Meinel & Herold: Vintage German Saxophones

There is a curious little alto on eBay ATM. This Meinel & Herold alto saxophone may be bordering on the antique range of the vintage spectrum. (Meaning that it might be close to 100 years old. It’s hard to say.)

Meinel & Herold alto sax, vintage saxophone, old German saxohone, G.H. Hüller saxophone, stencil saxophone

Source: Freddys-Trodelshop on eBay.com

This Meinel & Herold alto saxophone is a very, very simple horn. Not only does it lack MOP key touches and any kind of rollers, but it also has a very limited key range, as well as none of the extra keys that give saxophonists alternative fingerings.

This alto resembles some of the new altos made for children today, to get them used to playing saxophone. Another horn it reminds me of is the Buescher Academy.

Regardless of how far removed it might be from a modern, or even a vintage pro model saxophone, this Meinel & Herold alto is an interesting snapshot into the history of German saxophone manufacturing during the first few decades of the 20th century. Even Oscar Adler’s most basic Ocu and Relda models were more advanced than this alto.

In order to better understand where this sax comes from, a bit of background into Meinel & Herold Musikinstr. Fabrik Klingenthal would be helpful. Fortunately, I have some vintage catalogue pages that will help with this understanding.

Inside cover page of Meinel & Herold Musikinstrumente-, Sprechapparate-, Harmonikafabrik und -Verand Klingenthal Catalogue Issue XXVIII

This is the inside cover page of the 28th issue of the Meinel & Herold catalogue. Unfortunately, the catalogue is not dated. What we do know from this catalogue however, is that the company was founded in 1893. We also know that they specialized in the mail order sales (Versand) of musical instruments (Musikinstrumente), gramophones (Sprechapparate), and that they were a harmonica factory (Harmonikafabrik).

Just a note about the German word “Sprechapparate”: This is an antiquated term, and if you were to try to find it through a translation program, you would likely not find it. (At least not an accurate one.) 😉  Much like what I seem to write about, it is on the vintage side of the spectrum. 😉  Googling it though, you’ll find some images, and even a German website dedicated to Sprechapparate from days gone by.

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Looking at the saxophone pages from this Meinel & Herold catalogue is a rather confusing exercise. What we see are drawings of saxophones that seem to bear no relation to each other. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that they were perhaps made by different German manufacturers.

Meinel & Herold was quite opinionated in their descriptions and advice. A couple of things to remember here: Yes, Germans can be somewhat more assertive than other cultures. 😉

However, the other thing going on here is that this was the early days of catalogues and print advertisements. Consumers were not used to catalogues, and didn’t have access to information like we have today, thus needed a lot of information to make an informed choice. This is not unique to German catalogues. Looking through North American catalogues of the same vintage you will see similar images and descriptions.

Seite 23 (page 23)

Saxophones

These instruments have introduced themselves very well over the past few years. Saxophones are not only found in jazz bands. World renowned symphony orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony and the Boston Symphony Orchestra utilize saxophones. Unfortunately even these instruments are offered by some musically ignorant parties in such a quality that it defies description: unclean tone, shoddy workmanship, and with regards to quality, relatively expensive. Saxophones especially must be built with special love and expertise, and it is those people that we avail ourselves of.

Our saxophones’ build, ease of play, and cleanliness of tone

Until now has been praised by almost all purchasers, and it is this customer satisfaction that has urged us on to provide excellence. It is always advisable when purchasing a saxophone, to buy the ideal model, since the better instruments are capable of producing a much better tone. We’ve often found that customers, after they’ve played a simpler instrument a number of months, approached us because they wanted to trade their horn for a better one. Naturally we could not trade a used instrument for a better one.

No risk buying

We provide each saxophone with an 8 day trial period. If you find during this time that the instrument in question does not work for your purposes, we are prepared to take back the instrument and refund your money. The return must be done within the 8 days of the receipt of the undamaged instrument.

Our saxophones are top quality German master workmanship

We have interviewed various qualified musicians and found out that in no way should our instruments be made by foreign manufacturers. However, our saxophones are significantly less expensive than foreign instruments. Try one of our saxophones. Unlike so many purchases, you will not regret this one.

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Saxophones with a simple design, simple mechanics, with Bb trill key [bis Bb?], alto and tenor with high E key, wooden mouthpiece, complete with neck strap, lyre, etc., nickel plated.

  • Model #: 1306 sopranino in Eb – straight
  • Model #: 1307: soprano in C or Bb – straight
  • Model #: 1307a: soprano in Bb – curved
  • Model #: 1308: alto in Eb
  • Model #: 1309: tenor in C (C melody)
  • Model #: 1310 tenor in Bb
  • Model #: 1311 baritone in Eb

To clarify: for some buyers it is unclear which saxophone would be the right one for their purposes. The descriptions below will make your choice easier.

The sopranino is used in larger wind orchestras beside the Eb piston, since the higher sounds of the saxophone carry better than those of the piston.

The C or Bb soprano is special to the saxophone orchestra, and are really only used if at least an alto and/or tenor are being utilized. In jazz band if there is only one saxophone, the player switches between alto and/or tenor.

The Eb alto is the most used instrument, and it is the first instrument in jazz bands. When newly acquiring a saxophone, the alto is always the right choice.

The tenor saxophone can be used in place of the alto, and in many cases one finds it being used as a household instrument. The tenor is larger than the alto, and therefore has a deeper tone.

The baritone and bass saxophones are only used in large saxophone orchestras.

Seite 24 (page 24)

Quality German workmanship! Astonishingly low prices.

Our saxophones have a guaranteed pure tone, evenness of scale, and comfortable and flawless key mechanisms.

100,000 instruments sold in the past year, as well as 20,000 unsolicited thank you letters from within the musical community, proves our competitiveness.

Information about even better saxophones, as well as accessory items, are available upon request.

Note:

Just a side note here. The saxophones shown here, with the exception of the bass, look quite different than those from page 23. The left palm keys of the soprano, alto, and tenor, as well as the bell to body brace on the alto and tenor, all look the same as those we see in the G.H. Hüller horns. The bass on the other hand, looks like a hybrid between the saxes on page 23 & 24.

Either G.H. Hüller did not build the less expensive horns, or if they did, they used a key guard design for the Meinel and Herold horns that was not seen on their regular production horns. The Mercedes-style key guards we see on the alto and tenor below, are typical of G.H. Hüller saxophones of a particular era.

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Orchester Saxophones

Bb and C trill keys, Bb can be played with either the left or right index finger, automatic octave mechanism, 4 rubber rollers, range to low B, alto and tenor keyed to high F with E key for right index finger, registered pad system, mother of pearl key touches, wooden mouthpiece, nickel plated.

  • Model #: 1312 soprano in Bb, C, or Eb – straight
  • Model #: 1312a soprano in Bb or C – curved
  • Model #: 1313 alto in Eb
  • Model #: 1314 tenor in C (C melody)
  • Model #: 1314 tenor in Bb
  • Model #: 1315 baritone in Eb
  • Model #: 1316 bass in Bb

Soloisten Saxophones

Of excellent quality, with the most common, modern improvements

Bb and C trill keys, Bb can be played with either the left or right index finger, automatic octave mechanism, 6 rollers, F# and G# trill keys, F# key, range to low Bb, soprano, alto, tenor, bass, and baritone keyed to high F, fork Eb, front F key, registered pad system, finely engraved bell, mother of pearl key touches.

Alto and tenor saxophones with microtuner.

  • Model #: 1317 soprano in Bb, C, or Eb – straight
  • Model #: 1317a soprano in Bb or C – curved
  • Model #: 1318 alto in Eb
  • Model #: 1319 tenor in C (C melody)
  • Model #: 1319a tenor in Bb
  • Model #: 1320 baritone in Eb
  • Model #: 1321 bass in Bb

Saxophone models 1317-1321 are excellent, and we highly recommend choosing one of these models. If you acquire a saxophone, it is a good idea to always buy the most complete or perfect one. You will never regret spending the extra money.

Solisten Saxophones 1317-1321 are available in the following qualities:

  • Quality III: Pristine workmanship, nickel plated, finely engraved bell.
  • Quality II: Superb master workmanship, matt silver plated, finely engraved bell.
  • Quality I: In all aspects perfection, matt silver plated, bell interior burnished gold plated, bell especially finely engraved.

Alrighty then, has anyone’s head exploded yet? Mine certainly did. Let’s let this soak in for a minute….

There were a number of things that immediately jumped out at me. In no particular order, they included:

  1. The cheapest saxophones that Meinel & Harold sold were keyed to low Bb, while the entry-level of the better level were only keyed to low B.
  2. Meinel & Harold sold 2 models of bass saxophones!
  3. Although the key guards of the bass saxophone (1321) more closely resemble those of the least expensive horns pictured (1308-1311), rather than the G.H. Hüller-style of its model contemporaries, the bow guard of the bass appears the same as those of the other Solisten model horns.
  4. The Solisten model bass saxophone was keyed to high F!
  5. Yes, there were curved C-pitched soprano saxophones available. I’m not sure I’ve actually ever seen one before.
  6. The alto currently for sale on eBay, has no rollers or MOP key touches, therefore I would hazard a guess that it predates this catalogue by a few years.
  7. This alto however, does have the Mercedes style key guards we do see on G.H. Hüller saxophones. Therefore, it is possible that this alto is a very early G.H. Hüller.

Getting back to the Meinel & Harold alto from eBay….

This little alto branded Meinel & Herold Musikinstr. Fabrik Klingenthal is an enigma for sure. Here are the rest of the pics of this quirky little horn…

The serial # (19949) of this Meinel & Herold alto sax currently on eBay does fit into the G.H. Hüller serial # conventions. Unfortunately, I have not come across any online or printed serial # charts for this vintage German brand, and the horns in my G.H. Hüller galleries don’t all have serial numbers.

That said, when comparing/contrasting the features of this Meinel & Herold alto sax to the altos in my G.H. Hüller gallery, the origins of this quirky little alto seem to become clear. This alto appears to be just a very stripped down version of a G.H. Hüller alto saxophone that Meinel & Herold ordered—presumably as an entry-level saxophone, since it was only keyed to low B.

This Meinel & Herold alto sax is in remarkably good shape, and still has a few of its original accessories. If owning such a piece of vintage (antique?) German saxophonia appeals to you, you’d better be living in Germany, or have friends or family who can buy or take delivery of it on your behalf. The seller seems pretty determined to only sell to someone in the country.

This rather impractical Meinel & Herold alto sax has a BIN price of €299.00, which eBay calculates to be approx. $321.32 US. The seller will entertain offers, so perhaps you might be lucky and get it for less.

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is www.bassic-sax.info. If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!

© 2017, Helen. All rights reserved.

Helen

Helen Kahlke is a professional horn player and sax teacher who lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia. She plays soprano, alto, C melody, tenor, baritone, and bass saxophones.

5 Comments:

  1. Hi Helen,

    Thanks for your continued research.

    Just one small thing.

    alto and tenor with fork Eb

    IMHO this refers to the the right hand side key for high E (as explained on page 24); in other words, the soprano and baritone are keyed to high Eb.

    In another head ‘asploding’ detail, the bargain sop appears to be keyed to low Bb after all.

    :wtf:

    paul

    • Thanks Paul! I must have lost my mind about the high E key. Corrected it.

      I’m thinking about doing a post about C.A. Wunderlich. I read the 4 or so catalogue pages a couple of days ago; began translating one of the pages; and then starting throwing up in a mouth a bit. 😉

      It is just so much work, and it really so easy to screw up one or the other translations by accidently jumping a line in the text, or by flipping from one page to another while linking to the images.

      I started getting interested in the C.A. Wunderlich in a big way b/c of the F. Köhler horns that are stencilled Cea, so down the rabbit hole I went….

  2. This type of 20 keys saxophone has been made for a long period (150 years) by several factories.
    It is a model first made by Adolphe Sax with 2 octave keys and only one B-flat key (right hand palm).
    The G# key is on the back and not connected to the low B or low C#.
    I have one made by Evette and Schaeffer from 1926. They were often used in high pitched fanfares with cornets, trumpets, trombones, tuba’s and saxophones.
    A member of my family played this type of key system saxophone as his first instrument in a small town harmony band in Italy around 1970 (low pitch).
    I have seen some recent saxophones of this 20 key model from India, so this design is used for approximately 150 years.
    May by Kumar knows if they are still made.

    • In 2000 I saw a saxophone similar to this, from India, for sale—and yes, it was unused at the time, and being sold as “new”—at Long & McQuade’s flagship store in Toronto, ON. L&M is Canada’s largest chain of music stores, and the store I was in TO was, at the time anyway, the largest in the country.

      I looked at the horn, and was interested in buying it just for fun to hang on my wall, but like most of L&M’s stuff, it was way too over-priced. I forgot now how much they wanted, but it was well over the $200 range that I would have been willing to spend on a piece of junk to hang on my wall. The staff ATT laughed about the horn. They knew it was junk, but they were powerless to do anything about the price.

      • There is a story behind these Indian junk saxophones.
        The British army bands introduced the saxophone in India in the colonial time.
        Probably the 20 key model.

        When India became independent it adopted the British style army bands.
        The instruments where made in India, styled after old army instruments.
        Not very good and always with very thick bright red pads.
        I guess that the present old style Indian saxes come from the same ateliers.

        The marching band morphed into wedding bands.
        And these traditional wedding bands morphed into other thing, such as this fusion band:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V14g3gWy4dY

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