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Playing the Nuvo JSax

I was recently given a Nuvo JSax for my birthday.
It is light, portable, extremely rugged, and sounds quite nice for what it is. (Which is an ultra-cheap beginners instrument)
Wondering if anyone has had any experience with it?
Mainly, I'm not convinced the suggested fingering is quite right. It's pretty good for most of the range (see caveat about cheap beginner instrument) but the high C seems a long way off... I think I get a better result playing the low C but without the thumb hole.
Ditto F# is not very sharp.
Given the care with which it otherwise seems to be designed, I'm wondering if my issue is technique or if there are some tricks to it.
Other caveat: I play recorder and cornet, (and harmonica and guitar) and am just now dipping my toes into the reed instrument pool, so it's possible it'll come good once I get my technique down.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
http://bassic-sax.info/blog/2017/jsax-by-nuvo-another-starter-sax/

Fingering for the JSax:
. I think I have a link to another one someplace on this forum. Use the search tool and check. I'm too lazy :D.

I kinda get the idea that the JSax was made to give you a little taste of what it's like to use a reed instrument. If it convinces you to go on to play a different reed instrument in the future, I think that's great. The concern that I have is that if you do go on to a clarinet or sax, you might have picked up some bad habits on the JSax, in fingering, embochure (how you're holding your mouth around the mouthpiece), how to breathe, and even how you're pressing the keys. Those habits can be very hard to break. But if you just want to fool around with it, I don't see a problem.
 
I think it's fair to say I'm using this as an intro to reed instruments, to decide if I want to go further, and whether I can play them at all. I used to be quite good on recorder, and I'm pleased to say the skills are readily transferable. However, I think the JSax (particularly straightened) has value as an instrument in its own right, not merely as a stepping stone... cheap, rugged, light, portable. Even has a pretty good tone, with some caveats.
Low C up to about A or Bb sound pretty good, sounds pleasant and pretty close to being in proper intonation.
The suggested fingering for B, C and C# all sound quite buzzy and do not settle readily onto key. C# is particularly flat. However, playing C and C# as per the lower registers but minus the thumb hole sounds pretty good.
Surprisingly, the upper registers are also clean and easy to play, from D up to F# all sounding close. High G (the theoretical upper limit of the instrument) also sounds nice when I can get it, but getting the embouchure right is tricky. I am confident it will come with practice.

(NB: I permanently injured my left hand some time ago, and don't have enough bend left in my fingers to make a good seal on the recorder finger holes. However, with a Sax, or Flute, the holes are covered with plates, and I can mash them down. Followup question: why do clarinet keys have holes in them?)
 
http://bassic-sax.info/blog/2017/jsax-by-nuvo-another-starter-sax/

Fingering for the JSax:
. I think I have a link to another one someplace on this forum. Use the search tool and check. I'm too lazy :D.

I kinda get the idea that the JSax was made to give you a little taste of what it's like to use a reed instrument. If it convinces you to go on to play a different reed instrument in the future, I think that's great. The concern that I have is that if you do go on to a clarinet or sax, you might have picked up some bad habits on the JSax, in fingering, embochure (how you're holding your mouth around the mouthpiece), how to breathe, and even how you're pressing the keys. Those habits can be very hard to break. But if you just want to fool around with it, I don't see a problem.
Hmmm... there are some differences between the video and the supplied fingering chart. high C# in particular, I think the video fingering is better. Still fiddly either way.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
NB: I permanently injured my left hand some time ago, and don't have enough bend left in my fingers to make a good seal on the recorder finger holes. However, with a Sax, or Flute, the holes are covered with plates, and I can mash them down. Followup question: why do clarinet keys have holes in them?
Most professional flutes don't have covered keys. They're "open hole." You can get covers for the toneholes, if you want.

Covered hole clarinets, called "plateau clarinets," were made by a bunch of manufacturers in the past. IIRC, the last major manufacturer that made them was Vito (Leblanc), although a few Chinese clarinet-shaped-objects (CSO) are currently on the market. Here's an example of a Noblet, also made by Leblanc.

I did a quick Google and didn't see any Boehm System (i.e. "standard fingering system") professional-level plateau clarinets. I'm sure that some company did make a couple or, if you wanted to spend a lot of $, one of the "big name" companies would make you a plateau clarinet.

The most commonly stated reason why plateau clarinets aren't used is because they're "stuffy sounding." I've not played the same model open hole clarinet next to a closed hole one, but if you think about it, that's kind of an odd argument. There are a lot of holes on your standard clarinet that are covered with pads, anyhow. Of course, lower pitch clarinets (alto, bass, etc.) also have covered holes. They have to: you couldn't reach the keys.

There was one gentleman here that was experimenting with making closed hole covers for clarinets, but I don't know if he was able to actually manufacture any. Again, me lazy. U use search. :D
 

TrueTone

College Student who likes wind instruments & music
Most professional flutes don't have covered keys. They're "open hole." You can get covers for the toneholes, if you want.

Covered hole clarinets, called "plateau clarinets," were made by a bunch of manufacturers in the past. IIRC, the last major manufacturer that made them was Vito (Leblanc), although a few Chinese clarinet-shaped-objects (CSO) are currently on the market. Here's an example of a Noblet, also made by Leblanc.

I did a quick Google and didn't see any Boehm System (i.e. "standard fingering system") professional-level plateau clarinets. I'm sure that some company did make a couple or, if you wanted to spend a lot of $, one of the "big name" companies would make you a plateau clarinet.

The most commonly stated reason why plateau clarinets aren't used is because they're "stuffy sounding." I've not played the same model open hole clarinet next to a closed hole one, but if you think about it, that's kind of an odd argument. There are a lot of holes on your standard clarinet that are covered with pads, anyhow. Of course, lower pitch clarinets (alto, bass, etc.) also have covered holes. They have to: you couldn't reach the keys.

There was one gentleman here that was experimenting with making closed hole covers for clarinets, but I don't know if he was able to actually manufacture any. Again, me lazy. U use search. :D
(While we're getting a bit away from the topic, I don't know much about the Nuvo, unfortunately-I've never played one.)
I've seen a few Leblanc and Selmer Paris plateau horns, although the Selmers were rather old, some had the old logo from before 1926. (the couple of Leblanc LLs I've seen photos of with plateaux also could have been pretty old too, though-first one I found on ebay is from the late 70s or early 80s)
Like Pete said, you can certainly order a new plateau key clarinet from a company, but it's probably gonna be rather expensive. Having a repairperson convert a normal clarinet to it is probably rather expensive too, but a lot less so-I've seen some at clarinetfest do exactly that.
Also, of note: the metal Selmer plateau key clarinet I've played did seem stuffier than the normal (well, almost normal-had a 7th ring.) one I've also tried. The other 2 plateau key clarinets I've tried (a Normandy and another one that Lohff and Pfeiffer converted into a plateau key system that I forgot the brand name of) didn't have that problem, so the Selmer might have just been leaky. (plus I was more interested in the 9 key clarinet and Boosey & Hawkes 10-10 that the vendor also had with it, as I've never played either of those...) Pretty sure it was originally plateau key, they offered one like that their a catalog at some point in the 30s. (there's a copy of that on their website: http://www.selmer.fr/histzoom.php?id=133 )

As for why the keys have holes in them, probably so people can do a glissando easier. (or in my case, have difficulty on it for an excerpt for fall auditions this semester. I probably won't be playing that same excerpt-some stuff Rhapsody in Blue, including the opening solo-in our first orchestra concert this fall, so everything should be fine with my glissandi not being that good.)
Either that or just tradition and not wanting to change on the makers' parts.
 
Most professional flutes don't have covered keys. They're "open hole." You can get covers for the toneholes, if you want.

Covered hole clarinets, called "plateau clarinets," were made by a bunch of manufacturers in the past. IIRC, the last major manufacturer that made them was Vito (Leblanc), although a few Chinese clarinet-shaped-objects (CSO) are currently on the market. Here's an example of a Noblet, also made by Leblanc.
Thanks, that was more than I was able to find out. At least knowing the term "plateau" is a helpful step.
AFAICT, many flutes do actually have covered keys... the flute I used to own many years ago certainly had. Having said that, it was certainly not professional level, so there's that.
 
(While we're getting a bit away from the topic, I don't know much about the Nuvo, unfortunately-I've never played one.)
I've seen a few Leblanc and Selmer Paris plateau horns, although the Selmers were rather old, some had the old logo from before 1926. (the couple of Leblanc LLs I've seen photos of with plateaux also could have been pretty old too, though-first one I found on ebay is from the late 70s or early 80s)
Like Pete said, you can certainly order a new plateau key clarinet from a company, but it's probably gonna be rather expensive. Having a repairperson convert a normal clarinet to it is probably rather expensive too, but a lot less so-I've seen some at clarinetfest do exactly that.
Also, of note: the metal Selmer plateau key clarinet I've played did seem stuffier than the normal (well, almost normal-had a 7th ring.) one I've also tried. The other 2 plateau key clarinets I've tried (a Normandy and another one that Lohff and Pfeiffer converted into a plateau key system that I forgot the brand name of) didn't have that problem, so the Selmer might have just been leaky. (plus I was more interested in the 9 key clarinet and Boosey & Hawkes 10-10 that the vendor also had with it, as I've never played either of those...) Pretty sure it was originally plateau key, they offered one like that their a catalog at some point in the 30s. (there's a copy of that on their website: http://www.selmer.fr/histzoom.php?id=133 )

As for why the keys have holes in them, probably so people can do a glissando easier. (or in my case, have difficulty on it for an excerpt for fall auditions this semester. I probably won't be playing that same excerpt-some stuff Rhapsody in Blue, including the opening solo-in our first orchestra concert this fall, so everything should be fine with my glissandi not being that good.)
Either that or just tradition and not wanting to change on the makers' parts.
Useful history. (The wikipedia entry is surprisingly light on the actual history of the clarinet, compared to the Sax). Thanks!
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
I'm going to rephrase what I was going to write.

The overall soprano clarinet fingering design was completed by Boehm/Klose in the first half of the 19th century, so in a lot of folks' minds, this is the first "modern clarinet" and that's it. Some other folks will go a bit further and say that clarinet design peaked in the 1950s with the introduction of the Buffet R13 bore. Both views are kinda short-sighted. There are dozens of interesting clarinet keywork systems and lots of interesting designs. You just need to do some research.

There are lots and lots of much older "proto" clarinets and non-Boehm horns. It's just that it's a very deep rabbit hole.

With the saxophone, even though it's also from the first half of the 19th century, most of the keywork range and design, like the automatic octave key, was completed by the 1890s, although there are some beautiful designs that came after that. The modern key layout on pro saxophones is either from the Selmer Balanced Action or Selmer (Super) Balanced Action between the 1930s and 1950s, although the layout wasn't universally adopted until the mid 1960s (minus some holdouts until the 1980s. I'm looking at you, Leblanc). There are still a bunch of interesting designs out there, still. I don't think there are any "revolutionary" clarinet designs, ATM. I can say that it appears that pro clarinets are getting better and better with each model release. That's not a bad thing.

Saxophone.org has a bunch of 20th century catalogs, some of which have the entire line of instruments, so it's not all just sax. While I'd love to do a "Clarinet Pix" version of Helen's and my gallery, that might have to wait for 40 or 50 years when I can retire. If I can retire :D.
 

TrueTone

College Student who likes wind instruments & music
I'm going to rephrase what I was going to write.

The overall soprano clarinet fingering design was completed by Boehm/Klose in the first half of the 19th century, so in a lot of folks' minds, this is the first "modern clarinet" and that's it. Some other folks will go a bit further and say that clarinet design peaked in the 1950s with the introduction of the Buffet R13 bore. Both views are kinda short-sighted. There are dozens of interesting clarinet keywork systems and lots of interesting designs. You just need to do some research.

There are lots and lots of much older "proto" clarinets and non-Boehm horns. It's just that it's a very deep rabbit hole.

With the saxophone, even though it's also from the first half of the 19th century, most of the keywork range and design, like the automatic octave key, was completed by the 1890s, although there are some beautiful designs that came after that. The modern key layout on pro saxophones is either from the Selmer Balanced Action or Selmer (Super) Balanced Action between the 1930s and 1950s, although the layout wasn't universally adopted until the mid 1960s (minus some holdouts until the 1980s. I'm looking at you, Leblanc). There are still a bunch of interesting designs out there, still. I don't think there are any "revolutionary" clarinet designs, ATM. I can say that it appears that pro clarinets are getting better and better with each model release. That's not a bad thing.

Saxophone.org has a bunch of 20th century catalogs, some of which have the entire line of instruments, so it's not all just sax. While I'd love to do a "Clarinet Pix" version of Helen's and my gallery, that might have to wait for 40 or 50 years when I can retire. If I can retire :D.
I saw this at clarinetfest-it's different enough I might consider it a tad revolutionary, especially so for a contra:
https://www.clarinet-solutions.ch/en/ It's talked about under news but a large pic is at the top of the website. There's a videoon Youtube, also.
(I don't feel like copying all of their links and pictures on that right now but basically it's an electronically fingered contrabass clarinet that's called CLEX. I went to a lecture on it-certainly very interesting! It needs a power source to play anything other than an open G though, so that might make it a bit hard to play in some places. (plus it's currently still a prototype.)
I do agree though the sax has had a lot more recent changes to its design than the Clarinet, but I suppose that does make sense, if you consider how it's about half the age of the clarinet-its still very young as an instrument.

edit: video link:
 
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TrueTone

College Student who likes wind instruments & music
Copypasting my reply here: (I might have gotten a tad carried away explaining it...)
As I'm TT as referenced above, I'll explain a bit more: basically Jochen Seggelke had a lecture on this a couple of days before clarinetfest ended. It's the same bore size as a normal contra and such, and takes the same mouthpiece, but it's keycups are operated by sensors underneath a set of rather small keys about the size of an Eb. It currently goes to a low C, (unless I missed some keys) but they're planning to make it go to a low F-so the same range as the old Leblanc "Octo-contra-alto" paperclip that they made 3 of back in the days that Charles Houvenhagel was designing their low clarinets. (If I recall right it was a low F, but that might be wrong.)
The computer that runs the keys takes a minute to start up, so that might be one constraint for starting to warm up on one, as I was told you shouldn't press any of the keys at that point, as it's calibrating them.
(although getting the thing THERE and powered might be one problem, too...)
Still, I'd love to see where this goes in the future!


Also, I might copy some parts of this into a seperate topic later so we can get back to helping rj with the Jsax.
 

TrueTone

College Student who likes wind instruments & music
Didn't take any pics, unfortunately. Might be worth it to ask Herr Seggelke or anyone from Blashaus, though.
 
Anyway, JSax after a bit more practice, I'm still quite pleased with it. It is very nicely designed (one nice design feature is that the case holds the bent and straight versions equally snugly)
* I find the tone surprisingly pleasant, with the exception of the high B & C, which sound a bit buzzy and wobbly, but practice seems to be smoothing those out. (Also you can use an alternate C fingering and that improves things)
* C#/Db on the fingering chart just does not work for me at all, but you can get it by using the low fingering without the thumbhole.
* High G (nominally highest note you can make on this) is a bit odd, in that I can reach it quite easily provided I hit a lower note first, but I can't really just hit it straight up. Don't know if this a JSax funny or something common to all reed instruments...
* Cheap. Light. Portable. Rugged.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
:TrebleClef::Space5: or 8va? If it's 8va, I'm impressed.

There have been two different saxophones made out of plastic: the Grafton Acrylic Alto and the VibratoSax, which is also an alto. I've always thought that it'd be a better idea to try to make a plastic soprano. You might be able to get rid of some of the body supports, as on the VibratoSax, and you might be able to use a brass neck, like on the Grafton, and give the tone a little more depth.

Anyway, keep posting reports! Sounds like you're having fun!
 
:TrebleClef::Space5: or 8va? If it's 8va, I'm impressed.

There have been two different saxophones made out of plastic: the Grafton Acrylic Alto and the VibratoSax, which is also an alto. I've always thought that it'd be a better idea to try to make a plastic soprano. You might be able to get rid of some of the body supports, as on the VibratoSax, and you might be able to use a brass neck, like on the Grafton, and give the tone a little more depth.

Anyway, keep posting reports! Sounds like you're having fun!
The G is this G: :TrebleClef::Space5: (two above middle C). The range of the JSax is C4 to G5, if I've got my octave notation right, about the same as the practical range for a recorder, albeit an octave lower than the descant. (The recorder can nominally go higher, but I've always considered anything above a high A to be pushing the friendship. Whereas no amount of over-blowing seems to push the JSax above that high G in any form)

I doubt too many people will be playing the JSax in an orchestral setting, but as an introduction to reed instruments, and/or for something portable you can jam or practice with, I'm pretty impressed with it.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
I doubt anyone will be playing the JSax in an orchestral setting
FTFY. :p

It's been my impression that most orchestras generally don't have a sax player. When there's a sax part, either someone in the group that knows how to play sax plays that part or they hire out for the occasion.

I've played in a couple groups that were *technically* orchestras, because they had a few string players. A good percentage of the time, the Eb alto sax parts were transposed French horn parts and the clarinets were transposed string parts.

You're reminding me that I have to pull out my Yamaha WX5. It's been awhile since I've played it.
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
I tried one of these Nuvo JSaxes at my local brick and mortar store a year or so ago... Paint me unimpressed.

Yes, I could play a scale. Don't know which it was anymore. Actually remember very little about the instrument other than to me it seemed like a toy more than a real instrument. It had some pretty big limitations.

Yes, it might be a gateway drug to the world of woodwinds, but as far as practical applications, I couldn't see any.

If you like playing it, and want to play with others, then I would encourage you to pick up a saxophone and take some lessons to get started the right way. Lessons are the best way to avoid picking up bad habits from the get.
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
Sorry about my negative sounding post^. I wasn't so much directing it at you rjmatthews62, as I was towards others who might be inclined to buy it as an ersatz musical instrument.

My point was simply that a JSax will not find a home in a band setting. People shouldn't think that they will. They are a starter instrument only.

BTW, someone mentioned the Vibrato sax, their tenor versions are now out. (I think that's what an email from the company said a few months ago.) I haven't heard from anyone who owns one though.
 
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