ago

          Re: Good Intermediate Alto Sax

          no, im not smokeing crack. But i do see 8th graders with cannonballs, and in fact the local Jr. High encourages her 8th graders to buy a secent sax around christmas time to get used to a better sound and to be ready for high school band. As far as my Tenor, i wont even let my Band director touch it and he's a sax player too.

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        4. by saxophonik
          (73 posts)

          9 years ago

          Re: Good Intermediate Alto Sax

          Sorry, but I have to agree with Jim. That Conn probably just needs a tune-up. IMO, a Conn Director from the '50 is better than most "pro" horns made today! As for your Jr. High teacher and her Cannonball endorsment: most school systems work with local music stores to get the best prices for their instruments and repairs. Does your local shop carry Cannonball regularly? The one closest to me when I was in school is a Selmer and Yamaha dealer, primarily. If you went through the school system, those were your choices, unless you wanted to pay top dollar for any other brand horn they might have at the time. Don't get me wrong... The pro-line Cannonballs are very good horns, but for the same price you can get a Yamaha 52... and for a THIRD of the price, that aforementioned Conn can probably be brought into top playing condition, and can be enjoyed for years. Those old Conns... what a HUGE sound!!!

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        5. by loates
          (4 posts)

          9 years ago

          Re: Good Intermediate Alto Sax

          Thanks for the responses. I'm not sure what her Conn is - she didn't bring it home from school tonight so I can't look at it. I do know that the serial number had NO letters before it at all and has the shooting star design. I was told that it was a student sax by someone else (I can't remember who). We have had her Conn tuned-up and it plays great, from what I've been told - but I am no musician and probably wouldn't be able to tell any difference (I'm a bit musically dim). I would be thrilled to get out of buying her another one for now if it seems there will be no improvement over what she has. She doesn't understand yet that shinier isn't necessarily better and probably hasn't been exposed to what a good saxophone might sound like. Her band teacher's response concerns me, though. Thanks again, and if you have any more insight or thoughts on how to determine exactly what kind of Conn her sax is, they would be greatly appreciated.

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        6. by saxophonik
          (73 posts)

          9 years ago

          Re: Good Intermediate Alto Sax

          It' sounds like what you have is the Director model, or commonly known as the "Shooting Stars" model. It is mostly considered a great step-up horn. Like I stated before, it's better than most "pro" models out today. Connsaxman_jim can probably tell you more about it. If her theory of shiny=better is the case, look around the net for some photos of old classic players. A LOT of pros' horns are worn down to the metal! I think the theory is: the less lacquer, the warmer the sound (I might be backwards... it's been a long week.) I have a 1955 "The Martin" tenor, and it only has about 65% of the original lacquer left on it, but it's one of the best sounding saxes I've ever played! I have a feeling that her teacher isn't a saxophonist. I'd check around your area for someone who's been playing a long time, and see what they have to say about her teacher's comments. I still say just take it into a shop and have it checked out. Eighth grade is too soon to be worried about having a $3000 sax. That Conn will be better than sufficient.

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        7. by saxophonik
          (73 posts)

          9 years ago

          Re: Good Intermediate Alto Sax

          If her teacher wants her to move up, try upgrading her mouthpiece, instead of the horn. By getting a mpc. uprade, her tone will improve, and you'll save at LEAST a few hundred dollars. All the shops I've ever been in won't hesitate to let you bring your horn in and try out as many mouthpiece and reed combinations as you want. Tell her teacher that you heard that Conn is a great horn, and it DOESN'T need to be upgraded at this time. She's already used to that particular sax. A mpc. upgrade will be enough for her to get used to. A new sax will force her to get used to an entire ergonomic difference, as well as relearning how to get used to the different nuances of the mouthpiece ON a new horn. Sure, she'll still have to get used to controlling a new mouthpiece, but that will be enough for her to worry about at this time. Remember, she's still got a LOT of learning to do. Good luck! btw... if you do decide to try out new mouthpieces, DON'T FORGET TO TRY DIFFERENT REEDS WITH EACH ONE. Every reed brand and size is going to react different on every mouthpiece. Good luck, and most important... HAVE FUN!! :)

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        8. by Sax Mom
          (964 posts)

          9 years ago

          Re: Good Intermediate Alto Sax

          Let me add my AMEN to the praise for the Conn saxophone, especially if it is as early as you believe. However, I think you should talk to the band director, and ask for specifics. Why does he think her saxophone is not good enough? Is it because it has no high F# key? Is it because it's not shiney? Is it because he has heard bad things about the later Conns? It might also be possible that it is your daughter who really wants a new "shiney" saxophone, and he is only affirming her enthusiasm by agreeing with her. Good luck!

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        9. by loates
          (4 posts)

          9 years ago

          Re: Good Intermediate Alto Sax

          Thank you all SO much for your advice. I read your messages to my daughter and she took all of your comments to heart (much better than if they had come from myself or my husband - you know teenagers). She likes the idea of trying different mouthpieces and we'll be making a run to the music store and testing some combinations. Any suggestions, or is it all about what feels/sounds right to her? Is she experierienced enough to know what she's looking for? She uses two different mouthpieces at school - one for symphonic band and one for the jazz band - but doesn't know what brands they are. The trip will be a good learning experience for her, she's really excited to try different combos. Again, thank you all very much. Your experience and advice has been invaluable. And by-the-way, you were right, her band teacher is a trumpet player, he doesn't play the sax.

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        10. by saxophonik
          (73 posts)

          9 years ago

          Re: Good Intermediate Alto Sax

          I had a feeling about her teacher... :) As far as her experience to know what she's looking for: if she has some sax legends she's trying to get a similar sound of (i.e. Coltrane, Bird, Zoot...) the only way she's gonna find the right sound she's looking for is just to try out as many combinations as she can. Make sure that when she's auditioning those mpc. and reed set-ups she can control each one. Some mouthpieces will be MUCH harder to contol than others. Same goes for reeds and their different sizes. Don't let her get caught up in the "x mpc. is better than y because of z... blah, blah, blah..." Let her choose the one that'll be the most comfortable for HER. There really is no "right or wrong" as far as which is better than one another. It all comes down to personal preference. And, besides, she's still young... she's most likely going to experiment with different mpc./ reed combos, as well as horns before she's an adult. Her style will evolve, and her tastes will broaden. Don't worry, it's something ALL musicians go through, (sax, guitar, even drummers) and most still aren't satisfied with the sound they have. The most important thing is to relax and have fun with the journey. Again, when she's trying out mouthpieces, make sure there's a reputable saxophonist around to give her good advice about what sounds good and what doesn't. A player will know what she'll be capable of on each mouthpiece just by listening to her try to play it. Oh yeah... tell her that the horn she has now is awesome! Good luck, and again, HAVE FUN!!! :)

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