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High Pitch Bass Sax?

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
Someone mentioned this ebay listing of a Conn bass sax doesn't mention that it's a high pitch. With no shot of the serial number cluster, I think I guess we'd have to go by the tube length. There is a really good discussion of this at Helen's blog:

"Here’s a quote from Bear at Cybersax that illustrates my point:
I would hesitate to say that ALL high pitch saxes were so marked, but it was the industry practice to mark instruments up until the early 1930’s when high pitch instruments were no longer regularly offered…

Prior to about 1910 the A440 standard to which modern musical instruments are tuned did not exist. The instruments produced before A440 became standard were tuned to a pitch that, in saxophones, at least, is approximately one semi tone (half step) above a modern sax. That is why the modern saxophone is designated Low Pitch and the others designated High Pitch. Since tube length determines pitch, these High Pitch saxophones are, by definition, shorter in total tube length than their modern counterparts.

In general, the tube length of High Pitch saxophones is about 10% less than for their modern, Low Pitch counterparts. Until the early 1930s some of the USA sax builders still offered High Pitch instruments as part of their regular line. In fact, we have a Conn ‘Chu Berry’ tenor that was produced in 1929."
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
I don't think we can conclude that it's a HP horn. I think its age, raises the possibility, and without any further info from the seller, it can't be either ruled in or out.

The seller says the only number visible is the serial #, which he provides. One would have to get him to carefully measure the sax, and then it would have to be compared against a known LP Conn bass, but even that is open to errors, since there's no guarantee things would be measured identically.

I think the horn is really interesting. Too bad it has no case, and that the owner is not a musician. It makes shipping this poor thing a real challenge. I hope the new owner lives close enough to go pick it up in person!
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
A few things.

First, the bass in question is a CG Conn (8405 is 1904/05), not a CG Conn, LTD: in other words, this horn was made by Col. Conn, not one of the folks that bought the company. It's also a Wonder Improved horn, not a New Wonder.

Here's some pics of a s/n 9787 (1905/06) Conn bass. If you look specifically at the serial number stamp, it's marked "L" for "Low Pitch." Another example is this 26699 (1913/14) soprano, where it's also stamped "L." However, if you look at HP horns, like this 940x alto (1904/05), there's no stamp for you! But, that's not always the case, such as with this 3046x tenor (1914/15), which is clearly stamped "H".

So, I looked through all my Conn Wonder pics. If it was an HP Conn Wonder, it was sometimes stamped "H," but not always. Low Pitch Conn Wonders were always stamped "L." There may have been a cutoff date in there, when all Conn's horns started getting stamped "H," but there just aren't enough Wonders I've seen to make that determination. I think it's safer to assume that if it's a Conn Wonder without a stamp, it's HP. Earlier horns, such as the Worcester, are not stamped either way and all examples I've heard of are HP. The limited New Invention horns MIGHT be HP or LP. I dunno. I've only seen one.

Further info:

* Martin and HN White (King) horns are stamped "Low Pitch," but you don't need to care: they didn't produce HP horns.
* Do note that early King and Holton horns were imported stencils, so buyer beware. I've also mentioned before that some Conns were Evette-Schaeffer stencils, so watch for those.
* I disagree with the comment that it was "industry practice" to mark HP or LP horns. Particularly if you're talking about European instruments.
* Speaking of European, again look at http://www.wam.hr/Arhiva/US/Cavanagh_440Hz.pdf: in 1896, A=439hz was being used. That's a good enough approximation of A=440. It wasn't until 1939 when LP was an "accepted" standard AND Dolnet horns, for example, were still offered as HP instruments, but weren't stamped as such. I think Conn still had HP instruments available until they came out with the Director instruments in the mid-1950's.
* If you want to talk pre-1896 saxophones, there can be lots of intonation standard variation. So, if it's 19th century, watch out.
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
As usual Pete, you're way more organized than I am. I had forgotten that I had photos of that LP Wonder bass on my site... Duh... I need a better system of indexing for my photos. My brain just isn't cutting it these days.

Well interestingly enough, the owner of the bass in question chimed into the discussion on my site as well. Apparently he has changed the description slightly after reading/being made aware of the HP/LP debate I guess. I read the newly revised description, but honestly, I couldn't see much of a change. It's too bad he didn't really specify that he couldn't say for sure what type of horn this was. With the price having started <$1,000, I guess anyone bidding should be savvy enough to wonder what kind of bass they could get for that amount of cash... Even without a case.

Mmm... I don't have a HP bass... Maybe I should add one of these to my expanding saxophone family. What do you think Pete? :p :emoji_smile:

Edit: I realize now he didn't change the ad, but he instead added a comment to the bottom. In it he does actually mention H & L, and that he did receive numerous questions about the serial number and if it had one of the letter with it. Heh, my website even got a mention. (I bet by now he's wishing I'd never seen the damn ad! )
 
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pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Well, there is absolutely no problem with a HP horn if:

* You're playing unaccompanied solos. Or with just a drum set.
* The people accompanying you are using stringed instruments (including piano) and/or brasswinds and/or synthesizers that can be detuned to A=457hz (IIRC, my old Roland D50 keyboard could, but my Roland U110 sample module couldn't: A=457 was too high).

As this limits most people's options for playing, it'd be a bad investment for most folks. Additionally, there was a statement I read that suggested one of the reasons for the LP standard was because stringed instruments tuned to the HP standard didn't last as long, so you might get your bandmates hating on you :D.

=========

I made mention about saxophone value on another thread in relation to HP instruments. There are a couple of extremely rare makes, models and pitches of sax I can think of that would still be worth something, even in HP:

* Instruments made by A. Sax: although few are A=457, lots are of other tuning standards.
* Curved basses and baritones: i.e. horns in the shape of an ophiclede.
* C basses: they're just rare, period.
* Eb contrabasses: some Evette-Schaeffer contras, for instance, are supposed to be HP.
* F instruments: they're just rare, period.
* Artist/Virtuoso Deluxe finished horns: these are generally gold plated horns with additional pearl inlay. I can easily imagine someone getting good $ for a Conn New Wonder HP horn in a Virtuoso Deluxe finish.

I seem to remember someone mentioning that Scott Robinson owns a HP bass and has used it on one or more recordings. I could be hallucinating that, tho.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
One of the least appealing things about auction sites like eBay is the way that sellers "shade" the meaning of their offers for sale. It's not just the ones who offer photos that don't show critical details about their items - it's also the "I don't know anything about musical instruments" statements from sellers who have hundreds of prior sales to their credit, or who talk gibberish when you ask them a simple "Yes" or "No" question.

I wouldn't go so far as to accuse them of fraud, but I usually suspect it right from the start when you see the "I don't know..." statement. They know - it's usually evident from their reserve price or their "Buy It Now!" value.
 

Groovekiller

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
I wouldn't spend any money on a high pitched bass sax, but if someone asked the seller to measure the horn's straight section from ferrule to ferrule, it might end all doubt.
 
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Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
Nice family photo Randy. Another addition would have to see your resort to a wide angle lens tho... :emoji_smile:
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
I wouldn't spend any money on a high pitched bass sax, but if someone asked the seller to measure the horn's straight section from ferrule to ferrule, it might end all doubt.
Oh, I meant to mention that a couple of years ago I was contacted by a gentleman who was looking for a HP sax of some variety (I can't remember now if it was a SATB) because he was putting together a HP sax ensemble. He had 3 voices of saxes already, he just needed the last one to complete his ensemble. I can't remember why he was doing it, but he was. So sometimes--albeit in rare cases--HP horns are still sought after. Go figure.
 
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