Origin: Holland (www.gloger-handkraft.com)
Guide price: £200 (dependent on model and specs)
Date of manufacture: Unknown
Date reviewed: April 2004
Handcrafted 'aftermarket' crooks for saxophones
There are those who regard the crook, or neck, of the saxophone to be
the most important part of the instrument.
I personally tend to take the more moderate view that it's as important
as any other part of the whole package - but there's no denying that its
status is raised slightly by virtue of the fact that it's really quite
easy to lose the thing, and without a crook all you really have is so
much scrap brass...unless you can find a replacement. Not easy (granted,
you could just as easily lose the whole instrument - but then the issue
of replacing the crook becomes a bit of a moot point).
Up until, if memory serves, the mid 1980's, the only practical way to
replace a crook was to go back to the manufacturer and order a replacement
- always assuming that your model was a current one.
And then manufacturers hit on the idea of producing separate crooks for
their instruments, available at any time after purchase of the actual
instrument (hence the term 'aftermarket crooks'). I believe that Yanagisawa
in particular were early pioneers of this scheme. The problem still arose
though if your sax was no longer in production - and losing a crook from
a Selmer MKVI or a Conn 6M often meant a frantic search for a replacement
from a beaten up horn, or simply trying as many crooks as you could lay
your hands on in the hope of finding something that worked.
Enter the craftsman.
In recent years a number of individuals have set up in the business of
manufacturing bespoke crooks. Their philosophy is a double-edged one in
that they provide a source for replacement crooks for just about any horn
you care to mention, and they also provide the opportunity to customise
your horn in terms of overall response and playability.
Certainly from the first point of view they provide an invaluable service
- there's no heartbreak quite like that of owning a potentially wonderful
horn and yet being quite unable to do anything with it because someone
mislaid the crook a while back. From the second point of view you're firmly
into subjection, perhaps best summed up with the phrase 'whatever floats
this in mind I was delighted to have the opportunity to review an
aftermarket crook, a Gloger, built to fit a Conn 12M 'Crossbar'
This Gloger neck, based on an original pattern neck, is
built in copper, and comes in an unlacquered finish (which means the copper
will eventually turn a dull matt brown...which I think can look rather
businesslike). Whether the choice of material makes a jot of difference
is wholly up to you. I don't personally see that it matters, and proving
it is likely to be impossible - but if you think it matters then it probably
does, in some fashion or other.
It's perhaps hard to appreciate the extent of the craftsmanship
that goes into making a crook. On the face of it, it's a fairly
nondescript item - but if you've ever had to bend a bit of metal
tubing with any degree of accuracy and attention to appearance then
you might just be able to begin to marvel at the handiwork of the
person who built this crook.
Perhaps its most striking feature is its elegance - but
therein lies its drawbacks too.
You'll notice that there's no brace under the bottom curve. Were this
an alto or tenor crook I doubt I'd have commented, but a baritone tends
to live a much more painful life than its smaller brethren and I would
have liked to have seen at least a small bit of bracing, if only for peace
I have reservations about the key fitted to this particular
crook. It's not what you'd call 'beefy' by any stretch of the imagination,
and indeed, in the course of adjusting it I found it to be worryingly
easy to bend. Given that the crook gets a lot of handling, particularly
when fitting or removing it, a strong key is very much an advantage.
Coupled to this issue is the lack of a key guide which usually sits between
the saddle (the thing the key is mounted onto) and the octave key cup.
This prevents the key being bent in the advent of a sideways bash...or
a heavy grip when fitting or removing the crook. These, I feel, are reasonably
important points - but I have to acknowledge that the decision to go for
a light build quality may have been to do with tonal response.
I am led to believe that custom options are possible, at the right price,
so this is something you could discuss with the crook builder (titanium
This crook was fitted with a synthetic pad, which I replaced with a leather
one in order to better adjust the throw of the key and to give a more
positive seal on the wide octave key nipple. Similarly, I replaced the
flat spring which was rather too beefy for the job in hand. A slightly
thinner spring gave better balance to the key and a much 'snappier' feel
to the action.
I also felt that an opportunity had been missed with regard to the key
barrel tube. The walls were relatively thin, and given the wear and tear
these keys get I would have liked to have seen a thicker wall. Naturally,
this won't prevent the bore from wearing but it will give the repairer
a bit more 'meat' to play with when the time comes to have the tube swedged
to take up the free play.
Once fitted, the crook was ready to be blown.
I started off by playing the original crook. I have to remark here that
the 'original' crook wasn't in fact original. Although it was a Conn crook
it was from a later model of baritone, but my previous experiences with
this particular model of sax told me that it was a good enough match.
The Crossbar bari is one of the best vintage baris out there, renowned
for its punch and clarity - and this example was up to the mark.
There was a tendency for the middle D to sound slightly stuffier than
the rest of the scale, and there was that typical nasal quality in the
top end of the upper octave.
Tuning was good overall once the embouchure had settled in - and as it
stood I'd have been quite happy with the response I got from the horn.
Then I fitted the Gloger crook. Having adjusted it into
tune (it required the mouthpiece to be pushed on slightly further) I gave
it a good blast.
My initial impression was 'more of everything'.
It was appreciably freer blowing, and if I had to put a figure on it I'd
say that punch and clarity were up a good 20-30%.
The middle D improved considerably, and the nasal top end opened out quite
nicely without any tendency to become shouty or raucous.
Likewise the bottom end really lifted up.
Tonewise I hesitate to say that the crook was brighter.
It was, really, but brightness alone wasn't quite what the Gloger gave,
and I feel a more accurate description would be akin to that of a someone
with a cold being given a shot from a menthol inhaler...everything just
I didn't notice any specific improvement in the tuning, but then that's
rarely an issue for me - but I did notice that it helped to stabilise
a tricky octave G on this horn.
All in all I was rather impressed.
But here's the caveat. The crook weighs in at around the £300 ($600)
mark - and for that amount of money you can invest in a pretty serious
mouthpiece. I know that the same changes in tonal response can be had
from changing mouthpieces - because that's precisely how I have chosen
them in the past...and have done so for considerably less outlay than
a crook. Having said all that, there's a certain subtle difference that
the crook gives - which will be down to the player to decide whether it's
worth the extra cost.
As a replacement crook for one that's damaged or missing, the Gloger represents
a superb investment without any shadow of a doubt. As long as you like
what you hear you can be assured of having bought a quality bit of kit.
As a custom crook, to supplement an existing one, the boundaries
are rather more blurred - and the probability remains high that you could
find a mouthpiece that would bring you the changes in tonal response that
the Gloger manages...though in this particular instance the Gloger scores
plaudits for cleaning up that tricky octave G, which is something that
you don't always get from a new mouthpiece.
That being said, the possible combinations of matching a new mouthpiece
to a new crook are endless - and if you can't find the sound you want
in there somewhere then there's a strong possibility that you're really
a banjo player at heart.
It's at this point that I should mention the probable need
to have an aftermarket crook professionally fitted. There are several
factors that have to be considered - the most important of which is the
fit of the tenon into the crook socket.
It's unreasonable to assume that the crook maker knows the precise state
of your horn's crook socket - many years of use (and possible abuse) may
have altered it from its manufactured specifications, so there's every
chance that the crook tenon will need some work doing to it before it
fits properly, as well as the key needing to be adjusted.
I would strongly advise that the crook socket be dealt
with first, it's absolute folly to shell out several hundred pounds or
dollars on a nice new crook and then bung in into a tenon socket that
worn to buggery. The next consideration is whether you intend to continue
to use an existing crook. If so, then both this crook and the new one
will have to be matched to fit the tenon. Depending on the tolerance involved
this may mean averaging out any necessary adjustments between the crook
socket and the tenons of the crooks.
If it's the case that the new crook is a direct replacement then all that
needs doing is ensuring the tenon fits the socket, once it's been checked.
Expect to pay in the region of £30 for this kind of work, and perhaps
double that if your crook socket needs any appreciable work done to it.
For this particular crook I had to expand the tenon by about
.2 millimetres - which doesn't sound a lot, but is plenty enough to ensure
the crook simply wobbled about uselessly in the socket.
If it were me buying a new crook I'd first have the socket checked, then
I'd measure the diameter of the existing crook tenon (assuming a good
fit has been proven) - or that of a piece of tubing adjusted to fit -
and send the dimensions to the crook builder, thus ensuring the minimum
of hassle when the new crook arrives. As this is a custom item, a degree
of correspondence between you and the maker is expected.
I recently had a go of a solid silver model, built for a
Yamaha YAS62 alto.
I found much more of a dramatic improvement. Once again, the Gloger retained
the original sound of the horn but opened it up rather more. This tied
in with an improvement in the blowing, which felt freer and more responsive
- but by far and away the biggest improvement was on the altissimo notes.
These really opened up, but better than that the initial production of
the notes was greatly helped and enhanced by the crook - along with the
stability and the tuning.
Seen as an upgrade, this crook worked better than the bari one - and rather
than attribute that to the silver I'm more inclined to feel that it was
the partnership with a modern horn...and being an alto, more susceptible
to subtle changes.