I usually play Bb tenor or Eb alto with jazz musicians, but do occasionally enjoy playing with blues or rock musicians who tend to play in keys that suit the guitar, like E and A major. For alto players, the guitar key of E major has to be transposed into C# major with seven sharps, or, on tenor, F# major with six sharps
Now, playing seven sharps can be managed but it is a bit of a challenge particularly in fast tempi and improvised solos, hence the attraction of a C-melody sax.
C-melody saxes were very popular in the 1920s and can often be found for sale on eBay, particularly in the United States. There are some very good instruments available, but the downsides to buying one this way are that the instrument pitch may not be aligned with today?s 440 tunings, there will be increased shipping charges to Europe, and very little consumer protection if you?ve been unfortunate enough to buy a dud.
I looked at other modern various offerings mainly from China, but decided to go for the instrument retailed by Thomann because they have to maintain their reputation with good quality control and with European consumer protection.
The instrument came in a lightweight case with shoulder straps. I like the lightness of the case but it?s perhaps not very sturdy ? only time will tell. There is an outer panel on the case, but it is not terribly useful as it is too small to carry music scores or, say, a lightweight stand; a larger outer pocket would be useful. Inside the case is the saxophone, neck and Zinner 62C Ebonite 4C mouthpiece with ligature and guard, as well as two No2 Thomann also reeds, a neck strap, a pad saver (love them or hate them?), a cleaning cloth and a pair of white cotton gloves. Three of the lower keys came with removable plastic inserts to protect them during transit.
Once assembled, how does it sound? Well,I didn?t expect it to sound like a Selmer VI, but once I had swapped the Zinner mouthpiece for an alto metal No7 with strength 2.5 and 3 reeds, I found that I was getting a good free-flowing sound throughout the range except perhaps with top G which is a bit shrill. However, I?m pleased with the overall sound which (dependent upon the mouthpiece chosen) is suitable for everything from classical through jazz to blues.
Getting the best mouthpiece/reed combination is a matter of personal choice but I really did not like the Zinner which had an excessively warm (to the point of being muffled) sound in the middle range. I found it difficult above top D and impossible at the low B/Bb. I tried harder alto reeds which made little difference, as well as tenor reeds which did not fit at all well. The Zinner 4C with a #2 reed might suit some people but I would strongly suggest that people try other combinations. Alto mouthpieces seem to fit the neck.
The neck has a tuning mechanism which I have not seen before. That seems to work well enough and I assume that it was designed to accommodate and fine tune (alto) mouthpieces with different characteristics. The corked end of the crook does feel slightly loose but that does not seem to affect the sound. From a health point of view, I expect that the tuning mechanism could be a breeding ground for germs and should be cleaned regularly.
How does it feel? I agree with comments in other reviews that the key layout and spacing is not ideal. For the left hand, location and layout of the keys for the little finger are awkward, particularly for the bottom Bb. With the right hand, the thumb rest seems rather low down compared with the side levers for Bb and C. Ideally all the side levers should be within easy reach.
In summary, yes, there are issues about key layout and getting a suitable mouthpiece, but it makes a decent sound and does what it says on the tin. I have no regrets about purchasing the Thomann CMS-600 S C- Melody Sax.
It also looks good.
UPDATE: Having become more used to this instrument, my initial concerns about the layout of the right hand side levers is no longer an issue for me. I have just become used to it and find that I compensate without thinking about it.
The mouthpiece is critical for getting a a good sound. As I wrote above, the supplied Zinner mouthpiece did not work for me at all. While my metal alto mouthpiece was pretty good, the top G was very shrill. However, since then I have been playing with my old Otto Link Tone Edge 6* ebonite alto mouthpiece, and found that it is ideal for this sax using Rigotti Gold No3 reeds. This combination gives me a good free blowing and consistent sound from bottom Bb through to top G - sounds good all the way. Embouchure is a very personal thing so what suits me may not be ideal for others.