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Opinions and knowledge about reeds and MPCs

I am new to woodwinds, especially sax. I plan to practice clarinet before getting into sax. For sax, I am starting up (against the advice of most) On a 1915 Conn C-Melody, after getting it repaired and set up professionally.

That said, I am a little confused about MPCs and reeds. The Conn is coming with a vintage MPC in unknown condition. I have seen a few vintage hard rubber MPCs on eBay, and a few newly made by Aquilasax, Babbit and FAXX. Any opinions on these pieces? Also, besides c mel reeds, what reeds work best?

Also, I've noticed some players prefere a Tenor or other MPC, over a C mell piece. Can you tell me what you like, and why?

TIA

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kymarto

Content Expert/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
I have the same vintage C Mel. You'll find that mpc pretty much unplayable by today's standards: very closed tip, huge chamber, giving a muted, tubby tone. It is possible to open the tip and bring up the baffle, but I didn't bother. I have decent luck with modern alto mpcs, but the problem is that you have to pull them almost all the way off the cork to get in tune. I tried tenor mpcs, but I did not find them very satisfactory. The bore of that C-Mel is actually thinner than an alto bore, so I found alto mpcs the best bet. You could order a custom C Mel mpc if you--I think Ed Pillinger makes one. If you stay with the original mpc you will need a very hard reed. You could cut a tenor reed down to size to fit it.

Toby
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
I have a straight-neck Conn C mel. Many players, myself included, use the Runyon C mel mouthpieces, which are available in a variety of tip openings. For reeds, these are set up so that you can play tenor reeds on them.

These Runyons are great, because they are true C mel pieces, and won't distort the C mel sound like an alto or tenor piece will. A true C mel sound comes out of my old Conn, and the tuning is fine with it as well.

I do have an old H/R Otto Link tenor piece that plays the horn well in tune as well, but the tone is wrong. Same with the Herb Couf that came with the horn.
 
I have a straight-neck Conn C mel. Many players, myself included, use the Runyon C mel mouthpieces, which are available in a variety of tip openings. For reeds, these are set up so that you can play tenor reeds on them.

These Runyons are great, because they are true C mel pieces, and won't distort the C mel sound like an alto or tenor piece will. A true C mel sound comes out of my old Conn, and the tuning is fine with it as well.

I do have an old H/R Otto Link tenor piece that plays the horn well in tune as well, but the tone is wrong. Same with the Herb Couf that came with the horn.

Thanks, that's what I needed to know. Second option is, is it worth spending extra for a hard rubber as opposed to a resotone or other material? Keeping in mind that I am an absolute beginner.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
There are very few good plastic mouthpieces. If you want to start right, don't hurt yourself by saving a couple dollars and getting a junk mouthpiece. I've mentioned before that one reason I quit playing clarinet was because the mouthpiece I had was a POS and nobody told me I could change it. Hey, I was 8 or 9.

FWIW, I've had a couple C melodies and I've used the mouthpiece included with them. There's a big "however," though: my standard mouthpiece on other pitches of sax was a Sigurd Rascher. That's a modern mouthpiece that tries its best to be close to what A. Sax drew in his patent, is very similar to what you've got in your case and is used by da German school o' playing. If other folks consider the Runyon offering good, definitely go with that. I'm a tad unusual.

Bb tenor reeds should fit fairly well, as mentioned above. I can say that Vandorens were possibly a bit too wide.

Also, your horn was not made in 1915. That's just the patent date. That's the one Conn used for their Pan Americans and some stencils (you can use Google Patents to look up the patent number). Your horn is probably early to mid 1920's. Briefly, a stencil is a horn made by a big manufacturer for someone who doesn't have their own sax line. That person would buy the unengraved horn and take a stencil, put it on the bell and engrave away.

============

Final thought is that you should definitely get yourself a sax teacher; someone who actually plays sax as his main instrument. It's pretty easy to learn how to play the sax badly and it's difficult to unlearn bad habits.
 
There are very few good plastic mouthpieces. If you want to start right, don't hurt yourself by saving a couple dollars and getting a junk mouthpiece. I've mentioned before that one reason I quit playing clarinet was because the mouthpiece I had was a POS and nobody told me I could change it. Hey, I was 8 or 9.

FWIW, I've had a couple C melodies and I've used the mouthpiece included with them. There's a big "however," though: my standard mouthpiece on other pitches of sax was a Sigurd Rascher. That's a modern mouthpiece that tries its best to be close to what A. Sax drew in his patent, is very similar to what you've got in your case and is used by da German school o' playing. If other folks consider the Runyon offering good, definitely go with that. I'm a tad unusual.

Bb tenor reeds should fit fairly well, as mentioned above. I can say that Vandorens were possibly a bit too wide.

Also, your horn was not made in 1915. That's just the patent date. That's the one Conn used for their Pan Americans and some stencils (you can use Google Patents to look up the patent number). Your horn is probably early to mid 1920's. Briefly, a stencil is a horn made by a big manufacturer for someone who doesn't have their own sax line. That person would buy the unengraved horn and take a stencil, put it on the bell and engrave away.

============

Final thought is that you should definitely get yourself a sax teacher; someone who actually plays sax as his main instrument. It's pretty easy to learn how to play the sax badly and it's difficult to unlearn bad habits.

Hmm, Based on the serial numbers P29064(conn) and 35386(Bruno), I thought they were 1915 and 1916 based on this and several other lists: http://www.conn-selmer.com/content/resources/serialno.php

Is there a better source for that, or am I misreading something?

Thanks
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
As a matter of fact, there is a better source, and it's even illustrated!

Our Admin Pete, developed an incredibly comprehensive serial number listing of woodwinds. Check it out, but it won't work for the Pan American that you have. More below...

As far as the Bruno goes, no one has developed a listing for the serial #'s of American stencil saxophones. These numbers were all over the place, and did not follow the sequence of the brand name's numbering system. For example, Bruno might get numbers 1-900 in one order, while Keefer might get 901-1500. Then Bruno might get 1501 to 2999 in their next order. Make sense?

Edit: I just read the other thread of yours and looked at the horns you won. I realized after I posted this, that the Conn you have is a Pan American. Unfortunately, the serial # listings do not apply to it.

Pan American had its own set of serial numbers, and to my knowledge, no one has developed a serial number chart for this 2nd line set of Conn instruments. When you mention your horn, you should mention it's a Pan American rather than a Conn. It reduces a lot of confusion. :-?

BTW, in addition to having a Conn C mel, I also have a Pan American curved soprano. It's a great horn, and is my main soprano.
 
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pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
FWIW and IMO, there were probably at least two sets of serial numbers for Pan-American horns, stencils based on the Pan-Am design and stencils based on the New Wonder design.

I have mentioned that you can add a certain number to your stencil's serial number (I think I said something like 20000) and then use the standard Conn serial number list for pro horns, but that was only a little better than looking at the standard s/n list. The best thing to do is take a look at your horn and look at the one you think it's stenciled from and add a few years. That gives you an approximate date and that's generally good enough.

The other fun thing is that Conn had some horns that were actually engraved "Conn," but had a stencil serial number, i.e. the serial number would be prefixed by a letter other than "M." Those horns are fun to research.
 
Ow, my head hurts a little. lol

I don't suppose it would do any good to contact conn-selmer inc and asking them when they were made? I imagine that's been tried before.

Anyhow, thanks for the info!
 
Iguess, based on this Pan Am , it would actually be between 1925 and 1938. With it's low number, possibly closer to the former. I wonder if the Bruno is the actually older than the Conn? I have to admidt, even though more "Rustic", I kinda like the Bruno better. I like unusual antiques, especially if they are well functioning.
 
For netter or worse...

This is what I bought: J J Babbitt C-Mell mouthpiece

The seller says to use cut down Bass reeds. Does that seem unnecessary to anyone else? Seems tenor reeds would be the way to go. Easier to come by and afford.
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
Bass reeds? Oh, I get it, bass clarinet reeds, as opposed to bass saxophone reeds. (Checking the ad confirmed this for me.) Being a bass saxophone player, I'm naturally easily confused. :emoji_relaxed:

The last time I played bass clarinet was in the late 80s I believe, so my memory is a bit fuzzy on this, but IIRC, bass clarinet reeds are shorter than tenor reeds. We've got real bass clarinet players here who will be able to chime in here with a less fuzzy, and more current answer. Perhaps one of them will be able to confirm length/width of bass clarinet vs. tenor sax reeds.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Helen's right that bass clarinet reeds are generally shorter.

Let my fingers do the Googling ....

Here ya go. This is Rico's take on the subject and they make reeds. Bottom line is, essentially, try 'em both.
 
Thanks. Seems either will work. Simple enough to buy one of each and see. Thanks.

I have read on a number of c mel dedicated sites that the preferred MPC is a Selmer Metal tenor short shank Jazz unit. They cost more than both of my saxes put together.lol I'll keep my eye open for a used one or similar. I am seeing quite a few good "Looking" chinese metal MPCs in a similar configuration. Some with very small chambers. They are running $30-$50 on eBay. Maybe I'll try one out. Might be able to take a dremel to one when I understand the fluid dynamics a bit more. :emoji_relaxed:
 
This is one that I am looking at: Metal Tenor MPC

Unfortunately this does not have a picture through the window. I have seen a couple that have a very tight opening to the chamber. Am I correct that a tight chamber is what I am looking for in a tenor MPC for a c mel? Also would leave room for modifacation, if needed I think.
 
A new metal tenor mouthpiece for less than $35? I would be skeptical.
But in the interest of full disclosure, I no longer believe in Santa Claus and don't play the lottery.
 
A new metal tenor mouthpiece for less than $35? I would be skeptical.
But in the interest of full disclosure, I no longer believe in Santa Claus and don't play the lottery.

Like you, I am skeptical, or I would have bought it already. However, I have had very good luck buying guitar parts directly from China, and saved LOT's of money over buying the same quality product locally. And I am handy with a dremel, so if the chamber needs modification (assuming I can find the proper specs), I can make the adjustment. Seems worth a try. I am more interested in weather I need a small or large chamber opening for a c mel.
 
A new metal tenor mouthpiece for less than $35? I would be skeptical.
But in the interest of full disclosure, I no longer believe in Santa Claus and don't play the lottery.

some of those chinese ones have gained a good rep. Sharkbite for instance.
 
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