A High Pitch sax, in a Low Pitch world…

Lovely looking 1927 Conn C-Melody, loads of work recently done on it, including a new case, but the bids just aren’t flying in for this ebay item.

It’s that relatively rare breed in the C-Mel world, a High Pitch saxophone – and has the letters HP stamped on the rear, instead of LP.  So it’s an honest outcast !  Just that one letter, the ‘H’, signifies that the sax plays considerably higher (about a quarter tone higher) than the A=440 modern standard.  So this sax is destined to sell (if it does at all…) at a much reduced price than it’s equivalent LP sibling, and probably only to someone who collects vintage instruments ‘for show’, and maybe likes a relatively solitary doodle…

Of course, in these modern times, most electronic keyboards could adjust their pitch to be in tune, and I haven’t met many guitarists who don’t suffer from ‘pitch creep’ – always upwards…  Plus a lot of PC-based recording software can change the pitch of other tracks without affecting tempo etc.  BUT, when it comes to playing in a band, alongside other A=440 wind instruments, or a ‘strung’ piano, it’s a lost cause ! 

I can empathise with the owner, as I rashly purchased a rather lovely C Clarinet some years ago, it turned out to be HP – still have it, but never used it outside the house.  I was lulled into a false sense of security by a combination of my own naievity, and the fact that the bell had a filled hole from an electronic pickup (a pickup on an HP instrument ?).  I also feel quite sad that whoever overhauled this sax – Im assuming after it’s purchase – at a significant cost to the British owner, probably didn’t ask “Are you sure ? It’s HP…”

Some ‘experts’ do say that it’s possible, with a long-shank mouthpiece well out on the cork, to play HP instruments a semitone up from LP instruments (i.e. a C#-Melody, an E-alto, or a B-tenor..), and therefore in pseudo-modern pitch – but if it’s anything like the trials I did on my HP clarinet, the intonation would be quite challenging across the length of the instrument !

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8 Responses to A High Pitch sax, in a Low Pitch world…

  1. Ross says:

    There are still a lot of HP horns floating around Australia!
    Mainly altos and C mels with the odd tenor and soprano as well.
    Research I did some time ago indicated that no LP C mels were ever commercially
    imported into Aus.I believe it was about 1931 that the British Empire adopted
    A=440. The brass band movement took considerably longer.
    In the last year I have seen Conn, Dolnet and Buffet HP C mels
    in various stages of decay!
    My own HPC is a Conn New Wonder Series II, made in 1929!It plays better than its
    older LP brother! I have, on occasion, used it with an alto mpc, as a Db alto.
    (Guitars in E, sax in F!)Mind you, it only cost $10.
    HP Conn altos were very common and still turn up at auctions etc.
    The mind boggles at the thought of the Conn factory in the 20’s producing
    all the saxophones in LP range plus (according to an old Paul Cohen article)
    HP sopranos, altos, C mels and tenors. Obviously some European manufacturers
    did the same.
    Now a bit of folk lore from an old exRAF bandsman.
    During WW II great numbers of old and HP horns of all types were taken up
    by the British war effort to make shell casings – recycling those from WW I and earlier that had been recycled into instruments.

  2. Lewis Pelham says:

    As you implied; playing the HP with a guitar band, it would be ideal for the second set…where the guitarists invariably pitch up to “cut through”. If called upon to play harp I have to insist that the guitarists check their tuning…the increasing volume of the guitarists remains a problem though. 👿

  3. alan says:

    Yes, wouldn’t it just be lovely to have an HP horn for the second set. Just to be able to scream (above the noise), at the guitarist, “You’re bloody FLAT !”

    What confusion, and what fun – guitarist and bass frantically cranking up the pitch – to keep in tune with the sax ! 😆

  4. alan says:

    I’m glad it’s got a bid, albeit from a new ebayer (zero feedback). he seems keen, he’s already put in a second (higher) bid to ward off other bidders – how high we won’t know until the action starts 😀

    The strange things people do tho’ – it has “Aplin”, presumably the original owners name, crudely scratched right on the middle of the engraving, under Conn… 😕 Why on earth there, and not on the back, in a more discrete place ?

  5. Lewis Pelham says:

    Just a few minutes to go and the bidding is £370….that surprises me for a HP instrument. I strongly suspect that it’s playing days are over & it will become an ornament.
    The owner claims that it has recently been re-padded at Dawkes…strange, as they did not have any white pillow pads when I asked. 😕

  6. alan says:

    Well, sold to a UK buyer who also recently bought a (quote) “EPIPHONE LES PAUL STANDARD – VINTAGE SUNBURST” (ebay’s capital letters, not mine…) – at least they’ll be able to tune together 😉

    Lewis – they may be white slim/modern pads, or workshop stock – as opposed to ‘for sale’ stock.

  7. Mal-2 says:

    They could also be white roo pads, though I can’t imagine someone shelling out for roo pads when he intends to sell the horn and knows it isn’t worth much.

  8. Ross says:

    Absolutely unbelievable. 370 pounds for a wall-hanging.
    Wait for the ebay re-listing – ‘caveat emptor’.

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