Keyguard question ...

Discussion in 'General Acoustics Discussion' started by pete, Jul 2, 2017.

  1. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    I don't think anybody's ever asked this. It seems like an obvious question.

    Sheet metal keyguards generally cover about half of the tonehole. Some instruments, like the Conn 28M Constellation and older Julius Keilwerth instruments have plastic keyguards that cover more than half of the tonehole. Yes, I understand that the keyguard is an inch or so above the tonehole, but does removing those guards make any difference in the sound? Should we bring wire keyguards back, like Selmer did with their 130th Anniversary model?

    (Of course, I'm mainly referring to sax. However, there are some bass and contrabass clarinets out there with keyguards.)
     
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  2. Helen

    Helen Content Expert Saxophones Staff Member Administrator

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    Oh how I missed you my friend... Glad to have you back...

    Let me take a crack at answering this, and then maybe jbtsax will chime in as well. I'm curious as to what his experience with this is.

    I have a couple of near minty Tonekings like those of which you speak. Both my alto and tenor came with plastic angelwings when I bought them. The tenor had had a custom angel wing made, while the alto had the original Lucite angel wing with the tail end broken off.

    When I had each restored, I managed to track down two original JK metal replacement angel wings and clothes guards from Gerhard Keilwerth's shop shortly after his passing. (These are unfortunately no longer available through his former shop apparently.) Now both horns are just decked out in original JK bits (tenor, alto).

    Both of these horns are incredibly free-blowing. They have a huge tone. (The tenor even more so than the alto.) Their volume is massive, and can easily drown out contemporary horns in a section. When I play them, I am always cognizant that I have to adjust my playing--compared many of my other horns like my Mark VIs, Hohners, Conns, or even my Zeph tenor--when I'm rehearsing with the big band I play in. It's not uncommon for my volume to be too loud when playing these horns.

    In short, I don't find that the key guard on the JK's interfere with the tone in the slightest. Of course the only way to know for sure would be to record the same piece both with and sans key guard.

    If you really want an answer if key guards make a difference in tone, look no further than the eyebrow key guards in my Hohners, or on older Zephs, on the Weros, and a few other select saxophones.

    To answer this question, I will say the same thing I mentioned re: the removal of lacquer and the correlation to greater vibration and possible tonal change.

    I believe that before the design and manufacturing of saxophones was computerized like it is today, horns tended to be far more individual. For me, it makes sense that the sound of a saxophone, comes to a degree from the shape of its bore.

    This is why, in part, D&J had such success with their tenors. The D&J tenors sounded just like the JK Tonekings & The New Kings. Different models/makes had different bore designs. We know that the bore plays an important part in the tone, which is why the newer Mark VI for example, sound "brighter" than the older ones: Selmer changed the bore over the course of the Mark VI's production run.

    Add hand-craftsmanship into the mix, and you have the possibility to an endless set of variables that all can possibly have an affect on the tone.

    Furthermore, we know that the closer to the source of the tone (the lungs, pharynx, mouth, etc) you make changes, the greater the effect on the tone. That's why changes to the MP, reed, and possibly the neck, will net a player much better results than changing his/her horn.

    Changing key guards is as about as far away from the source of tone as you can get, and which is why I am not sure key guards have any bearing in a horn's tone one way or the other.
     
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  3. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    Just needed a bit of away time, but thanks very much!

    I'm not even really thinking in terms of tone, although I think you can make an argument for that. It's more, "Well, the sound is supposed to come out of these holes and there's a bit of metal or plastic in the way." Say, sorta like the common complaint of some baritone players that the bell notes are "stuffy." It would be quite interesting to see if removing those key guards make a positive change. However, I can't test this. I think my wife would kill me if she found me dismembering her Selmer.

    I did forget to mention the King Super 20 baritone with its ugly and oversized guard.

    =========

    Putting a little coda on the discussion about tone that you mention, one of the reasons it's incredibly difficult to design a good test for trying to find out if material makes a difference is because the high-end horns that are made out of different materials are "hand crafted" and that makes a significant difference. I suppose we could test a couple of equally well set-up Yamaha 62s, but I really don't think you'll see much difference between lacquer and silver plate. Adding a 1/4 pound of glass crystals, I think there may be.

    FWIW, I did own a Buescher alto that was slightly-pre-Bundy or might have been a Bundy, which had the brown "marching horn" paint on top of gold lacquer. I don't recall it impressing me with either suckiness or goodness. Now, if the paint was Sherwin-Williams, maybe it'd lean more toward sucky ...

    One other thing: I did once own a Buffet Dynaction sax, which was a really nice horn, but buzzed on some notes. Why? It had screw-in resonators and one was loose. I'm just saying that there might have been some resonance ...
     
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  4. Aulos303

    Aulos303 _•_ •_• __ •_•_ •____| Banned :(

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    What purpose do these guards perform? Are they put on to protect the sax when it's put in its case?
     
  5. Gandalfe

    Gandalfe Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    Basically keeps your trousers out of those pads. No, really.
     
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  6. jbtsax

    jbtsax Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

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    A couple of thoughts: First there is a general rule of thumb that if the key opening is increased to more than 1/3 the diameter of the tonehole it has no further effect upon the pitch or timbre of the note. Conversely as the key is lowered so the opening is less than 1/3 the diameter of the tonehole, the tone will incrementally become stuffy and lower in pitch. This is a generalization based upon the notion that the diameter of the tonehole is ideally the same diameter as the bore at that point, which we can readily see isn't the case for every tonehole. As for the key guards effect upon the sound, it is important to remember that the sound does not come straight up out of the tonehole, because the pad and keycup are at an angle even when the key is open. So at most, the emitted soundwave meets just one of the legs of the guard as it passes out of the tonehole. Lay a 1" wide ruler across the bell and play a low Bb to see what effect that might have on the sound. I think that will be your answer. :)
     
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  7. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    It's cool that someone actually did do some research on this. Thanks, jbt.
     
  8. Helen

    Helen Content Expert Saxophones Staff Member Administrator

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    If you compare the saxes that have key guards with adjustable felts--like those found on Selmer BAs & newer, or certain JK Tonekings & The New King--and those without, eg: the D&J horns, I have always wondered: Why would any manufacture go for the non-adjustable variety? Furthermore, why would JK have had an adjustable type as far back as 1939, and then go to the non-adjstable angel wing design? (Well obviously it was for aesthetics, but was there another reason?)

    I am a player who leans towards having their key heights set to the highest level possible. That said, what that is varies from horn to horn. For example, my Committee III bari's key heights are higher than those on my Mark VI bari. Why? Because simply put, the horn sounds better with more open keys. It does however take more air to get that good Martin bari sound from it. However, there is a fine line between having them open, and having them open too far so that they adversely affect the horn's intonation.

    My Mark VI bari is not set up for classical work. In the words of my former bari teacher: It has that quintessential bari jazz sound that everyone is looking for. I can also get a great rock and R&B sound with no effort whatsoever. However, if I were to replace my Berg pieces with the scroll shank Selmer piece I have, it would still not sound right as a classical bari. To really sound like classical, the key heights sound come down. IMHO, that would be a crime for this particular bari, since it is a killer horn from 1967, whose big, fat, open sound would be wasted if it were constrained into a classical role. (Gee, is my bias showing here?)... ;)

    Anyways, those are just a few of my thoughts and experiences that I thought I would share, that jbt's post above had me think about...
     
  9. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    Hmmmm. While I've never played a "Committee III" bari, I did have a tenor. Great tone, bad intonation -- but I know your horn doesn't have the intonation problems, Helen. So, if all I cared about was tone, I'd have a very hard time choosing between the III and VI. However, I'm not overly keen on the III's keywork -- hey, some of the baris don't even have chromatic F# keys -- so I can easily point to the VI as better for me.

    Regarding the adjustable felts on the bell keys, I have to wonder how much more that would cost. A good example is SML: Gold Medal models had adjustable felts until they didn't. SML was doing pretty good for themselves at the time they changed that, too. Lots of stencils, the most memorable name being the King Marigaux.
     
  10. Helen

    Helen Content Expert Saxophones Staff Member Administrator

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    Actually none of the Committee III baris had a chromatic F# key. It's actually kinda' strange why they left it off. No one seems to know why. Perhaps the designers forgot to add it. ;)

    As for choosing one of the other: it depends what I'm playing. If there is a lot of technical stuff going on that requires left pinkie work--like in last summer's pit work--I chose my Mark VI. If I just need a loud rockin' bari with a killer sound that projects like crazy, the Mark VI could do the job, but the Committee III has the added bonus of having a bit more depth to its overtones, and certainly more volume--even without amplification.

    Just as an aside, you do still need to take your trip up here Pete. I just got my Mark VI back from its overhaul. It plays like new. I have so many cool horns for you to try: it would be the best vaca for you ever. Promise! Not to mention, it would be a break from your crazy-ass summer heat. When I complain about our heat, it's only about 85 or 90 at the worst. That's what, a spring day for you, right? :D
     
  11. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    85 is an early spring day for Phoenix, AZ. It's now monsoon season. It's slightly cooler -- 102 was the high yesterday -- but the humidity is 20% or higher. My section of town was hit hard last night and, unfortunately, some folks died in a flash flood.

    I really do want to get up there. Really. I've just gotta get over some bills. I had some paycheck interestingness going on, which is resulting in me getting a significant "raise," hopefully by next week Thursday. And there's four or five months of additional pay that I'll hopefully get. Let's see what happens!
     
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