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Discussion Starter #1
It's not rare that we'll get over ten pages here discussing a topic concerning sound waves, metal vibrations, chemical analysis of raw materials, and what have you, as it relates to the more scientific aspects of sound. But my question to the group is... has any of this ever helped your playing? Have you used any of the knowledge gained from these discussions in a practical application that has improved and/or broadened your skills? I'm sure the techs love it, and I don't mean to diss their intellectual endeavors, but when that perspective invades the threads calling for more subjective experiences, what is really trying to be proven? Now the science involved here is fascinating, no doubt, but as far as practical applications go, how are we using this information? Is it simply a mental exercise for those wishing to expand and/or flaunt their knowledge base, or are we learning something of use... and if so, what is it?
 

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The people who are into it get something from it. Me, not so much. There have been many instances of people "proclaiming" as in "Material has no effect.Period" I find this a little off putting. I am firmly in the "sound is most shaped by the sound concept of the player" camp. The only things that ever helped my playing are practice and the sexual tension created by beautiful women at the bar or on the dance floor.
 

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Only one thing makes you better. Practice.

Of course if you're going to buy a saxophone and some other stuff than you might as well know a few things about the products that go beyond the hype. It doesn't hurt to have a little knowledge so you make informed decisions.

I agree with grumps though the topics are better off and much more interesting when they focus on the music as opposed to endless gear talk.
 

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I'm over it. If it actually provides a real result for players, or helps other techs, then great, but so much of it is grandstanding. What really gets me though, is that what is purported to be scientific fact, is often just opinion claked in pseudoscientificengineering jargon. Steve Howard at least tests in an openminded manner and seems genuinely concerned with revealing the truth rather than substantiating his own suppositions. He then presents the results in a clear manner. Kudos to him. Too many of the other techs seem to be all about intellectual snobbery and ego. Even when they have very limited or no experience with a particular topic, they seem to just wade in and divert the thread into a defence of their own rigidly held assumptions rather than cooperating to find better solutions for all. Better no solution than giving up the crown of chief know it all.
 

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I think I know where you are coming from here. In music graduate school I asked a professor what useful purpose there was in having to take a course in ancient music since I could see no practical application to a modern day band director. He got very angry and said that we learn these things because they are part of the "body of knowledge" of our chosen subject area! Now 40 years later I better understand what he was talking about.

Admittedly I am one of those who enjoys the minutia of technical discussions on materials, acoustics, makes and models of saxes and mouthpieces etc. And I agree there is no direct relationship between that information and my playing skill or technique, but that does not make that information invalid to me as a musician, teacher, and performer. In fact it enhances my understanding of the the beauty and complexity of the subject(s) I have chosen to study and the instrument I have chosen to play.

You could also argue that studying the history of the development of the saxophone is a waste of time because it doesn't make you play with greater skill, but does it make you a more "well rounded" saxophonist" with a greater depth of understanding of your instrument? I believe it does.

I'm not really disagreeing with you here Grumps, but pointing out that there are other ways to look at this issue.
Maybe you could add this to your posts in the future: "SUBJECTIVE EXPERIENCES ONLY---OBJECTIVE COMMENTS ARE NOT WELCOME :)
 

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JBT, I think most of us would agree with you.I am interested in the science, technical stuff, etc. I just get disappointed when a useful discussion descends into pi$$ing contest between techs, especially when all the techs start quoting scientific theories with tenuous connection at best to the topic being discussed.
 

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Knowing all the history, composition and minutia of my horn makes me understand it better and that makes me want to practice more. And that's what is really the most important. So it can help.

Beyond that, wanting to know all this stuff is a sign that you are "obsessed" with the saxophone. And I believe a certain amount of obsession is mandatory if you are going to be a real musician. Without the obsession, you're just my cousin Bill trying to look cool on TV with a pair of dark shades.

By the way, based on that Sopranos bit, Bill is definitely a better actor than Hillary. And all you Canadians can be proud that Hillary picked a campaign song by a Canadian singer that was originally written as a jingle for Canadian Airlines.
 

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Grumps said:
. . . when that perspective invades the threads calling for more subjective experiences, what is really trying to be proven? Now the science involved here is fascinating, no doubt, but as far as practical applications go, how are we using this information? Is it simply a mental exercise for those wishing to expand and/or flaunt their knowledge base, or are we learning something of use... and if so, what is it?
The interesting thing that I get from the technical theory stuff is an awareness of how subjective -- and flawed -- our individual perceptions can be. It's a fact of human nature.

If someone feels like their lacquered horn sounds better than their silver-plate horn, or like their silver-plate horn sounds better than their lacquered horn, that's great. But if they think that their subjective experience somehow equates to "knowledge" that the silver-plate and lacquer coatings cause audible differences between saxes, I'm pretty sure that's contradicted by the few actual scientific experiments that have been done.

What do we get from the scientific theories? That the human mind is intensely impressionable and fallible. That we should be profoundly aware that our psychological makeup tends to make us believe certain things that have no objective basis. That we should be careful before saying we know for certain something is true. That we should be skeptical. That we should avoid asserting subjective experiences as objectively true. I think there's a lot of value in these realizations. It's a question of whether you believe in the value of a dedicated search for truth or whether you're comfortable living in your own little subjective reality.

It's also interesting to ask: What do the scientific theories take away from us? I'm not sure they take away anything, because while it's easy to acknowledge that our subjective experience may not fit with objective truth, I'm pretty sure we're not going to stop having those subjective experiences and preferences just because intellectually our reason tells us there's no objective basis to believe them as true. I suppose for some people it could take away their motivation to play if they are forced to rationally acknowledge that their silver-plate horn is not actually any better than someone else's lacquer horn, despite their subjective experience of it as better. That would be a bad thing. Also a silly thing, because even if the differences did actually exist, they're pretty minor in the big scheme of things. Even mediocre saxes sound great.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Dog Pants said:
Steve Howard at least tests in an openminded manner and seems genuinely concerned with revealing the truth rather than substantiating his own suppositions.
Though I enjoy his site and appreciate his reviews, try disagreeing with him sometime...
 

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Grmps I have no touble wading through all the stuff that's said by the folks here.Some is more appealing,some,less so.We all have different filters.I may learn by osmosis,like taking in more mouthpiece to improve tone,and search threads in more detail.There is a lot of information here I find helpful that perhaps over a long period of time might improve my sound.Iam hopeful.There are a lotta cats here that know way more than I do and my search for knowledge keeps me coming back.I don't care if comments are proved scientifically I get off on what is said the human element.Most comments are subjective.
 

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It's not rare that we'll get over ten pages here discussing a topic concerning sound waves, metal vibrations, chemical analysis of raw materials, and what have you, as it relates to the more scientific aspects of sound. But my question to the group is... has any of this ever helped your playing?
You seem to missunderstand the purpose of the scientific parts of these discussions. Analysis and accoustical theory don't get introduced to explain how to play better. Rather, they are brought up to put into perspective the marketing nonsense players have been conned into repeating.

If they teach the player one thing, it is that objectivity is better than being duped.
 

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JfW said:
You seem to missunderstand the purpose of the scientific parts of these discussions. Analysis and accoustical theory don't get introduced to explain how to play better. Rather, they are brought up to put into perspective the marketing nonsense players have been conned into repeating.

If they teach the player one thing, it is that objectivity is better than being duped.
Well said JFW. You beat me to it. Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
JfW said:
Analysis and accoustical theory don't get introduced to explain how to play better. Rather, they are brought up to put into perspective the marketing nonsense players have been conned into repeating.
I disagree. Such analysis is often brought into a discussion to bolster the opinions of the maker who invariably is going to add their input and/or advice to the given situation. Quite frankly, you're also making assumptions as to my point here. I would love to find some practicality in all this, and I come from a science background myself (originally a chemistry major). It's just that we're all here to share experiences, and I've learned much more from those recounted than from the endless dissertations on sound waves and such. I'd like to think though, that our friends enamored with the more scientific pursuits aren't completely wasting their time; and so I was hoping that someone could come up with something of use that they've culled from some of these most informative posts.
 

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I've learned that people that believe that lacquer affects the sound are very similar to audiophiles who think that vinyl sounds better than digital recording, tube amps are better, and a wood room is 'warmer' sounding because the wood was once 'alive'.

Audiophiles have to believe this to justify their GAS in buying outrageously overpriced equipment.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
No one is complaining when the hyperbole and puffing from an advertiser is shot down with sound argument. Nor is this just about a horn feeling different to a player because it's lacquered or not. It's about the value of this scientific information in more practical terms and whether it's of use or not.

Countering the claims of unscrupulous marketers.
Good, we already got that one.
 

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I am the kind of a person that likes the why of everything, and I think it is fun to not only speculate, but to test and discuss that speculation---wait,wait--that's what science is!
 

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Grumps said:
No one is complaining when the hyperbole and puffing from an advertiser is shot down with sound argument. Nor is this just about a horn feeling different to a player because it's lacquered or not. It's about the value of this scientific information in more practical terms and whether it's of use or not..
I understand where you're coming from, Grumps. The long dissertations on sound waves, etc, are probably only interesting to those who are, well, interested in such phenomena. However, the value of this data is that it helps support certain assertions. In the case of lacquer vs silver plate vs gold plate and whether any of these platings have any significant effect on the sound, I think it is valuable to have some hard science behind the assertion that there is little or no effect on the sound. I used to think silver plated horns were brighter. It just seemed that way to me. I had no real data to support my belief. I now am pretty certain the plating has no effect, due to the hard science that has been presented on the topic. I'm still not totally certain either way, but the science and "objective" evidence points to no real effect on sound by plating or lacquer.

This all might make a difference to someone who is weighing the idea of spending more money on a horn for silver or gold plating. Their decision can be based on whether they think it is worth if for the looks of the horn, rather than any difference in sound.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
But don't those sound arguments always fall back on yes, there has to be some difference in the sound of horns with different finishes, but we shouldn't be able to perceive them... then all the guys who believe there's a difference, smile to themselves knowing they can feel it.

There, that sums up about 300 pages on the matter.
 

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It never hurts to attempt to bring folks around to a more refined/sane way of thinking.:D

We in public education try to do this all the time. Oftentimes it's with our students.;)
 

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hakukani said:
I am the kind of a person that likes the why of everything, and I think it is fun to not only speculate, but to test and discuss that speculation---wait,wait--that's what science is!
Ditto. However, when it comes to saxes, the is virtually only speculation and no testing, or referrals to "experiments" that test something else. Most of the time it is comparing apples and oranges. Except for bits and pieces in Kyomarto's post, which I did learn something from, there is no science and I am left with my notions and beliefs.

It becomes downright absurd when some claim that nothing really matters (pun intended), concrete of copper, dents smaller than 1/16th of the bore diameter, old fashioned keywork (which you just need to get used to), and yet in other posts argue that this or that horn is the best ever made.

I am happy with CDs and don't long for vinyl except for the covers. However, I do think I can tell the difference between an MP3 file played on my computer and live music. In analogy (pun intended), when the discussion comes to saxes, a vinyl-CD or equivalent argument is often used to defy that any differences in material etc. matter. Yet, where are the experiments? The reason why this keeps coming up is because there are zippo and the manufacturers are probably happy to keep it that way, and the acoustic physicists probably more easily funded and occupied by sounds of interst to the military, law enforcement, oceanographers...birdwatchers :D
 
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