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Beginner Alternate fingerings and varying resistance to blowing

PaulM

Member
Messages
143
Does anybody know why the apparent "blowability" of a sax varies with different fingerings on the same note? I've done a quick Google and not found anything that answers the question.

Let me give an example. Say you're playing Bb; using the bis key or the lower side key the note is as easy to blow as any. If I finger 1 and 1 or 1 and 2, it feels like the sax has suddenly been stuffed with socks. The tone of the different fingerings is very close, so whatever is causing the effect has to be subtle. Can the lungs detect such small changes in a vibrating volume of air? It feels like they must be able to.

Thanks,

Paul
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
Cafe Moderator
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12,144
Does anybody know why the apparent "blowability" of a sax varies with different fingerings on the same note? I've done a quick Google and not found anything that answers the question.

Let me give an example. Say you're playing Bb; using the bis key or the lower side key the note is as easy to blow as any. If I finger 1 and 1 or 1 and 2, it feels like the sax has suddenly been stuffed with socks. The tone of the different fingerings is very close, so whatever is causing the effect has to be subtle. Can the lungs detect such small changes in a vibrating volume of air? It feels like they must be able to.

Thanks,

Paul

I am not sure I understood your example properly, but I try to explore two possible issues, but let's call the Bbs as "Short Bb" (1st finger on two keys), "Long Bb" (1st finger LH +1stRH) and "Side Bb"

"Short" is supposed to be more free blowing. It is the one with the best venting.
"Long" has one more key down, and often needs adjustments (there is usually a screw for that). Should be more stuffy.
"Side" closes one key to open another one. Not the best venting solution.

BUT

"Side" opens a key facing the player, so maybe YOUR perception is different.

And, of course, there might be a setting problem.

Am I on the right path?
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,845
It shouldn't vary that much! But all saxes are different. You can also try Bb= L1 B and R2 F and Bb= L1 B and R2 E. Play all fingerings for the tone and try to blow the tones as even as possible.

Older saxes can be suffering from bad intonation. Sometimes D2 and D#2 and E2 were so flat that they had to make an extra tonehole and key so the sax played better. Todays saxes are much better when it comes to intonation.

Sometimes the setup (keyheights ) of the sax can give you differnt tones. IMO a sax should be setup as factorysetup.

Thomas
 

PaulM

Member
Messages
143
I am not sure I understood your example properly, but I try to explore two possible issues, but let's call the Bbs as "Short Bb" (1st finger on two keys), "Long Bb" (1st finger LH +1stRH) and "Side Bb"

"Short" is supposed to be more free blowing. It is the one with the best venting.
"Long" has one more key down, and often needs adjustments (there is usually a screw for that). Should be more stuffy.
"Side" closes one key to open another one. Not the best venting solution.

BUT

"Side" opens a key facing the player, so maybe YOUR perception is different.

And, of course, there might be a setting problem.

Am I on the right path?

Thanks for the quick reply and you are probably on the right track. I will try to explain better. If I play Bb by either pressing the B + bis key; or the B + A + side Bb keys, the instrument blows as easily as any other note. If I sound the note by pressing B + F (1st LH + 1st RH), or B + E pearls (1st LH + 2nd RH), then there is a noticeable change in the resistance to my blowing. It has to be down to the altered venting as you suggest because nothing else has changed. It must be them there standing waves in the bore I suppose. Otherwise you might think that airflow would be dominated by the whopping big open bell at the end. It's a bit like thinking that if you stood at the riverbank and removed a bucket of water as the Severn bore passed, would anyone notice that the flow was a trifle weaker?
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
8,054
On any woodwind there are regular notes which are vented primarily through the first open tonehole which is followed by a series of other open toneholes, and "cross-fingered" notes which are vented through an open tonehole which is followed by one or more closed toneholes. Examples of cross-fingered notes include LH middle finger C, RH middle finger F#, and Bb with the 1 - 1 fingering.

All cross-fingered notes have a different timbre than the same note fingered differently with open toneholes following the tonehole that vents the note. C played with the first finger and middle side key, and F# played with the fork fingering are two examples of these different sounding fingerings with the same pitch.

The 1 - 1 Bb is unusual in that it has two open toneholes followed by 3 closed. This note although having a slightly different sound than regularly fingered Bb usually doesn't sound stuffy unless it is out of adjustment. An easy way to check is to play Bb with the 1 - 1 fingering and then with the LH second finger press down on the Bis key. If the note sounds more clear when you do this, it needs adjusting.
 

PaulM

Member
Messages
143
Thanks jbtsax,

An easy way to check is to play Bb with the 1 - 1 fingering and then with the LH second finger press down on the Bis key. If the note sounds more clear when you do this, it needs adjusting.

The difference in tonal quality when I do this is barely perciptible, so that's not a bad result.

In the case of note accuracy goes all four fingerings of Bb look very close to one another on my tuner app. As I mentioned in the original post, it's not so much of a tonal difference I'm noticing but more an alteration to the resistance towards my blowing. You and Aldevis are probably correct when you say the change in venting position must alter the position of the vibrating air column enough for the player to notice a change. I'm surprised it makes that much difference as the basic frequency of the oscillating air column can't have changed that much or the notes would be different; which they aren't.

Thanks for all the help folks,

Paul
 
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