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Thread: 1914 King C soprano review

  1. #1
    Distinguished SOTW Member electricfigue's Avatar
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    Default 1914 King C soprano review

    Last year by chance I came across to a 1923 Buescher C tenor http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...prano/cmel.jpg which I started to play at the band I am playing with, at the beginning was some kind of test for me and the other members of the band to see how the C tenor could work at rehearsals, but at the end because of everybody liked the C tenor (I was playing originally a Bb soprano), I finally ended playing the C tenor most of the time.
    Because my favourite horn is soprano (I play violin also with this band), suddenly I found myself looking for a C soprano to double the Buescher C tenor , after a lot of research,and having a limited budget (maybe if my budget was bigger probably I would ended with an E&R C soprano), and being a lover of vintage horns, I finally decided to look for a King C soprano.

    My decision was based among other things on this particular thread http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthr...ight=c+soprano where the only two players which didn´t claim about entonation (Saxtek & SuperTourist - thank you both) they were referring to the King C soprano, also SuperTourist mentioned the main factor which inclined my decision to pick up the King: the position of the octave pip designed far away from the cork allowing the possibility to try any kind of Bb pieces without being top to the octave pip, avoiding the consequence of chopping the pieces as usually every C soprano player does http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/012.jpg.

    At that moment of my research, I contacted Surfird (SOTW member) which had for sale a very early King C soprano from 1914 http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/001.jpg which belonged to her father (Mr. Richard V. Polk who led and played in Big Bands and Dance Bands in the Chicago area around 1950, he mainly played clarinet and sax but he also played all the woodwind family), sadly I hadn´t the pleasure to meet him but I was told he was a very dedicated and talented musician, but even without knowing him in person, I can affirm with no doubt he had an special and accurate ear to pick up woodwind instrument (I bought from her an Aristocrat Big B tenor which also belonged to Mr.Polk and has the most perfect intonation of any other saxophone I had the chance to play in my whole life).

    The C soprano was in very good condition (it´s a 100 year old instrument) http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/013.jpg , with traces of use but with a lot of care, the tube is in perfect shape http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/022.jpg with total lack of dents, only a couple of tiny little dings, almost invisible at first sight, the instrument was playable with some minor adjustments to be done as Surfbird told me about it, the case is original but was not in the same good condition of the horn, nothing serious, but I had to fix some support inside the case to avoid the movement of the instrument.
    I went to my tech and asked him what kind of work he would perform on this instrument if it was HIS instrument, he answered me "If it was my horn probably I could probably do a complete overhaul including replating, doing some kind of long term project, but my advice to you if you are going to play it as a main instrument, is to put all the pieces apart, clean it, reppad it, corked it, replaces all the felts, and if it´s necesary some springs, then I will adjust it every little mechanism to put it on the perfect playing condition".
    I followed his advice and he reppaded completeley with brown plastic resos http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/007.jpg ,replaced all the felts, oiled and adjusted the whole mechanism, no spring change was needed.

    The result of his wonderful work is a beautiful and fine instrument to play (he told me "this one was on the major leagues of my history as repairmen, because everything was OK and there was no missing pieces, but everything is so un-spaced, then there is no place to mistakes on this old mechanism", but anyway he liked this work).
    When I played the horn after my tech´s work, I found it ten times better than my first impression.
    The voice of this soprano is very sweet and clear, very very different to my current Bb soprano at that moment (a 70´s Dolnet).
    On the C King there is no resistance at all (I believe is a characteristic shared with Bb King sopranos) , at some point of the register is close to an oboe, but when you speed up the air and reach more volume, appear some resemblance of the typical sound of the old sopranos ala Sidney Bechet.

    The intonation I can say it´s very good, I was expecting some kind of wild horn, impossible or very difficult to play it in tune (after all the bad comments I usually have heard about C sopranos ), but I got very surprised because I didn´t find any problem at first try, and after playing it everyday , 7 days a week, for a couple of months, I can assert now that the only note to be aware of is the middle C#, it seems to me there is only one lip position/pressure to play it correctly with no room to mistakes, if you are not in the mood at the moment of playing this middle C#, something swampy could happen very easily, but I have to say also if you play vintage sopranos (specially C sop), probably this thing about middle C# it isn´t "one of those fresh news".
    In the overall view I can say the intonation is something very reliable on this little horn, the palms keys sings effortless, it only goes to high Eb as many C sopranos of that age http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/004.jpg .

    The pinky cluster is slightly different from the typical design of any other Kings sopranos or saxellos (the Bb spatula is shorter than the classic King style),and the G# is also different not oval/rounded like the standard King cluster,it´s very similar to the early Conn, as you can see here http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/021.jpg I believe this design it´s present in some early King sopranos (I remember a photo of a young Roland Kirk playing a saxello where I saw the same short cluster for Bb, and at that moment I believed it was a modification made by him , but now I am not so sure).
    This cluster can be very comfortable for a MKVI, early Buescher or Conn user, but not for a modern horn player because of the small size and the lack of modern articulated mechanism.
    My tech reversed the old mechanism to play the D# trill http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/016.jpg , because he explained me that probably the pad could dry at an open position after many months of playing with the consequence of having a bad seal , then causing a leak, I agreed with him to do that as I already did the same with my Buescher C tenor.

    The action is very comfortable, light under the fingers, the weight is a blessed relief because is very light compared to any other Bb soprano, there is no ring hook present but really there is no need for it (I play Bb soprano without using any strap), the octave key is very comfortable to me because I got used to the Buescher C tenor I have which is very similar to the King, but it´s the old style type http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/015.jpg .

    The finish on the tube is matte silver plated, which is 99 % present http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/008.jpg the keys (I don´t know if were nickel plated or shiny silverplated) but were worn to bare brass in most places http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/006.jpg .
    As with many early sopranos is possible to see the traces of the soldering line along the body tube underneath the silverplate http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/019.jpg.
    The nacar buttons are another sign of the extremely beautiful and detailed instruments of that golden age as you can see on this close up http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/023.jpg , and the engraving is the typical badge design of H.N.White, beautiful and simple http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/018.jpg .

    At the moment of this writing I am using Gonzalez reeds #2 with a C** Metal Selmer mouthpiece/original ligature which I opened the throat http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/025.jpg and augmented the original chamber size http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...oprano/027.jpg because in the original state was too much resistant for me, but after this modification became a wonderful piece without losing the original vibe.
    I have also tried a Bilger and a Selmer S80 E pieces with good results (the S80 E is the most friendly, easier and powerful to play of all , and the Bilger produce a nice woody sound, but I liked the sound of the metal Selmer over the others).

    Thank you for your time reading this words, and I hope this information can be useful for someone on the search of a C soprano.
    Electricfigue / Andres.

  2. #2

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    Default Re: 1914 King C soprano review

    Thank you for this review. I read it mainly because I sometimes wonder what makes people play these old instruments. I am strictly into new. But you have managed to fit a lot into this review, and even though I won't be in the market for anything like it, I thought it rather enjoyable.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: 1914 King C soprano review

    Thanks for the thread.....I really enjoy the C sopranos and King is the one I have not owned. OF the ones I have had, the best has been the Martins (I have 2) and next the Holton (to high F) then the Bueschers. I have never had a Conn that I liked and sold all 3 I had. The Martin has really good intonation and I am going to keep one of them.
    When I had the Conns, I got Theo Wanne to send me 4 original C mouthpieces and not one of them improved the tuning. Someone here said to try a Yamaha 4C which I got and it is by far the best one for me and I ended up using them on Bb too. I feel that using a mouthpiece that is too open on a C soprano really hurts the upper register and a 3C works best but I need a bit more open thus the 4C (.047"). I sold the Selmer S-80, Super Session and Link!

  4. #4
    Distinguished SOTW Member electricfigue's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1914 King C soprano review

    Currawong: You´re welcome, I know a lot of players prefer only new horns (and there are a lot of good ones out there), but if you haven´t tried a vintage one, don´t miss the chance to do it, Buescher, Conn, King, etc are wonderful horns and the main reason to play them is the character of the sound, of course the mechanical aspect is less desirable than modern ones, but if you can try one of them you will be highly surprised.

    Bruce: You´re welcome too. Yes, I know you are a big fan of vintage sopranos because I have read a lot of info that you have shared here about them, including C sopranos (thank you).
    Before the King I tried only a Buescher C soprano, at a local shop, in bad condition, with a wrong piece and with the worst reed available at that moment, but even with that ugly set up, I found it interesting and after that I started to looking for a C sop, I would like to try a modern E&R C soprano, but my budget it´s not ready for one.

    I agree with you about the closed tip on C sopranos but in my case I am more involved in reed strength than in opening tip, I can play a more open piece without problem using the same #2, but if I change to a harder reed (more than 2.5) I am in trouble, because I can´t play it, no matter if it´s a closed or an opened tip.

  5. #5
    Distinguished SOTW Member electricfigue's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1914 King C soprano review

    An important info about set up on the King C soprano:
    My tech told me when I picked up the King "in a month or two bring me the horn back to check it again and we´ll see if the whole mechanism is working good, in the meanwhile if you noticed something let me know", I noticed 2 things, the first was the replacement of a smashed felt (a minor problem), but I have noticed also a gap about 0.5mmm on the pad involved at playing C# with the octave key (like a little leak).
    I supposed this pad should to be closed when you press the octave key, (I noticed it when I was cleaning the instrument before to put in the case, not by playing it ), and my first thought was "this thing cannot be a mistake of my tech", he is very good, and an extremely perfectionist guy.
    Yesterday, when he was checking the horn I asked him about that, and he answered me "it was on purpose", he told me in some sopranos there is a key on key mechanism to vent the C# like the MKVI and early Yanagisawas but in other cases (without this mechanism) the key involved should be not closed at all when the octave key is pressed to play C#,a little gap is needed to help the vent of C#, he gave me the example of Yamaha 62 which is a model without this mechanism.
    A very interesting point to take care about it.

  6. #6
    SOTW Administrator SAXISMYAXE's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1914 King C soprano review

    Quote Originally Posted by Currawong View Post
    I sometimes wonder what makes people play these old instruments.
    Two words, THE SOUND. Well that, and the wonderful workmanship.
    Mike S.
    SOTW Administrator/Staff

  7. #7
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    Default Re: 1914 King C soprano review

    That little pad closure needs to be adjusted to make high C# in tune. Without it closing, the C#3 will be screaming sharp. Using your mouthpiece of choice, have that pad open just enough to have C#3 be in tune relative to your Bb, B, C and palm D. This way you will not have to adjust much when playing in that area. This has little or no effect on C#2. Don't try to adjust it to make C#3 match C#2 as it is more important to have the notes around C#3 match. I usually find it is best to have it set about 30% open. If it is closed all the way, it will be closer to C3.

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    Distinguished SOTW Member electricfigue's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1914 King C soprano review

    Thanks by the explanation Bruce!
    I am not a tech but I trust 100% on my tech, I understand he did exactly the same thing you are clearing here.
    The instrument after his work has a very good intonation, I was only concerned about this little gap because I saw it (not because I heard it), then I asked him about it because I didn´t have any clue to understand the motive of this visual leak, and I wanted to include this info here because I think it could be useful for someone with the same level of ignorance of myself

  9. #9

    Default Re: 1914 King C soprano review

    can we have the name of this wonderful tech?
    http://aquilasax.com Ressurrecting the C sax! The user friendly sax!

  10. #10
    Distinguished SOTW Member electricfigue's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1914 King C soprano review

    Yes, but he is located on the other side of the planet for you.
    He is in South America, Argentina.
    He is a very dedicated tech,also an excellent player, don´t even think about a web page, because I believe he even doesn´t have an email, I think his relationship with technology goes up until electricity. But I love his work, he is The Master.
    Of course he doesn´t know about the existence of SOTW.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: 1914 King C soprano review

    But Argentina is not so far away from NZ!

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    Default Re: 1914 King C soprano review

    Thank you, Andres, for the kind words of remembrance about my father and for including him in the SOTW fellowship in this way. I'm sure he would have been a SOTW member had he been younger and in better health. I know he'd be very pleased that you own his horns, and that they're making music again.

  13. #13
    Distinguished SOTW Member electricfigue's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1914 King C soprano review

    Quote Originally Posted by bruce bailey View Post
    But Argentina is not so far away from NZ!
    Bruce, a flight from Buenos Aires to Aukcland is around 12 hours, if this is not far away, I don´t know which place could be?

  14. #14
    Distinguished SOTW Member electricfigue's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1914 King C soprano review

    Quote Originally Posted by surfbird View Post
    Thank you, Andres, for the kind words of remembrance about my father and for including him in the SOTW fellowship in this way. I'm sure he would have been a SOTW member had he been younger and in better health. I know he'd be very pleased that you own his horns, and that they're making music again.
    With no doubt, your father would have been an enormous fountain of knowledge about woodwinds in the SOTW fellowship. Thanks for your music, Mr. Richard V. Polk.

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    Default Re: 1914 King C soprano review

    I guess compared to Europe or where I am......

  16. #16
    Distinguished SOTW Member electricfigue's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1914 King C soprano review

    Yes, that´s true, but the main problem for us is we are far away from everywhere...except Rio.
    Where are you, Bruce?

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    Default Re: 1914 King C soprano review

    Miami FL USA in the lower SE tip of the US!

  18. #18
    Distinguished SOTW Member electricfigue's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1914 King C soprano review

    Quote Originally Posted by bruce bailey View Post
    Miami FL USA in the lower SE tip of the US!
    You are almost in Latinoamerica!

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    Default Re: 1914 King C soprano review

    Almost??? 68% of the county speaks Spanish as the first language.
    There was a story years ago about a lady who was in Los Angeles and going to Oakland California (several hundred miles north) and heard Auckland, thought it was Oakland and got on a flight to NZ. Must have wondered why the trip was taking so long.....

  20. #20
    Distinguished SOTW Member/Logician Grumps's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1914 King C soprano review

    Quote Originally Posted by SAXISMYAXE View Post
    Well that, and the wonderful workmanship.
    King especially put a lot of nice detail into their early work; stuff that often goes unnoticed.

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