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Saxophones Loving My Conn Chu Berry

raylinds

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I started playing sax again after a 20 year layoff and purchased a 1926 Conn New Wonder II old plated artist alto. It has that really big sound one would expect from a vintage Conn. It came with a Brilhart Tonalin 3 mouthpiece and that seems to be a good beginner mouthpiece as I am having no trouble getting a decent tone. I am starting with Rico Royal 2 reeds, but am looking to move to a 2.5 as my embouchure muscles develop a little more. I am resisting GAS and think I should stick to this mouthpiece for a while before moving to a larger opening. I know the ergonomics on these are not considered the best, but I previously played a 1934 Conn Tenor for about 5 years, so I guess I am used to them as I am not having any issues with the keys. I have only been at it a couple of days and am focusing on maintain long tones and tonguing exercises.

Believe it or not I have never played a modern horn, having always loved the old Conn tone. What are the major differences in ergonomics?
 

kevgermany

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Better placed keys, articulated G#, better action.
 

altissimo

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this
1516385958730.png


instead of this
1516385996389.png
 

Andrew Sanders

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My York alto is a conn new wonder 2 stencil 1928 and I love the sound too.
Isn't this mouthpiece the one you recommended to me @kevgermany.
 

MikeMorrell

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Hi Ray and welcome to the cafe!

IMHO playing sax is all about enjoyment! A lot of people (wisely) play modern saxes because they're ergonomically easier to play and the quality is consistent. Others (like you) go for the vintage experience. I play on a 1960's tenor sax which is way later than 1926. Have fun!
Mike
 

raylinds

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Thanks for the responses. At some point when I know what I am doing I will need to try a new sax.
 

altissimo

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At some point when I know what I am doing I will need to try a new sax
Why bother? If you're happy with the Conn, stick with it. Over the last few years I've encountered a number of young pro jazz players who've started playing old Conns and abandoned their modern instruments, and the music they're playing is demanding enough that if there were any deficiencies in their instruments it'd soon become noticeable.
Ergonomics of saxophones is a personal thing and what suits one person may not suit another - in general I find the key layout on vintage saxes much more comfortable to play, whereas modern designs make my wrists ache and the left hand little finger cluster seems to be designed to make my life a misery..
Other people who've learnt on modern saxes find the old fashioned way of doing things impossible to get used to and there are some who can cope with both and don't see what the fuss is about.
Somehow out of these differing opinions has arisen a notion that vintage saxophones have poor ergonomics and this has been repeated often enough that it's become a truism..
It's also said that you need to use a vintage style mouthpiece on vintage saxes, but I've had no problems using modern high baffle pieces, so I've stopped paying attention to what other people say and just get on with the more important business of enjoying playing music.
 

Tomasz

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There's no shame in playing a Conn New Wonder Series II (aka Chu Berry). They have a really nice punchy, masculine tone that's very appealing. True, the ergos can be challenging - but you get used to it in the end. The Conn NW#2 is the very first sax I ever owned and it's the one I learned on. It was a silver-plated beauty which I sold in order to get a sexy Yamaha - a decision which, looking back, I've always regretted. But then I've become a real sucker for vintage Conns. They rock! This is what they're capable of. Extra marks are awarded for noticing that it's a "transitional" (aka "tranny") Conn NW#2:-


Several years ago I bought myself another Conn New Wonder Series II alto dated 1928, purely for the sake of nostagia. It's completely nickel-plated (ultra-shiny) just like this one. The old-fashioned ergos don't seem to cramp this guy's style:-


Mine still has its original white, kid-leather pads. Unfortunately, most of the pads are a write-off, so the horn is unplayable - it definitely needs a full repad job. However, other than the pads it's in truly excellent condition. I may repad it one day. Meanwhile, I have so many other altos to choose from that I'm spoilt for choice, to the extent that I honestly don't know exactly how many altos I've got in my collection. "Too many" is probably the correct answer.
 
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Nick Wyver

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I played a 1927 Conn for about 6 years. I'd previously played a Yanag and fancied a change. Rupert and I modded the keywork a bit to make it a bit easier for my hands and I gigged with it - experiencing only the sort of problems that you get from a sax of that age. Basically, it was fine.
Then I tried a Keilwerth Sx90R. I played the Conn only once more. There was simply no comparison. Ergonomics, tone and volume all better on the modern horn.
But old stuff is popular. I don't get it but a lot obviously do.
 

thomsax

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I played a 1927 Conn for about 6 years. I'd previously played a Yanag and fancied a change. Rupert and I modded the keywork a bit to make it a bit easier for my hands and I gigged with it - experiencing only the sort of problems that you get from a sax of that age. Basically, it was fine.
Then I tried a Keilwerth Sx90R. I played the Conn only once more. There was simply no comparison. Ergonomics, tone and volume all better on the modern horn.
But old stuff is popular. I don't get it but a lot obviously do.

Yes, yes, yes ..... a good modern sax is better. Even a good student horn if is better. I sold my YTS 25 (1995) for some months ago. Something with the f key that was stuck due to bad material according to the tech. I went back to my Martin Handcraft -38 (Comm). I doubt a modern horn will be playing after 80 years?? The ergonomics is bad. The volume is not like a wide bow Keilwerth, but the tone is better than most modern saxes. The reason I play older horns is that I could buy them for less money. A new Selmer SA 80, YTS62, Yanigisawa T880 or Keilwerth SX90 was too much money for me. I was just playing for fun!!!! I could buy a "The Martin Baritone", The Martin Magna Tenor" and "The Martin Alto" for the same. And these Martins from the 50's and 60's are really good. Just one reason to replace a "The Martin" and that is for the ergonomics.
 

Nick Wyver

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but the tone is better than most modern saxes.
I've never understood how a tone can be intrinsically "better". It's subjective. To my ears the tone of modern saxes is "better". And before anyone mentions "flexibility", it is my considered opinion that that is also a load of cobblers.
I think, as in many fields, it's the fetishism of old stuff - they did things better in the "old days". People like old stuff because it's old, not because it's better. But please note that I'm not saying all new stuff is better than all old stuff. That would be stupid. ;)
 

Tomasz

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I've never understood how a tone can be intrinsically "better". It's subjective. To my ears the tone of modern saxes is "better". And before anyone mentions "flexibility", it is my considered opinion that that is also a load of cobblers.
I think, as in many fields, it's the fetishism of old stuff - they did things better in the "old days". People like old stuff because it's old, not because it's better. But please note that I'm not saying all new stuff is better than all old stuff. That would be stupid. ;)

I have a foot in both camps, so I don't believe there are right or wrong answers to this question. There was a lot of junk made 70 years ago - just as there is now e.g. those horrible Indian saxophones. For example, I have a dud Italian alto (possibly an Orsi) in my garage that's little more than a wall-hanger. It dates from the early 1930s and really wasn't much cop on the day it left the factory. Frankly, it's just not worth overhauling - even if someone offered to do the job for free. Any randomly selected average-quality student-grade Chinese horn would be much better than that particular 1930s Italian horn. Equally, I have real vintage gems in my collection such as "Transitional" 1930s Conns. As you say, whether or not the sound of a sax is good is dependent on personal taste. One man's meat is another man's poison.

Interestingly, Troy Roberts plays a 1970s Yamaha YTS-21 tenor for some of his gigs:-


For others he either plays a Conn New Wonder Series II:-

https://www.youtube.coma/watch?v=iONJASddG7s

Or a two-tone Conn 10M:-


I don't know what the moral to this story is, other than play whatever makes you happy. Life is fragile and life is too short. As Woody Allen once said:- "Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering - and it's all over much too soon."
 
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Nick Wyver

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I don't know what the moral to this story is, other than play whatever makes you happy. Life is fragile and life is too short. As Woody Allen once said:- "Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering - and it's all over much too soon."
Quite.
 

Stephen Howard

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I doubt a modern horn will be playing after 80 years??

I've often seen this touted as a reason for choosing a vintage horn over a modern one, and (not to put too fine a point on it) it's complete nonsense.
A sax is basically a lump of brass with a handful of steel bits and pieces. Nothing has really changed in that respect since the first sax rolled off the production line. Some folks say it's all down the quality of the brass - but there are only so many alloys that can be used on a horn, and none of them are known to disintegrate in any reasonable time frame.
What tends to 'kill' a horn is economics. It's quite reasonable to say an Ultra-Cheap horn won't last...because it's not likely to be worth the cost of overhauling it once the pads wear out - but the underlying structure will still be sound enough.
You could, perhaps, say the same about modern intermediate horns (such as the 20 series Yamahas) - but the older a horn gets, the more its perceived value can increase by virtue of it entering the 'Hall of Fame'....as is the case with the Purple Logo 62s.

But in purely mechanical terms a horn will last until its physical structure breaks down - and given reasonable use, care and storage conditions, this is likely to be in the order of many centuries.
The benchmark is the original Adolphe Sax, which ranks as one of the worst-built horns out there (seriously). Thin brass, rivetted pillars, soldered-on toneholes, wobbly action....and yet they're still going strong.
 

Tomasz

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I've often seen this touted as a reason for choosing a vintage horn over a modern one, and (not to put too fine a point on it) it's complete nonsense.
A sax is basically a lump of brass with a handful of steel bits and pieces. Nothing has really changed in that respect since the first sax rolled off the production line. Some folks say it's all down the quality of the brass - but there are only so many alloys that can be used on a horn, and none of them are known to disintegrate in any reasonable time frame.
What tends to 'kill' a horn is economics. It's quite reasonable to say an Ultra-Cheap horn won't last...because it's not likely to be worth the cost of overhauling it once the pads wear out - but the underlying structure will still be sound enough.
You could, perhaps, say the same about modern intermediate horns (such as the 20 series Yamahas) - but the older a horn gets, the more its perceived value can increase by virtue of it entering the 'Hall of Fame'....as is the case with the Purple Logo 62s.

But in purely mechanical terms a horn will last until its physical structure breaks down - and given reasonable use, care and storage conditions, this is likely to be in the order of many centuries.
The benchmark is the original Adolphe Sax, which ranks as one of the worst-built horns out there (seriously). Thin brass, rivetted pillars, soldered-on toneholes, wobbly action....and yet they're still going strong.

I have both vintage and modern horns in my collection. The only common denominator they all share is high quality. In short, I don't collect rubbish because there's no skill involved. For me, quality will always count, regardless of where and when a horn was made.

Accidents notwithstanding, there's no doubt in my mind that my gorgeous matching pair of 1952 Conn 6Ms will still be turning heads in the year 2152 AD - 200 years after they left the factory in Elkhart, Indiana. Similarly, my Japanese YAS-62 Mk 1 (purple label) from 1982 and Yanagisawa A9932J (a silver & bronze dream machine from 2007 that I sold a few years ago) will still be making music in 2282 and 2208 respectively - long after I'm lying in my grave, completely forgotten. So long as they're not abused/neglected over the years, I'm sure the same adage will hold true of many other decent quality saxophones.
 
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