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M/Pieces - Ligs Scientific approach to Ligatures

ProSaxTips

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I am going to use the scientific method to test different ligatures. The question is, do different ligatures make a difference in how harmonics are produced on your notes. I'm going to play the lowest note on the tenor (Concert Ab), run it through a microphone into a recording program and then repeat that for each ligature. Once I have the note recorded, I am going to use a analyzer to look at the fundamental and it's harmonics and compare them. I will use the same reed and mouthpiece and the distance between the bell of the horn and the mic will be the same.

Thoughts on this? This is going to be the next video I release. Writing this out it sounds non-exciting, but I will try to make it a bit entertaining.

Zach
 

saxyjt

I have saxophone withdrawal symptoms
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This reminds me of the story I read about Sonny Rollins receiving a few horns for trial from Selmer and testing them just playing Low Bb.

I'm not sure where I read it, but my guess would be Gene Lees' Cats of any color but I could be wrong. My memory is not as good as it was... :old:
 

Wade Cornell

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My (educated) guess will be that you are the biggest variable in your test. If you had a machine that was doing the blowing, and precisely the same amount of pressure on the reed with your ligature, then you could get close to something scientific. With your blowing the best that could happen is for you to be blindfolded (someone else puts the lig on), and you would then need to blow, each multiple times rotating them (blind testing is critical for science). If you can then see a pattern that has repeated you've got something that's more likely to be real.

My day job is as a scientist...
 
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ProSaxTips

ProSaxTips

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My (educated) guess will be that you are the biggest variable in your test. If you had a machine that was doing the blowing, and precisely the same amount of pressure on the reed with your ligature, then you could get close to something scientific. With your blowing the best that could happen is for you to be blindfolded (someone else puts the lig on), and you would then need to blow, each multiple times rotating them (blind testing is critical for science). If you can then see a pattern that has repeated you've got something that's more likely to be real.

My day job is as a scientist...
True, the best I could do is to do the same ligature, like you suggested, multiple times, and see if there are any discrepancies. Since we are human there will always be variables, but I think it would be an interesting out-come, at least.
 

Alexandra

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This sounds interesting and may well shed some light on ligatures and their harmonic qualities. But in my (uneducated) opinion, the variables that need to be controlled are legion and this makes a scientifically accurate test near impossible!

Precise consistency (control conditions) would be required for:

  • Reed composition, moisture level, placement.
  • Ligature placement on reed.
  • Embrouchure (impossible without a machine).
  • Player's air stream, endurance.
  • Oral cavity conditions; temperature, moisture.
  • Position of player and sax to mic...

...And so on! I think it's still a worthwhile endeavor, especially if you include @Wade Cornell 's suggestions. Good luck!
 

jbtsax

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Here is another experiment to test player perception of different mouthpieces.
  • Attach the reed to the mouthpiece in the appropriate spot using a thin layer of contact cement
  • Put on a blindfold and have an assistant put ligature "A" on the mouthpiece and play
  • Have the assistant put ligature "B" on the mouthpiece and play again
  • Have the assistant put ligature "C" on the mouthpiece and play again
  • Have the assistant put ligature "D" on the mouthpiece and play again
  • Then have the assistant randomly change the order and repeat the test
  • After each mouthpiece is played tell the assistant whether it is A, B, C, or D and have him record the response.
  • Repeat this procedure three more times and at the end have the assistant tabulate the accuracy of the responses.
 

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
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It’s good to investigate how the ligature may affect tone, but in my experience, the ligature also affects attack. I don’t know how one would measure this.
 
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This reminds me of the story I read about Sonny Rollins receiving a few horns for trial from Selmer and testing them just playing Low Bb.

I'm not sure where I read it, but my guess would be Gene Lees' Cats of any color but I could be wrong. My memory is not as good as it was... :old:
David Liebman told this story in a workshop, there was a clip on YouTube...
 

Hipparion

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This reminds me of the story I read about Sonny Rollins receiving a few horns for trial from Selmer and testing them just playing Low Bb.

I'm not sure where I read it, but my guess would be Gene Lees' Cats of any color but I could be wrong. My memory is not as good as it was... :old:
The story about Rollins, told by Liebman (33'):
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-zm1KvLF1E


@ProSaxTips, your idea of using the scientific method to help studying the effect of ligatures is both interesting and challenging (very much so).

If you really want to go full objectivity, you have to remove everything that is related to the player, which means that you will have to use a very dry and boring route. He/she cannot know what ligature is on, that's for sure, but that's actually a drop in the ocean, and that's also the easiest part to do.

You would need to implement a statistical study, which means a few major things (for what I can foresee at 1am after a fair amount of fine Single Malt Scotch):
a) he/she has to blow the same thing a (mind numbing) number of times in order to remove the variability within one player,
b) he/she has to blow the very same thing another mind numbing number of times, varying mouthpieces and saxes,
c) 1 musician blowing will tell you what happens for that musician, so to get more general results the study (points a) and b)) would have to be performed on a significant amount of sax players.
d) you would have to find a way to evaluate the recordings, especially with the intent to detect a difference, and eventually differentiate the various potential effects different ligatures can make. That would probably go through evaluation by humans, which means another set of statistics with a large number of evaluators (and entering the world of double-blind experiments).

These are the major issues I see in that precise endeavour, and even if it doesn't seems like it, I actually do not mean to discourage anyone to try it, or something approximating. What I mean to ask is actually this : why, for what purpose, do you want to use the scientific method to show the effect of ligature ? and, even more importantly, who is your target audience ?

It is my understanding that your channel is there to help the fellow musician, especially beginners. I am not sure that drawing the attention so early in the life of your channel on the ligature is such a great choice. I mean, there are already plenty of youtube videos about ligatures (here are two, #1 and #2, not scientific but quite sensible already).
To me the conclusion is that the effect of a ligature is very minimal from the listener perspective and maybe not so marginal for the player (but that is my opinion on the matter).
And that makes the beginner/intermediate player not the best target audience, except to help them understand that they don't have to pay the price of a mouthpiece for a ligature that will actually not do much for them (and by the way, that is my perfectly anecdotal experience about ligatures: I tried very fancy ones, and very basic ones with a result that definitely doesn't justify the 80 to 100 euros difference in price).

Of course, I understand perfectly that you would want to add your voice and experience to the global knowledge, especially trying to remove subjectivity as much as you can. But are you sure that's the proper topic to address, especially right now ?
Just asking...
 
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ProSaxTips

ProSaxTips

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Now, to make this scientific, some of these suggestions were raised to me and others were of my own though. To review, I would have to use the exact same air pressure, distance from the microphone the exact same, center placement of the ligature, moisture of the reed is consistent, reed in the exact same place on the mouthpiece every time I change the ligature, do random ligature selections, the mouthpiece placed on the neck at the exact same location to the micro millimeter, and be blindfolded while having an assistant do all the work of placing the ligatures on and not telling me which one is which.

Okay....so after reading everyone's GREAT insight into my approach, I think I am going to go back to the "drawing board".

Well.......I do not have the resources to do all of that, so this will not be as scientific as it can be, but I am going to do my best to get it close. Here is what I can do: The distance I will be from the microphone will be the same, I will mark the center of the area on the reed and center the ligature to that, and mouthpiece will never move on the neck.

Here is what I will try to keep to a minimum:
  1. The placement of the reed. Honestly, we never put the reed on exactly in the same spot every time, but it's always really close, and that's what I will do here.
  2. Air pressure. I will play as close to as I can to keeping the air pressure the same.​
  3. I will going around the selection of ligatures 3 times, each time a different order​

@Hipparion I hear you on all accounts. I now see this as taking longer than I anticipated, and I think I will put this on simmer and work on it over time. So I am not throwing this away, I just want to do it right.

Thanks for all the great insight everyone!

Zach
 

jbtsax

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I have another suggestion. That is to put the same ligature on 4 times and do your best to play exactly the same. Any variations in the spectrum of these trials will give you a baseline of any inconsistency in your tone production that is not ligature related.
 

randulo

Playing alto 25 months
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It would be a fascinating experiment. It would have been nice to confirm or contradict the belief that ligatures have a significant impact. I don't think it's possible without a test rig worthy of NASA, though.
 

thomsax

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I am going to use the scientific method to test different ligatures. The question is, do different ligatures make a difference in how harmonics are produced on your notes. I'm going to play the lowest note on the tenor (Concert Ab), run it through a microphone into a recording program and then repeat that for each ligature. Once I have the note recorded, I am going to use a analyzer to look at the fundamental and it's harmonics and compare them. I will use the same reed and mouthpiece and the distance between the bell of the horn and the mic will be the same.

Thoughts on this? This is going to be the next video I release. Writing this out it sounds non-exciting, but I will try to make it a bit entertaining.

Zach
Sounds interesting. I love all kind of saxophone information! Right know I'm writing down my thoughts about Resonators/Reflectors/Tone Boosters .... on saxophone pads. Why does one guy say that they doesn't matter and another that they makes a difference ....... .

Read this ..... https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/c4c7/931fcac6cd1d4af3d7ded739c4bd95375a9c.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1ZI-AVe4pgxpu8J5C6dtVeu7026dLEJHzqKbYsac51Xt9s2thUJ9u3rSU
 

jbtsax

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Sounds interesting. I love all kind of saxophone information! Right know I'm writing down my thoughts about Resonators/Reflectors/Tone Boosters .... on saxophone pads. Why does one guy say that they doesn't matter and another that they makes a difference ....... .

Read this ..... https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/c4c7/931fcac6cd1d4af3d7ded739c4bd95375a9c.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1ZI-AVe4pgxpu8J5C6dtVeu7026dLEJHzqKbYsac51Xt9s2thUJ9u3rSU
That study is quite different from any I have seen so far. It did remind me of some of the work with descriptions of sound quality done by Pauline Eveno and Maxime Carron at SYOS.

In terms of "resonators, reflectors, and tone boosters" the science is pretty well settled by this study by Pauline Eveno. Influence of Pad Resonators on a Saxophone
 

Fraser Jarvis

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Funny things ligatures, I’ve got an original Otto link T ligature that plays better than the Lawton lig on my err Lawton and a Francois Louis that plays better than both.
 
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