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I dunno about you, Boot, but I started playing jazz on them a couple years ago, basically because no one was doing it and I wanted to find out why not.

I never did find out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
Well, I'm with Boot -- I just posed the parabolic question to stir up controversy!! I'll play 'em no matter what -- even if the bore's proved to be omni-directional to infinite tolerances.
 

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Paul,
I started playing Bueschers because I had my head exploded and all my preconceptions destroyed the moment I had a play of a 30's Aristocrat. There was no comparison between the Buescher tenor I know have and any of the other horns I tested it against then or since. You know how it is when you find a killer horn. You just stick with it.
 

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I started playing Bueschers because I had my head exploded and all my preconceptions destroyed the moment I had a play of a 30's Aristocrat.
Epiphany! The One True Tone. Ye Must Be Horn Again.

With me it was slow but sure. The Saxophone Shop Around The Corner, kinda. I had my play, then another, and thought, "Oh, that's nice, but nothing I'd give up my beloved Conns for."

I was, however, conceptually intrigued. A saxophone made in the jazz age, but not suited to play jazz? Historical revisionism at work? The Conntrarian in me was hooked. I went from hmm, not bad to hey, it plays! to MANALIVE! No epiphany here. They grew on me.

Well, I never do intend to give up my Conns (heck, I even grabbed myself a Martin or two since), but these Bueschers are just as special, somehow. Maybe in a more delicate, intimate way that I appreciate more now that I am on the downhill side of 35 and no longer so hotblooded as I once was.

And the best thing is, the Conns aren't jealous... :wink:

All right, folks. Back on topic.

Is it possible that the early, handmade saxophones were so special because they were not (or not just) parabolic, but polyconic? Ie: pinch a little here, bulge a little there, knead the nodes, goose the taper?
 

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buescher tenor...

I have a long shot at a Buescher tenor belonging to an old freind of the family. He's 83, and I'm trying to convince him to take up playing it again after probably 45 years off. I know it would be good for him in so many ways...

If I can't get him to play the thing, I'll at least get myself at the front of the line for it...

He bought it new in 1935 with money from selling papers! Silver, I haven't seen it yet but I have high hopes. Don't know if it would be a TrueTone or a New Aristocrat...

Not to digress from the topic, just couldn't help it. OK, if I end up with this thing I'll get ahold of a bore gauge and measure it, how 'bout that...
:)
 

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Interesting thread...

It might be a good idea to start with something that we know and work from there. I have done some research on this topic but not as much as I might like to.
Relating the Parabola to Buescher Saxophones is John-Edward Kelly's paper "The Acoustics of the Saxophone From a Phenomenological Perspective" Now, in this short paper, Kelly tries to explain in simple terms the acoustical properties of a Parabola as well as the tonal and historical ramifications of the changes that have been made as a result of removing the parabola and changing the Mouthpiece design so radically. He clearly tells us that the Parabola is on the tone-hole side of the the instrument going down the body. He has a picture (OK I'm going to try to describe a picture) of two lines similar to a cone. One of the lines is parabolic the other is straight. He suggests that straight line shows the basic line of the back of the horn (the part that the strap ring is soldered to). Then he suggests that the parabolic line relates to the side of the body tube where the tone holes are. -I am purposely not going to make any judgments here.

Some things to consider are: the way that tone holes are pulled from the body, the size and diameter of tone holes in various locations....

I think that this paper is where so many folks get the idea that you can "look down the horn and see the Parabola" as Paul mentions.

This next part I am writing with much hesitation....I would hope that no one would read this and conclude that my findings are by any means conclusive. OK.

I grabbed a True Tone (today), a late model crescent G# that I have here which looks to have a straight body (think about that...). I looked down the neck Tenon into the horn and could see how the backside of the horn looked straight; as Kelly states. The side with the tone holes seemed to disappear. This is Kelly's proof that there is a Parabola.

"Just a peek down the any one of Adolphe Sax's saxophones (from the neck of a straight saxophone, or from the neck-joint of the altos or tenors) is revealing aplenty: the forward, tone hole wall of the cone arches completely out of sight..."

Finding a good starting point near the top of the horn, I made a mark. I then found a good point that I could measure (the outside of the horn by the way) near the body-to-bow joint. Using a caliper and a crude ruler I began finding points on the horn that I could measure and marking them with their distance from the original mark I made on the top of the horn (the 'zero point'). In total got about 14 points where I could measure and there was no tone hole.

Using these points, I quickly graphed the point on an axis and found them to be a nearly straight. Only dipping slightly below the line I drew from the first to the last point.
With my crude measurements on *this* True Tone, I see a parabola as stated but cannot find it in my measurements. I went back to double check; I got the same measurements.

Of course:
-I measured the outside of the bore and metal thickness may be a factor (but more than a mm or so?)
-I used a dial caliper and not some huge internal bore measuring devise.
-Kelly say's the parabola is greatly reduced in many newer instruments. -This might be the case here. Kelly plays a Transitional.
 

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So if this parabolic bore thing is characteristic of the old Bueschers, how late did they make their horns like this? Do the Big B Aristocrats and 400's have a parabolic bore? I notice in that famous picture of Sigurd Rascher and all the saxophones from sopranino to contrabass, his tenor and baritone are both Buescher 400's. I've also seen a picture of him and his daughter Carina in a masterclass, where there is a Buescher 400 sitting on a chair behind them. I assume this is his horn. If Rascher was all about using horns made to Sax's specifications, it seems to me he wouldn't play a 400 if it didn't have the parabolic bore. In both pictures, his alto is still a transitional. Also, the bell on the Buescher 400's is pushed out a little farther because the bell keys are on the inside. Would this change the sound much?
 

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Hmm. The first question kind of depends whether Buescher verifiably used a parabolic bore at all, ever. Even that is lacking in hard evidence (and a lot of the pro-Buescher folks are probably just fine with that - the sound "proves" the bore is there, ie: it's merely an argument in support of the sound).

I just got a great 400 Top Hat alto. I'm still getting to know it, but one thing's obvious to me - it has more capability for dark tone than I had been led to believe. If you play it like a dark classical horn, it sounds like one. But there is also the "big bell" delicate edge to be had if you push the horn a bit. Its versatility is incredible.

As to Rascher, there's so much acrimony, sanctimony, and just-baloney surrounding him that it's hard to tell the man from the myth at times. His students, who mostly knew him when he was older and more conservative, don't hold with 400s at all. I wouldn't be surprised if he used a 400 now and then, at least in a teaching setting (he surely never gave up his beloved Tranny for performances).

In the film he made for the Buescher Co. (1957), he demonstrates basic playing principles on 400s. We do know he hated commercialism, so he wouldn't have posed with one just as a favor to Buescher. Who knows, he might have heard more in the horn than many of us do. It is, at least the pre-Selmer models are, a VERY high quality saxophone.
 

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According to Lee Patrick, Rascher did indeed use the 400's on his video as a favor to Buescher. Patrick, of course, was close friends with Rascher for decades and had talked to him specifically about that video.

I have read many of the articles that Rascher had written over the years (from alot of research) and every indication is that he was very adament about playing saxophones that had the characteristics built in by Sax (the parabolic curve). One specific article, and I can't remember which one, alludes to the point that saxophones for a number of years have NOT been made to Sax's specifications (the parabolic curve again). I remember that the number he gave would place that date in approx. the mid 30's.

Paul, I know like to try and put some "common sense" and "reality" into the whole Rascher aura, but there is no reason to assume he was different than what is said about him by those who knew him personally. From what I have gathered from the stories by his personal friends, and from reading numerous articles written by Rascher from the early 40's through the 80's, I would assume first, that the 400's pictured in the photo are probably loaners from Buescher for that photo op, or saxophones he had that he probably used on his many clinics around the country instead of his concert saxophones.
 

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So if this parabolic bore thing is characteristic of the old Bueschers, how late did they make their horns like this? Do the Big B Aristocrats and 400's have a parabolic bore?
I never talked to Mr. Rascher about the parabolic bore nor heard his views on it. John-Edward Kelley visited my shop last month and I did ask his views about it. He prefers the True Tone and New Aristocrat model altos because of their parabolic bores. He does not care for the Aristocrat model because the bore did change and he said it is no longer parabolic. The Aristocrat model came out in 1935 so this would reinforce what Kevin wrote.

Mr. Rascher was not against Aristocrats and 400s. He encouraged his students to play them. He preferred his New Aristocrat but I never heard him say anything negative about the later Bueschers.
 

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Kevin said:
Paul, I know like to try and put some "common sense" and "reality" into the whole Rascher aura, but there is no reason to assume he was different than what is said about him by those who knew him personally.
You do get some differences, though - say from a masterclass attendee in the 50s vs. a devoted private student in the 70s. What I mean is, we all have a right to change our minds (at least till we become mythic heroes).
 

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I just got back from James Houlik's saxophone retreat. What an experience!!! It was very educational and a lot of fun. On the first night he did a presentation on Adolphe Sax and the invention of the saxophone. He showed Sax's patent and held a small discussion about the parabolic bore. He stated that the parabola was in the bow of the horn, and showed some pictures from Sax's patent that supported this idea. He also said that Keilwerth still makes their horns with this parabola. Since I heard this from him I have looked at some Keilwerth's on the the web and I have discovered that the body tube has a gradual taper and then at the bow the taper is noticably larger, creating the parabola in the bow. Other modern horns don't have this, and I have looked at my Buescher's and discovered that they are the same, a gradual taper in the body tube and then a more sudden swell in diameter in the bow. I think this is the "parabolic cone" that sax mentioned in his patent and the one we're all looking for. I have studied my aristocrat and true tone altos extensively (without using tools and measuring) and the tube and parabola in the bow looks exactly the same. Hope this helps.
 

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I'm not sure about the straight soprano, but I would think that it would be possible, considering Buescher made tons of straight true tone sopranos in the 20's and 30's.
 

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If the parabola relies on the bow, and there is no bow...

(FWIW, I have no idea what I'm talking about. I had never even heard of "parabolic bore" until this thread... I do have a 1928 TT straight sop, though :wink: )
 

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well it wouldn't have to be curved to have a parabola shape. It could have a gradual taper and then a larger taper in the same section that the bow would be. The Keilwerth's don't look like a perfect cone from top to bottom. I am just looking at pictures, so I'm not completely sure, but I don't think that the rate of taper is the same all the way to the bell, and that at a certain point the taper gets larger and this continues to the bell.
 

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The parabolic cone issue was explained to me in simple practical terms years ago when I was interviewing senior workmen from the early years of saxophone production. When asked about the parabolic cone, three of them told me, unequivocally, that with the introduction of machine-based, mass produced saxophone production, specifically with the extruded tone hole process, the parabolic cone was too impractical for mass production and ceased to exist. The more mechanized, mass produced machinery came into use in the second decade of the 20th century.

The issue of Rascher's input to all of this needs clarification. Rascher always told us that he did not commercially endorse products, but clearly he believed in some of them. He appeared in many Buescher ads over the years and was obviously a symbol of their classical virtues. Now, it is more that likely that he was not paid for these appearances, or that proceeds were sent directly to a cause or school (such as the Waldorf Steiner school), preserving his very real belief in not being a commercial endorser. The wonderful film of a concert and clinic featuring Rascher (from 1957) was produced (paid for) by Buescher. In the film Rascher briefly plays a new looking tenor, as well as an alto. He does not mention the brand. Not a bad trade-off for such an historical, informative document.

Many people misunderstand the comments that certain artists, such as Rascher, say that they play instruments in accordance with Sax's design. Rascher did not mean that he played instruments identical to Sax's (he was too practical for that), but that he played an instrument as close to Sax's intentions as possible. Although much is possible on 19th century instruments (I have a fair number and have performed on them) the value of the "modern" mechanism (from the 1920s on) is too irresistable for the demands of 20th century music. As modern saxophone design (beginning in the second decade of the 20th century) began to change to accommodate popular musical tastes and greater popularity, the Buescher instruments, relative to the others, was one of the few to maintain its traditional, more "classical" orientation. (Martin was another). It really has nothing to do with the parabolic cone, but more to do with the overall bore design, especially what happens with the bore in the first 1/3 of the horn.

My only controversial statement is this: Whatever difference the parabolic cone (theorectially) makes in the sound pales in comparison to the mammoth difference in tone, pitch and response small changes to the neck and upper body bore dimensions create. Trying to find and define the mythical parabola misses the huge point of other far more signficant delineators and influences.
Paul Cohen
 

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Thank you for sharing Dr. Cohen!

Paul Cohen said:
When asked about the parabolic cone, three of them told me, unequivocally, that with the introduction of machine-based, mass produced saxophone production, specifically with the extruded tone hole process, the parabolic cone was too impractical for mass production and ceased to exist.
That's interesting. If the Parabola is on the front side of the body tube (where the tone holes are) I can't understand why they would have a problem preserving it in the body tube when drawing the tone holes. As the tone holes get bigger, it seems that it would be easy to keep that parabolic curve going down through the body tube. In fact, it would seem more difficult to keep such a curve OUT of the body Tube. Dr. Cohen, are any of the folks that you talked to still available to talk? I would certainly love talk with them.
Does this mean that older True Tone (the kind with Soldered Tone Holes) should have the Parabola? I just overhauled one and sent it to my Nephew as a gift...at the next family get-together, I'll take some measurements!

Rascher did not mean that he played instruments identical to Sax's (he was too practical for that), but that he played an instrument as close to Sax's intentions as possible....It really has nothing to do with the parabolic cone, but more to do with the overall bore design, especially what happens with the bore in the first 1/3 of the horn.
Nor could it have anything to do with the Parabola...If Mr. Rascher did not play an instrument with a Parabola....

Trying to find and define the mythical parabola misses the huge point of other far more significant delineators and influences.
I agree. However it is interesting to learn more about these great old instruments and how they were conceived. I take a lot of time studying that 'first 1/3 of the horn'. This is just for fun as an aside.
 

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Paul Cohen said:
Many people misunderstand the comments that certain artists, such as Rascher, say that they play instruments in accordance with Sax's design. Rascher did not mean that he played instruments identical to Sax's (he was too practical for that), but that he played an instrument as close to Sax's intentions as possible.
Strictly speaking, shouldn't we say "as close to Rascher's concept of Sax's intentions as possible"? Do we know if he at least did extensive playtesting of original Sax instruments? One assumes he didn't just pin everything on a letter from Sax's (grand?)daughter. (Although an argument from authority, in his case, would have been very strong indeed.)

Previously said:
As modern saxophone design (beginning in the second decade of the 20th century) began to change to accommodate popular musical tastes and greater popularity, the Buescher instruments, relative to the others, was one of the few to maintain its traditional, more "classical" orientation. (Martin was another).
I wonder how much hard evidence we're ever going to recover at this late date to confirm or deny that - given that most company records from those years don't survive, and that in any case, a lot of the design process was probably "seat of the pants based."

Of course, the proof of the horn is in the playing, but it strikes me that those most interested in differentiating out "more classical" vs. "less classical" in vintage makes might be unwittingly prejudiced to begin with.
 

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paulwl said:
Paul Cohen said:
Many people misunderstand the comments that certain artists, such as Rascher, say that they play instruments in accordance with Sax's design. Rascher did not mean that he played instruments identical to Sax's (he was too practical for that), but that he played an instrument as close to Sax's intentions as possible.
Strictly speaking, shouldn't we say "as close to Rascher's concept of Sax's intentions as possible"? Do we know if he at least did extensive playtesting of original Sax instruments?
No, strictly speaking, my sentence stands as it reads. One has to differentiate between tonal intention and equipment. Rascher felt, after playing and measuring (with help from the Buescher company) many instruments, including an original Sax alto, that his Buescher was closest to the original Sax design of available modern instruments. The tonal intention of Sax is entirely unknown, although we garner tantalizing clues by the description of the saxophone tone from 19thcentury sources as well as closely looking at how the instrument was scored in symphonic and operatic works of the time. The charming story of Sax's grand daughter's letter is meaningless for ascertaining tonal intent, since the lady was far removed from any contact with music or sound from the period of Adolphe Sax's life. (Her letter suggests this.)

Previously said:
As modern saxophone design (beginning in the second decade of the 20th century) began to change to accommodate popular musical tastes and greater popularity, the Buescher instruments, relative to the others, was one of the few to maintain its traditional, more "classical" orientation. (Martin was another)."

paulwl said:
I wonder how much hard evidence we're ever going to recover at this late date to confirm or deny that - given that most company records from those years don't survive, and that in any case, a lot of the design process was probably "seat of the pants based."
Much of the extant evidence to support this observation is in the form of:1) the print literature from the companies themselves (advertisements, catalog descriptions, industry newsletters etc. etc) and 2) the instruments and mouthpieces that still survive. Many of my articles on these subjects, part of my Vintage Saxophones Revisited column from the Saxophone Journal, refer to these sources in great detail, with illustrations. While the design process may have been "seat of the pants" (thought the R&D department of Conn would argue that) the intention of the manufacturers was often clearly intended.

paulwl said:
Of course, the proof of the horn is in the playing, but it strikes me that those most interested in differentiating out "more classical" vs. "less classical" in vintage makes might be unwittingly prejudiced to begin with.
As an historian and professional performer, I have no vested interest in a differentiation one way or the other. But when clear differences in instruments are evidenced by the historical record and repeated emperical exploration, such disclosures attempt to act as clarification. By the way, "more classical" simply means a tonal spectrum with fewer higher harmonics in the sound compared to others. An acoustical comparison of the tonal spectrum of conventional orchestra instruments to the saxophone is revealing. There is a related balance of the overtones, even among diverse instruments with completely different tone qualities, such as oboe to flute, that early saxophones (with their original mouthpieces) emulate. More modern saxophones do not share this relationship. Saxophone manufacturers have increasingly lessend the resistance of their instruments and made them brighter compared to their earlier models. Of course the marvel of the saxophone is that the discerning player, through tonal concept, embouchure flexibility and mouthpiece choice, can often create a tone on any instrument that works in any situation. It is altogether a choice or distinction of how hard one has to work to achieve a desired effect or tone. I choose equipment (an eclectic mix of Conns, Selmers, Martins and Bueschers from sopranino to bass, and of course Evette Schaeffer and Eppelsheim for contrabass) that minimizes my effort to produce the sound and response desired, so I can focus my resources on the musical requirements.

Paul Cohen
 
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