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Gloger crook/neck

Origin: Holland (www.gloger-handkraft.com)
Guide price: £200 (dependent on model and specs)
Weight: -
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 your boat'.

Gloger bari sax crookWith this in mind I was delighted to have the opportunity to review an aftermarket crook, a Gloger, built to fit a Conn 12M 'Crossbar' baritone sax.

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 of mind.

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 keys, anyone?).

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 opened up.
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.

Addendum:

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.

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