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Can you get specially adapted Saxes for people with fewer fingers than usual?

boatman360

New Member
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Hi, dont know if this is the right part of the forum to frame this question, but anyway - after a gig last night I was approached by a lady who wanted desperately to play the Sax. Problem is that she only has three fingers on each hand, through a birth deformity (sorry if this isnt pc lingo). Does anyone know anything about this? Do special Saxophones exist adapted for this reason and if so are they prohibitively expensive?
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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Which fingers are missing on each hand?

Conn made a once-off for a one handed player.

I'd guess that all that's needed is an extra pearl on a couple of keys, so that she can play two keys with one finger when she needs to - say E&F and A&G. So for example on the E/F, there'd be an extension from F to the pearl for E, ending up next to it, roller between the two, so that with one finger she can close either E or F or both, something like the C/C# on the footjoint of a flute. .

Might be easier on a smaller sax as the keycups are smaller/lighter and closer together.

Would be a good idea to send Griff and Stephen Howard a pm and sound them out. I'd guess it'll be necessary for whoever does the work to assess the amount of handicap and see what's likely to work best for her.
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
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5,545
Griff converted a recorder for a friend who has finger problems and has to play with reversed hand positions. Suspect a sax would be more complex.
 

griff136

Well-Known Member
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1,048
Unfortunately you cant buy "off the shelf" saxes that are specially adapted.

You could get a repairman/technician to convert one but the work involved would be costly depending on what needed doing.

Does this lady have thumbs as well as 3 fingers on each hand? I only ask because the more digits the lady has, the less work it will take to convert.
 

jbtsax

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I was just thinking of the vintage Conn altos which have the alternate Eb by lifting the middle finger of the right hand, and the alternate G# by pressing the extra key between the F and E keys on the right hand.

Using this sax, someone without "pinkys" on each hand could play chromatically from low D to the high F. The palm keys and side keys would be no problem.

The only notes unavailable would be the low C#, C, B, and Bb (which are highly overrated anyway).;}
 

boatman360

New Member
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2
Hi guys - thanks for the replies. Love low Bb's, tender....working on a version of one note samba on low Bb at the moment because I dislike my neighbours constant best of X factor replays.

anyway, the lady in question has no thumbs or little fingers, just the three central digits on each hand. I understand palm keys would be no problem but how would you get around stabilising the instrument with no thumbs?

Jbt - do you know which model of Conn has the fingering layout you mentioned?

cheers

:)
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
Hi guys - thanks for the replies. Love low Bb's, tender....working on a version of one note samba on low Bb at the moment because I dislike my neighbours constant best of X factor replays.

anyway, the lady in question has no thumbs or little fingers, just the three central digits on each hand. I understand palm keys would be no problem but how would you get around stabilising the instrument with no thumbs?

Jbt - do you know which model of Conn has the fingering layout you mentioned?

cheers

:)
Missing thumbs? There's goes the register key. That could also cause problems with "holding" the instrument. How far is she willing to go in terms of a "specialty sax"?

The reason I ask is because I was just thinking that her best bet might be to have the sax "mounted" on a very solid stand where she can just sit at it and play it without having to actually "hold it". That would free her fingers to just playing keys without having to worry about balancing or manipulating the horn in any way with the thumbs.

If she is willing to go for a "stationary sax" that is solidly mounted that also opens up other possibilities such as "foot-operated levers", for say the register key, and potentially other keys that would normally be used for the pinky.

That would certainly be a "specialty sax" for sure. I'm not sure what all that would entail, but potentially the sax could be mounted on a system that has some freedom of movement so it's not totally rigid. Maybe mounted with some kind of springs so she'll have some freedom of moment whilst still providing some stability and "foot controlled keys". She might also be able to incorporate her palms to activate keys as well once the horn has been "anchored".

In my mind I see this thing being attached directly to the stool or chair that she is sitting on so it retains a solid orientation to her. Although the sax could also be mounted directly on her with some sort of rigid harness system that actually holds the sax fairly rigid in front of her. Then she would have more freedom to move around. That could depend on the size of sax she's interested in playing. Having it mounted directly to her via a rigid harness system would indeed be better than having it mounted to a stool. But either way can work.

I think I've seen "sax stands" where the sax can supposedly be played while it's in the stand. So maybe get one of those and standard sax. See what she can do with that, and then work from there. Once the sax is in a stand that opens up the possibility of foot-operated levers.

In fact, she could potentially use foot operated levers even with a "free-floating" sax worn on a rigid harness. The control cables could be flexible (kind of like the cables used for camera shutters). She could potentially use her foot at least for the octave key. And possible more.

Anyway, that's just my brainstorming thoughts for whatever they're worth.
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
I was just thinking even further about this. Regarding the "foot-operated levers".

Once the idea of levers being activated via cables or pneumatic bulbs is incorporated she might actually be able to run some of those with her arms. She could potentially have a lever or bulb strapped to her side (actually mounted on the harness that holds the sax). Then activate that lever or bulb by just bringing her elbow in closer to her side. That could be her way of activating things like the register key, etc.

I think the possibilities are there. It's just a matter of finding someone who can implement these things for her.

What I would do is buy a really cheap sax. Get some sort of "rigid harness" made up for it. Then start working from there. Probably start with the register key and see if she can get that either "Foot" or "Arm" operated. And then just go from there. If she ends up with something that feels like it's going to be playable then you'll have a "prototype" that you can take to a technician to redo in a better way on a better sax.

That way, all the "inventing" will be done and it will just be a matter of having it built properly.

Do the prototyping first using whatever home-made or "handy-man" methods you can. Then she'll know what works and what doesn't.
 
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kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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Following on SD's ideas, it might also be possible/easier to make knee operated levers. Seems to me that a face to face assessment will be essential.
 

jbtsax

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anyway, the lady in question has no thumbs or little fingers, just the three central digits on each hand. I understand palm keys would be no problem but how would you get around stabilising the instrument with no thumbs?
The alto can be played resting in the lap. The top is stabilized by the mouthpiece in the mouth, and the bell section is stabilized by the legs. If more lower support were needed a bassoon crutch type apparatus could be attached to rest the heel of the right hand on and press forward.

I also believe that the octave pad and key could be easily built up and adapted to work with the portion of the hand where the thumb would normally be.
Jbt - do you know which model of Conn has the fingering layout you mentioned?
I spoke a bit too soon. I checked the early Conns and they have the G# trill key but not the Eb. It is the Buescher True Tones that have both the G# and the Eb. Sorry about that misinformation.
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
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I was just thinking even further about this. Regarding the "foot-operated levers".

Once the idea of levers being activated via cables or
Bicycle cables could work. Benedikt Eppelsheim uses something similar to avoid complex clunky rods and levers.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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Brilliant Milandro, excellent find. Looks like a lot of the ideas there could be adapted for the lady in question.
 

milandro

Well-Known Member
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2,483
I have seen his work and Martin is really very good indeed and very open to find also new solutions.

Good luck!
 

jthole

Member
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226
A playing stand would take care of holding the sax. If that would work, she would only need a solution for the pink clusters. The left cluster is probably the hardest, but only needed for the low notes, of course.
 
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