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My eyes! My poor eyes!

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
jbtsax, I think you know this already, but just for the record of this thread: I thoroughly respect your experience, knowledge, and opinion... Even though you mention that this is not based on your opinion. :)

If, in fact, neckstraps, weighted neck screws, lafreques, oversize right hand thumb rests, etc. have an effect upon the soundwave and the sound emitted from the instrument into the room---then by what mechanism does that effect take place? It cannot be by wall vibrations having an effect upon the soundwaves inside the instrument. Science has looked for that effect and has found that only to occur when the walls of the tube are .2mm thick and the tube is slightly oval.
I don't know. I'm not a physicist, nor do I play one on TV. ;) I do however know what I hear, and so do others. Other non-wind player in rock and blues bands I worked in for years have commented on my Zeph's sound compared to that of my other tenors. It's not like they're swayed by its looks. :D

Minute differences in the interior geometry of woodwinds can have a great effect upon the soundwaves emitted into the room. I have polished the insides of clarinet body tubes with Carnauba wax to have the sound come alive. I have chemically cleaned the inside of saxophone necks and experienced the same effect.
OK, that would make sense, since we're dealing with the inside of the "tube".

When something is added to or taken away from the outside of the body of a saxophone and it feels different to the player it is a normal reaction. Especially good players are very sensitive to even the smallest differences.
I can see that if you already owned a horn and had it changed--eg: the lacquer stripped off a horn. However, if you play-test a bunch of horns that are all the same make & model, and you detect a difference, that's when the differences cannot be written of as easily.

What I tend to disagree with is that a difference in how the instrument feels equates to a difference in the soundwaves emitted into the room. I have not once heard or read about any of the instances of "anecdotal evidence" being validated by a well controlled "double blind" study in which neither the player nor listeners know which trials are played with or without the outside apparatus or whatever.
I think conducting such a study would be extremely interesting. Mmmm.... It might be worth trying to set one up and recording the entire thing using a high-quality mic. Designing one wouldn't be all that difficult....

Leaving soapbox now that I have said my piece. Peace.
Nothing wrong with your soapbox jbt. You haven't pushed me off mine. ;) I like civilized debates...
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
jbtsax said:
Minute differences in the interior geometry of woodwinds can have a great effect upon the soundwaves emitted into the room. I have polished the insides of clarinet body tubes with Carnauba wax to have the sound come alive
Personally, I'm thinking more along the lines of, "It was broken. Now it's fixed. It should sound better."

Helen said:
I think conducting such a study would be extremely interesting ... Designing [a study] wouldn't be all that difficult.
If you're only thinking about a test where you take your Zephyr, record it as is, then add a bunch of junk to the horn and see if it makes a measurable difference in tone quality, that's an almost scientific test. The one big variable is that you will know when there's junk on it, which might affect how you're playing it. It would be more scientific to find another pro player that has had no experience with your horn, specifically, or HN White saxophones, in general, play with/without junk on it. And he has to use the same mouthpiece, reed, and ligature for both tests and not move the mouthpiece between tests.

Again, I've pointed out that Cannonball has that patent that says that a stone at various points of the horn affects tone, so we already know that adding some junk to your horn (in particular places) is going to change the tone. I think where we're getting caught up is trying to say that the stones (on either or both the CE Winds horn or Cannonball) make a significant impact on the tone. You can look at the patent. It's got a bunch of tables and numbers.

Hmmm. I wonder if I put a really heavy and tight necklace on if it would change the tone of my voice.
 
From what I understand, strings are an actuator of the body of the instrument. On winds, it's mostly just a container for a standing wave. Wood type, density, coating would all be able to determine tone quality because it all contributes to the freedom or constraint of the vibration of the body at various harmonics.
 
IIRC, I read a recent article that said a company has finally built a violin that people who should know say sounds better than a Strad.
I cannot speak with any sort of authority on the subject, but a lot of online discussions seem to reveal that musicians are a very subjective lot such that even if science was able to confirm these produce sounds indistinguishable from true Strads, I'm sure violinists will swear there is a difference.
 

jbtsax

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
jbtsax said:
Minute differences in the interior geometry of woodwinds can have a great effect upon the soundwaves emitted into the room. I have polished the insides of clarinet body tubes with Carnauba wax to have the sound come alive
Again, I've pointed out that Cannonball has that patent that says that a stone at various points of the horn affects tone, so we already know that adding some junk to your horn (in particular places) is going to change the tone. I think where we're getting caught up is trying to say that the stones (on either or both the CE Winds horn or Cannonball) make a significant impact on the tone. You can look at the patent. It's got a bunch of tables and numbers.
According to all of the acoustic studies adding things to the outside of a woodwind instrument does not change the tone---maybe the perception of the player, but not the soundwaves emitted into the room. All of the folks at Cannonball are good friends of mine whom I see on a regular basis. I really studied their measurements of the harmonics several years back to see if there was anything to it. The only thing the numbers prove is that the Cannonball staff were very sincere in their belief that the stones made a difference and spent tens of thousands of dollars in an effort to prove it.

Here are the facts from the work of Arthur Benade and others. All woodwinds have a cut off frequency unique to their "tonehole lattice" in other words the size and location of the toneholes. For saxophones the cutoff frequency is in the neighborhood of F#3 which coincidentally is the start of the altissimo register. This frequency for the alto is 880 hz. For the tenor it is 659.25 hz. We also know that frequencies above cutoff do not "see" the open toneholes and go straight out the bell. This is why putting a donut mute or a handkerchief in the bell cuts mostly the high frequencies to produce a rounder, more mellow tone. Think about it. How can a key touch sitting atop a brass keycup above a cardboard, felt, and leather pad affect frequencies in the neighborhood of:

Fundamental Note 304
1st Overtone 608
2nd Overtone 912
3rd Overtone 1216
4th Overtone 1520
5th Overtone 1824
6th Overtone 2128
7th Overtone 2432
8th Overtone 2736
9th Overtone 3040
10th Overtone 3344
11th Overtone 3648
12th Overtone 3952
13th Overtone 4256
14th Overtone 4560
15th Overtone 4864
16th Overtone 5168
17th Overtone 5472
18th Overtone 5776
19th Overtone 6080

It defies logic AND science. The tests and measurements done by the Cannonball staff fell far short of a true scientific study. I'm certain that they didn't try to put one over on the public, because they were very sincere in what they thought was happening. If they had consulted an acoustic scientist at the beginning they could have save their company a lot of grief brought about by the "magic stones".
 
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pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Think about it. How can a key touch sitting atop a brass keycup above a cardboard, felt, and leather pad affect frequencies ...
Clarinet players and manufacturers say it does. FWIW, I believe Cannonball isn't just referring to their keytouches, but the stones on the neck.

Cannonball couldn't have been granted a patent unless their thingy worked, in some fashion. That's per a couple articles on Wikipedia, so you know that's 10000% true. I suppose what you could do is buy a Cannonball and do all their tests as outlined in the patent, both with and without the stones.

Yes, I'm playing devil's advocate. I'll turn that off for a moment.

From what I understand, strings are an actuator of the body of the instrument. On winds, it's mostly just a container for a standing wave. Wood type, density, coating would all be able to determine tone quality because it all contributes to the freedom or constraint of the vibration of the body at various harmonics
That sounds like ... material makes a difference. Yay! I win the thread! What do I get?

jbt, that's kinda why I wanted to get your view on my "violin" question. I know that if you have a different body made out of a different material on the violin, it allegedly sounds different. I know that pianists would say that a Steinway 6' grand piano sounds different from a Steinway 8' grand.

My opinion on all of this is that the Cannonball "stones" aren't big enough (either in weight or area) to make a significant difference. Slap an extra 1/2 pound or so of stuff to your horn (idk how much 4000 Swarovski crystals weigh; 1/3? 1/4?) and cover a large enough area and you'll see a difference.

Oh. My experience with saxophone mutes is, "They screw up your intonation from about C and lower." The "bag" or handkerchief mutes that I've seen used on brass instruments do absolutely nothing, as far as I can hear.
 
From what I understand, strings are an actuator of the body of the instrument. On winds, it's mostly just a container for a standing wave. Wood type, density, coating would all be able to determine tone quality because it all contributes to the freedom or constraint of the vibration of the body at various harmonics
That sounds like ... material makes a difference. Yay! I win the thread! What do I get?
Well according to my layman's understanding of acoustics, it does make a difference for strings but I too am skeptical that it makes an observable difference in woodwinds.

It's always funny how according to the marketing material, the more expensive a material is, the more it imbues an instrument with a greater sound quality. I'm trying to think of a unifying scientific principal here and I'm coming up empty. The Manufacturer then goes about charging an additional $2000 for a $75 increase in cost in materials....

I wonder what that's all about?

:)
 

jbtsax

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
In my view it is the comparison to stringed instrument's acoustics that causes most of the misunderstanding about woodwinds. In a violin, cello, hollow body guitar, mandolin, etc. the strings transmit their vibrations to the body of the instrument via the bridge. It is vibrations of the body of the instrument that shape and amplify the vibrations of the strings. The "resonance" of the air inside the body also adds to the total sound.

In a woodwind, it is a cane reed or an "air reed" that vibrates to produce the sound. The vibrating medium is the air column inside the body of the instrument. Yes there are weak vibrations of the body itself, but these are far too soft to be heard and these vibrations do not couple with the vibrating column of air inside. This takes me back to my simple question. If it is hypothesized that something added or taken away from the body tube of a woodwind changes the sound, then by what mechanism does that take place?
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
If it is hypothesized that something added or taken away from the body tube of a woodwind changes the sound, then by what mechanism does that take place?
I think that the reason why there's a conflict of ideals is because when someone asks the "by what mechanism" question, the answer from most non-acousticians will be, "We've changed materials. There's your mechanism. Duh." To which the acoustician will again say, "Benade says that's impossible. Derp." That becomes a very unsatisfying circular argument. It's extremely hard for someone to accept that some dude someplace said one thing but your own experience tells you the opposite.

For me, I really don't care. If I was an active player and planning on buying a new horn, I'd get the one that played the best, regardless of the acoustics discussion. If I have two horns that play exactly the same and they have close to identical (or cheap enough) prices, I'd get the plated one. Not for an acoustic reason, but because the plating is going to last longer.
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
jbt, can I ask you, what is your opinion on ribbed vs. non-ribbed saxes. Do you think that the extra weight changes their sound at all?
 

jbtsax

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
jbt, can I ask you, what is your opinion on ribbed vs. non-ribbed saxes. Do you think that the extra weight changes their sound at all?
In a word no. I wish I knew how to explain the physics better. The body of the saxophone is simply the container whose length and internal geometry shapes the soundwave. "Stuff" on the outside of the tube has no effect upon what goes on inside. I know there is a ton of "anecdotal" evidence that the "stuff" on the outside affects the sound. I believe part of this is due to the fact that the instrument may "feel" different to the player, and part of it is due to what I call the "self fulfilling prophesy" and/or placebo effect.

Trumpet player "A" is convinced that trumpets with silver plating are "brighter" than lacquered ones so when he plays a silver plated trumpet, of course he works to get that "bright" tone he expects. Trumpet player "B" is certain that the silver plating on his horn gives him a darker, more centered tone. Guess what his tonal concept is when he plays his silver trumpet. A very good trumpet player friend of mine said the silver plating does both. At softer playing levels the tone is darker, and then at the loudest levels it is brighter. Of course he is right, except every trumpet made in any finish does the same thing.
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
Thanks jbt. You explain the science fine. I understand completely what you are saying.
 
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