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School Provided Student Bari Sax


Striving to play the changes in a melodic way.
Staff member
The middle school my grandson, Nicky, is going to this year is lending him a bari sax. He will be the only 7th grader in the jazz band and in trade he'll continue to play bass clarinet in the concert band (he started on soprano clarinet). This is the good part.

The bad part is that the loaner is a student model Conn with horrible intonation, nasty keyworks, and a lot of damage. After a trip to the tech, we got everything working. But the intonation continues to be problem. I had him on a Rico mouthpiece that I like and we had to pull the mouthpiece out too far to get the instrument in tune!

So I tried four more mouthpiece until we got to an Otto Link metal that works really well both with loudness and somewhat in tune. Nicky's intonation was improving on the alto sax and was not really a problem, except for the throat notes (I know a breath support issue) on the clarinets.

Until my grandson gets to high school we are NOT buying him another instrument (he has three from us so far). But this is a very frustrating situation. If Nicky practiced more and was making more progress, I'd probably spring for the bari, but he almost never practices other than the two hours of lessons a week (Wed, Sun) he has with me.

Suggestions, or have I pretty much done everything I can do at this point. I don't ever remember intonation being a challenge as I was growing up but then I only played alto sax.
Try that large chamber piece that I sold you. Just for tuning more than anything else. I know a couple of guys who put extensions on their necks to deal with the fact that their mouthpiece hung off the end of the Conn. I'd also check out the key heights and see if that is affecting the ability of the horn to play in tune. Conn didn't revise the design of the horn (other than the low A extension tube).

The key placement isn't very friendly on them.
Try that large chamber piece that I sold you.
The large chamber piece was a bass sax piece; a way cool mouthpiece I might add. Do you have a bari pickle barrel mouthpiece that I could buy?
If the horn is a lender, I wouldn't be soldering pieces onto it ....
Right, no plans to do that.
It this young fellow is serious about what he's doing, then there's no substitute for biting the bullet and getting him a decent horn that doesn't need to have a zillion dents beaten out of it. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing a serious student frustrated by a school horn.

I've seen this dozens of times with my students back in the day, and in each case where the parent bit the bullet and bought a decent student horn, the student "took off" like a rocket.

One of the problems with the instruments that we tend to patronize is that the "accepted ones" (which in the saxes are larger than the soprano instruments in the other "normal" horn families) are automatically more expensive than a bog-standard Vito or Bundy clarinet. Unless we are wanting to jigger the "normal" instrumentation of high school (and, indeed, almost every musical organization) so that the smaller and marginally cheaper soprano sax is the "norm", it's something that we're going to have to live with.

I occasionally use a younger brother of one of my sax players who is a (literally) phenominon on the string bass/double bass/contrabass. He has been playing upright bass since he was in middle school, and is a wizard on the damn'd thing. His parents were worried about the cost, but the teacher at the school pointed out that his few basses were pretty beaten up, and that there was no money in the budget to bring one up to snuff only to have it again get mistreated.

They bit the bullet, and the boy now is on the fast track for a full boat scholarship in two years. His upright, while not a Cremonian era instrument, cost them a pretty penny. However, it's in immaculate condition, and he plans to keep it that way.

The only good way around it is for kids not to take up the expensive harmony instruments in the first place, or to condemn them to playing malfunctioning school horns that can't be protected against damage.
Why don't you pull the neck out a little bit at the neck socket? I seem to remember players doing this when the mouthpiece was out too far on the cork. Just pull the neck up a half inch or so and tighten that sucker up and you'll be good to go.

But don't tell anyone that I told you. :???:
SideC, I'll try that!

Nicky is a very conscientious instrument owner. His clarinet, alto sax, and bass sax survived the elementary school years without incident. His instruments still look like new. Of course, marching band, the killer of many instruments, doesn't start until high school.

So I'm agonizing over the bari sax thang. If Nicky stays with it this year, I think I'll invest in a decent bari sax for him. If he was more serious about practicing, I would have already done so. Thanks guys.
If you opt for a horn let me know. After my backup Yani Low A gets done I'll probably want to part with my low B flat JK stencil.

If you opt for another low A the most reasonable well known horns are either the Yani's or the Yamaha 62's on the used market.
I was going to suggest a Jupiter Artist Series, but yikes - they are now as much as a YBS-52! I remember a few years ago they were a little over $2,000. I played one at WWBW and really liked it.

FWIW, when I had a Conn bari, I had the sharpness problem on my Yanagisawa metal mpc. I tried a Meyer HR 7M, and it played nicely in tune - although I hated the wimpy sound. I ended up getting a neck extension, which solved the sharpness issue, but made the overall intonation a little suspect. When I finally sold it and got a 52, I found I was overcompensating on a lot of notes at first.
It this young fellow is serious about what he's doing, then there's no substitute for biting the bullet and getting him a decent horn that doesn't need to have a zillion dents beaten out of it. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing a serious student frustrated by a school horn.
One of the reasons I bought my own baritone in high school was exactly this reason: it was a seriously beat up Buescher 400 that was made in the mid-1960's. The repairs that were done by the school were only along the line of "make it playable". They eventually bought a brand spankin' new Bundy for me, but it really didn't play all that well.

The first bari I bought was a lovely-condition Keilwerth-made Bundy. I had to make sure I had a locking case because people would attempt to play the horn if it wasn't (several bands were at my school; IIRC what caused them to buy the new horn was someone destroying the top half of the horn).

Toward the end of my HS career and when I had solidified the fact that I wanted to go to college on sax, I bought my YBS-52.

Caveats: I think I spent $600 on the Bundy (I remember selling it for $800) and $1800 or so for the YBS-52 (new). Both back in the late 1980's.

I know Jim's a pro and he's got a zillion horns. Maybe if your kid sounds decent and seems to enjoy playing your pro bari, you should see if Ed's willing to let go of the JK ....
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