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Saxophones Upgrading Saxophones to Pro model

Stephen Howard

Well-Known Member
I have a YTS 23 tenor saxophone. I have been playing saxophone for 7 months and have read many posts about upgrading to a professional instrument. Most posts say that the tone is from the player not the horn. Next the post say that the setup changes tone before the horn does.

The tone comes from the player. The mouthpiece helps the player to achieve that tone - and then comes the horn. A good player can get his or her tone from any horn (with their own mouthpiece), but the right horn for them will make it less work to obtain that tone.
Pete Thomas sounds like Pete Thomas on his Rampone. When I play it, I sound like me...but I have to work that little bit harder to do so.

I am starting to catch on to playing somewhat and my tone is improving, but not where I would like it to be. I am also having a great time with it. My horn works perfectly well. But I am curious as to whether I would sound better with a better horn and could progress faster.

The key statement here is "but not where I would like it (the tone) to be."
Were this statement made by an experienced player then I'd be willing to suggest that such-and-such a horn might give them that last little bit that they need...though even then that would have to be on the understanding that they'd been through a number of mouthpieces.

My question is this. If people say that it is the player not the horn responsible for the sound then why don't people all play the student horns that they started with? :confused:

The truth of the matter is that a large percentage of the sax-playing populace would probably sound just the same on their expensive horns as they did on their cheaper ones.
What a pro horn gives you are 'nuances' - just a little extra here and there that puts the icing on the cake - and in a strange kind of way there's a lot of truth in the phrase "If you have to ask, you don't need it".
Like Jules said, there's a need for that 'fifth gear'...but that only of any use to you if you're able to drive a horn that well...if you're still having trouble with your three-point-turns you're not going to get much use out of a fifth gear.

There are two ways to upgrade. The first is just to buy the horn that you think you want. This gives you a hefty feel-good factor hit - but once that wears off you're more-or-less back to where you started...searching for the tone.
The second way is to know precisely what it is you want to gain from a new horn - and just as importantly, what you don't want to lose. You will also need the ability to play the horn and assess how it will 'grow' with you (a bit like buying a pair of shoes that might seem a bit snug in the shop, but you know they'll relax a bit over time to give you the perfect fit).

I've been playing my 23 for over 20 years now - and despite having worked at pro standard for many years I can honestly say that I'm still nowhere near finding the limits of the horn. I could certainly justify changing it - but only on the grounds that having something different would present some new challenges that might serve to kick-start the hard work that comes from shifting off that plateau that separates a decent player from a really good one.
I was talking about just this issue this with Pete Effamy last night (a very, very fine player), and from our conversations with top-level players the conclusion we'd both reached is that there are no short cuts...and you can't buy your way to the top.

So I'm gonna go for recommending you stick with the 23 - maybe think about your mouthpiece choice at some point - and put the money you saved from your GAS attack into some lessons from a serious player/teacher.
And when you can put your finger on precisely what it is you want/need to change - and when you know what you're not prepared to lose - get yourself off to a horn shop and have some fun.



Well-Known Member
Skabertawe, South Wales
So the Thread title should be changed to "Re: Upgrading Mouthpieces to Pro Model" or same with "Reeds" as the central motif. I have yet to upgrade one of my horns, apart from changing my Tenor from Pro to Pro, for a fundamentally different sound palette, which has been achieved quite significantly to my satisfaction.

Having a choice of mouthpieces and reeds on all my saxes I can begin to tell what my fundamental sound/tone is, and what I have to change in order to have a significantly different vibe emerging. When I have tried several "student" saxes the sound that emerges is fundamentally what I know and want to produce, but I can tell that it is not quite right - even though it may sound good to someone else's ears.

Reed wise I usually play a French filed reed for Jazz (Rigotti Gold, MarcaJazz, Alexander DC), and an American cut (Alexander NY or Superial) for Rock, Funk, Blues. When I do this I am consciously having to adapt my core sound/tone to achieve my own concept of what I want to produce.

Hence I would conclude that we do develop a core sound, but can change equipment to adapt that core sound in ways that we desire, potentially ending up with a favourite tonal result which we may label our "true tone"

old git

Tremendous Bore
Young Stevie,

Cheque must be in the post before I'd address that nice Mr.Howard in that form.

First of all, try to take more care with car similes. There is no such thing as a turn in the road, it is turn the car round by means of forward and reverse gears to allow for long cars in very narrow roads and fifth gears are useless as the F1 boys are on the rev limiter if they are following other vehicles on long straights within the aerodynamic tow area in seventh.

Having bored you into a quiescent state, providing your sax has been set up by technicians with the care and skills of Stephen and Griff, any change of instrument is an attempt to short cut the hard work of improvement. Mea culpa and it is very hard to say, "It's made no difference. I was an idiot to shell out for it."

Sorry to wreck your business Jules and Birdman but I just wanted to stir it up a bit..>:)

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