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Saxophones Talking Vintage: What do you class as a Pro Sax?!

Melissa

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This is a bit of a debate I suppose and we all have different opinions, some of us play vintage some modern, I prefer vintage... only because the only a handful of more modern saxes I came across were 1970's-80's-90's? student. The ROC Buffet evette alto, Roc Buffet Tenor and an Artemis Soprano, which I have to admit was quite sweet, until I came a across the York Soprano- back on ebay now, I am sure it is the same one.

For me that was a wonderful sop, even though a York made York USA Line.. it was the sweetest sounding angelic sop I have have had the pleasure to own.. Student.. but great for the old Jazz, blues and even Orchestral if you wish.

Yes I do sell vintage saxes, but when these saxes were made, circa 1920 and so forth, they were top of the range for their time, I do not think they had actual "Pro" horns back then, only the former. But with this in mind, all the top musicians played them, and they were professionals, so why is it many today do not see a lot of them as a Pro horn? They sound better than a lot of the modern ones.

I was asked a question, do I have any Pro horns for sale... Er, in my opinon, Dolnet, Pierret, Kohlert Pennsylvania Specials-full pearl all top class horns, you would have to spend a lot more the get the same standard of horn today..again, in my opinion. Don't be too hard on me, I just love vintage, after being into Antiques for very very long time, it is difficult to see beauty in much which is modern.

But again, then there is that sound, so are they Pro horns, or just Pro sounding horns?!:D
 

Ads

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My take on the "Is it a Pro Horn" Depends on whether you mean in Reality or as in Elite-ness ........ Pro means can you make a living from playing it, will it allow that (or allowed it in its day ) without falling apart or need re-regulating every week due to bendy or poorly made keywork .... the old Budget Yamahas are 100% Pro ready in this respect despite being labelled "Student" horns, 7 series Jupiters the same and as a few have realised, Taiwan made Elkharts fit this Pro quality / Budget price bracket . I`m sure there are far better people here than me to list So called Pro horns which have issues and would not want to gig

I can see where you are getting at in one respect - a Director series Conn won`t be as dependable as an Artist series (especially if made in Mexico) and Budget Keilwerths aren`t made by Keilwerth now (may never have been) so doubtfully as gigable a real one .........

so it comes back to the question - What do we mean by Pro ? . the reality is that Pro doesn`t mean Silver bells and necks or covered in expensive unnecessary bling , it means a solid reliable horn which will take a licking and keep on ticking and a fair few are listed and priced in the budget sector.. sad part is that these won`t be accepted as "Pro" by those who are asking you , they don`t actually want a PRO Horn , they want a Top of the range Flagship horn and the two don`t necessarily mean the same thing ......
 

Saxdiva

Older, wiser, should know better....
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I would turn the question around when they call and ask what they think a 'Pro' horn is. Then when they describe it, you can say, yes I've plenty that do what you want!

A lot probably don't know and as Ads says, they're just looking for something they can show off with.

Surely Pro is about being well built with a great sound - if the player is capable of getting that great sound.

I'm guilty as described by Ads. I play a MKVI alto and a Yani SC991 sop. I have a Yani T9932J being sold by sax.co.uk. Solid silver bell & neck, bronze body with fantastic engraving. I also play a Gerald Albright Cannonball signature alto. All are most definitely 'Pro', top of the range horns which I feel privileged to own. I bought none of them because of the label - although I originally tried some MKVIs to see what the fuss was about and fell in love. To me it's about how they feel to play, how easy they make my job (and I need plenty of help) and the sound that I can achieve. In each case when I bought them, I tried several others and decided I would buy the one that looked and sounded best for me. I don't generally like older vintage saxes than 40s as ergonomically most are difficult for me. I am now getting to know them and how to get the best out of them.

Some people want the Pro horns because they somehow think they will make them sound better, or play better. Anything to shortcut the hard work of learning, which of course they don't. They want the known name vintage because that's all they've heard of.

I see and hear beauty in vintage and modern, and see and hear bad stuff (to my taste) from both. I like things to look nice (my MKVI does not) but above all I want to play not collect them or admire them, so sound is the key.
 
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DavidUK

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I'm loving vintage more and more.

Perhaps a Pro horn is a model which has been played by one or more well known Pro players, no matter when?
What better definition?
 

Nick Wyver

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A pro sax is one which doesn't get in the way of what you want to do with it. So it's in tune with good ergonomics, it's robust and it keeps working with little maintenance. Most vintage saxes (IMO) fail here. After that there's the sound and that is entirely personal preference and very little to do whether it's pro or not. FWIW I like the sound of modern saxes. I find most old ones rather dull.
 

DavidUK

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Think of a Buescher 400 TH&C or Conn 6M as an E-Type Jag?
Not very functional today, but still a wonder of its age.
 

jbtsax

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I would agree that the best of the vintage saxophones were the professional models in their day. Conn 6M's, 10M's, and 12 M's were used by the top players in the big bands as were the Bueschers, the King Super 20's and the Martins. One needs only look up some of the early ads for these brands to see they were played by the pros.

Once the Selmer SBA's and then the Mark VI's came on the scene with their improved ergonomics and intonation and high quality workmanship the scene began to change away from the American made saxes to those made in France. As the American Brands fell farther out of favor, the Japanese got involved making Yamaha and Yanagisawa. The German brands also came to America and made an impact. The American manufacturers who could no longer compete turned to making only student models---some of questionable quality to boot.

For a period of time there were clear differences between modern student model saxes and professional models. I am referring to the Bundy and Bundy II, Conn, Armstrong, YAS 23, and others. For the most part, student models did not have:

Removable Individual Key guards
Detachable Bell
Octave Key Rocker Assembly
Rib Mounted Posts
Adjusting Screws on Key Guards
Adjustable Oversize Thumb rest
Large Octave Thumb pad
Ribbed 3 Point Bell Brace
Adjustable G# Lever
High F#
Metal Pad Resonators
Fully Tilting L.H. Spatula
G#/Bis adjustment on separate arm
Stack Key Adjustment Screws
Removable Fork F# Guard
Blue Steel Springs
Adjustable Front F
Low B to C# Closing Arm

Then the Taiwan invasion happened. As their high end saxophones improved, so did their second and third line student horns that sold at modest prices. The difference though is that they began putting most, if not all of these "pro horn" features on their student models thereby blurring the lines between pro horns and student horns even more. That raises the question of whether a modern student horn with all of these added features is more of a professional sax than one of the great vintage models that plays with a great sound but lacks these features. I am seriously thinking of calling any sax that sells for over $2000 new or in restored condition a professional model and any sax that sells for less a student horn. What other criteria makes sense nowadays?
 

gladsaxisme

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I hadn't realised that E Type jags aren't functional today I thought they were still a wonder to drive even now despite being designed over 50 yrs ago
 

Colin the Bear

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My G4M has all those features and cost £200. It's standing up well to hard playing and turns heads lol.
 

kevgermany

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My '30s Kohlert is better built and nicer to play than the G4M sop - keys are better placed, lighter and move more freely. Despite being in dire need of replacement, the pads seal better and it doesn't go out of adjustment like the sop. Like Mel I prefer the sound. For me Selmer peaked sound wise with the SBA. But I'm clearly a heretic.
 

Ads

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Thats a long list John but most of it is either not vastly important or only relevant to repairers , lacking a lot of those adjustments on student horns may make them a pain to work on but it also means less to come loose on the road . The 1972 onwards bottom of the range Yamahas tick all the important ones like detachable bell (and bow), Selmer type octave lever, tilting LH table, Metal resonators and I`m sure the Yani made stencils did too..
 
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As has already been said, the gigging dependability of a horn separates pro horns from student horns
I have for many years used vintage horns and have been very happy with them however,they have been in the main,saxes that were produced before the 70s which is when I think standards dropped
 

gladsaxisme

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It really is a can of worms this pro student thing and like jbt says it's probably all about the various additional tweaks applied to the more costly saxes but when you think that the disparity in price between an entry level and a top of the range sax is in fact astronomical as there is probably very little difference in cost of manufacture but they can sell one as a Rolls Royce and the lesser can only be sold as a ford and there's more profit in bling these days, and build quality isn't about pro or student but purely about who's making it in the first place .....John
 

jbtsax

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Thats a long list John but most of it is either not vastly important or only relevant to repairers , lacking a lot of those adjustments on student horns may make them a pain to work on but it also means less to come loose on the road . The 1972 onwards bottom of the range Yamahas tick all the important ones like detachable bell (and bow), Selmer type octave lever, tilting LH table, Metal resonators and I`m sure the Yani made stencils did too..
I see your point. Some have to do with the comfort of holding/playing the sax and the ergonomics. Most have to do with features that facilitate the highest level of adjustment and regulation. This while being a boon to the professional repair tech also results in a sax that plays well and is highly dependable. My point is that it is all related and it is the sum of these features that makes it an outstanding instrument (if the bore has the right taper and the toneholes are in the correct positions).
 

Ads

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Yeah, the Nicities (which came in on budget saxes too later on and even some Pro horns lacked them) are great to enhance the experience but are not necessarily necessities which would stop a horn from being usable Professionally . basically Yamaha and Yanagisawa turned the "budget sax = fall to bits and poor to play" thing on its head hence why most 21s look like mine - Trashed and Thrashed .... but still playing like a dream .
 

DavidUK

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I hadn't realised that E Type jags aren't functional today I thought they were still a wonder to drive even now despite being designed over 50 yrs ago
No, they're not a wonder to drive, and neither is an Aston Martin DB7.
Perhaps functional was the wrong word. Rewarding?
 

thomsax

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Yes I do sell vintage saxes, but when these saxes were made, circa 1920 and so forth, they were top of the range for their time, I do not think they had actual "Pro" horns back then, only the former. But with this in mind, all the top musicians played them, and they were professionals, so why is it many today do not see a lot of them as a Pro horn? They sound better than a lot of the modern ones.

The professionals in the the 20's were among the first saxplayers that were recorded. So it's possible for us to listen to thier music today. Maybe pros in the 20's were thinking: The saxes back in 1894 were better? Maybe the saxes were better in those days? I've been listening to very old saxes and they sounds wierd to me. I know profesionals who is playing on old saxes from the 20's and they get paid for thier jobs as well.. The standard for the saxophone has been faster, "brighter" and louder through the years.
 

Melissa

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The professionals in the the 20's were among the first saxplayers that were recorded. So it's possible for us to listen to thier music today. Maybe pros in the 20's were thinking: The saxes back in 1894 were better? Maybe the saxes were better in those days? I've been listening to very old saxes and they sounds wierd to me. I know profesionals who is playing on old saxes from the 20's and they get paid for thier jobs as well.. The standard for the saxophone has been faster, "brighter" and louder through the years.

Yes that is a point, but it was early days back then and they did not have the range of instruments which are available today, and the music was wonderful, from my experiences, there are saxes that play sounds and tones, and there are saxes which have soul, are easily manipulated to tell a story with so much emphasis, but I probably have a preference to soulful,swing and such like.. Perhaps it is not about the sax, but the player.


 

Nick Wyver

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Perhaps it is not about the sax, but the player.

Indeed.

Preference for a particular saxophone sound is entirely subjective. No sax sounds "better" than any other. It might to you but it's likely that someone else will think entirely the opposite. You like the sound of old saxes whereas I think they sound awful compared to modern ones.
 
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