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Discussion Starter #1
For the past 40 years I've owned & played on a 1926 Buescher TT Series II straight soprano sax, s/n 196xxx. Recently I discovered a mysterious tone hole covered by a cup & pad, closed by default via needle spring & apparently unaffected by the action of any key on my horn.

It's located a little below & to the left of the R thumb hook, opposite the D key. [See photos below.]

There's a little flange (sticking out from the end of the short rod associated with the E & D keys) which could potentially vent the mystery tone hole if it could push against another flange attached to the mystery keycup. At present they can't touch; did one or both flanges originally have a thick bit of cork ensuring contact?

With a borrowed third hand & extra pair of eyes, I slightly vented the mystery tone hole. Timbre & intonation of notes below F changed, but not in a useful way as far as my ears could tell. Granted, this was a crude test of an operation where success would no doubt depend on precisely-calibrated tolerances.

What is the phantom tonehole/key combo supposed to do? If it were restored to its intended function, would my intonation improve significantly? (Ha! Mostly I play trad jazz & klezmer -- bending pitches right & left, lipping up or down as needed. Would I even notice?)

Google search, zip. Magic 8-Ball says "Ask again later." Can you sax tech mavens enlighten me?

These photos show the phantom key's location & configuration.
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For the past 40 years I've owned & played on a 1926 Buescher TT Series II straight soprano sax, s/n 196xxx. Recently I discovered a mysterious tone hole covered by a cup & pad, closed by default via needle spring & apparently unaffected by the action of any key on my horn.

It's located a little below & to the left of the R thumb hook, opposite the D key. [See photos below.]

There's a little flange (sticking out from the end of the short rod associated with the E & D keys) which could potentially vent the mystery tone hole if it could push against another flange attached to the mystery keycup. At present they can't touch; did one or both flanges originally have a thick bit of cork ensuring contact?

With a borrowed third hand & extra pair of eyes, I slightly vented the mystery tone hole. Timbre & intonation of notes below F changed, but not in a useful way as far as my ears could tell. Granted, this was a crude test of an operation where success would no doubt depend on precisely-calibrated tolerances.

What is the phantom tonehole/key combo supposed to do? If it were restored to its intended function, would my intonation improve significantly? (Ha! Mostly I play trad jazz & klezmer -- bending pitches right & left, lipping up or down as needed. Would I even notice?)

Google search, zip. Magic 8-Ball says "Ask again later." Can you sax tech mavens enlighten me?

These photos show the phantom key's location & configuration.
View attachment 221378 View attachment 221376 View attachment 221374 View attachment 221372 View attachment 221370 View attachment 221380
It's the fork Eb vent. Someone has reversed the spring to hold it closed all the time.

Personally I would have it re-activated. That is a useful fingering (1-2-3 on LH, 1 ---3 on RH gives you Eb.) Old school techs used to complain about it and disable it without even asking the customer, but it's not all that much harder to keep in regulation. I believe intonation might be slightly better on a few notes if it's operating, as the horn was designed with it in mind.

I have even seen horns mutilated by removing the tone hole altogether, or soldering a penny over it, and trashing the mechanism.
 

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Thank you, turf3! To reverse the spring, would I simply slip the tip loose from its groove & then slip it into the groove on the opposite side? Or is something else required?

As near as I can tell, if the tonehole defaults to fully vented, fingering notes below F will close the tonehole partway. Is that the desired result?

What other notes would be affected intonation-wise, & how?

Lastly, is there an advantage to this alternate fingering for Eb? The non-forky standard fingering has always worked pretty well for me...
 

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Yes, you COULD flip the spring to the other side, but it might not have enough strength to work properly after working it the "opposite" direction for so long.

The key should fully close with right hand keys closed - if not, it'll leak and those notes wouldn't speak well. You might be missing some cork on the lever arm.

As to the advantage...well....you could trill from Eb to F with only one finger to worry about, instead of coordinating 3.

2 of my Bueschers, one of my Kings and my Conn stencil horn have the little key and I keep it operating. Even if it is a little more work for my tech. HAHAHAHA!
 

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For the advantage of having it working-try playing stuff like low C or B to low Eb and rapidly alternate between them-that's about the only use I've actually used it in on my TT Tenor, and it's rather easier for me that way. (of course my main instrument is clarinet, so I've always been told not to slide keys!)
 

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As near as I can tell, if the tonehole defaults to fully vented, fingering notes below F will close the tonehole partway. Is that the desired result?
Your RH middle finger closes the back side key. It must be set so it closes fully. (This is very important!!!)

Your RH ring finger will close not only the pad directly under it, but also the one immediately above it.

So for each note the position of the back side key:

G and above open
F# closed (if you're using RH middle finger to play F#)
F open
E closed
Eb by normal fingering - closed
Eb by fork fingering - open
D and below - closed

This fingering eliminates sliding from the Eb key to the low C key. Also handy for a rapid transition between F and Eb or F# and Eb (if you can play F# with the RH ring finger on your horn).

If this pad has been closed for decades, you will almost certainly need to replace the pad if you want to convert it to normally open.
 

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Back when these vintage saxes were made, trills were much more prevalent in saxophone music than they are today---especially in some of the "novelty" tunes such as those played by Rudy Wiedoeft and his contemporaries. It seems that a lot of effort was made to avoid trills that would otherwise have to be done by the little finger of either hand. Hence the G# trill key on the early Conns and this "back Eb key" on Bueschers were common.
 

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Golly! Sounds like it may be a solution in search of a problem. Or a sax-modification expense I'd rather apply to making the #!$% teardrop octave key easier to reach. Thanks, all of you, for sharing your vintage sax lore & educating me about this.

I suspect I'm gonna simply carry on fingering & lipping as before, by brute force & muscle memory.
 

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This isn't a 'trill' key really...it's just an alt Eb. I would posit it was intended as such.

Actually...hardly a 'solution in search of a problem'. Wise players who actually keep theirs activated find it comes in handy. Matter of fact, on my horns which have 'em I rarely even bother going to the Eb spat key. For anyone who ever played a valve brass instrument, the logic of this mechanism is incredibly obvious.

Can one live without it ? Yes.

But once it is activated and you find the obvious situations where one would use it....you'd probably wanna keep it activated. If a feature is there, why not use it ? Especially when it's a pretty good fingering.

...the rather hilarious thing about the Eb fork is....most players and many techs don't even know what it really is. If I had a dime for every time I I have heard it called a 'vent key'.....

One thing to look out for....sometimes, these have been disabled beyond just the spring being opposite-tensioned. Sometimes someone has actually cut off a foot/lever between the touchpiece and the lever on the key barrel itself.
 

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My first horn had one, and that’s how I learned to play an Eb, usually. It has taken me some effort to learn to play without that option.
 

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My first horn had one, and that’s how I learned to play an Eb, usually. It has taken me some effort to learn to play without that option.
My true tone alto has one. It was originally corked closed when I got the horn, but my repairman opened it back up when I had it overhauled. This was the first sax I had ever seen it on, but is handy for alt Eb once I got used to it as well.

Thanks!
Kristy
 

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Comparing the size of the normal Eb tonehole and the "back" Eb there is a significant difference in the venting of each note. That in itself suggests to me that the "fork fingering" might be best used when the Eb played with that fingering is short and fast as in a trill or tremolo or in a fast scale or run where the timbre and tone of the note isn't as critical as on long tone. Several owners of saxes with this feature have mentioned on this forum and others that keeping that key open and in working condition helps to vent the note F giving it a timbre they like, hence the often used name "vent key". Of course folks can call it whatever they wish and use it in any way they find works for them. I searched for a patent, but didn't find one. I did find information that this key was mentioned in Conn ads as early as 1910, so it was around quite a while before being discontinued. I think Matt Storher has some information on when that took place.
 

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No question, the spat Eb produces a clearer tone, and the only reason I use a spat Eb on a horn with a fork Eb is for longer notes.

Still....the primary intent of the Eb Fork was not to vent the F. It was to produce a quicker fingering in certain musical circumstances. Which is exactly what it does. If venting other notes was a happy ancillary result which folks discovered, that's great. Certainly another nice reason to have one activated as opposed to deactivated.

My point was....the people and techs who refer to it as a vent key oftentimes fail to even realize the alt Eb fingering is THERE.

Me:
"Cool your horn has a Fork Eb"

Them:
"Wha ? You mean that old vent key ? Serves no purpose, its' just a problem"

Me:
"It's not a venting key, it is an alternate fingering for Eb"

Them:
"Wha ?"

Me:
"When it's active and regulated nicely...RH 1&3...produces an Eb. Play a D, then lift your E finger"

Them:

"No way !?"


Some models have also experimented with different hole locations and larger secondary Eb toneholes, too. All in all, a very interesting and useful old design/idea. And actually, other mfr's have maintained it on some of their models well into the 1970's......so it isn't as 'archaic' as folks make it out to be, really...

I would actually love to do a horn key mod someday where a fork Eb fingering actually opens the conventional Eb hole....thus having no necessity for the second tonehole at all. But that'd be a tricky one.....
 

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I would actually love to do a horn key mod someday where a fork Eb fingering actually opens the conventional Eb hole....thus having no necessity for the second tonehole at all. But that'd be a tricky one.....
Well, the Conn 12M has the very best implementation of the fork Eb in that the tone hole is the same size as the other Eb tone hole, and located on the lower stack so it's dead easy to regulate. You cannot tell any tonal difference between the two Eb fingerings on a 12M.

Some Martins had something similar on tenors at least, don't know about altos, where the tone hole for fork Eb was on the lower stack, but in the Martin implementation the hole was smaller and higher up than the regular Eb tone hole.

The location of the bottom bow fold has a lot to do with how you can locate the fork Eb tone hole.
 

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Well, the Conn 12M has the very best implementation of the fork Eb in that the tone hole is the same size as the other Eb tone hole, and located on the lower stack so it's dead easy to regulate. You cannot tell any tonal difference between the two Eb fingerings on a 12M.

Some Martins had something similar on tenors at least, don't know about altos, where the tone hole for fork Eb was on the lower stack, but in the Martin implementation the hole was smaller and higher up than the regular Eb tone hole.

The location of the bottom bow fold has a lot to do with how you can locate the fork Eb tone hole.
Thanks for that information. I hope to come across that model someday. Another interesting Eb trill key can be found on my Buffet Evette-Shaeffer soprano sax with a partial apogee system. In this system the RH second finger slides down to close both itself and the D key similar to how a Bis key works. That leaves the 3rd finger free to trill with the small key atop the D that covers a hole that goes through the D key. I call it a "doughnut key" for lack of a better term. The three "levers" you see in the photographs allow closing the low Bb, B, and C# with the middle finger of the right hand. :) Ingenious, to say the least.

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