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Guardala DG 503ET Earth Tone Tenor Saxophone

No two horns play alike, including those made by the same manufacturer. In order to appreciate my review of the Guardala Earth Tone tenor saxophone (list price $5,565), I think it is appropriate to give a brief description of my current setup on tenor. I play a Selmer (circa 1951) with a Guardala gold-plated mouthpiece (model unknown, but it’s the darkest one I’ve ever played!), and Rico Jazz Select 4 medium reeds. I have played and recorded with this horn in smaller groups and mostly acoustic-oriented situations. At times I feel I could use something brighter when performing in bigger venues or with electric instrumentation, but ultimately it depends on the style of the music. I’m not of the opinion that one horn works for every performance situation.

The Earth Tone is very responsive, and I had no problems playing all over the horn, including altissimo. I experimented with various articulations and nuances to get a feel for its flexibility. Again, the horn responded well. The pitch was good, and I didn’t notice any major inconsistencies among the different octaves of the horn. I love the Earth Tone’s action. It feels very similar to the Mark VI in key positioning, and it’s built for speed. The position of the palm keys is very comfortable for my hands, and the spatula for the alternate high F is easy to roll up to.

My only complaint with the Earth Tone comes in the sound department. Although I was unable to perform live with it, which is the true test, I did take it into the studio to compare its sound to that of my tenor. What I noticed is that the quality of the sound changes when I put a lot of air into the horn. I like to play hard at times, but I like intensity, not brightness; this is why I don’t use metal resonators on my Selmer.

The Earth Tone looks good. The one I tested had a brushed finish, with a polished finish on the inside of the bell. And the engraving on the entire horn, including the neck, is a nice touch.

Overall I would recommend the Earth Tone Series to anyone preferring a lean sound and the flexibility to play three plus octaves. I would use it on gigs with electric instrumentation or in an acoustic setting where I don’t have to play real hard but wanted to play all over the horn to get my message across.

Originally Published