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Saxophones Saxophone Material: Does it Affect the Sound?

David Roach

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Well done Pete, good article.
My personal thoughts are that different materials and even platings do make a difference - to me, but not necessarily to even the most discerning listener. Since it's very important that I'm happy with the way I sound - to me - I'll always go with what sounds and feels best - to me. Which sort of negates any argument since it's entirely personal. :)

I recently tried the new Yanagisawa altos, the same model in brass and then in bronze, and they felt appreciably different to me. But then I can record myself with three different mouthpieces (of similar tonal builds) and frankly they all sound the same!
:headscratch:
 

Pete Thomas

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Thanks for the kind words.

And don't forget to leave reviews and ratings.

Plus: what we need now are more articles, now we have the brand spanking new article pages...
 

kernewegor

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Thanks for the kind words.

And don't forget to leave reviews and ratings.

Plus: what we need now are more articles, now we have the brand spanking new article pages...
Articles are ideal material for members to put out on their social media, too, to advertise the site.
 
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Andante cantabile

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This should just about put the matter to rest. But there will always be people who think (as Milandro once jokingly said in an analogy) that red cars go faster.
 

thomsax

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Saxophone Material: Does it Affect the Sound?

Maybe! But I ithink is more important how the sax was built.I think a Yamaha 25 would sound the same if they were able to get in bare brass, laquer, silver plated or gold plated.

If a manufactor decided to make a "top of the line sax" did they take the best tubes, bows, bells ...... and let the new team on the line to make these saxes?

I doubt that the low price saxes from the past (Swallow, Lark, Gulf, Parrot) would sound differnt if the used other materials.
 

milandro

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Any swallow, parrot or lark made by any other “ material” would not sound good at all :rofl:
 

jbtsax

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This age old question reduced to its simplest form is: "Do the vibrations of the body tube affect the vibrating air column inside the instrument?" If the answer is yes, then body thickness, alloys, finishes, etc. as well as thumb rests, braces, neck screws may have an effect upon the sound. If the answer is no, then the only thing that affects the soundwave inside the instrument is the geometry of the bore.

A study titled "Influence of wall vibrations on the behavior of a simplified wind instrument" by Joel Gilbert, Jean-Pierre Gilmont, et al. reported the following conclusions:

"A theoretical model of coupling between the plane inner acoustic wave and mechanical modes is developed and suggests that in order to obtain measurable effects of wall vibrations, the geometrical parameters of the studied tube have to be unusual compared to that of real instruments. For a slightly oval-shaped and very thin brass tube, it is shown theoretically and experimentally that a coupling between the inner plane acoustic wave and ovalling mechanical modes occurs and results in disturbances of the input impedance, which can slightly affect the tone color of the sound produced. It is concluded that the reported effects are unlikely to occur in real instruments except for some organ pipes."​
 

kernewegor

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Any swallow, parrot or lark made by any other “ material” would not sound good at all :rofl:

You're just having a lark parroting something you've read elsewhere, I'm not going to swallow it. :rofl::rofl:
 

old git

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You're just having a lark parroting something you've read elsewhere, I'm not going to swallow it. :rofl::rofl:

But does that apply to every bird?>:)>:)>:)

Go into your listening room. Put on Toccata and Fugue in D Minor on a UK pipe organ as they generally have greater attack than European, set maximum volume that will not wreck the cones of your sand filled, folded transmission-line loaded corner speakers and see if you can detect vibrations of the speaker cabinet with your fingers. If yes, how much do they colour the sound? Now repeat the experiment using a pure sine-wave. Admittedly you would probably now have damaged hearing but can you detect any vibration?. If the answer is yes, find a saxophone that generates a pure sine-wave and test again.

Now set up your sax with your chosen mouthpiece and reed, sanded if necessary and blow a pure sine-wave. You cannot as there will be many harmonics as the sound is so complex. This will be undetectable in your new hearing harmed state, as the only sine-waves you will be aware of is from your tinnitus.

Even if they made a sax in the conventional dimensions out of starched under pants, provided the tube did not distort, any colouration will be so small as to be virtually undetectable and yes I can feel apparent tube vibrations.

If you have carried out the above, here is the consolation, you won't be aware of the caterwauling I make.>:)>:)>:)
 

thomsax

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I believe materal that affect the sound. Not the finsishes so much but the materail the saxes are built from. I listened to Steve Douglas, gigging with JJ Cale, the other day and his Grafton sounded different.

I think it's good if we can have saxes that sounds differnt. Why should a saxophone sound like a saxophone from the past? Saxophones made from wood, plastic, brass, silver, stainless steel .... . I would like the saxophone to become more like the guitar. Maybe this is a way to "re-sax" the music again?
 

jbtsax

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I believe materal that affect the sound. Not the finsishes so much but the materail the saxes are built from. I listened to Steve Douglas, gigging with JJ Cale, the other day and his Grafton sounded different.

I think it's good if we can have saxes that sounds differnt. Why should a saxophone sound like a saxophone from the past? Saxophones made from wood, plastic, brass, silver, stainless steel .... . I would like the saxophone to become more like the guitar. Maybe this is a way to "re-sax" the music again?

If one thinks about it, the material the saxophone is made of can only affect the sound in two ways. One would be if we could hear the vibration of the body like the "ring" of a bell. Studies have proven that the sound generated by these vibrations is so weak compared to the sound coming from this instrument as to be undetectable even at pp.

The other way the material could affect the sound would be if the vibrations of the body tube "couple" with or interact with the vibrations of the air column inside the instrument. The Dalmont study found that in order for this effect to take place the walls of the instrument must be very thin and the tubing slightly oval---conditions that are not found in real woodwind instruments. If a plastic saxophone and a brass saxophone sound different it is because of the internal dimensions and finish, not because of the material the instrument is made of.
 

altissimo

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I'm not sure it's possible to have exactly identical horns - everything that's made is made to engineering tolerances - plus or minus a fraction of a millimetre and the tooling that makes it and the equipment used to measure it is only accurate to a certain amount.
Whether these tiny variations make any audible difference is debateable
And then of course there's the setup, I don't know if it's posslbe to set up two saxes exactly the same and the materials involved are prone to settling and shrinkage/expansion/compression etc

A few years ago I read something in a pro audio magazine regarding blindfold tests and the author cited some academic research that concluded that we can only accurately remember sounds for a few minutes. Unfortunately I can't find the article or any reference to the research to be able to verify this.
All this makes it difficult to make accurate comparisons

I've got recordings of myself playing a Martin Indiana, Conn 6M and Buescher Aristocrat - they all sound like me and I can't tell which sax is which.

To me, all perception is subjective
 

Stephen Howard

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I'm not sure it's possible to have exactly identical horns - everything that's made is made to engineering tolerances - plus or minus a fraction of a millimetre and the tooling that makes it and the equipment used to measure it is only accurate to a certain amount.
Whether these tiny variations make any audible difference is debateable

It's not yet possible to produce perfectly identical horns - and until then any two horns of the same make and model will have slight differences in the body dimensions.
It's exactly this which accounts for the differences in tone between one horn and another in the same batch - and this difference can sometimes be quite noticeable...to the point when one horn can be declared to be a 'singer', and the other somewhat lifeless and lacklustre.
This is precisely why it's often advantageous to swap the crooks around when trying out new horns...because subtle differences in the crook can have an enormous effect on the tone and playablility of a horn.
The setup can make a difference too - though unless extreme (very low/high action) it's unlikely to have a significant effect on the tone. It's more of a 'feel' thing.

And that leads to a very pertinent question, which is that if the differences between 'identical' horns built from different materials is so slight that it causes us to debate whether there's any actual difference at all - and if the difference between two 'identical' horns of the same material can be quite obvious...then what's the point of this debate?

Well, there isn't one - and until they can make truly identical horns, you'll have to judge each and every one on its own merits. T'was ever thus.

Cheers,

Steve
 

aldevis

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Pete's article is great. Very balanced and I agree with everything except the conclusion.
In my scientifically unsupportable experience, materials may make a consistent difference, and I am mostly referring to necks and mouthpieces.
One point to specify: tiny or "negligible" differences can have a difference that is huge from the player's point of view.
The debatable points are that:
1- the so called "resonance" of the instrument makes the player play differently, so it has an effect on the tone production, not on the sound itself
2- the differences that I have in mind concern the harmonic spectrum in a very subtle way. Higher partials that require the use of often indefendeable terms like "projection" to be described. We often know what we mean, but we cannot formalize the concept.

The closest that I ever came to an experiment regards saxophone necks. I sometimes have access to a dozen necks in 65% or 85% copper brass (Sequoia standard necks). Sequoia does not particularly boast the qualities of the different alloys: saxes just come with two necks.
I proceed selecting three necks in the same material that sound pretty much the same. I must say that usually they are very consistent, and that the major differences within same-material necks are found in soprano pieces, where tiny dimension differences are more influential. On tenor they sound mostly the same.

When I have three of a kind, I compare them in a random way.

I found that in the Sequoia specific case 65%Cu tend to be more focused, the 85%Cu warmer.
At home I have a selection of necks that sometimes I use on guinea pigs I harvest in cafesaxophone. Interestingly the different resistance of different necks has a bigger effect on tone production, rather than actual tone, in the first blows. I also wasted some precious practice time matching mouthpieces and necks, and realized that bright and loud pieces seem to be more sensitive to the neck's material.

Mr. Sequoia swears there are no differences in the internal dimensions, but if someone wants to pay for someone actually checking, we can talk about it. :)
 

thomsax

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The material will affect the saxound. But even a brass saxophone can sound differnt. It's how it's done According to my info it's possible to do a conical brass tube out of a straight brass tube. Done by machines. No hammering and soldering. Drawn toneholes by machines as well. It's the common way to make toneholes today. But it's possible to do drawn tonehles in diffent shapes as well. Diffent angels (the secret of Martin soldered on toneholes?) ..... and we have systems to control the processes as well.

The questions are. Do we want "the new saxes"? Can we accept the costs? After all I think the prodution of saxes are decreasing

About necks. I once talk to a saxman about necks. He told me that most brands/manufactors had problem in thier production. Thier necks were not even. You could try differnt "original " necks from the same brand and have a different sound. "The Martin" crooks are known for being a good necks. The walls of "The Martin " are thicker than the average sax. Can this be the secret?
 

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