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Saxophones lowest playable note on a tenor

woolyhead

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Does anyone know why it is that although the lowest resonance frequency of a tenor sax is B flat 2, about 116Hz, the lowest playable note is B flat 3, ie 232 Hz or thereabouts? My reference for this is the series of articles by Joe Wolfe for the University of New South Wales, reference http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/music/saxophone/tenor/(add note name including its number).html which I was given by this excellent forum. The only difference I can see in the frequency response is that the higher of the above frequencies occurs with a slightly greater acoustic impedance than the lower frequency one does. It seems strange that such a small difference could give this effect. Any ideas, anyone? Has anyone ever played an octave below B flat 3 on a tenor?
 
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kevgermany

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Hi Woolyhead

This is your third post, with the same question. Which was answered already. Please take a look at the ther posts.
 

rudjarl

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Has anyone ever played an octave below B flat 3 on a tenor?
Yeah... we do it all the time man... but it requires some serious attention to notice... duh... man... serious... notice...
 

woolyhead

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Ok, kevgermany. Sorry. I must have missed the replies while my pc was down. Unless you are referring to the two replies above including your one and the unintelligable one, where /which date should I look up for these answers please? Do I have to search through hundreds of letters to find them? If you saw the replies, do you consider that my question was satisfactorily answered or merely replied to?
 

kevgermany

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If you click on your name, it brings up a menu, one of the options there is view forum posts, this'll recall all your posts. For me your question was properly answered in the first thread, but I may have missed something.
 

woolyhead

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Ok Kevgermany. I looked back at my posts and I saw that you didn't know which page of http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/music/saxophone.tenor/Asharp3.html I was looking at. Well it was page 1 of 5 pages. He clearly says that A sharp 3 is the lowest note that a tenor sax can play. Just to dot the Is and cross the Ts, the names of varoius notes is given in http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/notes.html, where A sharp 3 has a frequency of about 233 Hz. So I was right in my assertion and the guy who says he often plays A sharp2 must have been dreaming.
 
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rudjarl

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Not quite...
The lowest note a tenor saxophone can play is a low Bb (or A# if you prefer). It is written as Bb2, but since the tenor saxophone is a transposing instrument it is written a whole 14 semitones higher (on the staves) than it actually sounds. Hence it's written Bb3 but is an Ab2.
 

kevgermany

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Ok Kevgermany. I looked back at my posts and I saw that you didn't know which page of http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/music/saxophone.tenor/Asharp3.html I was looking at. Well it was page 1 of 5 pages. He clearly says that A sharp 3 is the lowest note that a tenor sax can play. Just to dot the Is and cross the Ts, the names of varoius notes is given in http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/notes.html, where A sharp 3 has a frequency of about 233 Hz. So I was right in my assertion and the guy who says he often plays A sharp2 must have been dreaming.
Sadly your first link doesn't work.

However if it's this page http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/music/saxophone/tenor/index.html

It clearly says 'written pitch' below the first diagram (which allows you to swithch between soprano and tenor).

And I made this point about the other page I found - in my original reply. As Rudjarl has said, the saxophone is a transposing instrument. And you need to bear this in mind when discussing it or trying to sort the physics out.
 

woolyhead

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Ok rudjari and kevgermany. I bow to your superior knowledge. I have the article in front of me now and on page 1 Dr Joe Wolfe says that A#3 is the lowest note a tenor sax can play and the frequency of A#3 is 233.08 Hz. Admittedly he also says that notes are the written pitch while frequencies are the sounding pitch. If there is more than an octave between the two, how confusing is that? So rudjari, have I got this right now:- bottom A# is really A#2, whose frequency is 116 Hz and the amount of transposition required to do this on the sheet music 14 semitones, 12 for the octave which you told us about plus 2 more for the Ab to A# difference? Quite a big transposition! I honestly didn't know about the octave difference from written pitch to actual pitch. Thanks for the info.
 

Jack

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123
I read that you can get a low a natural if you can finger the low Bb while sticking your left knee in the bell
 

woolyhead

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Hi Jack. Yes, I tried your idea out and it worked. I had to use someone else's knee of course. I now take her with me whenever I go on a gig. The bonus is that she has lovely knees. Thanks for the comment. Incidentally in the unsw article ref written note versus frequency, nowhere does it actually give a correlation between written note and its frequency. The impedance spectrum doesn't help because it doesn't say which written note is represented by 116 Hz. You can make the guess that it's A#2 or you can guess that it's A#3. What a good thing we have experts on this forum who know which frequency to guess !
 

kevgermany

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Hi Jack. Yes, I tried your idea out and it worked. I had to use someone else's knee of course. I now take her with me whenever I go on a gig. The bonus is that she has lovely knees. Thanks for the comment. Incidentally in the unsw article ref written note versus frequency, nowhere does it actually give a correlation between written note and its frequency. The impedance spectrum doesn't help because it doesn't say which written note is represented by 116 Hz. You can make the guess that it's A#2 or you can guess that it's A#3. What a good thing we have experts on this forum who know which frequency to guess !
We're not guessing - it's easy to work out from the fact that the tenor is pitched a ninth below middle C, which is marked and known.
 

jbtsax

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This link may be helpful. Frequencies of Musical Notes

Middle C on the piano is C4 which is approx. 262 vps (or hz). That is the written 4th line D for the tenor which transposes up an octave and a 2nd, also called a 9th.

Remember that frequencies of musical notes vary slightly with the temperature of the air (which determines the speed of sound).
 

BigMartin

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Remember that frequencies of musical notes vary slightly with the temperature of the air (which determines the speed of sound).
Not sure about that. As I understand it the pitch of a note is determined solely by it's frequency. The speed of sound affects the relationship between frequncy and wavelength. 440Hz is always the same frequency but will have different wavalengths according to air temperature, pressure, humidity, etc. The resonant frequency of a metal tube like a saxophphone is determined by the speed of sound, however, so your sax will tend to play sharper at higher temperatures, other things being equal. I would guess that increasing the temperature of a piano or violin string would decrease the tension and hence lower the pitch, but that's to do with the speed of sound within the string rather than in the air.
 

jbtsax

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This is the way I understand it. When I play an F# on my alto saxophone, the wavelength of the frequency sounded is determined by the distance to the first open tone hole and back. [Actually it is a bit more complicated than that, but this will work as an illustration.]

When the instrument is warmed up and the mouthpiece is accurately placed on the cork, the note sounded will be an "in tune" A = 440 vps. If the mouthpiece is left at the same spot on the cork, and the fingering remains the same then the wavelength is a constant. The formula that applies is:

f = c/w where f is the frequency, c is the speed of sound, and w is the wavelength

Now, when my saxophone becomes cold and the speed of sound is slower, the wavelength does not change, but the pitch drops below the 440 vps. To bring it back to the "in tune" pitch the wavelength must be shortened by pushing the mouthpiece farther onto the cork, or the speed of sound must be increased by "warming up" the instrument.

Terminology can be confusing. It is important to distinguish between frequency and pitch. Frequency is the number of vibrations per second. "Pitch" is the name musicians give to the sounds of frequencies found in the modern tempered scale. When the pitch of a note sounds at the designated frequency it is said to be in tune. When it does not, we say it is either flat or sharp and measure the amount it is out of tune by hundredths of a semi tone or "cents".
 

kevgermany

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Not sure about that. As I understand it the pitch of a note is determined solely by it's frequency.
Yes - as our easrs respond to frequency only.

The speed of sound affects the relationship between frequncy and wavelength. 440Hz is always the same frequency but will have different wavalengths according to air temperature, pressure, humidity, etc. The resonant frequency of a metal tube like a saxophphone is determined by the speed of sound, however, so your sax will tend to play sharper at higher temperatures, other things being equal.
Yes, but.... Wavelength is determined by the length of the tube. And is fixed by the length of the tube. So as the temperature of the air in the tube increases, the speed of sound increases, and the frequency increases. Which is why we tune a sax by adjusting the length of the tube (mouthpiece position).
 

kevgermany

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This is the way I understand it. When I play an F# on my alto saxophone, the wavelength of the frequency sounded is determined by the distance to the first open tone hole and back. [Actually it is a bit more complicated than that, but this will work as an illustration.]

When the instrument is warmed up and the mouthpiece is accurately placed on the cork, the note sounded will be an "in tune" A = 440 vps.
The alto is an instrument that transposes DOWN. Lowest C on an alto (written Middle C, C4) is the Concert Eb at 155.56Hz. It's a convention to transpose UP from concert pitch, cos that's easier to do.

Please don't add to confusion by introducing non-standard terms like vbs.
 

BigMartin

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Yes, but.... Wavelength is determined by the length of the tube. And is fixed by the length of the tube. So as the temperature of the air in the tube increases, the speed of sound increases, and the frequency increases. Which is why we tune a sax by adjusting the length of the tube (mouthpiece position).
Yes. I kind of thought that was what I was saying :D.

But I would expect a piano to go down in pitch on a hot day as the strings expand and lose tension, and it would be by different amounts on different strings Don't know how hot or cold it would have to get for this to be noticable though.
 

kevgermany

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No idea about the piano, I'd guess you're right, but remember the frame will expand as well, so it may be that the frame and string expansion complement each other.

My wife's guitar ensemble played for a hospice memorial service a couple of weeks ago. The Church was freezing, so the guitars were tuned for that temperature. Was OK. There were about a hunderd candels lit for the deceased, and that and the people in the church raised the temperature enough to put the guitars badly out of tune. And no way to retune without affecting the mood of the service.
 
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