Sax on the Web Forum banner
1 - 20 of 93 Posts

Registered
Joined
721 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I remember a late friend of mine who was a Professor of Acoustics and a fine tenor playing saying that 98, 99% of a saxophone's sound are determined by the standing wave in the instrument and about 1 or 2% by other factors such as material, coating or probably gimmicks like the Klangbogen, but these didn't exist at the time.

Do you know of scientific studies of this topic?

Given the number of legends circulating among sax players, this would probably useful.

Thanks Toot
 

Distinguished SOTW Coffee Guru
Joined
41,583 Posts
the materials and sound threads are not really a new thing, we have discussed , many times this thing before.

Please follow the links which I have been looking for you

this one, for example, followed pretty much your question ( was first published in 2013), nothing much has changed since then!

https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?198295-Materials-Materials-Materials

this too

https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?198110-Materials-and-sound

This is limited to Silver but makes much the same points

https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?115239-Silver-Plate-or-Solid-Silver

This is about bronze

https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?115239-Silver-Plate-or-Solid-Silver
 

Moderator
Grafton + TH & C alto || Naked Lady 10M || TT soprano || Martin Comm III
Joined
30,102 Posts
It's possible material may make a teeny difference, but not because of any acoustic properties, merely that different metals may react differently to the way its is formed., e.g. when tone holes are extruded the geometry of the "corner" where the tone hole chimney comes out of the body could have a slight different angle/curve . This is a small difference but it only needs a small difference at such places in the body to affect the sound.

One other possibility is the roughness of the finish on the inside, but most metals would have a more or less identically smooth finish.

So these tiny differences in bore geometry may make a difference, but not the acoustic properties, or "resonance" of the metal as you would get with instruments such as drums or guitars.

I remember a late friend of mine who was a Professor of Acoustics and a fine tenor playing saying that 98, 99% of a saxophone's sound are determined by the standing wave in the instrument and about 1 or 2% by other factors such as material, coating or probably gimmicks like the Klangbogen, but these didn't exist at the time.
Did your friend explain why the material wouldn't make a difference? I'm asking that because people who think it does, seem to think it is because of the vibration or some kind of resonance (as with drums or guitars), yet these factors as far as I can tell are nothing to do with klangbogens which claim some other kind of theory.
 

Distinguished Technician & SOTW Columnist. RIP, Yo
Joined
17,204 Posts
Well. :)
Those two posts cover it all. :)
 

Distinguished SOTW Coffee Guru
Joined
41,583 Posts
you wish
 
  • Like
Reactions: BH9

Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
8,275 Posts
I'm of the opinion that material does make a difference beyond small differences incurred in manufacturing but the difference may be perceived by the player more than by the audience. IOW, if a Sterling silver neck makes it easier for a player to do what he wants, he perceives that he sounds better, so he plays better. If it were possible to have a brass neck exactly the same as the silver neck the artist might or might not be able to tell them apart by playing but almost certainly nobody else could. You can't verify perceptions with science but the artist will insist on certain things once he experiences them. There is certainly a non-scientific element to choices in musical instruments that is based for the most part on perception, but who can argue if it has a positive effect on performance?
 

Registered
Joined
6,736 Posts
And......

They're OFF!

Quick prediction:

No one will be convinced to change their mind in the least, no matter how many electrons are sacrificed to this discussion.
 

Registered
Joined
721 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks for the links and for the answers.

Actually, I'm just looking for solid scientific studies on this subject, but they don't seem to exist.

Which is understandable because they would be very difficult to do.
 

Registered
Joined
2,513 Posts
Thanks for the links and for the answers.

Actually, I'm just looking for solid scientific studies on this subject, but they don't seem to exist.

Which is understandable because they would be very difficult to do.
John Coltman's studies aren't scientific enough for you? Or do flute physics not also apply to saxophone?
https://ccrma.stanford.edu/marl/Coltman/notebook.html

A quote summarizing some of Coltman's results from another study on tone quality:
https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/...com/&httpsredir=1&article=2422&context=theses

One scientifically controlled study by John Coltman showed that skilled players
and experienced listeners could not distinguish between flutes constructed
from silver, copper, and wood. In a subsequent anecdotal test, Coltman
played a flute constructed from cherry wood and then another constructed from
concrete, and produced tones that were indistinguishable to an audience.

A scientific study by Gregor Widholm used identical Muramatsu model flutes
constructed with different alloys including silver, gold, and platinum. Widholm
found that professional flutists and listeners could not detect differences in tone
quality. An article by Neville Fletcher cites experiments where listeners could
not distinguish between silver, copper, or cardboard.
In any case, the crux of the matter is this. Do the vibrations of the instrument itself reach an audible level? If you bashed a brass instrument with a hammer, it would indeed ring differently than an iron or wood or concrete instrument. But the vibrating air column doesn't have anywhere near the energy as someone wielding a hammer.
 

Registered
Joined
6,736 Posts
Briefly, there have been numerous studies done. Coltman's studies have been followed up by many others. You'll have to search and you can find many of those are referenced in threads on this very forum.

Usually when a particular specific question is raised, there are not studies in existence that answer that exact question. At that point, the commentariat typically divide into three camps:

Group 1 say that although there are no studies that answer this exact question, there are sufficient studies of similar questions that the conventional wisdom amongst acousticians about how the saxophone works, can generally be considered valid, i.e., that materials of construction have at most a trivial effect on sound.

Group 2 say that there are gaps, or even inadequacies of experimental technique, and the studies pointed to aren't studying the exact question of concern; therefore the evidence is insufficent to conclude that, in the particular situation being discussed, material is not significant.

Group 3 reject the use of the scientific method to answer this question altogether, preferring to rely on anecdotal reports of well-established experts and their own experiences; or alternately taking a more subjective and mystical approach to understanding the behavior of the saxophone.

Group 2 and 3 are often mingled.

You will probably be able to detect from textual evidence which group I belong to, but I have tried to screen my answer from implicit bias as much as possible.
 

Registered
Joined
3,582 Posts
Thanks for the links and for the answers.

Actually, I'm just looking for solid scientific studies on this subject, but they don't seem to exist.

Which is understandable because they would be very difficult to do.
Brett Pimental has written an excellent summary of the research on effects of material on woodwinds. One that he doesn't reference that I feel is the most recent and significant study is this one Effects of Wall Vibrations on a Simplified Reed Instrument.
 

Registered
Joined
2,291 Posts
Briefly, there have been numerous studies done. Coltman's studies have been followed up by many others. You'll have to search and you can find many of those are referenced in threads on this very forum.

Usually when a particular specific question is raised, there are not studies in existence that answer that exact question. At that point, the commentariat typically divide into three camps:

Group 1 say that although there are no studies that answer this exact question, there are sufficient studies of similar questions that the conventional wisdom amongst acousticians about how the saxophone works, can generally be considered valid, i.e., that materials of construction have at most a trivial effect on sound.

Group 2 say that there are gaps, or even inadequacies of experimental technique, and the studies pointed to aren't studying the exact question of concern; therefore the evidence is insufficent to conclude that, in the particular situation being discussed, material is not significant.

Group 3 reject the use of the scientific method to answer this question altogether, preferring to rely on anecdotal reports of well-established experts and their own experiences; or alternately taking a more subjective and mystical approach to understanding the behavior of the saxophone.

Group 2 and 3 are often mingled.

You will probably be able to detect from textual evidence which group I belong to, but I have tried to screen my answer from implicit bias as much as possible.
group 4?
 

Registered
Joined
3,144 Posts
Resonance aside, I suppose the thickness of the brass could theoretically make a minute difference in the rate at which a horn warms up and how much heat it radiates, which could--in theory, mind, since it'd likely be impossible to measure--affect intonation, condensation production, and perhaps other variables. Of course, any such effects would be negligible and easily corrected for by the player.
 

Registered
Joined
1,741 Posts
If you believe what you read, you can read what you believe. Its better to demonstrate by scientific method conducted by someone you trust: yourself.

To address the intuitive mass-stiffness contribution, simply clamp weights such as blocks, rods, plates to various places on your horn. Try lead, brass, Aluminum - what you can find. I think a tenor weighs around 3 lb without keys, I've used up to 1 lb weights.

Second, to address the reflective surfaces of the keys (resonator contribution), you can remove keys and replace with saran wrap. This not only removes a hard surface, it removes mass as well.

Finally, you can observe non-reversible factors like damping, by attaching materials of low structural stiffness, but high damping, such as cork, rubber, wood, etc. Attach with clamps or double stick tape (which doubles the damping btw).

The results will be surprising to some, who won't believe their eyes, ears or other senses.
 

Registered
Joined
721 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
@saxoclese: Thanks for the link to the study which answers one of my questions ("Influence of wall vibrations on the behavior of a simplified wind instrument"). It shows that in real instruments, "effects are unlikely to occur in real instruments except for some organ pipes".
 

Registered
Joined
5,913 Posts
I remember a late friend of mine who was a Professor of Acoustics and a fine tenor playing saying that 98, 99% of a saxophone's sound are determined by the standing wave in the instrument and about 1 or 2% by other factors such as material, coating or probably gimmicks like the Klangbogen, but these didn't exist at the time.

Do you know of scientific studies of this topic?

Given the number of legends circulating among sax players, this would probably useful.

Thanks Toot
Having made mouthpieces from seven different materials and necks from three I can attest to the material not making any difference whatsoever, it's all about dimensions. If this is something that interests you can cal also read Benade's book, Fundamentals of Musical Acoustics where he's determined the same thing. Phil Barone
 
1 - 20 of 93 Posts
Top