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During this last month, I've had a gum infection and hadn't been able to practice very much. My wife had been planning to sing a solo during our church's 5th-Sunday singing service. With my chops getting better she told me what she wanted to sing and how she wanted me to accompany here on tenor sax.

This was all fine and good until I realized the low key she was planning to sing in. My wife has one of those low sexy "phone sex" type voices so we often have to transpose the music down into the baritone range for her. Now as usual, it was up to me to meld a "phone sex" voice into a church solo that would actually work.

But with my poor formerly diseased chops, I was in no shape to play low and husky down in the C1 and B1 range without honking. And it just doesn't sound right with me playing up an octave while in harmony with my wife's voice. So to keep from honking the low notes, I tried sticking a rolled up towel down my bell. Wow.. It not only kept the honks away but it also gave me sweet low dark sound kind'a like the old Martin horns make. I was also surprised that the towel didn't make the low notes go flat. But everything stayed in pitch pretty well. Additionally, when I played my little piece in the middle, in which I did progress up an octave and more, I was able to really push it hard without rattling the church windows which is something have done before. The volume control was great.

So and think I'm going to add a rolled up towel to my repertoire. I won't use it all the time. And hopefully my low end control will come back with my chops. But it seems to work surprisingly well in certain venues.
 

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Sounds pretty cool I think I'll try it someday.

-Birdman
 

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Discussion Starter #4
area51recording said:
Pretty cool trick. Also I must say I never thought I'd encounter the phrases "phone sex" and "church solo" in the same post! :)
You know, phone sex is completely biblical and sin-free as long as it's you wife on the other end of the line. :D
 

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Even Stan Getz sometimes seemed to use a towel in the bell of his sax. Just have a close look on the backside cover of his famous bossa album with A. Gilberto- the "girl form ipanema" album. Towel in sax.
 

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towel in a sax? I've tried it as a mute without much succes , I mean the really low notes do not come out....., how did you exactly roll the towel? Will try again....
Is the Stan Getz thing serious?
 

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Slightly tangentially, when I was a boy we used a duster in the horn of the wind-up gramophone to keep the sound within limits. The gramophone did not have a volume control. I have no idea if this affected tone or not as I never heard it without the duster.
 

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yeah you can put anything in a horn's bell (a padsaver for example) but the problem is that at least B and Bb won't come out right (the grammophone sound is not created in the horn, that only acts as an amplifier so reducing the volume of the horn will reduce the volume of the sound. Your saxophone produces the note within the horn, changing the internal volume will affect volume but also sound formation and your low notes won't speak)
 

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milandro said:
towel in a sax? ....
Is the Stan Getz thing serious?
At least on the coverphoto he def. has it in his bell.
I´ve seen him live 2 times and he didn´t use it there;)
 

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Dr_sax said:
Even Stan Getz sometimes seemed to use a towel in the bell of his sax. Just have a close look on the backside cover of his famous bossa album with A. Gilberto- the "girl form ipanema" album. Towel in sax.
That is absolutely extraordinary and i never knew that! I don't have the album (taped it many years ago - shame on me) - but is it like he's playing the sax on the photo or is he holding it? If the latter then i'm not sure we can say "stan getz influenced towel tone" just yet.. But I very much want to..
[edit: I've been thinking about this and i'm still completely gobsmacked. You're not winding us up, are you?]
 

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So, who's going to run some tests for us all?
 

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milandro said:
yeah you can put anything in a horn's bell (a padsaver for example) but the problem is that at least B and Bb won't come out right
Trick is not to close the bell completely. Take a small towel, roll it up, and put it inside on the side. Everything speaks, tried it before. It doesn't do a lot for the volume, but it "softens" the sound to quite some extent.

It's not to be used as a perfect mute, but as enviroguy illustrated, one can prevent honkin' too loud that way. I do prefer using the chops for that though...
 

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Discussion Starter #14
milandro said:
yeah you can put anything in a horn's bell (a padsaver for example) but the problem is that at least B and Bb won't come out right...
First, I made sure the towel stayed well above the B-flat key. And the second part seems just to be my horns ability to stay in tune. I know I brag way too much about my second-rate post-Selmer Buescher 400. But the thing just seems play in tune without much bother and even with a towel in the bell. The B1 and B-flat1 were great.
 

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That is absolutely astonishing. Thank you for taking the time to find that! I shall start practising my "Getz Towel Tone" straight away! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Well, my chops are back. It took about seven days of bushing flossing and practicing, but I can blow the low notes nice and soft as I want again.

The ability to play without worry is a true gift. I didn't remember that until I lost it. It's good to be back in the saddle again.
 
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