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Beginner Sax Purchasing a Pro Horn as a Beginner

thomsax

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My friend, a professional rock & roll saxplayer., had to buy a new better neck to his Selmer ser III tenor. He had the same problem with his Mk VI neck. A tech made a brace on that one. So what is a professional sax?
 

ellinas

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So what is a professional sax?
Any sax that if your sax playing is your main occupation, won't let you down because it's not a good sax, f.e. can't keep regulations, out of tune, unreliable, etc.
 

Ads

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Yeah a Pro sax won`t have bendy keywork or a heavy action or have quick wear rods or be prone to warbling / octaving , it doesn`t need to be a flashy blinghorn like a Yam 875, a Yam 21/23/25/275/280 will be bang on the mark , a 62 a bit more refined but no more reliable . my YAS21 is heading for 50 years old and looks like its been pro used as even the side keys have the nickel worn to patchiness but its also been professionally maintained so plays as slick as an old 62 Mk1 (some wearing in is a good thing - a new 280 or 62 Mk3 can feel a bit slow until they`ve "worn in" a bit)
 

andyjb

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fwiw I started with a Vito and then moved up to a YTS 475. I noticed a huge difference in the sound and feel. Both were bought second hand and have (almost) stopped looking at changing it.
 

VelvetImpulse

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Hey, it seems you are in the exact same situation I was 3 months ago. I'm in my late 30s, started practicing regularly and making strides in the last 2.5 years, and since beginning of 2021 I had in my mind to get a new sax. I had been playing on a vintage student horn (King Cleveland 613) and felt that while I could continue playing it for a few years before I "plateau'd" it, there were things that already frustrated me. Not only that, but if you are playing on an instrument that you know is not 100% high quality, as a beginner it becomes extra difficult to know when a problem is caused by you and when it's the fault of the sax.
To give you an example, I couldn't play certain notes in tune for the life of me, certain key changes felt very uncomfortable and occasionally I would blow an octave higher unintentionally.

Once I tested several pro instruments back in August (eventually settled for a YAS-875EX, coincidentally), I noticed right away that the first two issues were entirely the instrument I had been playing, while the third one was entirely me. I was happy to switch then, because if nothing else, now I know the only thing holding me back is myself and my practice is way more focused as a consequence (very important when you can only play half a dozen hours per week). That certainty is a perfectly valid reason to own a top tier instrument (if you can afford it) in my eyes.
 

squeak

Member
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363
To circle back around, after getting to try a few including the Series III I ended up with a Gently Used Yamaha yas-62III that came with the 62 and custom V1 neck for half the price of the Custom EX
Congratulations!

Oh yes, the alto and tenor Serie III are separate kettles of fish. I, too, prefer the Serie II alto. Don’t judge the tenors on your experience with the altos and vice versa.
Forgive me, but I thought we were talking altos, as this is what the OP is, or rather was, buying. Sure the Series III tenor is great, in particular if one likes bright horns.
 

Colin the Bear

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I've been gigging and busking my G4M nickel alto for over a decade. Still looks ok. A few pads up at the top end, a sliver of cork here and there and a drop of oil and it plays great.
Professional, intermediate and beginner have more to do with extras than playability imo.
 

Stephen Howard

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I've been gigging and busking my G4M nickel alto for over a decade. Still looks ok. A few pads up at the top end, a sliver of cork here and there and a drop of oil and it plays great.
Professional, intermediate and beginner have more to do with extras than playability imo.
Weeeelllllllll yeah....up to a point.
I've often said that some of the Ultra-Cheap horns are about 90-95% as good in terms of playability as the horns they're 'modelled' on. And that's great. Fantastic even, considering that cheap horns in years gone by tended to be bland and turgid.
But if you're a player of a certain standard, the magic may well be in that 5-10%.
It's why some Selmer MkVIs (other pro-spec horns are available) are OK, some are slightly unremarkable...and some are exceptional.

It's virtually impossible to point to a specific feature that accounts for that little extra, but it becomes clearly apparent when you play 'identical' horns back-to-back.
 

Colin the Bear

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Well. I'm only 80% as good as I should be, so a 90% horn is still better than me. ;)
Can a beginner get into the 90/100% zone?
After a couple of decades playing a B&H Lafleur it was a blessed relief to blow the G4M.
I've had a blow of all sorts. Only a Yani impressed me. Still looking for a battered one to do up. :)
 

Stephen Howard

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Can a beginner get into the 90/100% zone?
That's a really good question!

I would say yes - on occasion.
I've had clients in who (shall we say) have more money than chops who've been out and bought quite expensive horns with barely a year to two's worth of playing under their belt. More often than not they exhibit all the usual beginner problems (unstable tone, indifferent tuning, unmanageable mouthpiece choice etc.) - but every once in a while a client will describe in detail the tonal response that led them to their choice...and it's pretty much what I would be looking for were I trying a new horn out.
But - it's rare...and most people are just wowed by the bling and the price - and perhaps the sales pitch.
Not that it's a huge problem. A good horn is a good horn - and, for the most part, an inexperienced player will grow into the horn they've purchased.

On the flip side I've had experienced players in who've bought top-drawer horns and then decided (some months later) that it's not really what they were looking for.

As I always say - if it doesn't slap you in the face...walk away.
 

squeak

Member
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363
My friend, a professional rock & roll saxplayer., had to buy a new better neck to his Selmer ser III tenor. He had the same problem with his Mk VI neck. A tech made a brace on that one. So what is a professional sax?
If the problem is pulldown, then it apparently results from the player putting too much force on neck and horn. I visited a shop where they custom manufacture neck and had done some tests. I believe it was 18 Kg suspended from the end that a MKVI neck could handle before it bent. However, this is not much in comparison what a player jumping or moving vigorously with a horn can apply in terms of force.
 
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Ivan

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To circle back around, after getting to try a few including the Series III I ended up with a Gently Used Yamaha yas-62III that came with the 62 and custom V1 neck for half the price of the Custom EX

Reflecting back on finding and trying the Custom EX, sending it back and then travelling many hours to try out other saxes, what tips would you give to someone looking for a replacement horn?
 

MrJ

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Missouri
Reflecting back on finding and trying the Custom EX, sending it back and then travelling many hours to try out other saxes, what tips would you give to someone looking for a replacement horn?
I would say that the most expensive sax you can afford may not necessarily be the best for you. As others said, play them and decide based off what feels best to you. Buying used in excellent or mint condition can save you quite a bit of money and like in my case it sometimes comes with extras like a second neck. The bore on the V1 neck is too wide for me right now but that won't always be the case.
 

thomsax

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If the problem is pulldown, then it apparently results from the player putting too much force on neck and horn. I visited a shop where they custom manufacture neck and had done some tests. I believe it was 18 Kg suspended from the end that a MKVI neck could handle before it bent. However, this is not much in comparison what a player jumping or moving vigorously with a horn can apply in terms of force.
Before a neck collapses they often turns oval. And this results in bad intonation/pitch.
 

Colin the Bear

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I do wonder about newish second hand horns. If it was that good, why did someone part with it?
Then again the internal patina of an old horn may be adding a little je ne sai quoi.
 

DavidUK

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I guess it's mostly folk who relish the idea of playing a sax, buy a cheap one, or an expensive one, play it a few times and then find it's not for them after all.
 

squeak

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363
I do wonder about newish second hand horns. If it was that good, why did someone part with it?
Then again the internal patina of an old horn may be adding a little je ne sai quoi.

I guess it's mostly folk who relish the idea of playing a sax, buy a cheap one, or an expensive one, play it a few times and then find it's not for them after all.
I believe for some, the difference between an entry level and a professional sax may not dent budgets noticeably. It is not like a cello, bassoon or piano, where the difference is huge, at least to folks with average incomes.
 

Dr G

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Northern California
I do wonder about newish second hand horns. If it was that good, why did someone part with it?
Then again the internal patina of an old horn may be adding a little je ne sai quoi.

Do you mean “newish” as in “recently purchased” or “looks like new”?

Some of the horns that I have sold look like new after 10+ years because I have maintained them and taken care of their finishes. If I buy a truly vintage horn, it is usually with a good finish, and when I sell it several years later, it is also in good mechanical fettle.

Why do I ever sell such great horns? I periodically notice that I have an accumulation of horns that surpass my needs. I am, in fact, downsizing (again) now, with the hope of staying that way, at least for a while.
 

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