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Saxophones Horn Evaluation ?

Filton

Member
Messages
243
Here something I have been wondering about for a while. It isn't a problem that I have currently unfortunately but one that I am hoping will come along sometime ..

When it comes to choosing a sax, how does one evaluate horns for sound/tone to decide which is better than another.

Whilst the obvious answer is to play as many as possible and decide what sounds good, I often wonder how easy this is bearing in mind the affect of mouthpiece and/or reed to a tone.

If I play sax A and Sax B both with mouthpiece Z, A may sound nicer, but If I play B with mouthpiece Y could it sound better than A with piece Z ?

It seems that with so much variation in overall tone available via the mouthpiece it is a veritable minefield trying to choose... or am I over-complicating things ?
 

VirusKiller

Member
Messages
449
Well, in my case, I went to a shop, played for a day until I was mentally exhausted, then spent silly money on a MkVI. :w00t:

Less flippantly, Stephen Howard told me that if a horn doesn't slap you in the face, then it's not the one you want to buy. Based on my limited experience, I have to agree with him; the right horn jumps out at you and you just "know" that it's the one. At Frankfurt, Pete kept returning to the "Two Voice" Rampone; in exactly the same way, even though I had narrowed a lot of new horns down to a Mauriat 66RUL Influence (which I really liked in several ways), I just kept coming back to the MkVI. This wasn't a script that I could have written.

Regarding tone, trying a couple of mouthpieces makes a lot of sense. I took my quite different Yanagisawa metal #9 and PPT 8* pieces along with me. What I found was that I liked the sound from the MkVI with both pieces; in other words, I liked the horn's core tone. Playing in front of glass is very revealing, though it does highlight the fact that a horn sounds very different in different rooms and in free space vs. proximity to reflective surfaces (this is obviously relevant for recording).

There's something else possibly related to tone and that is the projection of the horn: the way the sound comes out of it. Again, in my experience, the MkVI just had something that only the Yamaha 82Z came close to matching, which was a soulfulness rather than an overt punchiness.
 

jonf

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,680
What you need above all else is a tried and trusted mouthpiece, one you know you like and soind OK on. Make sure you have a reed you know if fine as well, preferably a couple. Stick to the same reed/mouthpiece combination on all the horns you try. This gives you a constant reference point. If you have to have a couple of mouthpieces (say a rock screamer and a blues smoocher) take both, with trusted reeds and play every sax with each mouthpiece. If you are lucky enough to have a wide range of saxes, take notes. Take a Zoom H2 if you have one, or can borrow one. That gives you an objective listening point from a listener's perspective as well as what you hear as the player.

If you're relaxed, it's a highly enjoyable process.
 

Saxodent

Member
Messages
194
The way I evaluate horns and mouthpieces is to take three into the room. Play each identically and critically (intonation ,scales, long notes, action etc) at least 3x each(to let them warm up). Keep two and reject the most obviously unsuitable and replace with a new one.
Then start again. It can take a while but you eventually will keep coming back to the same one.
Once you settle on a certain model do the same thing again with three if their stocks allow it. You may find a real blinder even better than the first.
If you know the sound you want and have it in your head you will naturally find the horn/mpc set up that will give you it.
A true blindfold test is hard to do and it is easy to be swayed by a certain model or brand along with finishes (black,laquered or otherwise).
Good Luck
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
In Wales we tend to do our research, buy one online and get on with it - none of this poncey fannying about that seems so common in England................
 

Sunray

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,708
Lmao ...

10 out of ten Tom ... :thankyou:

Nearly fell off me chair ... :)))

Good job I hadn't a mouthful of 12 year old malt ... :w00t:
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Wasn't John Coltrane's soprano sax chosen for him by Miles Davis (trumpeter), who spotted it in a flea market in Paris and thought that John might like it.............no review, no advertising, no trial, just looked OK and was affordable. Davis - Welsh name - that's how to do it, sorted! :shocked::w00t:;}

Tom:cool:
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Have played a couple of saxes recently where the LH table was so badly placed it was hurting my hand. Sure I could get on with it and play the instrument, but it wasn't nice. My little finger went right over the G# and only pressed on the bar it's mounted on.

As for sound..... No, I don't agree - some saxes click, others don't. And a mouthpiece that works well on your current kit may not work on a horn you're trying. See Juju's comments in the mark VI thread, for example.

Must admit I was lucky with my tenor, but it's really been improved by the PPT.

I guess it's a bit like the difference between an arranged marriage and one that's mutual choice.

So if you're paying a lot of money and can get to a store, do it.

If you're buying off Ebay, don't pay too much, then if it doesn't work for you, you should be able to sell it on without a serious loss.
 

Filton

Member
Messages
243
Okay, so it is making some sense... Whilst I understand your sentiment Tom, and it is more or less how I got my current horn (through reading all the positive reviews here and I don't regret it one bit) I guess I am hoping that I can actually enjoy the experience of selecting a horn myself, but want to make sure I go about it in the right way.

I have three mouthpieces whcih I like but two which I have adopted for use. A link STM 7* Metal and a Jody Jazz HR Rubber 7 I guess the sensible thing would be to take both and see how each horn sounds with both. Obviously things like ergonomics and playability are easier to judge.

I know when it comes to guitars I certainly knew when I found 'the one' so I am really hoping I can get the same 'click' with a sax when the time comes.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
... Whilst I understand your sentiment Tom............
Hi Filton!

In Wales it is known as a joke, albeit some of us have less access to decent music shops than others in the UK and beyond. Thankfully there are two decent dealers within 50 miles of Swansea - Studio saxophones & South Wales Woodwind so a trial is not a problem. Good luck finding your sax, and the advice seems on the money!

Kind regards
Tom
 

Filton

Member
Messages
243
Sorry Tom no offence meant should have added some smileys to show I was being a but Tongue in cheek
 

Saxodent

Member
Messages
194
Hi Filton
Some sax brands will just not be right for you despite all the reviews to the contrary. Buying a sax unseen or untried is not a good idea. If you are going to part with that much cash you should make the retailers work for their money. I once tried 3 Mauriats and they were all slightly different.
Personally I can never get a note out of a Yanagisawa because of the crook back pressure.
I had a Mark VI that was completely opposite in tone to my mates and they were both 1967 years models.
I now play a Guardala Custom Tenor which I have to fight my mates off who all want it.
I went through everything they had in the shop using the keep two reject one system and i kept coming back to that.
The thing is I had gone in wanting to buy a Yanagisawa Bronze underslung because at that time I was convinced that is what you should have.
 
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