All profit supporting special needs music education and Help Musicians

Saxophones Martin tenors

dooce

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,433
Locality
Daventry
I was at a sax group the other day and one of the tenors had the most glorious tone. Because of the look of the instrument, I assumed it was a Mauriat with an antique finish, but I spoke briefly with its owner and found out it was a Martin, and the antique effect was genuine! Not having paid much attention to this brand before, I am suddenly intrigued. I have no idea what model it was or how old, but it did appear to be quite a small bore/bell and it produced a lovely mellow, smooth noise with a not very experienced player.

I would like to know a bit more about these instruments - I know we have a few Martin devotees on the forum, and a potted history would be very welcome reading.

Thanks
 

Stephen Howard

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,990
Locality
UK
The best-sounding tenor I've ever played was a Martin. Belonged to a guy who played in a band called Aswad.
Great, huge sound...but the action was rather clunky, as is often the case with vintage horns.

I owned a Martin Handcraft baritone for some years. Many people touted the Conn Crossbar as the vintage bari of choice, or the Selmer MKVI...but the Handcraft was louder, richer and more expressive than either of these popular brands...and it kicked my old Buescher into a corner.

Regards,
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
4,359
Locality
Sweden
I have some Martin saxes that I try to keep in good playing condition. Great saxes but it has it’s advantages and disadvanteges like all saxes. I will give you my own reflections about the Martin saxes I own and play:

Advantages:
• Tone: Good over the whole range but the low tones are outstanding. Also richer overtones. The body is a medium (King and Conn has bigger bore) bore. Some ”clever guys” I use to speak saxes with says that the sound/tone of a saxophone is determinant by the taper/bore and the toneholes placement on the body. Of course, the neck and mouthpiece is also important to the sound. Between the toneholes geometries are established and that decide the sound of the sax. Also how the toneholes are made or fasten to the body make a difference. So the Martin has a special sound compared to other saxes. Good or bad, you have to dedide that yourself.
• Easy to find moutpieces: From old mpc’s to new, the Martin saxes are tolerant. But a moutpiece with big chamber (area) are hard for me to use on a Martin sax. The low tones are just fine but the uper tones are not that good. A medium chamber mpc with a baffle, that controlle the airflow, is the best for me.
• Neck: The necks on Committee I, Committe II and Committee III are among the best that ever been produced. I think Martin company put in a lot of efforts to make a good crook. All Martin saxes has matching serialnumber on the neck and body.
• Thick wall: Martin is a thick wall sax. The neck and body are thicker than most other saxes. Makes the sax sturdy and not fragile like other saxes. The thick wall has less to do with the sound.
• Softsoldered toneholes: Martin company garantee 50 years warranty on the toneholes!! The method was expensive but every Martin (Elkhart) sax were built like that. The softsoldered toneholes also gave us a differnt angles because of the shape. This also makes a differnt tone. The softsoldered toneholes also gave us broader rims, compared to drawn toneholes, which spare the pads.
• Keys: The keys on some Committee I and II are solid nickelsilver. They don’t get so easy bent and also less corrosion. Good funtion and spare the pads as well.
• Thin pads: A Martin sax should have thin pads and the keycups/pads should also be sat low. This makes fast action.
• Adjustable RH thumbrest: Most Martin saxes (from late 30’s to the end of the production) has adjustable thumbrest (high or low).
• Rocksax: The best sax for blues, Rock & Roll, oldtime R&B …. . Perfect for the two horn section. Tenor - trumpet or alto - flugelhorn! The voice of a Martin blends well with the electric guitar.

Disadvantages:
• Ergonomics: Like most other old saxes the ergonomis are worse compared to a contempory (Selmer std) sax. The prewar (Big Band era) saxes were designed for players that use to sit and play. So to stand up and play on a Comm I and II is not good for my back/body even if I’m using a shoulder strap or harness. I’m playing in a bent position. The Martins are better when it comes to this.
• Lacquer: Not good on Martins. If you care about this you should have your Martin re-lacquered or choice another brand. The plating on Martins are good.
• Octave key on The Martin: The tight and neckjoint construction on The Martin can make damage on the octave key. Easy to use to much power when you put on and take of the crook.
• The LH cluster: Hard to get a smooth action when you are playing on the low tones. And since they are so nice on a Martin, you want to use these tones often!!
• Softsoldered toneholes: Selective Galvanic Corrosion. So far I’ve been lucky. No leaks on my Martins. But selective galvanic corrosion is more or less on all Martins! http://www.shwoodwind.co.uk/HandyHints/Martin_toneholes.htm
• Replacement cases: Just a few that fit a Martin proberly and gives good protection. Hiscox is the best case for Martin alto and tenor saxes. I just bought my first Hiscox thanks to Griff.!!
• Social: To play in a saxsection with Selmers, Yaha’s, Yani’s is not easy with a Martin sax with a less mainstream setup. You often get comments like: ”You’re out of tune”, ”What tone are you playing in that bar?”, ”Sounds odd, is this really right?”. But I think it was even harder when I played a King Super 20 with Berg Larsen 110/0 or 1 metal mpc. So if you want to be a guy in saxsection and you hold on to your Martin sax, leave your reeds at home. Don’t play!! I played in tune (not worse than the other guys) but the colour of my tone was differnt. Another question the clever boys had to straighten out for me. The difference between the tone heights and the tone colour? If you understand what I mean?!?!?!

My favourite Martin is a 128XXX -38 Committee I tenor. No laquer , less than 10% remains, with solid nickelsilver keys. I bought that horn from Bob Ackermann, NJ, and it was overhauled and ready to play when I got it 1996. I don’t know which repairshop that did the overhaul but they did a very good job. Very good pads, ResoTech sterling silver resonators and correct keyheights. Just one probleme so far. The B3 became sharp the other year. I small piece of cork had fall off so the ”C/Bis keys” was open to much. Easy to glue on a new piece.

Thomas
 

Saxlicker

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,979
Locality
Breakfast room since '06 UK
Thomas,
I truly admire your dedication to all things Martin. :welldone
 

dooce

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,433
Locality
Daventry
Thomas - thanks. I hope to come across this guy again and find out more about his horn. For sure, it did have the most glorious low tones and a noticeably different "tone colour", as you describe. And the laquer was in a poor state, but hey, people pay extra to buy a brand new sax that looks like that.....
 

saxismyaxe

Honored SOTW Ambassador
Messages
556
Locality
Native of the Lone Star state.
It is my opinion that the Martin's have wonderful ergos as vintage 1930's through 1950's horns go. The Martin Committee models in particular can hold their own against any horn out there. Granted, if you are weaned on the post Selmer SBA and MKVI style keywork found on todays horns, you will need some adjustment time. The long springs on these make the key action smooth and fast.

Another advantage I would add to the list with Martins is their effortless altisimo, the best of any horn I have ever played.

I own examples of just about every major vintage horn made, and choose The Martin Committees for my go to tenor and baritone. I love them that much.
 

JuanElMundo

New Member
Messages
8
Locality
North Reading,Ma.
I have a vintage The Martin tenor silver with gold wash bell
#36xxx . It seems to be a 20’s horn .
 

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
Café Supporter
Messages
7,240
Locality
Bristol, UK
The serial number dates it to about 1923. So I'm guessing that it is a Martin Handcraft, rather than "The Martin" (i.e. a Committee III) which came later. If it has bell keys on both sides then it is a Handcraft. Nice instruments.
 

JuanElMundo

New Member
Messages
8
Locality
North Reading,Ma.
image.jpg

The serial number dates it to about 1923. So I'm guessing that it is a Martin Handcraft, rather than "The Martin" (i.e. a Committee III) which came later. If it has bell keys on both sides then it is a Handcraft. Nice instruments.
Thanks it’s funny that the tenor says The Martin but it’s set up the same as my alto which is labeled handcraft # 26xxx
 

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
Café Supporter
Messages
7,240
Locality
Bristol, UK
I'm not an expert, but I think some of the Handcrafts have "Martin Handcraft" written on the bell, and some have "The Martin". But nowadays the convention is that the description "The Martin" refers to a Committee III. These date from 1945 onwards.

Just to confuse things further, the Committee I saxes have "Handcraft" written on the bell too. But they have both bell keys on the same side.
 

JuanElMundo

New Member
Messages
8
Locality
North Reading,Ma.
View attachment 16406

Thanks it’s funny that the tenor says The Martin but it’s set up the same as my alto which is labeled handcraft # 26xxx
I'm not an expert, but I think some of the Handcrafts have "Martin Handcraft" written on the bell, and some have "The Martin". But nowadays the convention is that the description "The Martin" refers to a Committee III. These date from 1945 onwards.

Just to confuse things further, the Committee I saxes have "Handcraft" written on the bell too. But they have both bell keys on the same side.
Thanks no I have to check my sweet silver bari which is a 50’s Martin
 

Damflask

Member
Messages
152
Locality
United Kingdom
Here's a picture of my Nickel-plated Tenor.
127034515_3514078048652224_8315439989548296580_o.jpg
 
Last edited:

Jimmymack

Member
Messages
714
Locality
London
The one tenor I sometimes think about, and didn't buy and wish I had, was a Martin. Beautiful horn, I bought a King S20 instead and never regretted it but I still think of that Martin at times like this.
 

Wade Cornell

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,471
Locality
New Zealand and Australia
I have both a King series 1 Super 20, and a Martin Com III Tenor. Both are in excellent playing condition. the King is for sale, the Martin isn't. Guess which one is (supposedly) worth 3X as much!
 

Jazz Is All

Member
Café Supporter
Messages
750
Locality
Barcelona, Spain
My Martin Tenor is from 1945. I won it on Ebay some 14 years ago for $1600 which was the going rate back then and now all these years later they don't sell for much more than that. I find this odd given how good they are and that everyone knows it too. It had a lousy relac job when I got it which has since really gotten scratched and flaky, but I don't care because the sound is to die for. It had belonged to a man in Miami who had died and his trombone playing buddy helped the widow sell it on eBay. I had never even tried a Martin before but had researched tenors really well and knew that was the tenor to get. The minute I got it and played the first notes I knew it was my tenor for life.

As to some pros and Conns [sic], as Thomsax said above, the bottom end of the horn is the most potent of all of them. The fact is that Bb 1 sounds like a big ship coming into port. With a big tip, high baffle piece it can set off car alarms outside the venue. I played in a 14 piece combo for 3 years up the coast from here back until 2016 and nobody could believe the low Bb on my horn. Neither of the 2 other tenor players, one had a Selmer, could get close to it. I also jammed frequently with a guy who had a Holton Elkhorn. I remember about the second time we coincided at a jam while I was blowing he was looking at his horn with a look in his eyes like to say, why the hell don't you sound like that? He mentioned it to me another time about how impressive the sound of my Martin was.

The Martins are really solid horns and I think that fear about the soldered tone hole chimneys is mostly scaremongering. Mine has never had anything like that and none of the others I have seen for sale in Barcelona have either. They are really solid, well-made saxes, especially the ones from the mid-40s to the mid-50s. I find them much more comfortable to play than any Conn tenor. For one thing the martin neck will never swing around and eat your face.

On the con side, the ergos of the LH pinky table can definitely be an issue as can the design of the adjustable thumb hook. The problem with the table is that it is placed at the wrong angle and requires a great deal of strength in your pinky to play it easily and rapidly. The spring tension can be adjusted to help this but from what I have heard from techs there is only so much leeway that they have to adjust that to make it easier to press. The adjustable thumb hook is nice but it only adjusts vertically, That's good but not being able to swivel it on its axis like that plastic Selmer one makes it impossible to allow your thumb to be held in a more comfortable angle. The worst problem with it, however, is that instead of the underside (that presses on your thumb, being flat it is convex rising to a curved peak in the center that essentially makes your thumb have the entire weight of the horn pressing down on it along what is essentially one line. Well it hurts, and in fact gives you a tenor players bone bump after a couple of years. That's a hip sign that you've been through the Vintage wars and helps ease the pain a bit. However, it's not enough and the bump never goes away, so you have it as an identifying scar that the anti-saxophone police could use to identify you.

My solution to lthe latter problem was to have Lance Burton of Martin Mods make me a modded Thumb hook....it was his first one and thus a prototype. Instead of having that humped area of metal resting on the thumb it is flat and smooth and doesn't hurt at all. Frankly I recommend it to anyone who loves their Martin but has a hard time with the thumb hook. The thing about it that is better than getting a different store bought one is that its rod fits right into the original holder on the horn just like the original. You don't have to unsolder the original and then solder the new one on and chance marring the finish.

The solution to the Pinky Table problem was to have Lance make me his modded one that is partly articulated. It was perhaps the first or second one he made so it is not an exact copy of a Selmer-style table but it works really well and has made all the difference in the ease, comfort and rapidity with which I can play those notes up and down.

Here's a photo of the Pinky Table
IMG_2941.JPG


This is the Thumb hook Lance made for me. It's was his first one and he may have changed the design since then.

IMG_20201210_140335347_HDR.jpg
 
Last edited:

Members online

Popular Discussions

London
Paris
New York
Los Angeles
Sydney
Moscow
New Delhi
Top Bottom