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Hey guys, I hope everyone is having a wonderful week. Long story short I play on a Cannonball Vintage Reborn Tenor - It came about as I got a steal of a deal "budget was limited" Never the less I do love this horn!
As I slowly get back into the swing of things (I use to play 12 years ago) I'm finding that I desire a very focused and centred sound. I've learned from others that the Vintage Reborn has a warmer "spread" sound vs a very focused sound and someone mentioned to me I could adjust the key heights in order to get a more focused sound out of my C'ball. I do like the Idea of lower keys as it would provide me with a quicker response.

Now I have a very good Tech whom could do this for me, but it won't be cheap. Before I decide to pay hundreds to let him play around with my key heights, I'm wondering if adjusting them would make a positive difference on my horn.
When Cannonball made these tenors, did they focus on creating the lowest possible key height whilst maintaining a brilliant sound / intonation? Or did they just choose to keep the keys wide open as standard?
If it's possible to lower the keys whilst maintaining intonation and actually getting a more focused sound I'll do it! Otherwise my fear is that I'll spend hundreds just to find out that the current key heights are as low as they can go whilst maintaining a strong sound and good intonation.

Thanks you guys!
 

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I don't think opening or lowering key heights can produce a "more focused" or "less focused" sound as I understand those terms. To me a "more focused" sound has a stronger "core" meaning more of the fundamental and less pronounced upper overtones. On the other hand a "less focused" or "spread" sound would have more of the high partials or overtones present. Most, if not all, of this is determined by the 1) mouthpiece, 2) reed 3) player's concept. Granted some makes and models of saxophones and necks play a bit brighter than others, but in my experience that part of the equipment makes a much smaller contribution than the three listed previously. It is also important to understand that the harmonics above the "cutoff frequency", approximately F#3, do not vent through the toneholes. They go straight past the open toneholes and straight out the bell, so keyhights have no effect upon these overtones whatsoever.

If you want to "experiment" with key heights at no expense what I recommend is to put 8 or 9 layers of blue masking tape on top of each other with the bottom layer on a sheet of wax paper. This makes a "pad" about 1mm thick. Then cut the tape into 1/2" squares. Remove the pants guard from the sax and using a small screwdriver or toothpick position a square under each of the three key feet on the lower stack. Then do the same under the two key feet on the upper stack. Next play the saxophone and see how it sounds and feels. If you like, you can keep adding an additional 1/2" square layer on top of the previous one and testing to compare. When finished, remove the tape and replace the pants guard. If you find a key height that you like the sound and feel of, measure the height of just the F key on the lower stack to give that measurement to your tech. Trust me, that's all he needs to set the key heights. A very accurate way to measure the key height is to use a "ball gauge" and expand it till it just barely touched the outer edge of the tonehole and the pad. Then measure the diameter using a caliper. If you don't have a set of ball gauges, take a new pad of post it notes and keep turning over the pages until the thickness inserted between the pad and tonehole barely touches. Then measure like before.

It is important to realize that lowering the key opening of the stack keys affects the venting of the notes. As you close the key past approximately 1/3 of the diameter of the tonehole it will begin to lower the pitch and will eventually affect the timbre or clarity of the note that vents through that tonehole. In my sax work I generally use the 8.4mm opening for the F key given in the Yamaha specification chart as a starting point.
 

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Get some stick-on felt pads like your auntie uses under her Swarovski bowls to prevent scratching the furniture. Stick them on the body under the key feet. The lower stack is easier to get to. You may be able to make some decisions based on the lower stack alone.

If you like it, a more permanent felt is easy enough to do or get a tech (DIY) to redo the corks on all of the keys.
 
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