Am I a Philistine?

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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As some of you know, I've been taking lessons for about a year now. And as it's through the local music school, everything shuts down at the end of the month for the summer hols... So I've just finished my first year of study. And I've learnt a lot. Unbelievable. ANd I've realised something of how much more there is to learn. Great, keeps things interesting.

But on to the point of the thread. In that year I've been privileged to hear my teacher on some of his saxes. And here lies the problem. He started off the year using a Kohlert Winnenden tenor. A nice sound, even if some rate the models from a couple of years later better. Then came the Keilwerth. A seventies, nickel plated bottome of the range model, but with a super sound. Made me weak at the knees every time he played it. And that's been the mainstay of the tenor tuition. Inspiring. Trying to get such a good sound.

But of course we talked saxes - different makes, different sounds - and of his fabulous MkVI. To be honest I was beginning to dispair of ever seeing or hearing this fabled beastie.

But a couple of weeks ago he finally brought in the much discussed, and obviously nurtured MkVI. It's a low serial number, early 50s model, all the right credentials. I was permitted to hold, feel, try the keys - but not to blow. Understandable. But...... The Keilwerth sounds so much nicer. Richer, darker, resonant. The Selmer sounds thin in comparison, probably on a par with the Kohlert. Daft thing is, I preferred the sound of my A Santoni to the Selmer. Sacrilige, I know, but that's the way it is.

Frankly, after hearing about the MkVI so much, both from him, and from myriads of forum posts, especially on SOTW, I was expecting more a lot more. It's a nice sounding sax, make no mistake, but not what I was expecting. I heard it on a Selmer mouthpiece, a Berg..... But it couldn't catch the Keilwerth....

Is it my ears? Have I no taste? Does the sax not suit him? Or is it too refined and precious for me, meaning I am just a sax slut, wanting the raunchy earthy BALLS of the relatively cheap Keilwerth?

Yours, disillusioned of Bayerne :crying:
 

Little My

Practice makes better.
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I am smiling, just a little, at this, because today I took out my Keilwerth tenor to see if I could have any more joy with the Bb parts of Freddie Freeloader than the Eb parts. I adored it, and I think I'm going to switch back to my tenor Right Now, rather than waiting 'til I'm better on the alto. There really is something about that sound and my Yamaha alto doesn't come close.

I've never played a Mk 6, nor do I think have any of my teachers - well not in lessons anyway. It could just be that that is the kind of sound he likes best, and there's nothing wrong with that. Clearly you are not the only person to like the Keilwerth sound either, there are plenty of Keilwerths out there too.

edited to add that clearly I am the philistine, due to calling it a Mk 6 rather than the proper MkVI.
 
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Andante cantabile

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I don't think I have been anywhere near a Mark VI. For some it is the industry standard, but ever since I began to be exposed to the awe in which this instrument is held, I have wondered why this should be the case. In particular, I wonder why manufacturers should have succeeded only once for a few years a few decades ago to produce the perfect instrument.

I also wondered, as no doubt many others have, why we don't see a large number of new instruments identical to a Mark VI on the market. It shouldn't be too hard for an engineer to produce the perfect copy. But then I learnt that that there are in fact tiny variations among them, simply to with the fact that some parts of the instrument necessarily had to be made by hand. We know (those of us who have a passing acquaintance with physics at any rate) that the material used cannot have been the differentiating factor. And, as someone observed, there are no lost secrets of saxophone making.

The problem is of course partly one of expectations. We have been conditioned to expect the Mark VI is the ultimate. Then, when we hear it, we realise that it is one of the many instruments on the market. I am sure that some are very good. It is a bit like buying a 1960s Mustang. If you are lucky, you get one that has been brought into perfect condition by an enthusiast. I have no hankering for a Mark VI. The price tag alone is enough to put me off. For that money I could get several quite interesting instruments, new and used. For example, I think I would like to try a Borgani some day.

So, I cannot offer a view on whether you are a philistine. Maybe you just have to try harder.
 

TomMapfumo

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I would say that beauty is in the ear of the beholder, and also that the sound we hear when we are playing is not necessarily the sound that any other listeners hear - far too subjective IMO, and strongly influenced by our own expectations.

There are several firms that produce "copies" of the famed Mark Six (which seem to command the same sort of prices that a used Martin Committee trumpet does (Miles David etc.). Selmer Ref54, Hanson ST8, Yamaha YTS 62 are all "copies" of the MK 6, and there are one or two others out there that don't instantly come to mind. For me, as a Ref54 Alto sax player I would say that the sax has a complex sound, not thin and not fat particularly, but a rich, complex mix which I adore. I have heard a Mark VI played live several times and could not honestly tell any particular difference to other saxes - there are too many variables so I would imagine that it is more about individual satisfaction.

I think that certain horns have an excessive focus, and accompanying price tag,and create a market for all sorts of poor quality instruments at the worst end of the eBay market, where £3000 is common.

So, I am not sure whether you are a Philistine or not, but have your own subjective viewpoint. My own preference sound wise is for something which is neither bright nor dark, neither too thin or too fat/flabby, has some character, complexity and richness, and some edge as appropriate. My Ref54 alto has that indefinable quality, but my Yanagisawa T901 Tenor does not. A similar experience happens for me playing trumpets, and I am motivated by playing an instrument that has it (like my Geneva Balanced Trumpet - which is a copy of a Selmer Balanced Trumpet from the 1930's), even if others cannot hear it - though they might enjoy what sound you produce because of the pleasure and joy which you put into what you are doing with an instrument that you really connect with.

Just a few thoughts before breakfast.
Kind regards
Tom:cool:
 
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compound

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Manchester.
Hi Kev,
Mk 6 you get good and bad one's, i've seen and heard and played both. The only one i fell in love with was a stripped down one , no finish at all and that was really nice, but way out of my price limit. My sax tech reckon's he worked on more Selmer's than any other make,ie fault's etc, make's you wonder.
Rob.
 

rhysonsax

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I've got MkVIs (tenor & alto) and Keilwerths (tenor & alto). I keep coming back to the Selmers and here are some of the reasons:
  • Very comfortable ergonomics - all the keys just seem like they are in the right place
  • A richer, more complex sound (to my ears)
  • Better tuning (it's probably being less used to the Keilwerths, but for me they play a little bit sharp in the second octave)
The Keilwerths have certainly got some good things going for them, including bigger sound and much easier playing bell notes - the Selmers can be a bit of a struggle on low B and Bb.

But this thread has reminded me that I do enjoy the Keilwerths, so I may get them out of their cases for a quick toot !

Rhys

PS Steve Howard's review of my Keilwerth altos are here:
Anniversary: http://www.shwoodwind.co.uk/Reviews/Saxes/Alto/Keilwerth_sx90r_anniv_alto.htm
Straight: http://www.shwoodwind.co.uk/Reviews/Saxes/Alto/Keilwerth_SX90_straight.htm
 

TomMapfumo

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There's similar, mind :w00t:. I wonder if Selmers sound "thin" when you are used to a "fatter" sound, but we both describe them as "rich" and "complex"?

I'll have to get my collection of Keilworth's out for a blow...........;}

Lots of Love
Tom:cool:

BTW just finished breakfast and continue my success with the "Who's Whose?" quiz in the Observer magazine - took me less than 20 seconds!:w00t:
 

milandro

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well, sometime ago, I went to the rehearsal of my improvisation band the Oktopedians with my super 20 tenor only to notice that I had forgotten my precious silver neck at home! So I was getting ready to pack up and go home when our teacher-band-director (he usually plays piano if we have no piano player and most of the times we don't) said that I could use his 6 digits Mark VI for the evening. I was very grateful and I played all night with its horn.
Anyway, one would possibly think that the experience changed my life..........but it didn't!

I much rather have and play my own Super 20 Eastlake (with all my limitations as a very modest player) rather than having a Mark VI. I have repeated the experience with another Mark VI 6 digits from a colleague in the band and I am afraid that even that one wouldn't excite me all that much.

I do not think that this is a question of sour grapes from my part, since if I really wanted to buy a Mark Vi I could surely afford one if I sold some other of my horns (saxophone is my sole hobby and although I am by no means rich, I live a rather thrifty life in many respects so I could afford splashing on expensive saxophone).

So I guess some people like the, some people don't..........

By the way can you say something about this Santoni horn? I've seen someone else with a horn with such a name and I am curious to see pictures of yours, I've researched the name among the Italian makers and brands and it is unknown, as fart as I could find.
 

Nick Wyver

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I've never played a MkVI tenor (or any other Selmer for that matter) that I liked better than the Keilwerth Shadow that I play now - or my old K either. It's just the sound. The Keilwerths have it, the Selmers don't (or Yams, Yanags, etc. etc.). There are plenty of people around who would disagree - that's one of the joys of music.

Rhysonsax - I think that's possibly the first time I've heard anyone claim that Selmers have better tuning than... well, almost any other pro sax you could care to name.;}

I do have a soft spot for MkVI sops though.
 

Saxlicker

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Similar to Tomapfumo's belief that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Plus this.....(A quote from BaltimoreB SOTW member)
A good horn is one that gets out of the way and lets all your hard work you put in come through.

Amongst others I have Selmers including the MKVI.
Keilworth, yamaha, Yanagisawa and some have been through my hands and there are so many that can work well for you which ever you choose.
Selmer is top of my list for many reasons which can be summed up overall by saying 'the devil is in the detail'.

Which ever horn is for you....then great!!
Sometimes due to the reputation of a MKVI, it falls short of expectation when it doesn't play it's self.
On a similar note, a friend of mine sounded superb on a yamaha 62 tenor and was proud to swap to a King Super 20. He lost 20% of what appealed to me on his yamaha.
So it's just how it is I guess.

What's the best drink in the world?
Truthfully it has to be water but where would you be without a cup of tea or an ice cold beer? :w00t:
 
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TomMapfumo

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Any truth in the following?

1. American/German = Fat
2. Japanese = Thin
3. French = Just Right

Just noticed that all the Tenor players have just woken up for Lunch..........;}
 

rhysonsax

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Rhysonsax - I think that's possibly the first time I've heard anyone claim that Selmers have better tuning than... well, almost any other pro sax you could care to name.;}
I guess it is what you get used to. I've been playing the MkVI tenor since 1980 and, whilst it's got some notes that stand out as being a bit "off", it is generally very good, top to bottom. When I try and play another tenor, be that Keilwerth or Buffet or my Taiwanese Maxtone, I find the tuning to be hard work, when the Selmer is just "there".

Rhys
 

milandro

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Perhaps, having got used to the Mark VI intonation tendencies this would make switching occasionally to another horn always hard work and actually this might say more about the intonation of the Selmer than the intonation of 3 very different other horns, don't you think?
 

rhysonsax

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Perhaps, having got used to the Mark VI intonation tendencies this would make switching occasionally to another horn always hard work and actually this might say more about the intonation of the Selmer than the intonation of 3 very different other horns, don't you think?
Possibly ....

But I am really not conscious of doing anything technique-wise bewteen the octaves on the Selmers.

My other thought is that my preferred mouthpieces are Lawtons and when I spoke to Geoff Lawton a few years ago he mentioned that he designed them for Selmers. Could there possibly be something that means they just don't match these other horns so well ?

Anyway, back to Keilwerths ..... No, I don't think the OP is a Philistine and it is good that people like different horns and different sounds. In fact, I wish there was more diversity in the sax designs available nowadays, so you could buy something like a modern Martin or a modern Buescher.

Rhys
 

milandro

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I think the more one plays a horn the more one adapts one's embouchure to compensate for any quirks that any horn has, so it is quite possible that you have now trained yourself to automatically adapt to this horn, in fact, I think, that you would find playing another but different Selmer , if not equally, rather similarly upsetting your intonation. The mouthpiece can be very well be suited more to these horns that others, this is, in fact, the reason, I guess, that we look for other mouthpieces trying to hit, rather than miss, the right one which will play the magic trick to fit the horn and our embouchure at once.
 

thomsax

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IMO the Selmer Mk VI became a success and set the standard for saxes for a long time because:
-Allround sax. From classical saxmusic to commercials (even the cool cats have bills to pay!!). The sound fitted in most situations. The session saxplayer didn’t have to struggle with intonation and different tonecolours (all players had the same problem and sound). That cut expensive recording hours in the studios.
-Design of the Mk VI. Easy to work on for the techs! The construction cut hours at the techs. The ergonomic allowed the player to play faster and the music changed in the 50’s!
-Socioeconomic. It was able to sell the Mk VI at a right price! Without the Americans the Selmer would not have been the great success. The Marshall Aid and the huge demand and market for saxes that popped up after WWII. I think about 80% of the Selmer Mk VI production was sold in USA. The Americans earned more money buying shares in the Selmer distribution/assemble company instead of developing and producing new American saxes! Marketing became a bigger part in the value of a sax. I think we have the same today with the Asian saxes.
-Less competition. King and Martin carry on with their production with pro saxes. SML and Buffet had saxes that was good. Even the German companies Keilwerth and Hohner …. made fine saxes in the 50’s. The real challenge for Selmer appeared when Yanagisawa and Yamaha started to built good saxes in mid and late 60’s. But Selmer had a good reputation and a big lead in the competition to other manufacturers. The Japanese brands and even Keilwerth caught up with Selmer in the 70’s. Both Yana and Yama manufactured saxes that did the job better than the Selmers. The Japanese were not better in building a sax compared to the French but they made better tools that made the sax. The result was more even scales.

Among the professional saxplayers I know and listen to the MK VI are still in majority but some guys had give up or stayed away from Selmers MK VIs in favour of other saxes. “The Martin …”, King Super 20s, Yamaha 61, Conn 10M, Beuscher 400, SML, Couf / Keilwerth ….. . These players are more or less active in the Rocksax field. And often the only saxplayer on the stage.

Quite often I hear that the necks of Selmer MK VI are weak (that’s why you can see braces on Selmer necks), leaking and rotating bows/bells (the best MK VI are soldered or glued) and even intonation problems!!

The MK VI is good but the prices for a used Selmer MK VI are ridiculous. You can almost get two mew Yamaha 62 for the price of a used MK VI!! Or 3-4 Bauhaus Walsteins! And the back-up horn issue is solved as well.

Thomas
 

jonf

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Is it my ears? Have I no taste? Does the sax not suit him? Or is it too refined and precious for me, meaning I am just a sax slut, wanting the raunchy earthy BALLS of the relatively cheap Keilwerth?

Yours, disillusioned of Bayerne :crying:
Philistine? Nope, at least not for this reason. Iconoclast? Maybe. Personally I've never subscribed to the cult of the Selmer, or the cult of anything else for that matter. It's a very long time since I played a Mark 6, and at the time I wasn't a good enough player to really judge it, but last time I played a modern Selmer I wasn't that impressed.

Personally, I like what I like, and I couldn't give a toss what anyone else thinks about my taste.

Hey, Kev, just think what sort of response you'd get on SOTW to this sort of post!
 
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