Saxophone/Buescher True Tone

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Hello Mr. Harris,

I bought an old Saxophone: Buescher True Tone, Low Pitch, Serial No. 88.XXX, everything looks original an matching. I thought it was a tenor by the gooseneck shape of the bow. I am owning and playing a tenor and an alto - no vintage instruments. The pictures in the auction were not too good and there only was the horn and the case on them, nothing to compare the size. Today the horn arrived and I am very surprised: It is inly slightly larger than my Alto and significantly smaller than my tenor. The S-shaped bow fits perfect so I don't think that somebody added it later. It also is overall smaller than my tenor's bow and looks just good an correct if attached. I could not find any information on the web so far that Buescher ever made such a horn. Di you know something about it? Unfortunately, I cannot play it to find out its tone range, it is leaking everywhere and the (alto) mouthpiece that came with it is not great. Thnaks in advance for your assistance.

Uli Wolff

Answer
Uli,

Unfortunately you are a victim of a wolf in sheep's clothing and you got bit. I hate to be the bringer of bad news, and I don't think your going to like what I'm about to tell you. So I'm going to give you a bit of history and let you know what you have and why it exist in the first place.

From the way you describe the saxophone I'm fairly positive I know exactly what you have and it is a tenor, kind of.....

You have a C-melody saxophone. According to the serial number this was manufactured around 1920-1922.

Back in the 1840's when Adolphe Sax invented the saxophone he envisioned 2 families of instruments. The Bb/Eb saxophones to be used in the military and marching bands and a set in C/F for orchestral use. However the orchestral community never really embraced the saxophone and very few of the C/F instruments were manufactured prior to the 20th century.  

In the early years of the 20th century jazz was introduced to the public and became the pop music of the day. It seemed everyone and their cousin was trying to learn to play the saxophone and manufactures could not make them fast enough to keep up with the demand. This caused something now refereed to as "the sax craze" and the saxophone then was as popular as the electric guitar is today. The Eb Alto and Bb tenor require the player to transpose the music in order to read from a piano score, hymnal, etc. The solution was obvious and just about every saxophone manufacture during that time period re-introduced defunct tenor in C, these became known as the C-melody saxophones and that is what you have. The great thing about the C-melody was the player could read directly from a piano score, or lead sheet without having to transpose. However the horn would sound an octave lower than what he was reading, most of the time this was not an issue. There were a few great players who preferred the C-melody saxophone most notably Rudy Wiedoeft. However by the end of the 1930's the C-melody was falling out of favor as the big bands of the day all used the Bb/Eb horns. By the time the United States entered World War 2 all manufactures had discontinued them.

The number of saxophones produced during the 1920's and 30's was truly astronomical. This is why it's so easy to find horns from this era and to get them at a relatively good price. However the C-melodies are like a wolf in sheep's clothing. The are out there and if you don't know exactly what you are looking at it's easy to get them mixed up for a tenor. They have the same shape neck and overall dimensions are about the same. However the "C-mels" have a somewhat skinnier bell and the bend in the neck is a bit more curved than a tenor. These are often found in garage sells, basements, attics, flea markets, etc. Just about anywhere an old saxophone can be found. To often these are in really bad condition and as you describe yours, unplayable. The really bad news is many times players buy these thinking they are getting a great deal only to find out it's not what they thought. Sometimes it's the seller who does not know what they are selling and thinks it's something special and it will over charge for them. I've seen many well meaning parents come in to my store with a saxophone they got from a friend or family member thinking their kid could use it in school, only to find out it's a C-melody and not usable in the band.

This brings me to my next issue and that is value. The value on these is very low. I think the most I've ever seen one sell for in playable condition would be around $250. However most are not in playable condition. Most will require some major work and the cost of the repairs greatly exceeds the value of the instrument. There are collectors who would love to have a C-melody in their collection and are willing to pay the price to get one fixed up. However they do not do this for monetary gain. They do this for the love of the music and the instrument. They also know they can buy them for next to nothing. I've had a few people come into my shop hoping to sell me a C-melody. The most I think I've ever offered for one was $25. I know I'm going to have to completely re-pad it and then sell it for nearly the price of the parts I have in it.

I hope you didn't over pay for the horn. As a customer buying on line $50 to $100 would be a fair value. If it was more than that than I'm really sorry.

BTW.... It may not be a total loss.... Look at that mouthpiece closely. If it's smaller than a tenor, but bigger than an alto it may be the original C-melody mouthpiece. As I said, the C-melodies are no longer being made and that holds true for the mouthpieces as well. However collectors who still like these will often pay a premium for a real vintage C-melody mouthpiece. It's just difficult to find a buyer for them. The Internet is the best place to go.

If you want to compare your instrument to another go to this link.

http://saxpics.com/?v=gal&a=5743

I wish you the best and if you have any more questions please feel free to ask or send me an e-mail at charles@harrisbandinstruments.com

Thanks... I hope this helps.

Charles Harris.  

Saxophone

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Charles Harris

Expertise

questions regarding equipment, performance, repairs, lessons, etc. Almost all saxophone related questions.

Experience

I am a professional member of N.A.P.B.I.R.T (National Association of Professional Band Instruments Repair Technicians). I have been repairing saxophones, flutes, clarinets, and brass instruments since 1993. I perform in several professional groups covering genres form classical, jazz, and rock.

Organizations
N.A.P.B.I.R.T (National Association of Professional Band Instrument Repair Technicians

Education/Credentials
St. Petersburg Junior College (AA) University of South Florida.

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