Tutorials

M/Pieces - Ligs Scientific approach to Ligatures

Hipparion

Member
Messages
242
The only way to do this scientifically is to make it replicable by others. Ergo there cannot be a human in the chain.
Do you mean that science cannot use human operators ?
Or maybe that it cannot study human beings ?
What about the use of statistics (to remove biases) ?
 

vries1

Member
Subscriber
Messages
249
I think the original idea wasn't bad at all.

Of course one can think of many different "questions" to test, like:

1. do different ligatures give a different (recorded) sound spectrum on a sustained note - this was the OP's idea. The tricky point is indeed that different takes of the same lig potentially differ a lot, so to test this properly will mean taking many takes of each lig to understand the variability. There is no problem having humans in the loop, it just means that the number of takes needs to be larger.

2. does the ligature make a perceptual difference to the player? This could be done by a blind-folded test of the type Pete has done a few times I think, having a helper change the test conditions in some "random" pattern and letting the player guess the condition (leFreque springs to mind). Guessing the correct pattern say 10-20 times in a row would constitute evidence that at least one person can hear the difference. This type of experiment was discussed on another forum for a gadget that attaches to the outside of the saxophone. The difficulty seemed to be that players who do this and cannot hear a difference are designated as "not real pro's" while the designated real pro's do not bother about, or stand above, the scientific method. To be honest, whilst I don't worry too much about ligatures myself (I just want them to be well-fitting, practical and robust), I think a lig has a better chance to give a real difference to the player than some other gadgets.

3. does the ligature make a perceptual difference to the listener? Pete has published a few recordings in this sense, and also e.g. Steve Neff comparing mouthpieces. The experiment works roughly the same as #2. The typical result of this experiment (when using a recording) is that the listener cannot differentiate reliably which condition he listens to. Then people who believe in the existence of a difference jump in to say that (a) the difference cannot be recorded but is present "live", and/or (b) that the listeners don't have good hearing, and/or (c) that experiment #3 is irrelevant because what counts is experiment #2.

A experimental dimension which is separate from testing the existence of differences - and supposing differences are measurable - is the investigation of the cause of a difference. We see claims that finish has some kind of impact - but that impact is mighty hard to prove. Doing it properly would mean testing/measuring a number (say 5 or more) of ligs of each finish to understand the variability within that finish. Unless you happen to manufacture ligatures, that experiment seems a bit expensive compared to the gain of knowledge one might expect from it.

Anyway, I think that OP's idea for experiment #1 is great, if it is done (a) blind-folded and (b) a certain number of times for each ligature, maybe over different days, to characterise the variability for an individual ligature.
 

jazzdoh

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,189
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
Its all been done before with no conclusive results, its been debated lots of times with no conclusive results, why not just let sax players choose the best lig for them, the problem with this which has been already mentioned is the player, the difference the player can make even if they can try to play the same each time will scupper the test results.
 
Last edited:

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
7,806
The only way to do this scientifically is to make it replicable by others. Ergo there cannot be a human in the chain.
"Artificial embouchures" are used all the time in acoustic research both to make it replicable by other researchers, and to remove human inconsistency.

Human subjects can be used in research that measures perception, but this is more of a controlled "survey" than acoustic research. Whenever the term "scientific" is used when describing a test or experiment, it sets up a host of rigid requirements, that are difficult if not impossible for a "lay person" to meet.
 

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
Subscriber
Messages
5,703
Whenever the term "scientific" is used when describing a test or experiment, it sets up a host of rigid requirements, that are difficult if not impossible for a "lay person" to meet.
In my opinion this is only true if the lay person chooses to interpret the word “scientific” in this way.

The scientific method is about proposing a theory and then testing it by experiments.
There is no such thing as a totally objective experiment - some human bias will always exist.
The important thing is whether the experiment provides useful insight.

@ProSaxTips proposed a simple experiment, and many of the posts in this thread have implied that the experiment will be worthless unless it is much more extensive and onerous. I disagree - my advice would be to start with a very simple easy experiment and see what the result is. Then maybe do another experiment to explore further.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
7,806
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.
This is how I understand this topic. The "scientific method" involves experimentation. The validity and accuracy of the results of any experiment depends largely upon strict control of the variables involved. A human being removing a reed and ligature, replacing the reed with a different ligature, and trying to play with exactly the same embouchure, air stream, and voicing introduces variables into each trial that will render the results either inaccurate, unreliable, or inconclusive in terms of "the scientific method".
 

Mostlytenor

Member
Messages
70
The need to set up such an elaborate study would suggest that there is a serious doubt about whether ligatures do make a difference, or at least , a significant difference. Otherwise there would be a general agreement that they do,in the same way as it is generally agreed that mouthpieces make a difference.
I use Rovners because they are relatively cheap and you only have to tighten one screw.
I do think that the position of the ligature can make a difference.
 

Admitone

Member
Messages
147
It has been found in several studies that placebos work as well as the drugs they are pretending to be. So if you think a ligature makes you play better, it probably does.
I do think that the position of the ligature can make a difference.
For me, the position of both the ligature and the reed do make a difference: Reed Placement.
 

Hipparion

Member
Messages
242
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
It appears to me that, in my previous post, I only reacted to the 'scientific method' in its most general acception and did not really address your original idea, @ProSaxTips.

My mistake... sorry.

Your idea of using a spectrum analyzer is indeed interesting. I think @Pete Thomas conducted some experiments using that same tool, but I can't remember if it was actually about ligatures.

Integrating the ideas that others already mentioned (mostly the blindfolded procedure) may already yield interesting results. So, yes, start with that and let us know your conclusions.

I for one would actually be interested in a few specific developments around your protocol.

  • 1) I would pick one setup, ligature included, and decide this one is the 'reference'. Using only this one I would explore the various sounds I can produce (not just with my ears but looking also at the corresponding spectra), pick 2 or 3 that would be representative (e.g. 1 classical sound, and 2 'others'), and train myself to be very consistent at producing each of these (meaning that both sound and spectrum stay close from one record to the next, aka within an acceptable and identifiable margin of error/difference). Then...
  • 2) Once properly trained on this particular setup, I would start to try other ligatures, following this protocol:
- start on the reference,
- play another lig, not knowing which one,
- play again on the reference,
- do another lig (still not knowing which one),
- go back to the reference,
- etc.
The idea here is that you study the 'instant' variation that a ligature can make from a fixed point, the reference, on which you are sure to know how to consistently attain one type of sound/spectrum. Plus, going back to the reference every other 2 will help to achieve 2 things, first to study the effect of the other ligature when 'going back' to the setup you know, and second to actually force you to go back to your point of reference before the next ligature. Each time, make sure to play long enough so that you can study both the transition from the reference to the new lig (and from the new lig back to the reference) and a more steady state.

Repeat on each kind of sound you know how to consistently reproduce (to cover various conditions).

This experiment is actually assuming there would be big differences (at least measurable/noticeable) to be observed... I have already expressed some doubts about that. ;)

Finally, as a side note, firstly the position of the reed may be more critical than the nature of the ligature, so that would need some special care (I actually think it is easy to make sure the reed stays always in the same spot using markings on both the reed and the mouthpiece), and secondly the position of the ligature may also be quite important, but different ligature may not allow comparable positions, so... extending the study to ligature position may also be of interest (now that I think about it, it could actually be more of interest than the study about the effect of different ligatures, so you could very well make it experiment #0). :)

Edit: last but not least, syunthetic reed may be useful in order to remove variability related to moisture, fatigue, ...

Good luck !
 

Wonko

Member
Messages
324
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
  • <SNIP>
Using contact cement would void the whole experiment (IMHO).
The ligature has to hold the reed in place, From what I have read so far, different ligatures claim to do this in different ways, either holding the reed firmer or leaving it more room to vibrate freely (or other claims).
So by using contact cement, you are already elliminating all these possible differences, thus making the whole experiment null and void.
 

Wonko

Member
Messages
324
Its all been done before with no conclusive results, its been debated lots of times with no conclusive results, <SNIP>
One of the basic concepts of the scientific approach is that experiments should be repeated. Preferably with the same basic parameters. So if something has been done before, does not mean one doesn't have to do it again.

and 2 more thoughts on this:

1) If there is a significant difference in (on this one characteristic being tested) between the different ligatures, it should be apparent, even with some of the inherent flaws that will be present.
I would however advise that the player be blindfolded, and not knowing which ligature is on the sax. So using a helper that puts the different ligatures on. This helper should of course be a proficient sax player
2) My teacher once said that the listener will not hear a difference between different ligatures, but he (as the player) does notice a difference. In this respect, it would be relevant that the player gives his impressions on each ligature (and indeed, test all ligatures multiple times, in random order). And include the comments of the player with the test results. It will be interesting to see if the comments on the different testing-episodes will be the same.
 

jazzdoh

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,189
One of the basic concepts of the scientific approach is that experiments should be repeated. Preferably with the same basic parameters. So if something has been done before, does not mean one doesn't have to do it again.

and 2 more thoughts on this:

1) If there is a significant difference in (on this one characteristic being tested) between the different ligatures, it should be apparent, even with some of the inherent flaws that will be present.
I would however advise that the player be blindfolded, and not knowing which ligature is on the sax. So using a helper that puts the different ligatures on. This helper should of course be a proficient sax player
2) My teacher once said that the listener will not hear a difference between different ligatures, but he (as the player) does notice a difference. In this respect, it would be relevant that the player gives his impressions on each ligature (and indeed, test all ligatures multiple times, in random order). And include the comments of the player with the test results. It will be interesting to see if the comments on the different testing-episodes will be the same.
The problem is it can't be done scientifically because the main problem is the player and whatever the results of one particular player will be different for another player and then different again for another player, because we are all different, different sound concepts, different hearing ability so there won't be a cast iron conclusion.
The manufacturers tell us that their products do this and that without any prove but they just want you to spend large amounts of money and lots of players fall for the sales pitch, but the bottom line is if you hear or feel there is a difference and can afford the item then go for it.
 

Pete Effamy

Senior Member
Messages
2,203
I'd be interested in the exercise regardless. Why not play without the electronics and remark whether you thought there was a difference. See if the electronics back you up or not. I'd find it an interesting read whether it stood up to "lab conditions" or not.
 

Jazzaferri

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,619
There are a number of these threads on that other sax forum.

what they all came down to in the end was a very detailed report on what ligature the tester found worked best for him and what he learned on the way.

enjoy your journey it’s a great learning experience.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
7,806
A wealth of information can be found here: Taming the Saxophone - Ligatures

On a related topic:
The more I become informed in the area of saxophone acoustics the more I am beginning to put more stock in what is being called "bio-acoustic feedback". Simply put this is all of the sensory information received by the player as he/she plays the instrument that is not a part of nor has any effect upon the sound waves disbursed into the room and heard by the listener.

This sensory "feedback" can include among other things:
  • The response and/or resistance of the instrument
  • The perceived "resonance" of the sound
  • The tactile feeling of vibrations through the fingers and teeth
  • The sound that is carried through the teeth and skull to the inner ear
This is the only way I can think of to explain why Tim McAllister, one of the finest classical players in the world can claim that the Heavy Mass Ergonomic Neck Screw improves the "resonance" of the instrument when acoustic studies have shown that the wall vibrations do not couple with nor have any effect upon the sound waves inside. Hence any change in the vibrations of the body of the saxophone by adding mass in a certain area may be "felt" by the player, but has no effect upon the soundwaves disbursed into the room and heard by the listener.
 

Pete Effamy

Senior Member
Messages
2,203
A wealth of information can be found here: Taming the Saxophone - Ligatures

On a related topic:
The more I become informed in the area of saxophone acoustics the more I am beginning to put more stock in what is being called "bio-acoustic feedback". Simply put this is all of the sensory information received by the player as he/she plays the instrument that is not a part of nor has any effect upon the sound waves disbursed into the room and heard by the listener.

This sensory "feedback" can include among other things:
  • The response and/or resistance of the instrument
  • The perceived "resonance" of the sound
  • The tactile feeling of vibrations through the fingers and teeth
  • The sound that is carried through the teeth and skull to the inner ear
This is the only way I can think of to explain why Tim McAllister, one of the finest classical players in the world can claim that the Heavy Mass Ergonomic Neck Screw improves the "resonance" of the instrument when acoustic studies have shown that the wall vibrations do not couple with nor have any effect upon the sound waves inside. Hence any change in the vibrations of the body of the saxophone by adding mass in a certain area may be "felt" by the player, but has no effect upon the soundwaves disbursed into the room and heard by the listener.
Your last bullet point interests me, as in a recent similar thread I was jumped on for a similarly worded observation.

- that so many great players have an opinion that something is going on that surely they shouldn’t be disregarded out of hand?
 
Saxholder Pro

Members OnlineStatistics

Help!Mailing List
Top Bottom