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The Beauty of Saxophones: Conn M-series Edition

The Conn M-series saxophone. In my opinion, one of the most beautiful saxophones ever made, and an example of American design and craftsmanship at its finest.

I just finished an overhaul on one of mine (1940 10M) to go up for sale on my site, and I realized that in particular, there are three parts of the M-series sax that I think are beautiful. Its hard to pick favorites, but when I look at these three particular parts, the seratonin flows.

As a repairman, I get to see lots of different horns, and my appreciation for them all is borne out of a love of the saxophone in general, its capabilities, its sound, the story behind its creation and unbelievable eventual success. But some horns just have that something special- something that when looked at in a particular way becomes not just a piece of the saxophone but a piece of art.

Here are three such pieces of art.




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The engraving. What a design. These horns are famous for their engraving, and with good reason. The design is clean, stylistic, memorable, and beautiful.


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The left hand stack keywork. The shapes here just light up my reward centers. The pearls, when in good shape, are thick and super comfortable and the spacing is among the most comfortable found on any saxophone. Reminds me of a vintage typewriter, or jewelry that a woman in The Great Gatsby might wear.



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The left hand pinky table. When properly spaced and set up correctly, this design is comfortable, light, slick, and incredibly facile. If you think Conn M series pinky tables are hard to use, you've never used one that was set up right. All of the keys move a similar distance in the same direction away from the hand. The shape, while angular, is actually the shape that your pinky makes if your first three fingers are stationary and you try to draw a large circle with your pinky. Try it now- keep your fingers on the "home keys" of your keyboard and draw the largest shape with your pinky that you can. Its the shape of a M-series pinky table.
 
Gorgeous horns. The LH is set-up pretty well, though the button, thumb rest tends to cause numbness after a while. The Bis Bb is positioned nicely. I think the RH thumb position is pretty much tied with a few other horns for the Worst Possible Positioning Award though.
 
The RH thumb position is something I have definitely heard before, but it fits me ok. I really like the adjusting thumbrest on the transitional altos- not because its amazingly excellent at its job (it does fine, but its nothing amazing), but its just a cool design.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
As I've mentioned before, I used to violently hate all Conn saxophones ... until I tried a 30M, the "big brother" to that 10M.
 
I've never tried a "vintage" model with left pinky keys that I like, but a lot of those, inclduing these Conns, just sound really good IMO. I happen to have a "Transitional" model tenor rigt now, here it is (without keys). I think it fits the subject of the thread (except the model) :)

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The left hand pinky table. When properly spaced and set up correctly, this design is comfortable, light, slick, and incredibly facile. If you think Conn M series pinky tables are hard to use, you've never used one that was set up right. All of the keys move a similar distance in the same direction away from the hand. The shape, while angular, is actually the shape that your pinky makes if your first three fingers are stationary and you try to draw a large circle with your pinky. Try it now- keep your fingers on the "home keys" of your keyboard and draw the largest shape with your pinky that you can. Its the shape of a M-series pinky table.

Pretty nice Matt. The 10M spatulas certainly have a pleasing line. As for spacing and set-up them up, I would bend the Bb ever so slightly to the Left, then twist the B spatula to the Right slightly, so that it's spatula edges and rollers are exactly parallel to those of the Bb and C#. The entire cluster normally sits, pretty much parallel, relative to the axis of the body tube.

Every 10M and picture of a 10M I've seen has the G# spatula so positioned, or shoved over even further to the Right, as if it is the very first key that gets bent from normal handling. Indeed, it's lever arm is a full 6" long, from hinge to spatula. Even though it is braced triangularly at it's base, it is still extremely susceptible to bending. Given as much attention to the details and esthetics that Conn obviously gave to the design, I'm inclined to think that the correct position for the G# spatula is slightly more to the Left, so the Left edges of the Bb and G# spatulas form a single line, giving the entire cluster then, a smooth, rectangular profile.
 
The clean lines of my 71xxx 10M have always appealed to me. It looks uncluttered and simple compared to a RH bell keyed tenor. And it's a lot easier to polish, not to mention cleaning the pads.
 
Can you take a photo of the G# lever to key linkage? I forgot what it's like on the 10M (a while since I've seen one) but on the Transitional I have now, it is not a good design. Strange, since it could be a better design with pretty simple changes to the shape of linkage arms. It still works, not so bad really, but could have been better without any extra time/cost in original manufacture. A bit strange considering Conn definitely put some thought to the design in other ways. Curious if there is an improvement on the later models.
 
Can you take a photo of the G# lever to key linkage? I forgot what it's like on the 10M (a while since I've seen one) but on the Transitional I have now, it is not a good design. Strange, since it could be a better design with pretty simple changes to the shape of linkage arms. It still works, not so bad really, but could have been better without any extra time/cost in original manufacture. A bit strange considering Conn definitely put some thought to the design in other ways. Curious if there is an improvement on the later models.

The 10m G# resembles that of a Martin Committee. The spatula section is 6" long and is hinged horizontally at the bottom. At the halfway point, there is a saddle, in which the cam tab of the G# pad cup section rides, converting the up/down spatula motion to rotary motion. Any brass part that is 6" long and fixed only at one end, even with the triangular brace between the base and mid arm, will be inclined to bend easily.
 
MartinMods, I'm not familiar with some of the terms you are using (I learned English terms from forums and don't remember some of those you mentioned). If I understand (from context), you are describing the entire G# lever and key linkage. The 6" part you are talking about is the G# lever touchpiece arm, yes? The part I'm talking about is the linkage between the G# lever and G# key. On this Transitional these are two small parts (I guess they are arms but they are kind of short and stubby to be called arms...) sticking out of the hinge (I guess what you call "saddle" and "tab"?). The design of this linkage is what I was referring to, not the touchpiece arm or any 6" part and not any problem to do with bending. So I'm interested in a photo of this linkage on a 10M.
 
MartinMods, I'm not familiar with some of the terms you are using (I learned English terms from forums and don't remember some of those you mentioned). If I understand (from context), you are describing the entire G# lever and key linkage. The 6" part you are talking about is the G# lever touchpiece arm, yes? The part I'm talking about is the linkage between the G# lever and G# key. On this Transitional these are two small parts (I guess they are arms but they are kind of short and stubby to be called arms...) sticking out of the hinge (I guess what you call "saddle" and "tab"?). The design of this linkage is what I was referring to, not the touchpiece arm or any 6" part and not any problem to do with bending. So I'm interested in a photo of this linkage on a 10M.

The horn is too far into the shipping box to get any pictures. The G# linkage you describe is typical of older Conns and most other brands, AFAICT. It's a cam-type linkage, or that's what I would call it.
 
The horn is too far into the shipping box to get any pictures.
I didn't mean you necessarily. Anyone who has a 10M. I was thinking about Matt if he still has this saxophone (or maybe you meant Matt's sax is in the shipping box).

Here is the linkage from a Transitional. It's not that it doesn't work, but it could work better with the linkage arms shaped in a way to apply the force in a better direction relative to the hinge.
 
Thanks Matt. Not seeing the G# lever hinge, it's not completely clear how the lever part moves for that linkage (turns or up, for a lack of better way to explain it). Based on your YouTubes, I guess you can make a video. Can I bother you a little bit more and ask that you make a video showing the G# lever hinge and this linkage when it operates? From what's possible to see in the photo it looks like they fixed the problem of the Transitional but added other compormises instead. The Transitional linkage could have been better with a small change to the shape of the linkage arms.
 
The horn has been traded away, so no new pictures. The G# lever key pivots on a hinge tube that is perpindicular to the body tube, so the G# touchpiece presses straight down towards the body tube. I have outlined the G# lever key in the original picture here:

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Thanks, clear now. So it seems they improved the linkage in one way but added other compromises instead. The older type linkage could be improved pretty easily by shaping the linkage arms differently, without adding new compromises.
 
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