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Discussion in 'Prototype Instruments and Examples' started by pete, Mar 12, 2010.

  1. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    I had been looking at a few of the acoustics discussions that recently popped up and thought about them in the grand scheme of things. I realized that they're concerned with improving existing instruments. That got me to thinking: is there anything more to be invented, as far as musical instruments are concerned?

    Here's another point. The saxophone was arguably an improvement over clarinets and double-reeds because, well, it's louder. It also has a tone which is (arguably, of course, stay with me) between clarinet and trumpet: more edgy than one, less strident than the other. Sarrus and Roth also tried improving double-reeds by creating metal, sax-like instruments that project a lot more than, say, your standard contabassoon. However, these instruments sound like ... loud double-reeds. The problem is that Sarrusophones and Rothophones (as well as other double-reed improvements, like the Heckelphone) are rarely seen or heard. The saxophone is.

    Arguably, electronic instruments are an advance, but they can be lumped into two categories: instruments used to replicate the sounds of EXISTING instruments and instruments used to create, well, "synthy" sounds you rarely hear outside of pop music.

    So, will there be another advance? What would it be and why?
     
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  2. MrDibbs

    MrDibbs

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    You could do some interesting things by coupling keys to toneholes using electronics software and solenoids rather than a mechanical linkage. How about instruments with a range of 3 octaves or more without switching registers?
     
  3. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    That's a fascinating idea and would truly be of benefit to players of woodwind instruments that have overly long rods and/or currently have extra-large toneholes that might have better intonation if they were broken up into multiple smaller toneholes -- I'm thinking contabass sax/clarinet and contrabassoon, but that's just an improvement on an existing instrument.

    What would be an entirely new class of instruments? Is there one needed?
     
  4. Ed

    Ed Founder Staff Member Administrator

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    I see a number of small changes occurring. A greater adoption of the altissimo octave key might be one of them. Maybe we'll see low A altos and tenors again. Essentially, the range of the instruments is set but there is room for improvement on the higher end.
     
  5. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    In what respect?

    If you want high and rather piercing, you have the flute family. From what I recall -- again, I'm not a flute player; my sister is and I've heard her complain -- there is a bit of a problem with flutes in that they don't seem to have that much dynamic range.

    If you want high and mellower, you have the violin and clarinet families. While I think you can successfully argue that both of these instrument families have problems, such as overblowing a 12th and not having enough range (the violin has had range added throughout the years; reference Paganini on that one), they're not exactly bad choices for melody and higher.
     
  6. Ed

    Ed Founder Staff Member Administrator

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    Essentially any improvement that helps players achieve in tune altissimo notes would be appreciated.
     
  7. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    Regarding the clarinet, there have been many attempts to improve the thing over the years, but most have met with indifference at best, and often outright hostility.

    To take the most obvious example, the LH Eb/Ab lever, the key that "completes" the Klóse/Boehm scheme for getting across the break and adjacent notes, this has only become a "standard" option over the last ten or fifteen years. Back in the day when I knew enough to ask for the extra cost "full Boehm" clarinets, I never saw one in use on any other soprano, and only on precious few bass clarinets.

    This is an improvement that only adds negligible weight to the instrument (far less than the almost universal bell ring) and totally eliminates one of the major defects of the "standard" instrument, that being sliding on the little finger keys. All good, no bad.

    Yet you still run into resistance regarding its use. Some are arguable ("It gets in my way") but addressable (you can bend and otherwise adjust keys on the clarinet). Others are ridiculous ("What if you get used to having it and then have to use a clarinet without it?"). But, resistance is there in one form or another.

    The third register key opening (much less critical than a proper throat Bb in my opinion, but what do I know) has been "perfected" a long time ago on the clarinet. Selmer made it available through the "Marchi" horns, and they sold like cubed ice in the Antarctic. So much for dealing with a problem.

    People being set in their ways through pedagogy and other causes are death to innovations in musical instruments. In a way, it's a miracle that Sax was able to introduce the improved bass clarinet, much less the radical for its time saxophone.
     
  8. tjontheroad

    tjontheroad

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    "Fly by wire" horns will come to pass by the end of this century if not much sooner. Technologies like wireless power and nano mechanics are getting closer to real world applications. Traditionalist will be in an uproar, but the video game generation will flock to these instruments.
     
  9. Gandalfe

    Gandalfe Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    Why do I get a picture of a guitar-shaped MP3 player, grasped by a non-musician, and turned on to cover 'Stairway to Heaven' with a pre-recorded solo. The pretender to the thrown intones, "I'm a great guitar player."
     
  10. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    http://www.huckert.com/ehuckert/clarinet_en.htm

    Sometimes I like to see what people are talking about. The Marchi models do look a bit intimidating ....
     
  11. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    Well, considered from a 1970's standpoint, it is a bit more complicated. Looking at it through the eyes of someone who is accustomed to playing a double register key bass clarinet or saxophone, it's (as our British friends are fond of saying) "a doddle"; the operation of the second register key becomes second nature once you are accustomed to it.

    (I currently have a couple of non-automatic register key bass clarinets, and I pass to and from the one that's kept in working order with no difficulty whatsoever. And, mind you, I am not God's gift to bass clarinet playing.)

    Complexity in clarinets is nothing compared to complexity in oboes. If they can live with it, so can we.

    (The main problem that I saw in the two Marchi clarinets that I have handled is that both had relatively new (and uncompressed) corks, which (in both cases) led to unskilled hands causing damage to the second register key system during assembly. Stupid, but that's what happens when curious people are in a hurry to look at something new.
     
  12. saxhound

    saxhound Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    Pete,

    Great link. The Marchi stuff is interesting, but I jumped all over the midi files. Some good stuff here to practice with. Be sure to follow the link to the Oliver Seely site. Midi and Finale files for some of the most significant clarinet and woodwind repertoire.
     
  13. tjontheroad

    tjontheroad

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    Well at least the guitar would be in tune ;)

    Actually, I invision a marrage of wind synth and traditional design. Something like touch sensitive keys with feedback wired to micro servos opperating the key cups. The body would be made of brass or wood. You would use your choice of mouthpiece and reed. The whole system could be powered by the energy the finger and body movement. Much like a kinetic watch.

    In the end, you'd have a lighter weight instrument with less moving parts. It be designed with high end pro use in mind.
     
  14. MrDibbs

    MrDibbs

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    That's the sort of thing I'd imagined too. There are lots of possibilities once fingering is mechanically decoupled from closing holes.

    Formerly complicated mechanisms like and articulated G# or the saxophone's octave mechanism become simple programming jobs. You can even have auto transposition. The same instrument could become a clarinet in A, Bb or C at the flip of a switch. A clarinet for sax players could have fingerings that appear to overblow at an octave even though the instrument overblows at a 12th. Just the finger pattern to closed hole mapping needs to change. That might be a bit confusing to play at first as resistance would change when you weren't expecting it but you would probably adapt.
     
  15. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    Well, it seems my original topic has now morphed into, "What improvements do you think will happen?" I think that's OK :).

    I know one definite reason why a "fly by wire" system won't be implemented on MOST horns: it's too expensive and too clunky.

    I accept that there are fundamental flaws in all instruments because all instruments have something you have to compromise with, like the clarinet overblowing a 12th, so you can't use the same fingerings for all the notes. However, there have been experimental-type instruments to try to fix these issues, but ... they were too expensive and/or too clunky. Example: Jim Schmidt's beautiful saxophones and flutes.

    The other thing is that the standard instruments ... can be pretty good.

    In the 1930's, Leblanc made a "perfect" saxophone, called the "Rationale". It had extra vents all over to compensate for intonation problems inherent in the design of the sax. The few folks that own these (and I'm not talking about the Lebanc System horns) can attest to their excellent intonation and tone, but the horns were very expensive to make and very expensive to maintain -- and your tech needed a new service manual to work on 'em. A lot of people probably thought, "Well, you know, that Selmer Balanced Action really isn't that bad. It's got pretty decent intonation and it's a lot cheaper."

    Leblanc only sold about 200 of these horns.

    I mentioned that mechanical assist for large instruments might be a good thing. One reason why is because these instruments are already extremely expensive. If your horn is already $20,000 (e.g. contrabass sax-range money), you're not going to mind an extra one or two thousand added to the price to ensure better intonation and/or easier to use keywork. THAT'S a bargain. Hey, I remember having to use all those false fingerings on bass sax to make it play in tune. I would have definitely paid 10% more to save me that frustration (if I owned the bass, that is).

    A final comment on using "fly-by-wire": it's too slow if you use electric motors to close the keys. You'd probably use hydraulics.
     
  16. Franklin Liao

    Franklin Liao

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    With respect to Clarinet, it is clear that most people have built up muscle memory towards the Boehm system, and that counts for something when one is looking to improve the instrument... for it limits what people will tolerate in 'getting used to'.

    Customized barrels and bell fitted with vent/groove for bell note stability are very much accepted given the fact that they impact not the keywork. Add-ons and derivatives on the other hand... If new keys have to be put in and the keywork is altered, the system tend not to endure. We've seen Marchi and Mazzeo fade away while McIntyre eliminated for example.

    Even Bell E correction key that we see in Tosca and Steve Fox's work for example are a bit of a one-off, along with the register correction keys that are found in Schwenk & Seggelke as well as Fox horns. I think that extended range "basset clarinet" to low C in various keys would also be in this category.
     
  17. Franklin Liao

    Franklin Liao

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    (Read Terry Stibal's post, will amend to Klose-Buffet where I used Boehm)

    I've talked to Steve Fox at one point regarding C clarinet... which made me question about a theoretical C key instrument extended to low C vs a Bb regular clarinet in weight. Fox indicated that it would be a little heavier at roughly similar length. Such a thing is too pricy for a layperson like myself to commission, nevermind justify even having it...
     
  18. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    ... and you may go your entire career without needing that low C extension.
     
  19. PrincessJ

    PrincessJ

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    Not to hijack anything but for what it's worth, that reminds me of a dream I once had.
    It was an entire line of electronic clarinets, don't get me wrong, they still operated with a reed and whatnot, but they were much like what you've described here.
    The mouthpieces were a translucent dark indigo color, pretty neat looking if you ask me, and there was something that looked like a digital bass tárogató, however the bore was about equivalent of a traffic cone. The rings, instead of metal, were purple, and the material was some kind of impossible-to-describe nearly fiberglass like stuff, kinda bumpy, but just barely.
    I didn't get the chance to play one but the guy that was playing one of the Bb sopranos in the back sounded neat, he could hook it up to an amplifier of some sort without a mic or a chord, and turn that feature off at will. The same line made guitars that could do so. Apparently, according to the sales dude, they operated some kind of new speaker that didn't use the typical parts but instead bended waves around the instrument. I played a drum from this same line in a different dream and it was the same concept.
    The keywork and stuff didn't seem to digital on these horns, just the wave-bending-amplification stuff would come in really handy.
    Our little clarinets can be quite soft spoken in relative.
     
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  20. MrDibbs

    MrDibbs

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