Martin Home Model saxophone reborn ?

Came across this interesting Yanagisawa / Leblanc prototype saxophone from the eighties, currently up for sale on ebay by the Bristol based woodwindworkshop   

Described as (quote) “…no RH palm keys, only one LH palm key, two LH pinkie keys, and (as on most other saxes), two RH pinkie keys… “  For loads more pictures of the Yani, click here.

Looks a bit like a re-incarnation of the Martin Home Model, and even more like the Buescher Academy – also with it’s rear-facing bell vent.  The Martin ‘Home’ and Buescher ‘Academy’ were two minimally keyed saxophones from the thirties, which were meant to make learning the sax easier by having less confusing keywork – but failed to impress…  Guess they tried again in the 80’s ?

Click here for more lovely pictures of the Buescher Academy, courtesy of

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21 Responses to Martin Home Model saxophone reborn ?

  1. Lewis Pelham says:

    A valid criticism of the standard saxophone is it’s limited range compared to a clarinet. Having recently taken up a soprano, the range is even more limited…no gentleman would affront his listeners to anything above high D on that instrument.
    It is therefore no surprise to me that the early “home models” failed. They surely defeat their intended object in that any serious buyer would quickly appreciate their inadequacies and invest in a standard sax with it’s increased, but still limited, range….thereby increasing, as distinct from the intended reduction, of tuition costs.
    Perhaps if the revised 80s model had the facility to add Factory Extra “Add On” Options, the market would have been there. I envisage….LH palm keys…
    (A)High D option £2.50.
    (B)High E (to include option A) £6.20….etc.
    The “Low” option would probably price it out of the market…viz…extended bell C/W Low B, (Bb optional) with keywork…. It all starts to become messy at this point. 😦

  2. Mal-2 says:

    I thought the definition of a gentleman was a man who owns a soprano saxophone but declines to play it.

    I have only used the soprano a couple times, and intonation is a real issue for me — not so much if I just play at one volume level, but repeating the same note and trying to crescendo is practically an invitation to drift flat. I don’t have this problem on alto, c-mel, tenor, or bari, but I haven’t put in the corresponding efforts on soprano.

    I haven’t found the notes above D to be substantially different from any others, it’s just a matter of blending and balance. I don’t even find the altissimo notes (yes, I dare to play beyond the G the instrument is keyed for) to be all that different, maybe less different than the altissimo “break” on any of the other horns. Certainly I can tell from the effort required to find them that they are not natural notes, but they don’t sound all that different if I can get them to come out clean. By contrast, on any of the other horns, altissimo notes (and front F) are distinctly brighter than the palm key notes. This isn’t necessarily unpleasant or undesirable, but it’s certainly something I’m aware of.

    The one recording where I dared to use my soprano, I was covering a trumpet part with a range from B below the staff to an E-F trill above the staff. I had a lot more difficulty getting the low B at mp than I did keeping the E-F trill sounding reasonable.

    Anyhow, the short answer is: yeah the palm-key-less models are rather silly, but a fully equipped horn is not so handicapped. Learn to play altissimo.

    If you can’t play clarinet in the third register, it doesn’t have all that much more range than a saxophone. Admittedly it is much easier to learn to play clarinet in the third register than it is to learn to play altissimo on a saxophone (much less “persuasion” is required to get the horn to respond), but the idea and results are pretty similar. Although I do prefer pretty high-baffled setups to make altissimo quick, easy, and reliable, I can take a Yamaha 4C (or Selmer C*) and an old Bundy alto and get up to C without too much fuss. That Bundy isn’t going to be too happy with my Lakey or Rousseau, but on a better-matched horn, everything up to D is a breeze and I can go hunting for Eb, E, and F (similar to how I have to go hunting for anything beyond four-line G on clarinet).

  3. Ross says:

    I like the concept of limited keywork for beginners.
    I doubt that private ownership was ever the target market – more aimed at
    primary schools and instrument hire.
    I teach saxophone in group settings in schools to children from 9 to 13.
    The instruments are nearly all hired from the schools.
    The biggest frustration for little people learning is the touching of keywork
    and all the squeaks and wrong notes that causes. Boys get angry and girls
    The first year of playing does not go below D (C in some bandpieces) and
    seldom above A.
    I often cork and tape offending keywork. A child will take home an instrument
    for home-practice if they are confident of playing right notes.
    As fingers grow and embouchure develops they can move onwards and upwards!
    Clarinets don’t have quite the same problems as altos but for some, the
    plateau models may be good in first year.(Shock,Horror from the purists). I also cork the RH trill keys on some flutes! The curved headjoint is also a great aid.
    It’s also good for the teacher when arthritis kicks into the right shoulder!
    Teaching beginners should be fun for all!

  4. Mal-2 says:

    Curved headjoints are great for anyone who needs them. When the choice is between playing a modified instrument or none at all, it seems like a no-brainer to me. If this means a fancy vertical headjoint, so be it (at least for an adult who won’t outgrow the problem — they’re pretty expensive).

    I can also see the point in corking, taping, or otherwise preventing the motion of keys that keep getting bumped by accident, as that too is a situation that will generally get outgrown. I’m not sure plateau clarinets are doing anyone any favors though — I can imagine bad habits getting started this way, and if a standard Bb clarinet is too big, maybe a C is more appropriate. Eefers may be right for the hands, but they’re notoriously difficult to tame even for experienced players.

    I’m not sure I would start a total beginner on saxophone at all. The school district I was in offered only four choices for first year students — flute, clarinet, trumpet, and drums. The logic was that this would teach the necessary fundamentals for larger instruments, let the teacher figure out which of the kids was getting the hang of it, kept the complexity of the lessons down (only four things to worry about), and if parents chose to buy instruments these were among the cheapest. Second year (or second semester if the kid showed real promise), they would be encouraged to try other things.

  5. Lewis Pelham says:

    There are those who, with justification, believe that it is wrong to restrict learners from playing below D or above A.
    The young students in their minds will see everything below and above these notes as “hard”…it therefore becomes a mental barrier.
    This applies equally to keys….Concert E and B are not “difficult”…they are different; but just another key.
    Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis was self taught, and therefore had no fear of keys or notes; he had the advantage of not being frightened away by tutors.

  6. alan says:

    No luxury of playing restrictions when I started on clarinet (still in shorts ?) – within the first year I was ‘volunteered’ to play Jerusalem as a solo in Chapel…

    Horror of horrors ! It had loads of A’s and B’s across the ‘break’ between low and middle registers ! So, I had to synchronise simultaneously moving eight fingers and a thumb to play something like “And did those squeak, in ancient squeak, squeak upon Englands squeak-squeak green…

    And boy, did those lofty acoustics amplify the squeaks… 😳 But the rate of my playing progress was then judged by the future lack of squeaks, especially when moving between registers… I developed a good embouchure VERY quickly.

    ( P.S. – Thanks for all the comments above, there may be a couple of new posts/topics generated from them 😀 )

  7. Lewis Pelham says:

    Perhaps I should have added the codicil “Well meaning Tutors”. There is nothing to be gained from doing what is easy.
    The other evening I played with a trad band…inexpressibly boring, everything in F & Bb.
    Tom Waits was asked where he learnt to play piano. He said that he learnt in his parents’ basement on a piano, on which none of the white keys worked…so he learnt to play everything in F#!
    Yes, we can all play altissimo, but we were talking of the soprano where anything above high D should be illegal. Now, if you could tell me how to play notes on the soprano BELOW it’s god given range then I would be forever in your debt. 😆
    I have an old chum who has been employed as a saxophonist all his life…his playing is just wonderful… all the usual effects including a seamless one octave gliss. When I asked him why he never played altissimo he said that he never had the need…he could say everything in the notes provided…as could Ben Webster et al.

  8. Lewis Pelham says:

    It has just occured to me that you can hear my old chum on this site. In a list at the top right you will see Johnny Marshall MFV…just click on & listen; not an altissimo note in sight…neither are they needed at his level.

  9. alan says:

    Lewis / Mal – here’s the link (click on the small ‘speaker’ to start/stop.. ) –

    Johnny Marshall / The NDJQ – My Funny Valentine

    I listen to this on many a dark day, you can feel the soul easing out through the music. Starting his pro career in the 50’s with The Kirchin Band – a real melting pot for future British jazz players – Johnny went on to play with the likes of Sarah Vaughan, Stevie Wonder, Long John Baldry and Georgie Fame – to name but a few. He relatively recently acquired a Yamaha alto, and “whatever mouthpiece the salesman recommended…” – in this case, luckily a Link. You can still tell he’s really a tenor player at heart 😉 Beautiful sound Johnny, just beautiful…

    Not forgetting of course, the rest of the North Devon Jazz Quartet featured on this memorable and haunting track – Tony Oreshko on guitar (former jazz musician of the year) – Ian Turner on bass – and the late Brian Davison on drums.

    I’ve never met Johnny, but I can’t help but smile thinking of him playing a ‘minimalist‘ alto like the Yani featured here, and reaching for a few keys that weren’t there ! I know my Martin Home Model leaves me feeling more than a little frustrated, when I try and play it…

  10. Lewis Pelham says:

    That was recorded in a tiny studio in Bideford late at night in 1997. First take.
    When forced to listen to it, Johnny always says that he wishes that he could do it again; he says that there are two mistakes in it!…”But,it will do”
    Not musical mistakes of course. but places where he would have put other notes. It must be hard to be a perfectionist. 🙄

  11. alan says:

    Lewis – the first take is almost always the best. I’ve recorded a few sax ‘fills’ and add-ons over the years for local bands without a regular horn player – and I always insisted that everything I played was recorded, from the very first levels/run-through. First attempts may not be technically the best, but are often the most spontaneous and interesting – anyway, a touch of musical ‘friction’, whilst trying to work things out, is often better than an over-rehearsed set of phrases… I was usually ‘done and down the pub’ whilst vocals were being endlessly re-recorded.

    Not that I ever played anything like as good as Mr Marshall… 😕

  12. Mal-2 says:

    I didn’t mean to imply that altissimo is a necessity, only that it IS a valid response to those who argue that side of the power-vs.-range argument. The trade is not an absolute, and it is still quite possible to reach those notes — it’s just not easy. On clarinet, it’s pretty simple by comparison. So in the hands of a moderately accomplished high-schooler, yeah, clarinets and flutes have considerably more range than saxophones. Professionals can make up most of the gap — and professionals on flute and clarinet can make up a large part of the volume gap.

    I could go entire sets or entire gigs without playing outside the natural range, and I probably have, but not by design. If the notes fit, I use them. If they don’t, I don’t. On a ballad such as the above, it probably wouldn’t make sense to be up there a whole lot, though I probably would go for it on bari. G, G# and A are highly useful in concert C minor, and bari can be played with some delicacy in altissimo, more so than alto in my opinion.

    Lately I’ve had to do more “stunt saxophone”, as our song endings have been VERY sloppy with so many subs in the rhythm section. The way we deal with this is to cover it up with additional “hits” — crude, but it works, and calls for lots of flash and wailing.

  13. Ross says:

    I only suggest a limited range in first year and not to all!
    I teach to groups of children who are learning an instrument for “musical
    experience”. They start at 9 or 10 years old.
    From this group there are children who take this to the next
    level and get more personal tuition, through the system. The first two years
    are usually on alto. By their third year (now in senior school) those who remain are becoming competent players and have access to tenor and baritone and a broad
    range of ensemble experiences. Further tuition is on a “studio teaching”
    and more formal basis. The altissimo is another story!

    One of my prized possessions is an autographed photo of “Lockjaw”.
    I met and chatted with him in Melbourne (with Basie band) in the mid-60’s!

  14. Lewis Pelham says:

    Yes, in the main I agree with you…it all depends on what you are playing. Improvising mainly in rock or blues bands I tend also to play “hooligan sax” with much wailing, growling and altissimo screaming…it all depends upon the circumstances & fitting in with the spirit (& hopefully, the key) of the band.
    At the same time I admire saxophonists who play in different areas of music. With the limited time available to us who have/had a “proper job”, we cannot be as proficient as we would wish in all the genres of music.

  15. alan says:

    Seems like sax players make up for the limited range by having more horns – I mean, it’s not unusual for a sax player to have a couple of saxes in front of him. However, clarinet and flute players invariably have just the one…

    I used to be a tenor/sop man, until I realised that the alto low’ish harmonics – say up to C4 – would cover the soprano (sensible) high notes as well, and it’d make me practise those because I really needed to be reasonably fluent on them. So ‘tenor/sop man’ became ‘tenor/alto man’ – much more tonal flexibility 😆

  16. Lewis Pelham says:

    Changing from tenor/sop to tenor/alto would indeed give you “much more tonal flexibility” but it would also give you yet another sharp in the use of the alto. 😥
    Using both tenor and sop in the same song is fine, with the same fingering…playing the fills on tenor & picking up an alto for the solo could bend a chap’s brain; at least for the first four bars.

  17. Mal-2 says:

    Any switch between differently-pitched horns is a bit of a mindf*ck at first, but on written parts it usually passes without the audience being any the wiser. I find that the alto-tenor or tenor-bari switch is actually one of the most difficult, even though they’re in closely related keys. The alto-Cmel switch messes with my head less, for some reason. Also, the soprano-alto switch doesn’t seem as bad as the tenor-bari switch, even though in theory they are exactly the same.

    Maybe when I have to move three steps around the circle of fifths (rather than one), it just makes more sense to push the mental "dump" button and start from scratch. Maybe it’s that I’m quite accustomed to jumping between alto and flute. Or maybe it’s that while playing Eb instruments, my mind is still halfway in concert pitch mode (which is not the case when playing Bb instruments — the transposition is definitely easier to READ, but somehow not to HEAR). When I’m playing, say, an A on alto, I’m thinking of it as A, but a small part of me is simultaneously thinking of it as a C, and somehow these two parts do not come into conflict. Why the cognitive dissonance of a major second is hard to deal with, but a minor third is not, I have no idea.

  18. Lewis Pelham says:

    I agree Mal…too much thinking can boil one’s brain. Far better, I believe to just pick up the horn and let instinct take over.

  19. alan says:

    Strangely enough, that’s how I coped with Eb, Bb and C (flute) instruments on the stand in front of me.  Just a quick two-second flurry ‘off-mic’ after I’d picked up the instrument, seemed to lock the brain onto the pitch change.

    Most playing was ‘by-ear’, so no problem, the intervals were the same, just needed a starting point.  Having to sight-transpose any previously unseen music (mostly for ‘guests’ in the clubs) was another matter  😥 – that’s when I could have done with the C-mel and C-Sop I have now !

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