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What should a beginner buy? B-Walstein or Hanson ST5 or ??

RobatBlueRock

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Being a dyed-in-the-wool (blues/rock) electric guitarist since the age of 10, who is now looking to finally take the plunge after 35 years and learn a new instrument..Tenor sax.. I need a bit of help. (Mid-life-crisis?)
I have just ordered a BW Alto for my lovely wife (for xmas..Sshh)who plays Clarinet, and I know from my recent research which led me to that decision, that the BW is good VFM and probably one of the best options for a Tenor for me to learn on as well. But, here's my dilemma... I tend to like all things classic and retro.. and I really don't do 'shiney' things very much,and without wishing to upset all you shiney lovers, I find the gold/silver horn thing ..well.. a bit BLING.
However, I really DO like the faux vintage/antique look horns, and given the choice all thing being equal, that's what I would prefer.
Don't get me wrong, as far as shiney things go the BW with the Ph-B is quite sweet looking and a bit less in-yer-face, and if I have to do shiney, then I could probably live with it.
Hanson tell me they could do the ST5 in a vintage finish for about 90 quid extra so that is an option I am thinking about. The question is ... is this a good option or would I regret not going for the BW?. Perhaps there is something else in a vintage finish I should consider?
I'm a mature enough musician not to want cosmetics to get the better of tone, but hey I've got to like how it looks too yeah? or am I being a bit shallow?
Since the sax will not be my main instrument ,this will probably be the only horn I buy (umm... I think I said that about my last guitar.... and come to think about it, my golf clubs too..) any suggestions to help me firm up my decision would be gratefully received.
 

Rogerb

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Welcome RBR, and since no-one else is volunteering I can say rthat I have had alto saxes from both manufacturers and was completely satisfied with the service, and the saxes :)
Alastair Hanson is a really nice guy to deal with, and has a very great knowledge of the brass & woodwind making business. He also knows a great deal about the suppliers, having spent LOTS of time in China. And, of course, Hanson offer a great after-sales deal of 5 years free service....very useful if you live anywhere nearby!
The ST5 has a very good reputation...they used to struggle to meet the demand for them.. and Pete liked it when he blew some at the factory, but I don't know how they compare with the more recent arrivals on the market from BW. I haven't spoken to Alastair for a while so maybe they have something new up their sleeve, or have developed the ST5 to 'keep pace' with the competition....they don't appear to be advertising much.
You can read in various places how highly-rated BWs are.
I think you'd almost certainly be happy with either ... both companies sell good horns at good prices!
Best of luck
 

Phil Edwards

Senior Member
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East Sussex
If it helps, the BW alto I have sat under my desk here is unlacquered so although it's fairly new-ish it's tarnishing nicely into that vintage look. Key cups are shiny though...

Not sure if they do an unlacq tenor.

Phil
 

Lupifaro

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Wales
If it helps, the BW alto I have sat under my desk here is unlacquered so although it's fairly new-ish it's tarnishing nicely into that vintage look. Key cups are shiny though...

Not sure if they do an unlacq tenor.

Phil
I have an unlacquered BW phosphor bronze alto which Dave Keighley delacquered for me:welldone,i love it.I also have a deluxe BW Phos Tenor on order unlacquered at factory production it should arrive in Jan 2010. Anyone wanting UL models get your orders in now;}
birdman

www.studiosaxophones.co.uk
 
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RobatBlueRock

RobatBlueRock

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Your not wrong!!.. In some ways it's a bit dissapointing, cos it means there are less variables to triffle around with, and I confess to being a bit of a tinkerer (is that a real word?.. dunno). But in other ways its quite good, because it's just a case of what colour/finish you like then? But I keep reading all sorts of stuff about, for example, silver plating on a sax sounding 'brighter' etc.. ? is it all snake-oil then?
 
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RobatBlueRock

RobatBlueRock

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Ok....... I'm gonna have to come clean here, and out of the closet because this topic intrigues me.
Now, I am not a sax player (yet), but as well as playing guitar for 30+ years, I have been making and repairing/customising guitars (and tube amps) for 20+ years. And although I know little about the sax specifically, I do have a good understanding of instruments generally and particularly guitars.
I am also a HND qualified engineer by trade, and have spent 3 years working for a professional studio/custom PA company.
I hope that qualifies me to have a valid opinion on this subject.

I am gonna stick to what I know about guitars and you can apply it yourself to the Sax, or any other acoustic instrument for that matter.

I can say that what we 'hear' is simply sound waves in the air caused by movement of air molecules which have been excited by a mechanical source of vibration. It could be a car engine, or in this case an instrument.

These sound waves vary in frequency and pressure (which we call volume) and also include subtle sub-frequencies which we call harmonics. Sometime these frequencies are further enhanced by sympathetic oscillations of the actual source (instrument) which we call 'resonance'. When a number of these variables combine they not only affect different fundimental frequencies (musical notes), but also affect what we call 'tone'. more to come...
 
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RobatBlueRock

RobatBlueRock

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Continued..
Now I can tell you that for a given guitar design, if you make the instrument out of Mahogany it will sound completely different than the same design made out of maple. This is true for both electric and acoustic guitars.
I can also say that a steel guitar bridge sounds different to a brass bridge all other things being equal. I can also say that guitar strings ..and this is particularly relevant to this discussion.. are made out of various metals/ combinations.. including brass nickel, steel, phosper bronze.. etc and all these variations change what the instrument sounds like.
Specifically with an acoustic guitar, what we hear not only comes from the sound hole, but additionally includes what we hear resonating from the actual instrument body itself.
What the body is made of, whether or not it is left natural, or coated with laquer or paint and also what hardware is used for the bridge etc all combine to influence what we perceive as 'tone' .. dark, bright etc.
 
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RobatBlueRock

RobatBlueRock

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Now, to the best of my knowledge the Sax is an acoustic instrument right.. and I would have to suggest that what we hear in tone and volume not only eminates from the sound-hole but also from the actual body of the instrument itself.
So.. my supposition is this ... what the instrument is made of, and additionally what dampening or enhancing factors exist ie laquer or plating.. and indeed your hands on the instrument itself will all affect to some degree or other what we actually hear.
Now here's the thing that might upset the apple cart....
I also happen to know a lot about Anti-Social Behaviour strange as that may seem. Got your attention?
Ok. Here we go...
One of the things often used to deter teenagers from hanging around a particular location is a device called a Mosquito. It is essentially a small amplifier which emits an annoying high pitched noise through a PA horn. And guess what... no one over about 25yrs old can here the damn thing.. I certainly can't at 45 and neither I suspect could most of you. ....
 
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RobatBlueRock

RobatBlueRock

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This is because our ability to hear high frequency degenerates rapidly once we leave our teens.
So.. the point is this.. assuming that plating, different metals, laquering/dampening etc all in theory can affect tone, most of us will not be able to hear it unless that difference is very significant.
But they will affect 'tone' to a greater or lesser degree.
Just a thought.. I own a vintage style Telecaster and I have just replaced the brass string saddles with graphite ones... guess what? It sounds very different... brighter with more sustain.
And being a middle-ager with my 45yr old hearing, it must be significant or I wouldn't be able to tell.
So, some closing thoughts.. If you want a good idea of how different metals 'might' affect tone, look up some guitar string manufacturers and see what they say about their strings.
More importantly, if you want to know what subtle differences can be heard in saxophones... play them to some teenagers!!
:thankyou:
 
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Taz

Busking Oracle
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Surely the way a string vibrates, the density between say mahogany and maple has little bearing on a sax? A sax relies on the subtle vibration of a reed and airflow through the horn to produce the tone, so therefor aren't the physics total different, If you twang a guitar string, it will sound until the vibration stops, lasting several seconds. If you stop blowing a sax, it stops immediately. I don't believe that you can compare the two as they rely on such different circumstances to actually produce a sound?
PS I am definitely not an expert in any sound related field...(does it show?:confused:)
 
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RobatBlueRock

RobatBlueRock

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Yup, the instruments operate in slightly different ways. But it seems that most horn players are in agreement that the most important or influential part of the sax is the mouthpiece? in fact I believe you can actually play the mouthpiece without the main tube (is that called the body?) attached, and still produce some kind of sound.
The source of your sound eminates from the combination of the mouthpiece and the reed right? a bit like plucking a string. And there certainly seems to be a concensus that what the mouthpiece is made from and how it is formed plays an important part in the tone?
Does a metal mouthpiece sound different to a vulcanised rubber? to a cheap plastic copy?.... I think so. And as long as you keep the other variables the same ie the reed+ligature etc, I assume you would all tell the difference between a plastic and metal mouthpiece if they were constructed identically?
So that's your starting point.
What the mouthpiece/reed combination produces is the fundemental frequency of the instrument. What happens after is that you affect and change that sound source by the length of tube, shape of the bell? number of hole covered etc. ..(more)..
 
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RobatBlueRock

RobatBlueRock

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As that fundimental sound passes down the tube it will be impeded or assisted by the influencing factors appertaining to the tube.. what it is made of.. the shape of the bell at the end etc.
The fundemental question is... does the tube/body 'resonate' as the air flows through it? can you put your hand on the body when someone is playing and actually 'feel' the note being played? I think so.
So the body is resonating yes? if it resonates ='vibrates' when you play, then just the same as the guitar body (even electric guitars)it will contribute to what you eventually hear. Some guitars use a piezo crystal system to turn the actual vibrations of the body into electronic sound which is then amplified. I'm sure you can get such things for woodwind instruments? they turn the vibration if the instrument into a useable electronic signal which then gets amplified/modified. I might be wrong here, but I'm sure I've seen them around. If the body 'vibrates' then it will contribute to what you eventually hear.
I know my wife's basic plastic Yamaha clarinet sounds different to her really nice Selmer made of ebony.(with the same mouthpiece). So I'm sure it would be the same for a sax?
Can you hear it?.. that's a different matter! old fart syndrome again!
Try wrapping a couple of rolls of sticky tape around yer bell-end (ooer) and see if it makes a difference.
 
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kevgermany

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I think you're going a bit off the point here.

It's a misconception that the mouthpiece material affects the sound. Plenty of threads showing that.

Guitar sound is heavily affected by the body material as sound is transmitted through the components of the guitar and attenuated by the energy absorbed by the body components. Plus the strings are the primary sound generators, unlike the sax.

Sax generates sound by the reed vibrating, by the shape/size of the mouth, pressure on the reed, shape of the tube, placement and size of tone holes (including relative size to one another), placement of octave holes, height of valves, type of pad, size shape and thickness of resonator material. However most of the sound is from the shape and structure of the components that affect the vibration of the air, not by transmission through the components of the sax. Unlike the guitar, the sound is generated & shaped in a chamber.

When scientists have tried to measure the effects of body materials, they've drawn a blank - even with sophisticated mikes, which are better than even young ears.

The situation's complicated by the difficulty of getting a consistent blow/play of the sax, even using machines. So measurements aren't easy.

I used to think the way you're doing, led on by the way guitars and violins are heavily affected by materials. This compounded by web lore about earlier Mk VIs being better than later ones because of the better metal. But there are good and bad Mk VI's in old and new ranges. Also by manufacturers making copper or bronze bodied instruments, claiming it improves the sound.

And that's before you factor in the psychological effects of believing it'll sound better because of the body material.

Many/all music scientists will say it's not true and point at the research. Many musicians will agree. Many others won't.

Truth be told it's a question that's regularly debated, with arguments based on fact on one side and supposition on the other. Either the loudest voice winning - or people fall out or back down because it's a pointless fight. Many refuse to join in because it's been argued to death too many times before.

Take a look at Stephen Howard's thread and review of this point.

Probably best to keep an open mind. But there's no scientific or reliable empirical evidence to support your position. >:)
 
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RobatBlueRock

RobatBlueRock

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I'm happy to be wrong. And I think SH makes some good observations in that there is a lot of inconsistancy between various claims by manufacturers, as is the case in the guitar world too.
I'm only having this dicussion.. mostly with myself.. because I'm trying to understand, and make an informed choice. (Also, bored!)
I guess we could ask.. if I changed the exhaust pipe on my car from the standard steel covered in rust and stuff to a spanking new stainless steel one would the exhaust note sound different?
And hanging a couple of silencers on the tube.. or not.. would make a difference to what I hear?

My friend has a wooden flute. It does sound completely different to his metal one... darker.. more 'mellow' less 'presence'.
Shurely (and I appreciate it's been argued to death) if your sax was made of wood it would sound different?
 
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RobatBlueRock

RobatBlueRock

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I think that would be helpful Pete. I'm already wishing I hadn't started this thread.. Folks are quite passionate about this argument. Surely, the whole reason the sax is made of metal rather than wood or plastic is because it imparts a certain quality to the sound?
Perhaps I'm missing something here but logic tells me this must be the case. If so then, what metal you use, how thick it is, how much laquer..or not.. makes a difference?
 
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