Saxophone Forum

by historicsaxwhisperer
(644 posts)
2 years ago

Vintage American Baritone saxes and smaller handed player

I play mostly on a vintage Mark VI tenor.

I do upper end refurbishing of mostly Vintage American horns, as a hobby, and have for 25 years plus now. I have only worked on a few Baritones for other players in my years. So, I didn't have to critique my work on them, the owners did that.

I am suddenly is a strange position of having Three vintage American made Baritones

in my refurbishing pipeline.

They are:

A 1949 Buescher Big B,

1942 King Zephyr,

1930s 245XXX Tansitional Conn, from the Gerry Mulligan Era sequence.

Of the three, the King is almost impossible for me to play. My left palm hits and opens the high D key. I have to move my right hand out of position to hit the high E lever. I could do some customizing setup to make it work for me. But this one is a planned resell.

The Buescher Big B is much better. I have owned it for a few years, played it occasionally and felt I would have to play it regularly to keep up with a big band. It has the front F key and any issues I think I could easily compensate for by lowering the key height just a tad.

The Conn definitely is the best of the three. I have worked on hundreds of Conn in a mix of  altos, tenors, C melodys, and sopranos. The horn needs a new setup and that is a task I am looking forward to doing. I love working on the old Conns.


My question to anyone with experience is this: Would a Selmer Mark VI Baritone, keyed to low B flat, work better for me and my smaller hands? The Mark VI tone hole/hand position layout might work better for me. I have been playing a vintage Mark VI tenor since 1980? So I am looking for one to give a try. I can just sell the three I have and get the horn that would work for me. I am assuming it wont be the Conn, but it just might be in the end. Maybe a Yamaha or Yani would be better. Those most likely would be a low A, which I'd personally like to avoid.

So I am looking for a Selmer Baritone, possibly retail, that I could give a test drive.

Sam Ash music locally has a used Selmer BS500. I assume the hand layout would be similar to a Mark VI?? I should go test drive it just to see. But I would prefer a low B flat as opposed to a low A, which I am sure the BS500 is.

I look forward to some experienced input.

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  1. by JonHuff
    (117 posts)

    2 years ago

    Re: Vintage American Baritone saxes and smaller handed player

    I think your hunch is correct. Coming from a Selmer tenor, the bari is going to feel like home. You can try Selmer USA to verify, it will be in the ballpark (much more so than the vintage American made stuff), but with the low A, it's going to be A LOT heavier, so take that into consideration.

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    1. by historicsaxwhisperer
      (644 posts)

      2 years ago

      Re: Vintage American Baritone saxes and smaller handed player

      Thank you again Jon for your insight.

      Im not as small as Johnny Griffin, but Im definitely not as lanky as Gerry Mulligan.

      I just never put much thought into the fact all the Bari players I know are taller than my 5ft 9 stature.

      So, I am back to my original plan.

      Looking for a 1964ish Mark VI Bari keyed to low B flat.

      Maybe I'll just pick up that gold plated 15K jewel Saxquest has!!


      Truthfully, I'd prefer a 40% intact lacquered war horse.

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