The Vintage or New Musical Instrument Decision

BuescherBaby1I tried to like vintage instruments, the price was right and they are beautious to behold. I even saved some from the trash heap like my Conn C soprano that Sarge of Worldwide Sax was able to revive. Truth be known, I played a 50s ‘crat alto sax all the way through school.

But for me, every vintage instrument I played was eventually replaced by a modern instrument. The most common reason was the inherent intonation on the new horns was vastly superior to that of the vintage instrument. The second most common reason was the ergos on the vintage instrument bothered me in some way like the right-hand pinkie keys on that gorgeous Buffet SDA.

DSCF0105Maybe if I wasn’t a doubler, spent more time practicing, and really learned the instrument I could have gotten past these issues. But I found that every time I replaced the vintage instrument, the new instrument was so much better that I ended up selling the vintage. Here is my odyssey:

  • Alto/Tenor: Couf Superba to Selmer Ref 54 (before the Ref series I really disliked the Selmer stuff)
  • Clarinet: Leblanc Paris to Buffet R-13 Festival
  • Bass sax: Buescher to Eppelsheim
  • Soprano: Antigua to Yani 992
  • Soprillo: Mason to Yani 981
  • Bass clarinet: Leblanc to Selmer Privilege
  • C sop: Conn to ER (Eppelsheim)

I got smarter as I went along too buying new and best in class vintage from the get go:

  • DSCF0288Bari: Yani 991
  • Soprillo: Eppelsheim
  • F Mezzo: Conn
  • Contra (bass & alto): Leblanc Paris paperclip
  • Flute: Gemeinhardt 3SHB with Chris McKenna head

I am not a pro. If I were I could make any sax sound great; gawd knows my instructors can. But I luv playing in the community band, my big band, and my quartet. And I get paid gigs all the time. I think I have made the right decisions for me. If vintage works for you, great. But I *always* recommend getting the best instrument you can afford, for a student or hobbyist. At least then you have a chance.

About Gandalfe

Just an itinerant saxophonist trying to find life between the changes. I have retired from the Corps of Engineers and Microsoft. I am an admin on the Woodwind Forum, run the Seattle Solid GOLD Big Band (formerly the Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra), and enjoy time with family and friends.
This entry was posted in Band, Clarinet, Flute, Hobbies, Music Instruments, Saxophone, soprillo, Vintage. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Vintage or New Musical Instrument Decision

  1. I’m with you on this. “Vintage” instruments (woodwinds, at least) are like vintage cars: they have their charms, but they can be a lot of work. For my everyday driving, I like something comfortable, efficient, and with all the modern conveniences.

  2. Gandalfe says:

    You are safe to say that here, but in some of the music forums that is roundly rejected by a small but vocal minority.

  3. It is true that new instruments may be easier to play (I’m struggling to improve my flute playing currently using a 20+ year old used instrument with leaks — perhaps I’d learn faster on a new flute).

    I’d suggest a decision process/tree something like this for jazz saxophonists:

    – Is ease of performance in the full range of the instrument your most important decision factor, or sound quality?

    – If sound quality, are you buying a soprano sax? If so, buy new or vintage (but don’t waste much time on Selmer sopranos).

    – If sound quality and buying any other common saxophone (alto, tenor, bari), buy vintage.

    • Fans of vintage instruments often seem to take it as a given that vintage sounds better, which seems to me like an oversimplification at best. And I, for one, have my best sound when I’m playing something that’s easy and comfortable to play.

      I certainly don’t begrudge anyone their instrument of choice, especially someone with the background and experience to make an informed decision about the pros and cons of an individual instrument. But an instrument with a modern scale and ergonomics seems to me like the most obvious choice for most players.

  4. Gandalfe says:

    Dave and Bret are pros. I’m a hobbyist, so maybe I speaking mostly to folks who spend more time at their day job than anything else. I wrested with the bass clarinet for a year before I finally broke down and bought a Selmer Prestige bass clarinet–suddenly I could play every note from top to bottom with no voicing issues.

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