Conn baritone advice


Old King Log
Staff member
A friend of mine, or rather the wife of a friend of mine owns an old beater of a Conn baritone. He had complained of it being a high pitch horn, but I got to examine it for the first time this evening. The finish is mottled and flaking, but there was very clearly marked a "L" in the pitch marking location. I have not played the horn, but I noticed that there was a cheap "Jazz" mouthpiece in the case.

The complaint that he has (and he is an experienced sax and flute player) is that she comes out so sharp when she plays the horn that he is convinced that it is a mismarked horn.

This horn had the last octave key on the neck - that's all that I remember about the horn in detail.

My questions are:

• Is there a tone hole to tone hole measurement that I can reference that will tell me that it is in fact a low pitch horn?

• What mouthpieces work best on an old Conn?
"L" means low pitch.

A Conn should work well with a HR Link or equivalent, large chambered mouthpiece. You won't be able to play a smaller (Berg, for example) without a shank extension usually.
I don't have any measurements, but I did stay in a Holiday Inn... no wait, I mean I did own a 12M for a while. It did not like any high baffle or medium to small chamber pieces. It was way sharp with a Yani metal 7, a Berg 115/2 and a Runyon (can't remember which one). I could play it with a Meyer 7M, but I had to wrap the neck with teflon tape and hang the piece on the very edge. Being young and stupid, I had my tech extend the neck about 1". It worked after a fashion, but the whole balance of the horn was off, especially in the middle register.

Although I can't speak to it personally, from everything I have read, a large chamber piece is the ticket. An old Conn "pickle barrel" piece like the one that came with the horn would be the ideal.
But HP is really very high and surely should be obvious from a tuner?

Some older instrumetns need really large chamber mouthpieces, as the mouthpiece otherwise needs to be balancing on the last half inch of the crook. Getting the mouthpiece into a stable position on the crook might mean it always is sharp there - but should be nowhere near HP level of sharpness.

So she can put some PTFE on the neck cork, and try the mouthpiece pulled right out.

Apparently it is fairly easy, and not uncommon, to have extesions to the neck soldered on to old baris. There even may be a converter gadget on the market.

Edit - just re-read Martinmods post. Shank extension was what I was looking for! In fact he said in 2 lines what I have blathered on about above. Ho hum, I'll leave it up...
I once was thinking of buying an aquaintence's Conn 16M and thought to bring a tuner with my fav and current mpc.

it was pervasively sharp and it couldn't be brought down to play in tune with my long-shanked mpc on the end of the cork. Conn had long since ceased making HP horns.

i bought a late Buescher 400 instead, which handles everything I have tried with it.
I understand the pitch marking procedure very well, having owned a number of Conn altos that were all carefully shopped and examined for the critical L before purchase. From his casual descriptions of the horn, I assumed that it was marked with an H, and I was surprised to see that it too had the magic L.

(The horn has been badly treated over the years, with soldered repairs too numerous to enumerate, plus quite a few dents scattered here and there. The neck did appear to be original to the horn, however, and there was a relatively high "fin" protecting the bottom of the bow. Lacquered finish, with the finish about 75% gone, so bad that I could not read the serial number. However, it did not have the typical old saxophone stink about it.)

I've not played the horn, so I can't speak to the "total sharpatude" of it. However, the owner's husband has and he claims that it is "way sharp". Then again, he was a flute major in college, so he may be panicking.

I suspect that the mouthpiece is probably the cause, but he will have to hunt one up to try before he buys to make sure of that. Are there any manufacturers of the old style mouthpieces still operational?
I suspect that the mouthpiece is probably the cause, but he will have to hunt one up to try before he buys to make sure of that. Are there any manufacturers of the old style mouthpieces still operational?

Off the top of my head, the Morgan mps that Junkdude sells are large chamber. Perhaps a Link Tone Edge. Theo has a couple in his line (Gaia?), but that is big bucks. Weiner Music used to have a larger selection of Meyer chamber sizes and facings, but I don't think they stock a large chamber for bari. Perhaps Simon could order one for you.

This might be your best bet in a stock piece:
I've forwarded the mouthpiece suggestions to him, along with an advisory against too hard reeds. I doubt that they are going to want to spend very much, but this may fix hs problem.
I've still got my Rascher bari 'piece I'd sell. Or he could buy one new. Those are still around and they are bigger than the stock Conn mouthpieces.

I've seen a number of mis-stamped horns, so I'm not going to quite go on the bandwagon to say that the horn's definitely low pitch. Hey, Conn was making HP for quite. Possibly up to WWII, although I think they probably stopped during the time that the New Wonder "Transitional" horns were around. Hey, Dolnet made them after WWII, so it's definitely possible!

I've also seen and heard of people shortening the neck because of intonation issues that they had. However, this is more the user and mouthpiece than the horn they're playing, thus when a new owner plays the horn, it's way sharp.

Measurements? I can't help you there. The only thing I've mentioned to people is to either try out a digital tuner or compare the size to a known LP horn of the same make/model. That'd be difficult in this instance.
That's why I was asking for a tone hole to tone hole measurement to check it against a "known" low pitch baritone.

Errors do happen, but old Occam's razor leads one to think that it would be an outside chance of it being mis-marked rather than the most likely explanation.

I've known a lot of casual sax players (and she apparently is one) who play way sharp, and an older horn would tend to compound that problem rather than correct it. Other than what he has told me, I don't know anything about her playing abilities, and I've not been able to play the horn myself.

And, as I said, she is using a modern, "jazz" style mouthpiece to play the thing. A new mouthpiece of the old style would be the easiest correction to make, or at least try.
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That's why I was asking for a tone hole to tone hole measurement to check it against a "known" low pitch baritone.
You might want to post a serial number, then. If it's a New Wonder, they sometimes changed a lot, from year to year.
If I ever get close to it in decent light, I'll do that.

As I said, the condition of the finish, the poor light available, and my cataract-clouded vision combined to make cyphering out the "L" a major achievement. Separating "3s" from "6s", "8s" and "9s" was impossible at the time.

Not helping things is that his wife is extremely protective of her instruments (which include a huge set of hand bells). I don't want to tread on any toes here...
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