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It's A Bittersweet Day - Need A New Alto

Veggie Dave

Sax Worker
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2,995
Yep, as much as I love my Model 26 it's become obvious that as great an instrument as it is on its own, when you're in a section/ensemble the intonation is too difficult to control. I know, I should be excited at the idea of getting a new horn, but the poor old girl doesn't deserve to be relegated to a cupboard and forgotten.

At today's recording session I really struggled to stay in tune, though. The final results will sound great but the difference in speed and ease of getting a performance recorded was really exposed when I swapped between the Selmer and the Keilwerth. As daft as it sounds, it's a sad day...

creativestudios-small.jpg
 

jbtsax

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You are to be commended for sticking with it as long as you did. Selmer was still at the beginning of it's learning curve with the Modèle 22 and Modèle 26. The intonation improved a lot with the "Super Series" which included the "Cigar Cutter" and "Radio Improved". By the time they came out with the "Balanced Action" and what we now refer to as the "Super Balanced Action" they were well on the way to the great saxes that changed the industry.
 

Wade Cornell

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If you prefer "vintage" I've got a Martin Com II Alto that I intend to sell (too many honrs here that I don't play often). PM me if interested.
 
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Veggie Dave

Veggie Dave

Sax Worker
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2,995
You are to be commended for sticking with it as long as you did.
It'll be in action for a while yet as I won't be getting another alto straight away unfortunately.

If you prefer "vintage" I've got a Martin Com II Alto that I intend to sell (too many honrs here that I don't play often). PM me if interested.
Thanks for the offer but I actually prefer modern stuff. I only got the Model 26 because I found it at the back of a junk shop and couldn't leave it there.
 
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Veggie Dave

Veggie Dave

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2,995
I've never played another alto so have no idea what I'm looking for at the moment. I'm just hoping it doesn't turn into the same quest that the tenor became, where after trying every sax I could find only one remotely appealed, which was of course stupidly expensive and well out of my price range.
 

Pete Effamy

Senior Member
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1,501
I've never played another alto so have no idea what I'm looking for at the moment. I'm just hoping it doesn't turn into the same quest that the tenor became, where after trying every sax I could find only one remotely appealed, which was of course stupidly expensive and well out of my price range.
Dave, have you got a friend whose ears you trust? Take him/her along to a store and try several horns. Don’t communicate your findings to one another after each horn - write it down. Try not to notice which horn you pick up each time - it’s easiest with the clear lacquer horns - so as not to be coloured. Try and play the same stuff on all horns with same reed/piece and only play each for 2mins tops.
I found my tenor this way with my old studio partner. We plumped for the same horn , head and shoulders above the others. Tried about 8 at Howarth.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
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1,138
I've never played another alto so have no idea what I'm looking for at the moment. I'm just hoping it doesn't turn into the same quest that the tenor became, where after trying every sax I could find only one remotely appealed, which was of course stupidly expensive and well out of my price range.
Easy way to avoid that: don't try any horns more than 10% or so out of your budget. Seems to me (correct me if I am wrong) you play more Tenor than Alto anyway, right (?)

So as it'd be a secondary horn, it's just more a matter of finding something of good repute that feels right under the fingers, intones well, and doesn't sound bad. A bit lower a bar than shopping for the horn voice which is gonna be your 'main' voice. (also a significantly cheaper endeavor).

It'll be in action for a while yet as I won't be getting another alto straight away unfortunately.
FWIW - and you probably know this - those old Selmer models DO have some market value...there is a subset of folks who want 'em...
 
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saxyjt

I have saxophone withdrawal symptoms
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Dave, I'm sure you knew this day would come. As John said, it's amazing that you managed for so long with it. It must compare rather poorly with your tenor. I have a few horns in stock and there are those I play quite comfortably and the others...

Perhaps someone can lend you a decent alto while you're looking for the 'perfect' one. :confused2:

By decent, I mean one that's an improvement from your current 'old beauty' that is...

I don't want to offend such a respectable horn! :oops:
 
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Veggie Dave

Veggie Dave

Sax Worker
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2,995
I found my tenor this way with my old studio partner. We plumped for the same horn , head and shoulders above the others. Tried about 8 at Howarth.
This may sound a bit daft - or perhaps not - but the only opinion that matters is mine. If it feels right and sounds right to me then it's right. If no one else agrees then they're clearly wrong. ;)

When I first started looking for a new/replacement tenor I had a list of horns in my price range that I thought would do the job ... and hated them all. Yamahas, Yanis and Selmers felt horribly wrong in my hands. Only the Raw felt and sounded remotely acceptable but to be honest it was less a horn I liked and more a horn I didn't hate.

So I started looking further afield; as well as classic horns (the only two renowned models I didn't get the chance to try were a Conn 10m and a MkVI) I also tried other modern manufacturers such as Eastman (I thought their £3,000 52nd Street was on par with a £900 Trevor James SR but with sticky rolled tone holes), Mauriat (who I thought were actually quite good) and, eventually, the Keilwerth MKX that I instantly fell in love with.

I went through the whole process again a couple of months later because I didn't really want to spend well over three grand on 'just' an instrument. Unfortunately all that happened was that I confirmed what I already knew - there was only one sax for me.

Luckily 18 months later a second-hand one appeared for sale (the first, and last, one I'd seen). Even better, it was going for a fraction of the price of a new one. So much so that I thought it may have been stolen (it wasn't).

And I still love it. I seem to be in a very small minority (to say the least ;)) but it is the best sax out there as far as I'm concerned.

Easy way to avoid that: don't try any horns more than 10% or so out of your budget.
Where would the fun in that be? :D

In all seriousness, it has to be a pleasure to play. Bizarrely the action on the Selmer is still superb - absolutely no play at all. It's only the intonation that's a problem. Whatever I get to replace it needs to feel just as solid and precise under the fingers but with vastly superior intonation.

Seems to me (correct me if I am wrong) you play more Tenor than Alto anyway, right (?)


That's only really because the Model 26 is so challenging to play. In the R&B band it's about 66% tenor / 33% alto although it's slowly edging towards parity. Again, I'm favouring the tenor as much because of practicality as suitability for the song.

FWIW - and you probably know this - those old Selmer models DO have some market value...there is a subset of folks who want 'em...
I don't think I could ever sell it. Apart from it being a more than acceptable back-up, it's quite special to me on its own right.
 
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Veggie Dave

Veggie Dave

Sax Worker
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2,995
It must compare rather poorly with your tenor.
To be honest I've never really struggled too much with it (except for the song, Soul Man, in a guitar friendly key - that song always sounds wrong) but this weekend in the studio really showed its weaknesses. The tenor got the job done in a fraction of the time.

Perhaps someone can lend you a decent alto while you're looking for the 'perfect' one. :confused2:
I don't really know any sax players around here but the Selmer will hold its own until I find a new one.
 

saxyjt

I have saxophone withdrawal symptoms
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3,501
To be honest I've never really struggled too much with it (except for the song, Soul Man, in a guitar friendly key - that song always sounds wrong) but this weekend in the studio really showed its weaknesses. The tenor got the job done in a fraction of the time.
So you're just being French, complaining for the sake of it! :doh:
 
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Veggie Dave

Veggie Dave

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2,995
I almost wrote a very French response but the last time I did that Mr. Thomas reminded me that a number of people on here speak French and understood precisely what I'd written. And not to do it again. :D

So I'll be polite - flee the camp. ;) Hopefully this is a really clever joke, but it might not be...
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
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5,835
This may sound a bit daft - or perhaps not - but the only opinion that matters is mine. If it feels right and sounds right to me then it's right. If no one else agrees then they're clearly wrong.
Not daft at all. Very sensible. I don't trust anyone else's opinion on sound and feel either.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
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1,138
I don't see it as 'trusting someone else's opinion above your own', though.

Face it, a horn can sound different from a player's position as opposed to a listener's....
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
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5,835
Face it, a horn can sound different from a player's position as opposed to a listener's....
Yes, of course it does. But I (and perhaps Veggie Dave) don't care how it sounds to someone else. It's how it sounds to me that matters. If it sounds good to me then it will sound good to someone listening - if, indeed, anyone does bother to listen. People listen to the player not the horn.
 

Pete Effamy

Senior Member
Messages
1,501
I'm with Jaye on this. It's not taking somebody else's opinion it's bouncing ideas off them, especially if you are slightly in two minds about something.
 

Pete Effamy

Senior Member
Messages
1,501
Yes, of course it does. But I (and perhaps Veggie Dave) don't care how it sounds to someone else. It's how it sounds to me that matters. If it sounds good to me then it will sound good to someone listening - if, indeed, anyone does bother to listen. People listen to the player not the horn.
What about this scenario: you try some horns in a shop - you make a choice. Someone else makes the point that the shop acoustics are taming a possibly too bright horn and that if you mic it up it'll be offensive. Valuable opinion?
 

Stephen Howard

Well-Known Member
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1,704
Yes, of course it does. But I (and perhaps Veggie Dave) don't care how it sounds to someone else. It's how it sounds to me that matters. If it sounds good to me then it will sound good to someone listening - if, indeed, anyone does bother to listen. People listen to the player not the horn.
Strictly with my 'Health & Safety' hat on - and because beginners may misunderstand the point...

How good a horn sounds and feels to a player is very dependent on their experience - and it's something I (and just about every other repairer, I'm sure) encounter almost every day.
I always get the client to play the repaired horn when they come in to collect it, and if it's appropriate to their level of technique I'll often offer suggestions as to how they might improve their tone. This typically relates to choice of mouthpiece/strength of reed/blowing technique - but can also relate to posture.
Not to put too fine a point on it, they often have no idea that they sound...well...crap. Or at least not as good as they could be sounding. It's easy enough to demonstrate by throwing another mouthpiece at them, which usually proves the point.

As for feel, that too relies on a certain amount of experience - and sometimes even quite experienced players are surprised at how much better a well-tweaked horn feels under the fingers.

So while I broadly agree with the sentiment, I'd say there are caveats to take into account.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
1,138
Yes, of course it does. But I (and perhaps Veggie Dave) don't care how it sounds to someone else. It's how it sounds to me that matters. If it sounds good to me then it will sound good to someone listening - if, indeed, anyone does bother to listen. People listen to the player not the horn.
Understood, but I think (both of) you are interpreting the suggestion as meaning that reliance upon choosing is being placed on someone else's tastes. And therefore it becomes sort of a group decision and some 'power' is being taken out of the seeker's hands, or somehow they are being compromised.

I don't think that is the point.

The point being, rather, that when one playtests they cannot quite hear everything emanating from the horn from the listener's side. If there are certain harmonics or tonal qualities or other sonic performance qualities which are more readily apparent when standing in front of the bell, or 10 feet away, etc.....it'd be helpful info to have an experienced hand point that out, basically.


People listen to the player not the horn.
Indeed. And the listening experience is a combination of the player and the horn, however. I can listen to what a player is doing and appreciate his/her abilities and creativity....but it'd be a far more pleasurable experience if the tone the combo of player/horn is producing was a nice one.
So if a player is playing a bright, reedy, narrow or thin sounding horn (to mine ears)...regardless of their ability and taste it is gonna take something away from the listening experience for me.
Likewise, if the player isn't particularly a virtuouso, the fact that the tone of their axe is really beautiful would be a significant boon to the listening experience, IMHO.
 
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