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Discussion Starter #1
I was watching this video of Nathan Nabb when I suddenly noticed that he has an odd set of metal discs attached to the bell-to-body brace on his alto (you can see it most clearly early in the second movement when the camera angle changes).



The material looks like a small stack of weights, like you might find on a miniature barbell. I'd never seen anything like this before, nor even read about in SOTW. I assumed it must be the latest in a long series of add-on devices claimed to improve tone or "resonance" somehow. Sure enough, I soon found this: https://www.meridianwinds.com/equipment/meridian-winds-saxophone-center-brace-resonance-weights/

What seems odd about this product is its narrow target market. It appears to be intended primarily for alto saxophones, and is specifically designed only for Selmer and Yamaha horns (although I suppose it can fit other makes as well, if their braces are similar). And virtually all the artist users/endorsers are classical players. In fact, the list is almost a who's who of American classical saxophonists. In addition to Nabb, we have Tim McAllister, Otis Murphy, Joe Lulloff, Taimur Sullivan, and others. Donald Sinta is endorsing a saxophone weight! Some of the players boast/admit/confess that they also use a heavy neck screw.

The amount of weight is four or five ounces. Whatever the alleged effect on tonal focus or low-note response, I'm sure that this amount of weight is more than enough to be noticed by the player, probably in a couple of different ways. Ironically, manufacturers often claim that reducing the weight of a saxophone can improve its responsiveness. Yamaha said this when it moved from the YAS-875 to the YAS-875EX, and I believe a similar claim is made for the "mini-rib" system on the Selmer Series III. Now players are being urged to add the weight back on. Let your neck pay the price!

The product also comes in different types of metal (brass, nickel silver), so of course it's possible to argue about which particular alloy will aid "resonance" most desirably. Choice of metal is a prerequisite for any saxophone add-on. Where would we be without gold-plated ligatures?

This might be an occasion for home experimentation with a lump of lead and some duct tape.
 

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I cant say it for a fact but I would venture to suggest (and recordings both ways would be great) that there may be a difference in tone. But I bet money only the player can hear it.

When we stop and get honest we all know that we do not hear the tone that is even close to what the audience hears (no matter who is playing and who is listening).

Everything has an effect on tone. Id venture to guess the more inches, much less feet, we get from the instrument, the less impact such things have.

Its a good way to extract money from players.

When players practice only players make money. Those who peddle wares make zip.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I cant say it for a fact but I would venture to suggest (and recordings both ways would be great) that there may be a difference in tone. But I bet money only the player can hear it.
That much extra weight has got to make a difference in how the horn feels in your hands and in your mouth. The balance will be different. Once all that occurs, who knows which other sensations also will seem to have changed? Your ears are connected to the rest of your body.
 

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Funny thing is, that's the Selmer USA logo, which no longer appears on Selmer Paris horns.
Ah, intersting - it may be public domain:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Selmer_logo.svg

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Whatever, it smacks of misleading advertising to me.
 

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Acoustic researchers have been searching for a connection between wall vibrations and the sound waves inside woodwind instruments for many decades. The latest research The Effect of Wall Vibrations on a Simplified Reed Instrument has shown that for "coupling" to occur between the wall vibrations and the wave inside, the tube must be very thin .2mm and slightly oval shaped---conditions not found in real instruments.

Every instance of adding weight or mass to the outside of a saxophone to change the sound, timbre, resonance, or whatever the claim begs the question: By what mechanism does this effect take place? According to science it cannot be by changing how the wall of the instrument vibrates. There is a common misunderstanding about "resonance" as it applies to the saxophone. The "resonance" is within the air column inside the instrument, not in the walls of the instrument itself. Violins, guitars, lutes, even snare drums resonances are in part made up by the vibration of the body of the instrument. This is not so with the saxophone. If one takes off the mouthpiece, fingers low Bb, and puts the end of the neck up to one's ear like a stethoscope, the "resonance" of the saxophone can be heard. The air column inside picks up the random background sounds in the room that match its natural resonant frequency and amplifies them passing them on to your ear. There is no vibrating metal anywhere. When someone makes the claim that some object increases a saxophone's "resonance" put your hand on your wallet and back out of the room. :twisted:

The common factor among all of these "resonance enhancing devices" attached to the outside of a saxophone is that not one has ever undergone a well controlled double blind study. Ever wonder why? With Eric Satterlee's weighted ergonomic neck screw it should be noted that there are several well known classical saxophonists who can tell no difference along with those who believe they can tell a difference. What does that tell you? Maybe these folks have found something besides a "placebo effect" that is yet unknown to acoustic science. My guess is that it is more about human suggestibility and bio-acoustic feedback than anything else.
 

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Its a good way to extract money from players.
And that's the bottom line; the truth of the matter.

I could go on.......but we've been down this road so many times before with the buzz screw, p-ligs, and a bunch of other devices I can't remember at the moment. I'll let milandro take over now. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Ah, intersting - it may be public domain:
No, it's still a registered trademark of Conn-Selmer, Inc. (I checked.) I think Wiki is focused mostly on copyright status.

I'm assuming Meridian has permission to offer this design; otherwise, it would be trademark infringement. In any case, it appears to be a special engraving option that doesn't appear on every unit.
 

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You err when using 'audience perception' as the threshold for legitimacy. in fact, only the perception of the artist is required for legitimacy. I have no doubt the player in the video would sound pretty much the same on any alto in good condition, with or without the 'ballast' weight. What matters is the artist is perceiving an improvement in his 'bio-acoustic feedback', similar to what we get from a different ligature, for example. legitimacy is also enhanced by the quantity of minor improvements taken together; that is, a certain reed, a certain mouthpiece, a certain ligature, a certain neck, a certain sax, a certain pad, a certain tone booster on the pad, etc., all may make minor improvements but they can be cumulative in effect to the player. And the bottom line, if the player is more satisfied with how he's playing, his performance will be enhanced.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I could go on.......but we've been down this road so many times before with the buzz screw, p-ligs, and a bunch of other devices I can't remember at the moment.
"Hey hey, my my / Resonance can never die." The difference with this device, I suppose, is that it's heavy enough to affect how the horn "hangs," which perhaps could influence embouchure stability for some players. There could be a physical effect rather than an acoustic one. But you could just choose a heavier horn.
 

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You err when using 'audience perception' as the threshold for legitimacy. in fact, only the perception of the artist is required for legitimacy. I have no doubt the player in the video would sound pretty much the same on any alto in good condition, with or without the 'ballast' weight. What matters is the artist is perceiving an improvement in his 'bio-acoustic feedback', similar to what we get from a different ligature, for example. legitimacy is also enhanced by the quantity of minor improvements taken together; that is, a certain reed, a certain mouthpiece, a certain ligature, a certain neck, a certain sax, a certain pad, a certain tone booster on the pad, etc., all may make minor improvements but they can be cumulative in effect to the player. And the bottom line, if the player is more satisfied with how he's playing, his performance will be enhanced.
Then selling placebos are ok to sell? Research repeatedly proves they have a perceived impact on metpdical care. However they are illegal to prescribe.
 

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You err when using 'audience perception' as the threshold for legitimacy. in fact, only the perception of the artist is required for legitimacy. I have no doubt the player in the video would sound pretty much the same on any alto in good condition, with or without the 'ballast' weight. What matters is the artist is perceiving an improvement in his 'bio-acoustic feedback', similar to what we get from a different ligature, for example. legitimacy is also enhanced by the quantity of minor improvements taken together; that is, a certain reed, a certain mouthpiece, a certain ligature, a certain neck, a certain sax, a certain pad, a certain tone booster on the pad, etc., all may make minor improvements but they can be cumulative in effect to the player. And the bottom line, if the player is more satisfied with how he's playing, his performance will be enhanced.
I am not disagreeing with what you wrote, but I think it crosses the line from acoustics to psychology. For example a trumpet player believes that a silver trumpet produces a brighter sound, and so he plays with a brighter sound when he picks up a silver trumpet. One could argue that indeed a silver trumpet sounds brighter, but in this case it is a secondary effect. It is not unlike the baseball pitcher who believes he pitches better when he wears his "lucky socks". If he pitches better every time he wears those socks, do the socks make him a better pitcher? Of course not, he pitches better because of his attitude, and "faith" in his superstition.

Personally I feel it is important that we make a clear distinction between things that "change" the player or the player's perception, and those things that directly affect the soundwaves that are created and disbursed into the room. This is the only way we can cut through the mythology and misunderstanding around saxophone acoustics.
 

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Such a bridge I've got for you! But! I'm selling it as is, where is. Take delivery at the south end of Manhattan Island. Bring a big truck and a crew, it's really really heavy.
 

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You know, we have robotic "sax playing machines" Ive seen them on You Tube...you have too, no? It won't sound pretty but it will remove the confounding variables/variables to detect changes due to introduction of stuff like this. It uses regulated pressure, "embouchure" remains the same, the fingering works, etc. Why can't we simply set all of this crap up on one of those and have at it? double blind, A/B, and be done with it!

Then we can stop these threads once and for all, with an objective bit of data.
 

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I really gotta read those resonance studies someday, if only to figure out why the fact that some horns vibrate in my hands, which obviously takes some acoustic energy, has no effect on the amount of energy available to make the column of air within that horn vibrate. I'm not disputing the finding, I just don't understand it without having read the studies. (A concrete flute wouldn't vibrate much, but a flute made of cardboard > .2mm just might.)

That said, these weights do seem like a placebo to me--which isn't to say they can't have a positive effect. Now, drop the weights inside the bell, and I bet they'd make a difference.
 

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Whatever gadgets he may have had attached, he sure had a nice sound. Was there also some sort of round device fitted inside the bell? Like a grommet of some sort. It could have been the lighting, but in several views when the camera showed inside the ell, I thought I could see a greyish round washer-like thing in the bell. DAVE
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Whatever gadgets he may have had attached, he sure had a nice sound. Was there also some sort of round device fitted inside the bell? Like a grommet of some sort. It could have been the lighting, but in several views when the camera showed inside the ell, I thought I could see a greyish round washer-like thing in the bell. DAVE
Yes, that's a sax mute, which is not uncommon among classical players. Its function is not really to mute the overall sound, but rather to bring the bell notes under better control.
 

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Seems to me it would be easy to prove or disprove any effect these have on the sound produced. Record a few sustained notes at different instrument registers, repeat with the doo-dads attached. Feed the recordings through a Fast Fourrier Transform and compare the frequency response. Any difference WILL be visible. It's just sound, not magic.
 

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The mystical doohickeys are never subjected to standard methodology testing because the results would prove that they are snake oil.

And for those who like to pull out the appeal to authority argument, realize that the training, skills, and general mindset of a professional musician are almost diametrically opposed to those of a scientific researcher.
 
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