Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik GmbH Markneukirchen (VMI)

Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik GmbH Markneukirchen (VMI), B&S, logoFor the last few weeks I have been working a lot on developing the Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik GmbH Markneukirchen (VMI) section of my website. Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik GmbH Markneukirchen (VMI) is what VEB Blechblas- und Signal-Instrumenten-Fabrik (B&S) evolved into post-1989. In other words, VMI is what B&S became after Germany’s reunification.

Confused by all the long, German words yet? I don’t blame you. If you want, you can try to remember it this way: VEB & VMI. VEB came before VMI, since “E” comes before “M” in the alphabet.
Now that we have that bit of housekeeping cleared up, here’s an overview of what I’ve been working on, and what I’ve still got left to do.

Although my website is known as a primary source for vintage sax info, believe it or not, I am interested in some modern instruments. Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik GmbH Markneukirchen (VMI) is one of those modern companies that has caught my attention, since not only are they an evolution of a vintage brand, but because they produced some top-of-the-line, cutting-edge saxophones.

Sadly, VMI ceased saxophone production in 2005, but their legacy is one of fascinating and unique saxophones. Unfortunately, some of their lines were so poorly marketed through places like WWBW, that they were seen as budget horns, rather than the high-end, pro horns that they were. This did not help their cause.

What also didn’t help their cause, were stories of some quality control issues regarding tone hole heights and bell to bow tightness1. The company seemed to crank out so many horns, that sometimes things slipped through. For example, my Medusa bari had to have some of its tone holes filed when I first got it.

Given that there really are no English, and very few German, sources of Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik GmbH Markneukirchen (VMI) saxophone info, I decided that it would be in keeping with my website’s current tracking to research and write some pages about this company’s now-defunct sax production. Besides, in a few years, these horns will be vintage anyway. ;)

Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik GmbH Markneukirchen (VMI): Its history in condensed form

The Reader’s Digest version of the company’s history can be summed up as follows:

After the fall of the Berlin wall, VEB Blechblas- und Signal-Instrumenten-Fabrik (B&S) transitioned into the Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik GmbH Markneukirchen (VMI). Some sections of the national corporation that had been appropriated by the government were liberated once more, while others—such as Hüller—were closed down. After this point in time, VMI only produced standard brass instruments such as horns, trombones, tubas, trumpets, and saxophones.

Despite the company’s return to private ownership, VMI continued producing both Weltklang and B&S blue label horns for a few more years—some of which I have called transitional. It wasn’t until 1991, when they introduced the 2001 series, that it truly stepped onto the world stage as a saxophone maker.

The new Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik GmbH Markneukirchen (VMI) section that I am currently working on for my website, explores all the horns that were sold under the B&S label after VMI was created. So far I have researched and written about the Series 2001 and Codera model horns. Next up are the Guardala, Medusa, and 1000 Series horns.

In addition to the written pages, I have uploaded hundreds of new photos to the Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik GmbH gallery of Bassic Sax Pix. Currently I am in the process of inserting all the data related to the photos.

To help you get a better idea of how the old VEB’s horns morphed into the new VMI’s, I’ve created some graphics for the various categories of saxophones.

Weltklang Evolution

Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik GmbH Markneukirchen (VMI), B&S, Weltklang saxophones evolutionary chart

B&S AKA “Blue Label” Evolution

Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik GmbH Markneukirchen (VMI), B&S, blue label saxophones, B&S saxophones evolutionary chart

B&S Pro Horns

Prior to the 1989, B&S did not make what they consider professional model saxophones. After their evolution into VMI, the following were their pro lines, and production dates

Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik GmbH Markneukirchen (VMI), B&S pro models, professional model saxophone chart for VMI/B&S,

If you have a modern B&S saxophone that you would like to see included in the gallery, please send me an email. Thanks!

I also want to give a big shout out to Dave Kessler from Kessler & Sons. He generously sent me all the photos he took over the years when his store was an authorized B&S dealer.

If you’re in the market for a new horn, check out his shop. I have played a few Selmers that he sold, and I know that if I’m ever in the market for a new horn, Dave will be my go-to guy.

1 June 3, 2003 comment from Wolf Codera on SOTW regarding the Codera Model saxophones sold by WWBW.

…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!

Henri Selmer Paris Bass Sax: Boiler Room

paris, peace symbol, Eifel tower,Given the tragic events in Paris last week, I was deciding what to do with this video. I had planned to publish it today, but then wondered if I should. In the end I decided that yes, yes I should. As life slowly returns to normal in Paris today, it is with my deepest condolences and respect, that I offer up the following video that Henri Selmer Paris posted on its YouTube site late last month.

Henri Selmer Paris released this video for the 2015 SaxOpen World Saxophone Congress, in Strasbourg. The video features: bass saxophonist Frédéric Gastard, percussionists Martin Deutsch, Christophe Grezes, Florent Milhaud, and Jérôme Selmer on various unfinished bass saxophone bits, and Jean-François Charmard on chalumeau.

Henri Selmer Paris logoNow as a bass saxophone player I am of two minds about this piece of work. Technically I am impressed by Frédéric Gastard’s playing, and I love some of the multiphonic stuff he does. It gives credibility to the “chicken choking”—as it is referred to in our house—that I do on my horn. Having played with only a drummer once, I can tell you it’s incredibly difficult to pull off. This was fantastic.

That said, why was this Henri Selmer Paris bass saxophone relegated to the boiler room? Sure it gives this whole thing a kind of postmodern feel, but really, this entire thing would have worked better, and been less insulting to bass saxophones, and their players—since we seem to be forever striving for credibility in the eyes of composers and even our peers—had the musicians been dressed in steampunk attire.

Think about it for a minute: The setting pretty much could have passed for steampunk. All Frédéric, Martin, Christophe, Florent, and Jérôme would have had to have done is dress in something like this…

Steampunk_outfit_mask, arm, gun, ammo belt

“Wave Gotik Treffen” Leipzig/Germany Alexander Schlesier Source: en.wikipedia.org

Or maybe something like this…

Kyle-cassidy-steampunk, steampunk models

Steampunks – models Liza James and Jared Axelrod. Photography by: KyleCassidy Source: en.wikipedia.org

Although admittedly, we don’t know if any of the musicians have the legs to pull of that skirt. ;)

In all seriousness though, I think a themed video would have showcased the music better. Come on Henri Selmer Paris, splurge a bit and hire a set designer the next time you want to do something like this. You’re in Paris after all. There are lots of highly creative people there who could have done an amazing job with this.

…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!

Saxophone Urn: I Know You’re Just Dying To Get One

This morning I was looking at some stuff on eBay, and I happened to notice something that was a bit, um, how shall I say it, unusual. It was a saxophone urn…

saxophone urn, wooden urn

Source: inthelighturns.com

The ad appeared as one of those suggestions that pop up from time to time in some eBay ads. When I clicked on the link I was taken to the website of In The Light Urns™ Cremation Urns, Jewelry and Keepsakes. There I found a form to fill out so that I could order my very own saxophone urn.

Besides having up to four lines of engraving I could fill out—and a choice of wide fancy or tall script—I was also informed that the urn volume was 250 cubic inches. Now I don’t how much space cremated human remains take up, so I was relieved to read further on down the page that it was indeed a “full sized urn”.

The company describes the urn as follows:


The Saxophone Wood Urn is a beautiful handmade poplar wood urn, part of the Forever Music Urn© Series of urns, and made in the USA. This miniature saxophone instrument is made with attention to the smallest detail and has a golden brass finish.

Size & Measurements:

The Saxophone Wood Urn measures 9″ x 9″ x 4″ is bottom loading and is a full sized urn.

Engraving Details:

Each urn has a choice of two laser engraving styles, choose either Tall Script or Wide Fancy which are finished with a gold fill for a sharp elegant contrast. Here is an example of what we can engrave:

In Loving Memory
Thomas “Tommy” Smith
April 23, 1945 – June 13, 2014
Beloved Husband, Father & Friend

Additional Features:

*Made in the USA
*Exclusive Music Urn Line
*Professionally Laser Engraved

The cost of this saxophone urn is $299.00. This got me thinking: I don’t want an alto saxophone adorning my urn box. Alto is my least favourite saxophone. Could I order this in a tenor, baritone, or bass version?

This got me thinking further, do I have some saxophone paraphernalia box or another that would make an appropriate urn? Mmm… Would cardboard do, or does it have to be wooden?

Then I had a brilliant idea… What about something metal: specifically a saxophone.

How to make your own real saxophone urn

  1. Take a saxophone and have all the keys soldered shut.
  2. Seal the bell off with a piece of metal as well.
  3. Place the ashes into the hollow tube.
  4. Solder the neck on, and seal the neck opening off with a piece of metal.
  5. Then just place the urn/horn in a sax stand and you’re all done.
  6. Optional: decorate the saxophone urn with festive lights and you’ll still be part of holidays even after you’re gone.

Disclaimer: This decoration is not a saxophone urn, rather just a wall decoration with festive Christmas lights. This 2003 holiday decor from our home in Fredericton, NB, is however, what inspired my idea for a real saxophone urn.

Christmas tree, saxophone as wall decoration, Christmas lights, tree ornaments, bubble lights

I don’t know how many cubic inches are available in the bores of alto, tenor, or baritone saxophones, but I bet that human remains could easily be contained in at least a tenor. Perhaps an alto could even hold a small adult. Most alto players also play soprano, so a person could have their ashes divided into two saxophones: an alto and soprano. Hey, it’s just a suggestion.

Maybe there is a use for all those horns on eBay yet: saxophone urns! Then they could actually be turned into something useful… Hey, I’m just saying… :)

…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!