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Has anyone any thoughts or experiences on the effect of altitude on your sax and / mpcs ? I live at 10,000ft above sea level and today my tech said that a horn and mpc that plays good at sea level will need adjusting at our altitude. :shock: He was implying that there was less tolerance at higher levels than at lower levels.

Can't say that it makes allot of sense to me ... but :? :? :?

Thanks in advance
W.
 

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Interesting thread dealing with acoustics etc, but I don't see the discussion on how altitude can affect the sax and mpc.

Mind you ... hakukani ... you DID offer to try out your pressure chamber at the 10,000ft level ! Did you ever do it ?

Then again, it may be one thing to try for an hour or so and another to leave your sax in there for a couple weeks and then try it ...

W.
 

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Freudian Blip

When I looked at the title of this thread, I actually thought it was "Does solitude affect equipment?" That, too, would be an interesting topic.

depending on what equipment you mean, exactly:cyclopsa:
 

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wmclean said:
Has anyone any thoughts or experiences on the effect of altitude on your sax and / mpcs ? I live at 10,000ft above sea level and today my tech said that a horn and mpc that plays good at sea level will need adjusting at our altitude. :shock: He was implying that there was less tolerance at higher levels than at lower levels.

Can't say that it makes allot of sense to me ... but :? :? :?

Thanks in advance
W.
I can't understand this idea. I'm no expert on the effects of altitude on anything in particular, but: what's the difference between higher and lower altitudes? Atmospheric pressure, right? And the density of the atmosphere. I can't see how that could affect a saxophone. If you took it to Jupiter, then maybe -- someplace where the atmospheric pressure would crush it.

Did your tech want to charge you for this "adjustment"?

"Less tolerance" -- for what?

Then again, maybe I'm missing something. The sax gods need to chime in here.
 

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No, the last time I went from sea level to 10k', I got too sick do anything but sit. I do okay at altitude, but to do it without a wait period to acclimate is killer!
 

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Aspen

When I was in Aspen a number of years ago the altitude made it very difficult to play. It seemed it had more of an effect on the sax players. It felt as if all my reeds were too soft or too hard, can't remember. I think it was more how it effects your breathing. After a couple of days of being there I got used to it. I remember David Sanchez and Hank Crawford complaining about there reeds too.
 

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JuliusTole said:
When I was in Aspen a number of years ago the altitude made it very difficult to play. It seemed it had more of an effect on the sax players. It felt as if all my reeds were too soft or too hard, can't remember. I think it was more how it effects your breathing. After a couple of days of being there I got used to it. I remember David Sanchez and Hank Crawford complaining about there reeds too.
I can believe altitude affects the player. Certainly it affects, say, the golfer or the hiker, until one become acclimated. That makes sense. It also makes sense that the reed might be affected, as it is organic. (I'd like to hear somebody discourse on this who actually knows something about the physics involved, if physics IS involved.) But the horn itself? An "adjustment"? WHAT adjustment? (and for how much money?)
 

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At higher altitudes the air is less dense.
If it is less dense, then sound travels slower in it.

The frequency of a note played by a wind instrument is proportional to the speed of sound in the air column inside the instrument.
Frequency = speed of sound / wavelength

Temperature in that air column also affects the speed of sound, hence frequency.

And if you play in a cold room, with warm breath, then the top part of the air column is warm, while the bottom is still cold, which surely wrecks the scale.
 

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Gordon (NZ) said:
At higher altitudes the air is less dense.
If it is less dense, then sound travels slower in it.

The frequency of a note played by a wind instrument is proportional to the speed of sound in the air column inside the instrument.
Frequency = speed of sound / wavelength

Temperature in that air column also affects the speed of sound, hence frequency.

And if you play in a cold room, with warm breath, then the top part of the air column is warm, while the bottom is still cold, which surely wrecks the scale.
So far so good. That makes sense. Is there then any "adjustment" a tech might do to correct these effects?
 

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JuliusTole said:
When I was in Aspen a number of years ago the altitude made it very difficult to play. It seemed it had more of an effect on the sax players. It felt as if all my reeds were too soft or too hard, can't remember. I think it was more how it effects your breathing. After a couple of days of being there I got used to it. I remember David Sanchez and Hank Crawford complaining about there reeds too.
<warning: Clarinet player here> I can confirm the reed issue. Although our humble hut in the mountains is far from being at 10000ft, it still is 3000ft higher than what I'm used to during the year. My good reed was too soft. I took a harder reed. Too hard. Switched back to the previous one. Too hard too. :? I then took the emergency Légère and all was well.
Fingering requires more accuracy, somehow the thinner air escapes better through minuscule untight spots. But after some days both my horn and me had adapted to the new environment. And ask a sport person what altitude training can do for the breathing stamina...

So for the adjustments - I think the only thing to do is to re-check the tightness (and whether it survived the transport okay).
 

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Thanks Hakukani, that link provided an interesting discussion. I'm glad the correction was made that temperature and not altitude effects the speed of sound. I think the important information to be gleaned from this temperature/pitch relationship is that inside the tube of the woodwind instrument, as the air temperature rises the same length tube produces a higher pitch---all other things being equal. Conversely as the air temperature drops, the same length tube produces a lower pitch. In these examples the variables are the speed of sound and the frequency (pitch). The wavelength of the fundamental note that radiates from the tonehole or the bell is the constant value in the formula: Frequency = Speed of Sound/Wavelength

Ernest Ferron in "The Saxophone is My Voice" writes that the pitch of the saxophone raises approximately 10 Cents (1/10 of a half-step) for each 10 degree F rise in temperature. Ralph Pottle in "Tuning the School Band and Orchestra" measured a 7.1 cent rise in pitch of the alto saxophone from 70 degrees to 80 degrees Farenheit. Pottle also notes that the pitch change caused by temperature affects the large instruments to a greater degree.

Now back to the topic of this thread. :) The density of air is greater at sea level than at say 10,000 feet. This means that the molecules of air are closer together due to the effects of gravity. The result for "wind" musical instruments is that it takes more energy to produce and sustain a soundwave in the less dense medium at higher elevations. This is a well known fact especially to oboe and bassoon players whose reeds feel like "popsicle sticks" when they go from a lower to a much higher elevation. A guest soloist on clarinet who came to Utah from Colorado to perform with the University Alumni Band complained that all his reeds sounded too "reedy" at the lower elevation.

What this elevation change has to do with the instruments themselves, is difficult to say. I haven't been able to find anything written on the subject. It is possible I believe that small leaks in the pads that go largely unnoticed in the more acoustically efficient denser air at lower elevations might be more significant (noticeable) to the player at higher elevations.

I remember one summer Joe Henderson was invited to be the guest soloist at the Snowbird Utah Jazz Clinic. The elevation of the resort is almost 8,000 feet. The first thing that Joe did was to send his sax down to Salt Lake because all of a sudden it played poorly. When he got it back from the area's best repair tech, he complained that the tech didn't do a very good job. Of course he sounded great to us regardless, but quite possibly he was feeling the effect of the altitude on his reed and the response of his sax.

I love the topic of acoustics, and am just learning more about the subject myself. If anyone with more background has any additions or corrections to what I wrote, that input is most welcome.

John
 

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This is excellent. I can buy the possibility of small leaks leaking more if the air is thin. Still only a hypothesis though.

Does a sax play differently in dry powder Utah snow than it would in soggy Massachusetts snow?
 

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Reedsplinter said:
So far so good. That makes sense. Is there then any "adjustment" a tech might do to correct these effects?
Move the tone holes &/or alter their diameter every time there is a significant change in air temp and pressure.

Short answer, no!
 

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jbtsax said:
... I'm glad the correction was made that temperature and not altitude effects the speed of sound. ...
I think the other thread is quite misleading.

"But it turns out this intuition is wrong. The speed of sound correction for altitude is based primarily on temperature, a little bit on humidity, and has almost nothing to do with air density."

So how is it that if we play a wind instrument, including the human voice, the pitch goes soaring up if we use a less dense gas, helium, in our lungs. Density of the gas MUST affect pitch.
 

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Gordon (NZ) said:
I think the other thread is quite misleading.

"But it turns out this intuition is wrong. The speed of sound correction for altitude is based primarily on temperature, a little bit on humidity, and has almost nothing to do with air density."

So how is it that if we play a wind instrument, including the human voice, the pitch goes soaring up if we use a less dense gas, helium, in our lungs. Density of the gas MUST affect pitch.
Anyone who has accidently belched from their favoite fizzy drink into their saxophone, is familiar with this phenomenon. The pitch goes down.

I think, perhaps, the change of density due to altitude is not as great as with different gases. The difference in helium, air, and CO2, or sulfur hexafluride (SF6, which is a dense gas, makes your voice sound like Darth Vader when inhaled--the opposite of helium), is huge!
 

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Gordon (NZ) said:
Move the tone holes &/or alter their diameter every time there is a significant change in air temp and pressure.

Short answer, no!
That's what I thought. So to answer the question that originated this thread: don't pay your tech to "adjust" your axe for altitude. Time spent on a treadmill would do you more good.
 

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hakukani said:
Anyone who has accidently belched from their favoite fizzy drink into their saxophone, is familiar with this phenomenon. The pitch goes down.

I think, perhaps, the change of density due to altitude is not as great as with different gases. The difference in helium, air, and CO2, or sulfur hexafluride (SF6, which is a dense gas, makes your voice sound like Darth Vader when inhaled--the opposite of helium), is huge!
So sulfur hexafluride is the anti-helium? Never tried that.

Do you teach chemistry, Hak?
 

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Reedsplinter said:
So sulfur hexafluride is the anti-helium? Never tried that.

Do you teach chemistry, Hak?
No, my wife is the scientist.

I just got to play with SF6 while doing sound reinforcement for a Bill Nye/Mr. Wizard-type science show for kids. Not only did I get H4, and SF6, I also got to shoot a potato gun, and make REALLY BIG soap bubbles.
 
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