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The Buescher True Tone

There are unquestionably several "series" or "groups" of horns that can be called "True Tone". There are also a couple of major things to note about each series. Hang on. Let's take a look at a chart and see if we can track the major features.

Common Name: Series I Series Ia
Lowest Serial Number: 1 5xxx
Highest Serial Number: 5xxx 30xxx (very approximate)
Dual-Octave Key: Yes No
Tone Holes: Straight Straight
Roller Color: Metal Black
Engraving: The Buescher Mfg. Co.
True-Tone
Elkhart, Ind.
The Buescher
Elkhart, Ind.
G# Key Picture: Metal Button Pearl Button

Neither is the first model made by FA Buescher. The award of first is given to the Conn "Worcester" made in 1888.

The main difference between these two "models" is the subtraction of the dual-octave key. A minor difference is that the horns acquired pearl inlay at some point.

The other reason for the division is given on a couple other websites (I've done some transliterating and added some extra info):

FA Buescher left Conn in 1894 to establish the Buescher Manufacturing Co. This was later restructured as the Buescher Band Instrument Co in 1904. In 1916, FA Buescher sold a major share of his company to six businessmen including Andrew Hubble Beardsley. FA Buescher remained president until 1919 when Beardsley assumed that title. FA Buescher was vice-president and general manager of the company until 21 January 1929, when he resigned these positions, but was retained as a consultant engineer.

In 1926/7 the Buescher Band Instrument Company was joined with the Elkhart Band Instrument Company1 (some claim that Buescher was bought by the Elkhart Band Instrument Company), a company founded two years previously by Beardsley with Conn's Carl Greenleaf as secretary-treasurer. When Beardsley died in 1936, the Buescher company began using the Elkhart Band Instrument trademark on a line of instruments until 1958.

FA Buescher then founded Art Musical Instruments in 1932 -- they didn't produce their own saxophones, but used Martin stencils.

FA Buescher died in 1937 and was succeded by Harry Pedler, the VP at the time, at Art Musical Instruments. Slightly after this, Art Musical Instruments had a name change to "Harry Pedler and Sons" -- and still stenciled Martin instruments.2

The Harry Pedler brassworks were bought by Selmer USA in 1958.3

So, from this one can assume "natural" breaks in Buescher designs in 1916-ish, 1926-ish and 1929-ish. Looking at the Buescher horns, this really does appear to be the case.

Let's continue:

Common Name: Series II Series III Series IV Custom Built
Lowest Serial Number: 30xxx? 200xxx 220xxx 270xxx?
Highest Serial Number: 200xxx 220xxx 260xxx 294xxx
Dual-Octave Key: No No No No
Tone Holes: Straight Straight Straight Straight
Roller Color: Black Black Black Brown
Engraving: The Buescher
Elkhart, Ind.
The Buescher
Elkhart, Ind.
The Buescher
Elkhart, Ind.
USA
The Buescher
Custom Built
Elkhart, Ind. USA
G# Key Picture: Pearl Button 4-Roller Cluster 4-Roller Cluster 5-Roller Cluster

These are the "meat and potatoes" series of True Tone: they're the most common and are the best horns of the series.

Many, Many Notes

  • Possibly the most important: in 1921, Buescher patented a new invention called the "Snap-On Pad". This innovation is important as it is considered the first real "resonator" (unless you want to consider the Conn Res-O-Pad a resonator). Take a moment to read my detailed feature page on this innovation.

  • In 1928, Buescher introduced three "gimmicky" horns that were actually a significant improvement over their older, conventional siblings: the Straight Alto and Tipped Bell Bb and C sopranos. Take a moment to read my feature page on these horns.

  • In 1931, the waning days of Vaudeville, Buescher was contracted to create, of all things, a straight baritone: a one-off working custom horn. Take a moment to read my feature page on this horn AND a modern straight baritone.

  • Baritones switched to the "rounded rectangle" G# key a little after s/n 173000 -- and I do mean "a little after", as I have pics of a 173xxx bari with the new G# and a 1730xx bari without. There does not appear to be any other significant change in the baritone design until the Aristocrat -- excepting, of course, the Custom Built series. I will therefore "break down" the baritone models according to this break, rather than the 200xxx break.

  • The Custom Built True Tone model (yes, it's engraved that) is possibly baritone only. It's sort of a combination of the New Aristocrat and True Tone styles.

  • I see no change at all in design of the bass, other than with engraving, so I'll break diown these horns as I have with the altos and tenors. Do note that these horns have a keyed range only to altissimo Eb and do not have a G# trill.

  • One topic of much debate is the introduction of the front-mounted altissimo F key. While it seems that ALL horns had this feature by s/n 200xxx (probably excepting the C soprano), it seems to have been introduced as an option around s/n 157xxx: and, according to Bootman on the SOTWF, there was, at least, a provision for this keywork a little earlier (probably 1923) -- and a front F from a later horn can fit on these horns, if it doesn't have one.

  • There is one major keywork change to look for on the straight Bb soprano (only. The straight C soprano doesn't change): the G# hinge changes from being "under" the left-hand altissimo keywork to being in a "normal" location. (This change is very apparent in the example pics linked in the previous sentence.) I don't have enough examples to give you an exact "fail-over" date, but an 86,466 horn has the old hinge and a 137,828 horn doesn't, so we're talking 1921-1924 when this change took place. My money's on 1923.

    Note that considering the C soprano never changed from the old-style hinge, this is a sure-fire way of determining if the horn you have is a Bb or C soprano.

  • There doesn't appear to be much consistency in the design of the Eb sopranino until after s/n 117,230 (more probably, sometime in 1923). I can't say that later models are significantly better than earlier ones, but they definitely have tweaked keywork.

  • Speaking of Eb sopranino keywork, a lot of people point out that the majority (if not all) of Buescher sopraninos after around s/n 117,230 don't have a G# key (earlier horns had either a pearl button or a rectangular bar). They're right. Foreshadowing the "articulated" G# cluster, to sound G# on the sopraninos that "don't" have a G# key, you depress the C# key. Note, also, that sopraninos don't have a G# trill key.

  • I've seen a few random curved Bb sopranos that had a rectangular G# key, starting around s/n 164xxx and ending before s/n 170xxx. Again, this is not a consistent design change so I cannot accurately track it.

  • Please note that Buescher did not design a new sopranino, soprano or bass after s/n 260xxx or so: in other words, there aren't Aristocrat or 400 models of these pitches. HOWEVER, if you wanted a bass in 1950, say, Buescher would trot out the old True Tone molds and make you one, generally with different engraving and sometimes with slightly different keywork, such as a redesigned G# cluster. Extended keywork ranges are NOT found, though.

Beveled Tone Holes (BTH)

Also something of a mystery. Considered to be very uncommon.

Officially called the "Buescher Improved Method", in 1923, these are soldered beveled tone holes -- as opposed to the "normal" straight formed tone holes indicated by the Haynes patent -- very similar to the ones found on later Martins.

Considering this feature is mentioned in a kind-of "throw away" advertisement for playing the sax and not in other catalogs I've seen from 1923 or after, and because BTH Bueschers are uncommon, I can *assume* that they were by special request only, like nickel finish and high pitch.

Additionally, note that the earliest horn I have pics of with BTH is from 1914. It could very well be that FA Buescher wanted to use BTH on all his horns, but the sale of conrolling interest in 1916 to Beardsly, et al, may have been a turning point. It could also be, of course, that horns were able to be more cheaply made with the Haynes process, so the BTH featureset was significantly downplayed.

In any event, BTH instruments do not appear to have any extra keywork or other tweaks. I also tend to believe that BTH went away completely by s/n 200xxx.

What's In A Name

Naming, naming, naming.

Some people have been very concerned that the first "series" of Buescher horns aren't "really" True Tones, either because that's not what Buescher had as an official model name and/or because some pre-1916-ish Bueschers do not have the True Tone trademark.

My opinion is that it doesn't really matter and because I haven't found a catalog or ad earlier than 1923 (and I've had other folks look for one, as well), the question is going to remain unanswered.

The construction of the Buescher does seem different after 1916-ish when the Haynes-patented horns were introduced along side horns with the "Buescher Improved System".

In any event, watch the serial number ranges I give you. Each will have different characteristics. The serial number ranges are way more important than what the horns are called.

The Parabolic Bore

This is also something of a red herring. I mention it because I'm trying to be complete.

Briefly, the bore of the Buescher saxophones, (possibly) up to, but not including the "Big B" Aristocrats and 400's, are "closely" based on the original Adolphe Sax design, which is supposed to be a "parabolic cone". To check whether your horn has a parabolic cone for a bore, you can hold the horn up to the light, look into the neck and see if the tone holes "disappear".

Ok. Sounds good. Unfortunately, you can also see this same phenomenon if you've got a horn with a bent body tube -- or on a variety of other modern and vintage horns.

There are really, really good, in-depth discussions about the "parabolic bore" here and here -- the latter thread has discussion from noted saxophone authors Paul Lindemeyer, saxtek and Paul Cohen.

The conclusion is that a "parabolic bore" probably doesn't really exist. At the very least, it hasn't been proven with any degree of conclusivity to exist.

Summary from Dr. Cohen:

Whatever difference the parabolic cone (theoretically) makes in the sound pales in comparison to the mammoth difference in tone, pitch and response small changes to the neck and upper body bore dimensions create. Trying to find and define the mythical parabola misses the huge point of other far more signficant delineators and influences.

Neck Issues

I'm not positive WHEN Buecher introduced a selection of necks for their horns. All I can say is that they DID. Each version has their adherents.

Matt Stohrer has a good breakdown of the necks, including internal views, on his website.

Here's the breakdown:

The #1 [and un-numbered] neck came with the Tru-Tones, the #03 and #** (=02) necks came with the New Aristocrat and the #01 neck came with the New Aristocrat and the "regular" Aristocrats.4

  • The #1 neck has some intonation problems in the short tube notes.
  • The #01 neck is reputed to have the best intonation.
  • The #03 neck is the rarest and reputed to have the best altissimo.
  • The #** neck seems to be in general disfavor, though no one has specified exactly why.

Oh. If you're wondering, [Sigurd] Rascher played on a Gold plated New Aristocrat with an 03 neck.5

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