Hawkes And Son XX Century Alto (1932)

The Story

A Couple of years ago I was looking to add a good English saxophone to my collection. Hawkes and Son made saxophones in their factory in Edgeware near London. I saw this in an eBay auction and put a bid on it.
I never took much interest in the instrument when it arrived, because it was immediately evidently that it was a ‘high C’ and unplayable in tune. Although I collect saxophones, I’m really not interested in them if they’re unplayable with other musicians, which is true of all ‘high C’ instruments. For those of you who don’t know, concert pitch was not always the standard 440Hz in is today. Many instrument manufacturers from the nineteenth onwards made high and low pitched instruments. While pitch is possible to adjust for stringed instruments, it can’t be changed for brass and saxophones, where the length of the tube dictates the frequency of the notes. Looking at the pictures now I realise that I completely failed to see that this horn had a solid silver bell and neck – like a King Silversonic. If I had I might have been more tempted to keep it.

I had some trouble getting a refund for this sax, but took some photos, which I think are useful for those thinking of owning a Hawkes XX Century horn. Oh… and to avoid purchasing a high-pitched Hawkes look for the ‘#’ or ‘H’ (bad) and ‘b’ or ‘L’ (good) markings by the serial number. I’m not personally against owning ‘high C’ horns, but I’m not going to pay proper saxophone prices for them.

My advice to those selling them is to make sure the fact that it’s a ‘high C’ is listed right at the top of the advert. Sell the instrument on its historical importance, but not on its playability.

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Hawkes and Son C Soprano (1934)

The Story

I acquired this unusual saxophone from Johnny Roadhouse in Manchester. Having looked at all of their vintage instruments on the wall, I eventually turned to look at this one which was standing on the top of the counter. I already had a couple of C Melody saxes, but had never seen a C Soprano. I also liked the idea of having a good English make in my collection.

As usual the staff at the shop gave me great service, throwing in some reeds, a pad saver to go along with the two mouthpieces in the case. When I forgot to take the reeds home they were quick to post them on to me – all good reasons to count this as one of the best places to shop for vintage saxophones. Oh – and this time the sax was in good playing order, an excellent tribute to the repairers there. Continue reading