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Saxophone has EXTREME resistance?

Hi there! I've just recently noticed something, after playing one of my school's horns. I currently play a King Cleveland 613 Alto Saxophone. After playing the school's Yamaha YAS-23 since mine was out for repair, I've noticed how hard my saxophone is to make it 'speak'. I've played since I was seven. I'm now 14, and can play most of the altissimo range fine (up to C7), but its just so darned hard to blow through now. I suppose it always has been, just now realizing it after playing a more free-blowing horn. It's not a particularly horn-breaking problem, but it's just something that I've just wondered about. If you need anything, I'll be able to answer those questions. Thanks, in advance :)
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
Hi there Michael. Welcome to the Woodwind Forum (WF).

What you describe is very common. Different horns have different levels of resistance. Yamahas are known to be very easy blowing, horns, with almost no resistance, and nearly perfect intonation. That is why they are recommended by teachers the world over for beginning students. On the other hand, King Cleveland horns offer more resistance, and are more difficult to get a sound out of.

I had 2 students once, both started out at approximately the same time. One got a Yamaha YAS23, and the other got a King Cleveland alto. Both horns were set up properly by a tech, and all pads, felts, springs, etc. were in top working condition. The student using the Yamaha excelled, while the student using the King really struggled. Now true, the student with the Yamaha had much more innate musical talent, and would likely have done better even if he had been playing on the King, but I always wonder how much better the student on the King would have done if he had had the opportunity to play on a Yamaha.

Personally, I have quite a few saxophones--about 30 at last count--and all of them have different levels of resistance. The easiest blowing alto I have is a Conn 6M, while the most resistance-filled is my Pierret. The Pierret almost feels like I'm blowing through a trumpet at times, it is that resistant. Since I am primarily a tenor and bari player, I have more tenors and baritones than smaller horns. In my tenors, interestingly enough, my most free-blowing horn is a King Zephyr.

I'm sure someone could chime in here with a scientific explanation of why the differing resistance in the different horns--most likely using some form of physics equation like E=MC2 :wink::geek: --but I've never been scientifically-minded enough to try and wrap my head around these concepts.:emoji_astonished: I was an arts and education major. I avoided the science buildings at all cost. :emoji_relaxed:
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
There's also something to be said about the mouthpiece. Some mouthpieces just work better on some horns than others. As an example, my Sigurd Rascher was absolutely fantastic on the Selmer Mark VI bari I tried, but adequate on the horn I owned, a YBS-52. This is also a very individualized thing, so while I could say something like, "If you buy a horn made before 1945, you should use a mouthpiece with a large chamber, because most folks have good luck with that," it doesn't mean everyone will have the same experience.

Of course, this is all things being equal. You might have some leaky pads or something else needs to be looked at on your horn.
 

jbtsax

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
It is my understanding from reading Benade that the "acoustic efficiency" of a saxophone (or any woodwind for that matter) has to do with the "harmonicity" of each of its notes based upon its internal geometry. Simply put, "harmonicity" means that the harmonics of a given note are whole number multiples of the fundamental. When this is the case, they instantly cooperate and form a "regime of oscillation" in which their acoustic energy is combined and each reinforces the other. When the harmonics are slightly off, it is a different story. A "negotiation" takes place in which those harmonics that are "out of tune" are forced to move from their "peaks" to lock in with the fundamental thereby giving up some of their energy. The sensation to the player is that he/she has to blow harder to produce the same intensity of tone. A woodwind with good harmonicity can also be played with a harder reed without taxing the player.

Now Kymarto (Toby) can chime in and correct anything that I got wrong. (note I said "In my understanding" at the beginning.) ;)
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
Thanks jbt. You and Toby were exactly who I was referring to when I wrote...

I'm sure someone could chime in here with a scientific explanation of why the differing resistance in the different horns--most likely using some form of physics equation like E=MC2 :wink::geek: --but I've never been scientifically-minded enough to try and wrap my head around these concepts.:emoji_astonished: I was an arts and education major. I avoided the science buildings at all cost. :emoji_relaxed:

:)
 

jbtsax

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
I forgot to add that a leak somewhere in the system near the top of the sax can create "resistance" throughout its range. A common one that is often missed is a leak in the neck tenon. The neck can feel tight and still be leaking if the tenon is slightly out of round. If a player suspects this problem, the sax should be taken to a tech who has a neck leak isolator.
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
Huh, who would have thunk it. It looks like a piece of plumbing. :)

I think my tech used to use smoke. Or was would he have been checking for something else?
 
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