Could someone explain to me why a Mark VI is such a great horn?

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    Default Could someone explain to me why a Mark VI is such a great horn?

    I've played seven, and they've all seemed to be a lesser sax than my SX90 and T902. I've honestly never seen anything good about them personally.

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    Distinguished SOTW Columnist king koeller's Avatar
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    Default Coltrane Played a Selmer Mark 6.....

    It is only a piece of metal.
    It takes the musician to breath life into the horn.
    It's only a great horn in the hands of a master..
    Bird (Charlie Parker) made any horn sound great!
    If you can't tell why the Mark VI is a better horn, don't worry about it.
    It's more important to play and love the horn you have.
    Mark 6's are not for everybody.
    The Mark 6 is like a 1964 Chevy 427 Corvette Stingray.
    Your horn is like a 2003 Lexus.
    Do you understand what I'm sayin'?
    Last edited by king koeller; 11-25-2006 at 03:53 AM.
    When you can't control the wind, adjust your sails!
    Alto:Selmer Mark VI #110***, Morgan Vintage 7M .080",Soprano Conn Curved, Morgan Jazz 7M
    Tenor:Selmer SBA #50***, Morgan Jazz 9M .110"
    Vandoren Java 3.5 for both horns...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Innuendo
    Could someone explain to me why a Mark VI is such a great horn?
    Blasphemer!! Anyway, I can't. I'm sure someone else can, and will... just find someone who owns one, and they will surely tell you. Stand by.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Innuendo
    I've played seven, and they've all seemed to be a lesser sax than my SX90 and T902. I've honestly never seen anything good about them personally.
    Other than trying to futher hate and discontent on this issue, why post this? Clearly, you prefer your horns, and your mind is not to be changed. Now there will be an incredibly pithy stream of posts supporting your view and a bunch where you and your supporters are ripped. In the end, beyond starting something, is there really a question you want answered here?

    I mean, I've played both horns you prefer, and found neither to measure up to any of the VIs I've owned. Does this make you wrong and me right? Well, yes. But that's not my point.
    www.thomkeith.net ** e-mail ** Try your luck at a Blindfold Test

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    Distinguished SOTW Columnist king koeller's Avatar
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    If it's not a Mark VI, I don't want to play...but that's just me...
    since 1972, I've used Selmer products...
    I love the Mark 6!!!
    It was made with love and has a magical soul and spirit.

    Horns I own...
    1951 Super Balanced Action tenor 51XXX
    1962 Mark 6 Alto 110XXX
    1937 Conn 6M tunable neck Alto
    1926 Conn Curved Soprano
    1918 Buescher True tone Alto
    1937 Martin Committee model Tenor

    Horns I used to own...
    1976 Selmer Mark 7 Alto

    USAF Horns I Play....
    1973 Selmer Mark 6 tenor,High f# key,
    1958 Mark 6 Alto 58XXX
    Yamaha Soprano
    Mark 6 Bari,Low A
    When you can't control the wind, adjust your sails!
    Alto:Selmer Mark VI #110***, Morgan Vintage 7M .080",Soprano Conn Curved, Morgan Jazz 7M
    Tenor:Selmer SBA #50***, Morgan Jazz 9M .110"
    Vandoren Java 3.5 for both horns...

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    If you have to ask........

    There's no one who could explain it to you. Having said that, I'll admit there are many great horns out there. If you have one that works for you, don't worry about it.

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    I understand what you all are saying (I assume, at least). The main reason I wanted to ask was because every sax player in my high school's jazz band says they wish they could own one. When I asked them if they had ever played one, not a single one had. Thank you all for your views on the subject.

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    My feeling (I have owned one since 1964) is that when they came out, they were the best balance of tone and ease of playing. They had good resistance but still carried the sound well. The keywork was better than older horns and they had the right spacing of the pinkies. When the VII came out, everyone lamented the VI's passing. Since the run of VIs was over 25 years, a LOT of pros played on them. People tend to base their opinions on what OTHERS say and although the VI IS a great horn, it is not the ONLY horn. I use a 1923 Conn mostly and own several Martins. I keep the VI as it was my first alto and I have just played it so often over the years, I just can't sell the beast.

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    It was possibly the first sax model that:

    1. It had a LOT of input from clued-up mechanical engineers. The linkages were designed with good geometry so that there was low friction. Weight balance issues were considered. Good lever design was considered so that balance was achieved between the force needed each key, and the travel of that key. The springs were well designed (length to diameter suitability for the material, and the demands on the particular spring). The spatulas were made ergonomic, probably before the word was invented. the tone holes were level. The pads were of good quality, etc, etc. The result was that the mechanism operated really well, and was comfortable to use. This gave the player a feel of not 'fighting' the instrument, i.e. a 'feel' that the instrument played really well. So the player loved the instrument....

    He could play is with less finger pressure, so the vibration of the metal under his finger tips was more noticeable. This may have bee a sub-conscious phenomenon, but the mind interpreted it as a better SOUND.

    2. The soldering was good. The construction was robust... So the instrument did not let the player down.

    3. The acoustic design was pretty good too, so notes had good tone, good response, even timbre from note to note, good tuning.

    Various aspects were copied by various manufacturers, and as with the British and USA motor vehicle, when the Japanese copied, they did it very, very well. They did not just copy, but made further improvements. Their saxes did not "drip oil". Certain other manufacturers did well also.

    Worship, indoctrination, fanaticism and legend aside, for many discerning players, some current models of sax perform as well as, if not better than the Mark VI, especially when irritating manufacturing thoughtlessnesses are corrected by good technicians.

    The Mark VI took a quantum leap forwards, but that does not mean there has been a leap backwards since. It is partly that the Mark VI enthusiasts tend to clump together and become vocal about their good feeling of common experience. Like good art works, these instruments enjoy on-going appreciation.... and some of the extra zealous enthusiasts tend to club together and enthuse. To preserve this good togetherness feeling they may actually even REJECT good art works from another era. But that does not stop great art works being produced in the present time.

    So the CURRENT fanaticism towards these instruments may well be largely emotional, rather than based on reality.

    Just prattling on a bit, and just a hint of stirring, but there may be elements of truth, especially in 1, 2 & 3. :-)

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    Well said, Gordon! In other words, prepare to be flamed.

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    Well, I was totally prepared to not like them that much, thinking myself a pretty reasonable guy, and believing that the new horns must be better after another 30 years of engineering.

    Then I shot out a ref 36, ref 54, zephyr, martin comittee, and my dyna-80 against a nice 6 at Sandro Massulo's shop here in Vancouver. I get it now.

    I suspect if you don't care for "that" tone, then it makes no difference. But if you do, wow, it comes so naturally on a VI. And they play so easy on the hands. That said, I've yet to try a good SBA or Buescher 400, so the courts still out.

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    Keep stirring, Gordon. I found this post the most illuminating - in all sorts of ways - that I have yet seen on the subject of this model.

    I have never felt the need myself ... or perhaps I have just kept any ideas of an expensive investment under close control!
    Buescher TT alto + Barone Jazz HR AND Buescher Big B Aristocrat tenor + Morgan Jazz L
    Conn 12M baritone + Erik Greiffenhagen custom HR

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    Quote Originally Posted by Innuendo
    The main reason I wanted to ask was because every sax player in my high school's jazz band says they wish they could own one. When I asked them if they had ever played one, not a single one had.
    Bingo! This is the answer to your question, Innuendo.
    (Ya gotta be immune to impressionable kids.)

    OTOH:
    Quote Originally Posted by king koeller
    The Mark 6 is like a 1964 Chevy 427 Corvette Stingray.
    Your horn is like a 2003 Lexus. Do you understand what I'm sayin'?
    No, I don't. I play a SX90R tenor because I get the sound and response from it that I like best; more so than with Mark VI tenors (not alto). Think Michael Schumaker.
    ____________________________________________________
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    Formerly, TK Melody soprano, Selmer Serie II alto, Keilwerth tenor, Azumi flute.
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    The MARK VI is popular because all of the saxophone gods recorded on them. There were other great (better) sounding saxophones of that golden-era of jazz, but the advanced keywork and ergos of the VI made it the favorable instrument of the time.

    Nowadays, people just want to re-live that whole 50s-60s Jazz vibe. I believe advancements were made in saxophone making since-then, but I believe the instruments made in the past 80 years or so are ALL capable of making great music. I've heard guys playing sax on rusted out rattle-traps and their tone could bring the house down--the flurries of notes just defies logic...how could such a broken down sax make that kind of music?!

    One of these guys is a fellow local sax player who favors vintage horns (non-Selmer) reminds me that the saxophone (and related gear) is just a tool and the large majority of it comes from the player and the time he puts in the craft. I tend to agree--Lenny Pickett could "Knock Yourself Out" on a Bundy!

    I've had a bunch of saxophones and a bunch of mpcs. Eventually I always get around to sounding like myself no matter the horn and the mouthpiece, so I just gravitate toward playing what's easiest for me. Easy -- both physically and financially.

    I try really hard not to be a gear snob.
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    Alright, I can ONLY speak for me. I played a King for 20 years. Loved it. Didn't want any other horn. Screwed up and came into a chunk of money, I was faced with overhauling the King (paid $350 for it) or updgrading. Went for it and bought a SerieIII. Unfortunately, I was just never happy with that horn, but the search was on. Over a three year period, I played, quite literally, over 100 horns. Some for 3 minutes, some for 3 weeks. Included in the list were numerous Mark VIs, several 10Ms, several Cannonballs, at least 10 Yanis, about a dozen Yamis, several JKs, LA Sax, Mauriat (I mean, I skipped NOTHING), Ref 54, Ref 36, the latest reference (is that 64?), Martins... I mean, I was on a mission. My goal had been met by two horns, one not for sale, that were 9x,xxx VIs. I ended up with a 163xxx VI w/silverplate keys. Not because it was a VI, but because it was the closest thing to what I was seeking within my budget.

    The modern horns seen has improvements had a variety of issues. All except the Yani seemed neutered to me. They didn't have the core of the sound I was looking for. The Yani had balls-a-plenty, but I hated the keywork. It was like driving a truck. I thought it might just be a setup issue, then learned that the horn had been setup by Joe LaFlamme... it was NOT a setup issue, just not a good match for me. I play a VI not out of some misguided sense of loyalty, but because they are the horns that consistently deliver the balance of sound, feel and projection that I seek. There are reasons this horn is popular.

    Of all the horns I tried, I liked the 82Z the least, and it was the most highly recommended. I mean it did NOTHING for me. The thing that rubs me about this sort of thread are the vast generalizations that get made. Sort of like the 17-year-olds that get on here and say people only dig Trane because they're told to. Eff you. I'm twice your age, how in hell you gonna tell me what I think and why? Bottom line, you don't get the VI? You don't want one? Beautiful. Don't play one. But don't assume everybody plays one "because they're supposed to." Rant over.
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    Quote Originally Posted by king koeller
    1958 Mark 6 Alto 58XXX
    you sure you got your numbers right? mine's a 1956 at 66xxx...
    1956 Selmer Mark VI Alto... Jody Jazz HR-6m MP... Vandoren V16-3.5 Reed
    P. Mauriat PMXT-66R Tenor... Jody Jazz HR-6* MP... Vandoren V16-3.5 Reed
    1980 Selmer Mark VI Sopranino... Selmer S80-C* MP... Vandoren-3 Reed

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    I tried a few saxes during the last 35 years of playing. I never played a better tenor than my recent MK VI from 1963. Ergonomics and tone-just perfect. I have it since about 30 years now. But I play a Yanagisawa on soprano and bariton. And a Ref. 54 on alto.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Innuendo
    I've played seven, and they've all seemed to be a lesser sax than my SX90 and T902. I've honestly never seen anything good about them personally.
    king koeller has it right. It's about association. The Selmer Mk VI had virtually no competition during its production days and thus most of the greats played it. People naturally want to play on the same equipment as their idols. Plain and simple.

    The Mk VI is a nice horn but certainly it's not the only nice horn out there anymore. So many great horns now. It's a good time to be a sax player.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BayviewSax
    You don't want one? Beautiful. Don't play one. But don't assume everybody plays one "because they're supposed to." Rant over.
    Whooah, wait a minute. I just want to make sure there's not a misunderstanding by anyone who read my post, because I believe I'm the only one who quoted the "When I asked them if they had ever played one, not a single one had" phrase.

    I'm talking to a young person who's been talking to young persons. He's the one who posted and he's quoting his peers and he's the one I'm addressing. In no way should anyone interpret my post as meaning more broadly that everyone who likes Mark VI's likes them because of the praise others sing.

    FWIW, I've personally never been comfortable with a Mark VI tenor and the best alto I ever played was a Mark VI.
    Last edited by gary; 11-25-2006 at 08:23 PM.
    ____________________________________________________
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    Formerly, TK Melody soprano, Selmer Serie II alto, Keilwerth tenor, Azumi flute.
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    I think the quote that gary quotes--"not a single one had" (tried a MKVI)--speaks volumes.

    Sure they all want a MKVI. They've been told over and over it's the best horn ever made, it was the horn of the day during a very active time in jazz history (the '50s and early '60s), and many great jazz musicians played them. And it's true that the MKVI is a great horn, for many of the reasons that Gordon posted.

    However,.......if several good sax players could try with complete objectivity and no preconceptions (impossible of course) a series of the best horns made, all in good playing condition, past and present, including the MKVI, in a variety of playing conditions, I'd bet anything that many would pick something other than a VI as their favorite. Some would certainly pick the VI, but others would pick something else.

    Every really great horn has some special quality that can't be easily described. You can talk about ergonomics and tone quality, etc. But it's not easy to say exactly why you prefer one horn over another. The key is to find the one (or two, or three) you like and then concentrate on the music.

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