Snobbery associated with the C Melody?

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    Distinguished SOTW Member Captain Beeflat's Avatar
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    Default Snobbery associated with the C Melody?

    We are well aware that the C Melody was produced as an instrument for amateurs, this despite the fact that they were technically & acoustically the equal of their concurrent alto & tenor siblings.
    With some notable exceptions they were not played by "real" saxophonists, to the extent that Coleman Hawkins, despite a photograph of him playing one in a band, denied ever having played a C Mel.
    Most of us can play, say an alto, competently in concert E, but surely we are more fluid when playing "down the centre" of the horn. It is for this reason the vast majority of numbers played by the Old Masters were in flat keys....ie down the centre of the horn.
    I played my C Mel at a Blues/Rock gig last night & a saxophonist (albeit not a very good one) in the audience almost sneered....regarding it as some sort of cheat...like a guitarist's capo.
    The C Mel is a very useful little horn with a lovely sound, yet it is is still, in some circles, regarded as being "not a real saxophone"....a novelty instrument, like the Swanee Whistle.
    Has anyone else encountered this ignorant & snobbish attitude? [rolleyes]
    If you feel that you are in full control..... you are not going fast enough.

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    Default Re: Snobbery associated with the C Melody?

    Most folks just consider it as an antique of limited value.

    Here in the US, anything over thirty years old can be sold as an antique. And in many states, a 25 year old car can have an "antique" license plate. So when folks here go into a junk shop and find a 90 year old saxophone, they initially get excited. Then someone in the know usually says, "Hey, that just an old C-melody sax. Those are a dime-a-dozen and no one uses them anymore". So people have the idea that c-melodies are only good for being bolted to the wall in shopping mall restaurants.

    So when you perform with a C-melody, many people that claim to "know" about musical instruments see this the same as trying to play rock and roll with a home-made guitar and a juice-harp.

    Also, many musicians that studied in college appear to have been taught that any old instrument made in the 1920's is not worth playing because of poor intonation and an inferior scale. I don't know where that came from. But it seems to be prevalent.
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    Forum Contributor 2011 Debukochi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snobbery associated with the C Melody?

    I’ve got 2 C-mel Conns and love playing them. That said, there’s no way that any band that I’ve sat with would ever let me play them at a gig. They don’t even want to see one at a practice session where I get, “Will you stop wasting our time with that piece of crap.” These are pretty accomplished musicians and that attitude is ingrained across-the-board. With very few exceptions (e.g. Scott Robinson, Berklee), C-mels around here are still considered a novelty—at best.
    Avatar is 1928, Conn New Wonder II (a.k.a. Chu) tenor.

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    Distinguished SOTW Member Captain Beeflat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snobbery associated with the C Melody?

    Quote Originally Posted by Enviroguy View Post
    Most folks just consider it as an antique of limited value.

    Here in the US, anything over thirty years old can be sold as an antique. And in many states, a 25 year old car can have an "antique" license plate. So when folks here go into a junk shop and find a 90 year old saxophone, they initially get excited. Then someone in the know usually says, "Hey, that just an old C-melody sax. Those are a dime-a-dozen and no one uses them anymore". So people have the idea that c-melodies are only good for being bolted to the wall in shopping mall restaurants.

    So when you perform with a C-melody, many people that claim to "know" about musical instruments see this the same as trying to play rock and roll with a home-made guitar and a juice-harp.

    Also, many musicians that studied in college appear to have been taught that any old instrument made in the 1920's is not worth playing because of poor intonation and an inferior scale. I don't know where that came from. But it seems to be prevalent.
    Up to a point I tend to agree with you.
    However, would those know it alls have the same prejudice concerning a 90 year old tenor or alto? I think not...it is only the C Mels that are seen as infra dig.
    The player of a 90 year old alto or tenor is regarded as either an eccentric or a connoisseur...the player of a C Mel is clearly regarded as something else.
    If you feel that you are in full control..... you are not going fast enough.

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    Distinguished SOTW Member Mal 2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snobbery associated with the C Melody?

    I have gigged with the C-mel, but I'm the only sax player in the band. I also arrange the charts. I've gotten two reactions:
    • Being told the horn sounds great (because it does)
    • Being asked if playing a C instrument really made my life any easier (which I had to admit it did not -- there are as many tunes in five and six flats as there are in two and three sharps so it's kind of a wash)

    However, nobody really cared that it was a C-mel. All that mattered were whether it sounds good (which it does) and whether it caused any problems like transposition (which it did, but I took care of that long before the gig).
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    Distinguished SOTW Member/Sax Historian paulwl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snobbery associated with the C Melody?

    C-melodist of some twelve years standing here...(then sit down! hardeeharhar)

    Part of the problem is that if you're a saxophonist who has never heard vintage horns or old recordings, the C doesn't sound like a saxophone. It's difficult to impossible to get rid of that liquid roundness in the tone and make it all edge and guts, in line with the overall tonal concept of the past 50+ years.

    Also, where are you folks that people can even recognize a C? I've been in bands - again, as the only reedman - where no one suspected even after I'd played four sets!
    "80 years passed before we heard the tenor...in the hands of cads with centre partings & co-respondent's shoes. They squeezed syrupy, farting, oleaginous sounds from their cavernous chambers & microscopic tip openings." –Captain Beeflat, 2013

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    Distinguished SOTW Member Captain Beeflat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snobbery associated with the C Melody?

    Mal.
    I too am the only sax player in the band & with our Blues/Rock stuff the flattest key played is F.

    paulwl.
    You are right, none of the band members know one sax from another...it is a curly yellow thing; yet they can discuss at mind numbing length & detail, the advantages of double underslung inverse related pick ups for their guitars or the benefits of phosphor- bronze bearings in the beastly double kick drum pedal!
    There is no question about the sound of the C Mel; everyone likes it. The "liquid roundness" you so eloquently describe has long gone...courtesy of a tenor 8* SR Fusion & baritone Fibrecell......but there is always some smart 4rse in the audience who looks, not listens.
    If you feel that you are in full control..... you are not going fast enough.

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    Default Re: Snobbery associated with the C Melody?

    Yes, there's a snobbery associated with the C Melody. People who don't play them are jerks (harddeeharhar).

    Mine's at the tech right now for a neck tenon tune-up and I miss it a lot. As a novice player (and the CMel being my first sax), I really never had the impression that it is somehow an anomaly. Of course, I don't take it out of the house and haven't been subjected to public scorn and ridicule.

    Had I been raised on a diet of only tenor and alto, then I might say "what the heck is that." But I don't know any better and the CMel fits right in, plays sweet and, to my mind, sounds the most "human" because it covers a vocal range I recognize (me not being an opra singer or even a decent shower-stall yelper).

    Mark

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    Forum Contributor 2011 Debukochi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snobbery associated with the C Melody?

    I'm glad to hear that several of you have a very different experience with band members then I do regarding your C-mel. You may enjoy some immunity due to the fact that you're the only reed man in the group. I don't play a lot anymore, but when I do get a call-in, it's usually to fill out a horn section. In that setting, everybody is doubling and there's a lot of competitive banter (i.e. trash talk) that's going on. Of course, the substantive difference in our experiences may have as much to do with my playing as anything else—where blaming my C-mel is a convenient substitute for more direct criticism of my playing. That said, they don’t spout off as much when I play my 10m tenor.

    If I were to wax philosophically on the nature of that banter, I’d guess that in a horn section the alto player might feel that I’m encroaching on his turf, as my Conn C-mels, although distinct to my ears, sound much closer to altos than tenors. That alto voicing is very special within the horn section and not “threatened” by a tenor or soprano—but that’s just hypothetical speculation on my part.
    Avatar is 1928, Conn New Wonder II (a.k.a. Chu) tenor.

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    Distinguished SOTW Member and Champion of the C-Melody csax's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snobbery associated with the C Melody?

    Ah well, the answer lies in camouflage and proportion...

    If I'm being paid to play tenor or alto, or anything else not in C (or if all the music is written for them) then I'll happily take along the 'flatties' - I'm no masochist - but when I've got the choice, my idea of heaven is the little lot below.

    I'd challenge any sax player in the audience to name all the pitches there, especially after a beer or three - of course it's all C's. Paul - the Martin C with a metal Lawton 8*BB certainly is "all edge and guts" - but then again, maybe it's just me...

    I've never (ever) had anyone criticise me for playing C's, when it's my choice, but then the other option is that I walk... It's all down to positive attitude - with a sense of humour



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    Distinguished SOTW Member jazzbug1's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snobbery associated with the C Melody?

    I play a C melody and C soprano regularly in classic jazz and bop. Other players seem fascinated by them. I have sold two C melodys to other players. I've never experienced negativity.
    jazzbug1
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    Default Re: Snobbery associated with the C Melody?

    I'm thinking it's sax players who bring the 'tude. Probably those who take themselves a little too seriously.
    "80 years passed before we heard the tenor...in the hands of cads with centre partings & co-respondent's shoes. They squeezed syrupy, farting, oleaginous sounds from their cavernous chambers & microscopic tip openings." –Captain Beeflat, 2013

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    Default Re: Snobbery associated with the C Melody?

    Quote Originally Posted by Enviroguy View Post
    "Hey, that just an old C-melody sax. Those are a dime-a-dozen and no one uses them anymore".
    Rare as hen's teeth in Australia. I've never seen one let alone played one in 44 years. Mind you I 'm sure they exist. I'm so intrigued that I'm thinking seriously of the Aquilasax for my next purchase.
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    Default Re: Snobbery associated with the C Melody?

    Quote Originally Posted by patmiller View Post
    Rare as hen's teeth in Australia. I've never seen one let alone played one in 44 years. Mind you I 'm sure they exist. I'm so intrigued that I'm thinking seriously of the Aquilasax for my next purchase.
    Pat, now you have done it... I hear there is a ship leaving port tonight using c-mels as ballast and heading your way.

    I think, c-mels biggest problem is that they were sold as parlor instruments. To keep the volume down they were sold with mouthpieces that had very small tip openings. I claim you get a good c-mel setup right and pair it with a good mouthpiece it will rip.

    The other thing about a c-mel is you can play the voice part of music that was typically paired with piano music. When you do playing the c-mel is just a lot of fun.

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    Default Re: Snobbery associated with the C Melody?

    Quote Originally Posted by patmiller View Post
    I'm so intrigued that I'm thinking seriously of the Aquilasax for my next purchase.
    You might want to look at vintage C-mels on Ebay. They usually have a lot of them and they are very reasonably priced. I think there is a guy in California who pretty routinely strips the burnished gold ones, gives them a chemical cleaning and then sells them for around $400 US on Ebay. All they usually need are new pads, felt and cork. I've seen others that are fully restored and still reasonably priced. If looking at Conns, I'd definately stay with the alto-type neck in lieu of the tenor. I've got both and the tenor neck plays like there's a dead mouse in it. I think others, like Jazzbug1 have a real preference for the vintage Holtons. He's got a lot of experience with C-mels and described the Conns as "tubby" sounding when compared to the Holtons. I agree. Good luck.

    RE the mpc: I'm really partial to the Morgan C-mel, even though it's kinda pricey ($250 US), it plays head and shoulders above anything else I've tried. (There's a thread in here about it too.)
    Avatar is 1928, Conn New Wonder II (a.k.a. Chu) tenor.

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    Default Re: Snobbery associated with the C Melody?

    Quote Originally Posted by cmelodysax View Post


    Sorry about the shadows, sun is rapidly sinking into the west...

    nice photo what are you apologizing for?

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    Distinguished SOTW Coffee Guru milandro's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snobbery associated with the C Melody?

    well, the attitude towards C melodies over here is of treating them just as oddities. Although Benjamin Herman ( a very well known Dutch jazz alto player) did a CD with C melody in the past the this horn never caught on. I have recently sold a Conn straight neck to Raaf Hekkema (a very well known Dutch classical alto player) who apparently has started to perform concerts on it.
    I don't know of anyone in Holland who normally uses the horn in a professional setting ( as for example Scott Robinson does )

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    Non Resident SOTW Eccentric & 2012 Forum Contributor Jazzaferri's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snobbery associated with the C Melody?

    I am not sure if I have just joined an eccentric elite or if I have sunk into the mire. LOL

    However I am really pleased to be the proud new owner of an old Conn C Mel that I got from Honkytone. I get to try it out tomorrow for the first time.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed

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    Distinguished SOTW Member piwikiwi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snobbery associated with the C Melody?

    Quote Originally Posted by cmelodysax View Post
    Ah well, the answer lies in camouflage and proportion...

    If I'm being paid to play tenor or alto, or anything else not in C (or if all the music is written for them) then I'll happily take along the 'flatties' - I'm no masochist - but when I've got the choice, my idea of heaven is the little lot below.

    I'd challenge any sax player in the audience to name all the pitches there, especially after a beer or three - of course it's all C's. Paul - the Martin C with a metal Lawton 8*BB certainly is "all edge and guts" - but then again, maybe it's just me...

    I've never (ever) had anyone criticise me for playing C's, when it's my choice, but then the other option is that I walk... It's all down to positive attitude - with a sense of humour



    Sorry about the shadows, sun is rapidly sinking into the west...
    I'm confused wich one is the tenor and wich one is the c-mel or is one of them an alto? The one with the straight neck looks bigger then the other one

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    Distinguished SOTW Member and Champion of the C-Melody csax's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snobbery associated with the C Melody?

    Quote Originally Posted by piwikiwi View Post
    I'm confused wich one is the tenor and wich one is the c-mel or is one of them an alto? The one with the straight neck looks bigger then the other one
    piwikiwi - they're both C-Mels. The 'tenor' looking one is a 1930's Martin C, and the 'alto' looking one is a 2009 Aquilasax C.

    The Aquilasax body is slightly longer to allow for the high F# on the body (so the neck is proportionally shorter). Looks a bit wierd, doesn't it, that's why I said (a bit 'tongue in cheek) "I'd challenge any sax player in the audience to name all the pitches there"
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