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Short cut to the FAQs

I get lots of emails, as well as comments posted to my blog, from people requesting information on horns they have. Sometimes they have had these saxophones a long time and have decided to part with them because they no longer play. Other times they have either found these horns in their attics or have inherited them—or so they say—or they have bought them for cheap on eBay and want to know more about them. In still other cases the details vary from the examples I’ve given here, but in all cases the reason that the person writes to me is the same: They want to know more information about a specific saxophone that they have.

I do my best to answer these emails and comments in a timely fashion, but as my website has gotten busier, and as my life has gotten more complicated, I admit some emails, and perhaps even comments, have fallen through the cracks. If yours is one of them, I do apologize.

Before I have the chance to answer your question, or if you read this before you contact me, please check out these helpful tips that I always give people enquiring about saxophones that they would like to know more about:

Looking For Saxophone Information?

Looking For A Valuation On Your Horn?

saxophone neck, tenor sax, sax neck brace

A French, stencil tenor that I researched for a woman who turned out to be an eBay dealer.

Sometimes I get emails from what turns out to be dealers, who are looking for information on particular horns that they have in their possession. Since I don’t charge for the time I put into research, I would at least like these dealers to be honest about who they are. I get annoyed when I see the horn I spent time researching in an eBay store.

Which saxophone should I buy?

Another thing people ask me is what brand of saxophone they should buy, or if a specific horn is a good one.You know what? I can’t say with 100% certainty.

I can give you broad generalities, and maybe give you the histories of the brand, but since I don’t know the individual horn in question, and I don’t know you or your playing level, I can’t really give you any concrete advice. My best advice is to work with your teacher and/or with a local tech to determine whether or not a particular horn is right for you.

alto saxophone, bell, neck, Pierret, silver plated, red cloth background

A very beautiful, but very difficult to play, Pierret, Concerto With Virtuor model alto sax. The tone is wonderful, but the control it takes is extreme.

Although I love vintage saxophones and play them almost exclusively (the only exception being my B&S Medusa baritone), vintage saxophones are not for everyone. And they are certainly not for beginners.

Since we can now find almost anything on the Internet, a selection of vintage horns is available like never before. While many of these horns may be very good, many of them are crap. They were crap when they were made, and they are still crap now.

With the vintage sax renaissance that has swept the sax-playing public of late, inexperienced—and even experienced players, for that matter—can easily end up with crap horns from yesteryear. The only way to determine if a sax is good or a P.O.C., is to actually hold it in your hands; look at it carefully; play it; and/or take it to a tech you trust and who is knowledgeable about vintage saxophones. Then, and only then, will you know what kind of vintage horn you have: a quality horn or a P.O.C.

saxophone, alto sax, silver plated,

Mystery alto that appeared on the German eBay site in May 2011. Its pedigree is completely unknown at this time.

There are so many obscure brands and stencils out there that it almost impossible to figure them out. Also, company histories are getting lost, or are already lost, so researching them is not even possible.

Furthermore, these vintage saxophones were all hand made, so there was a variation from horn to horn. Just because company X’s serial #18010 was a killer horn, doesn’t mean #18011 will be.

Another thing to consider is how the thing was treated throughout its life. Some horns have been abused. Some were closet horns. Horns that have been rebuilt 3, 4, or 5 times, and have had extensive body work done, are not necessarily going to be as good as another one that hasn’t had as much playing time, or abuse.

The opposite can be true as well. Some horns sat in the closet because they were not very good, while horns that have been rebuilt 4 times and/or relacquered, will still offer a better tone, more even scale, and almost perfect intonation. A rebuilt warrior might be the one with the sound you’ve had in your head, but haven’t been able to achieve with any other axe.

All this to say, in vintage horns there are no absolutes, which makes it impossible for me to give anyone any real advice on which horn to buy. As I mentioned earlier, at best I can speak in generalities, or provide brand history.

In summary, here is the best advice I can give you, & links to where you can find the answers to the most FAQs:

Looking For Help Or Info When Shopping For A Saxophone?

  • Buying a saxophone should be a fun, exciting experience, but it can also be agonizing, or fraught with uncertainty. I have written a couple of articles that I hope will take some of this uncertainty out of the whole buying experience.
  • Buying a saxophone in-person is always the best way to go. To help you with this, I’ve written a magazine-length article, fully illustrated with colour photos, which will show you what to look for, and watch out for. Tips On How To Buy A Used Saxophone also includes downloadable check-lists that you can take with you when you go horn shopping.
  • But what do you do if you live somewhere where there are hardly any saxophones? Or if you absolutely, positively can’t find the horn you want locally? In that case shopping online might be your only answer. To help you try to avoid the lemons out there—and there are lots of those in the sax world—I’ve written Buying Online.

Wanting Advice On What Brand Or Which Saxophone To Buy?

  • Work with your instructor. Don’t have one? Get a good one. Really, it’s the best investment you’ll ever make in becoming a better saxophone player.
  • Work with a tech whom you trust and who knows vintage horns.
  • Just because a horn is called a vintage, doesn’t make it one. There are lots of old student model horns that people are trying to pass off as vintage. A true vintage horn is one that was built as a pro model horn in its day.
  • Check out this article I wrote about vintage vs. modern. It will answer some of the most FAQ I get.
  • You can’t always tell the condition of a horn by photos. Good photos and a good eBay rating and feedback are good indicators, but shit still happens. Also, instruments get damaged in shipping all the time.

Looking For Saxophone Information?

Looking For A Valuation On Your Horn?

And to be fair to me, if you’re a dealer, or you’re planning to sell the horn, please tell me in your email.

I do not currently charge for my time, but I do accept donations that go towards hosting and maintaining my site. These things are not free, and since my site is non-commercial and free of advertising, all the hosting costs and tech support costs come out of my pocket. Therefore all donations are greatly appreciated! Thank you.

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