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Hi all,

I am interested in many aspects of saxophone acoustics.

Here is one aspect that I see mentioned frequently but not discussed: the importance or function of "thin rails" in a saxophone mouthpiece.

It is probably common enough that I don't need to cite this idea, but you will find people talking about thin rails all over the place. People use the "thinness" as a selling point, often talking about the improved response of the mp.
http://www.drakemouthpieces.com/Studio_Tenor_Model.html
https://westcoastsax.com/shop?olsPage=products/westcoast-sax-moam-tenor-105-saxophone-mouthpiece
https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showt...in-rails-reed-to-darken-it-make-it-less-buzzy

I would like to know what is going on here.
My question is in part motivated by the 10mfan Black Widow I just started playing -a really nice mp.
The rails are not particularly thin, and moreover the material just beyond the rail surface is *quite think - that is, the thinness is really only relevant to the surface on which the reed sits.

What could be going on here? Some thoughts...

Thin rails imply:

  • A - a larger window.. and this has some desired effect like less resistance? or less wasted airstream?
  • B - extra resonance of the MP walls - maybe this is debunked by the 10mfan, and I'm not convinced this matters to the sound.
  • C - less contact area between the mouthpiece and reed - and therefore maybe less energy loss? If there is a water/spit seal there, some energy will be required to break the surface tension (hundreds of times / sec).
  • D - better overall craftsmanship. Correlation not causation.
  • E - that the material must be strong / rigid enough to support it. This rigidity may be the main difference not the rail thinness.
  • F - less opportunity for waviness in the surface and therefore more uniform reed contact - no gaps.
  • F2 - similar to F except that the thinness leads to a greater pressure on the reed (smaller area with same force) and deformations in the reed are therefore able to yield a better seal.
  • G - very little at all.

I look forward to your collective thoughts and wisdom.
 

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The overall design of the mouthpiece might dictate to a larger degree whether or not thin or thick rails should be used.

Honestly, I've used mouthpieces with super thin rails and ones with not so thin to medium and the only difference I've been able to discern is that the mouthpieces with super thin side rails tend to cut into the reed more.
 

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Good question. I've never made a mouthpiece but I've had a few (hic) :). Seriously, we were talking last year and the question was why some mouthpieces have a table more narrow than the reed. I was saying, its how those 'slab-sided' metal pieces come out. You want a window of a certain width and you want thin rails; this is what sets the overall width of that type mouthpiece. I'm not sure the rail width is that critical - certainly not as critical as everything in the tip area which is the most important area in the mouthpiece. This is where easy playability and 'sweetness' come from - the tip rail and the tip baffle. This is where the mouthpiece maker shows he is an artist or just a craftsman. The mouthpiece will be good or wonderful accordingly.

Some designers want a tapered window and some want a wider, straighter window. Some mouthpieces are more rounded on the sides and some are slab-sided. On the more rounded ones with tapered window, you will see thicker rails toward the end of the window and thinner toward the tip. My point here is its the thin rails near the tip that are important. Another feature on this type mouthpiece is concave inner walls under the rails. This is not normally found on a slab-side like a Guardala but it was never intended to be there either - totally different design. The Berg Larsen steel is an interesting combination; its more of a modified 'round' body with the tapered window and thick/thin rails but generally no 'hollowing' in the sidewalls and of course it has a prominent baffle.
So I can't make a statement that thin rails farther down the sides are 'good' but it is true that some great mouthpieces have that feature.
 

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Of course there is always a balance to be found. It is not difficult to make thin rails, so if that was all it was about anyone could just file away. Thick rails has its benefits too, but thinner towards the tip is quite common. Keeping them thicker away from the tip lets you keep some of the thick rail benefits at the same time.
 

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Widely spaced side rails near the tip create a wider area for air to enter the mouthpiece. This can give you a little more sound volume. This can be done using thick or thin side rails. But my impression is thin side rails at the tip articulate a little better. It is like a wrap around effect of thin tip rails, which do articulate a little faster. But there are other trade offs.

Wider tip rails chirp less (mostly for beginners) and have fewer high frequencies in the sound spectrum. Some want this sound, some don’t. Ultra thin tip rails may limit your reed choice to shapes that fit the tip rail.
 

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Widely spaced side rails near the tip create a wider area for air to enter the mouthpiece. This can give you a little more sound volume. This can be done using thick or thin side rails. But my impression is thin side rails at the tip articulate a little better. It is like a wrap around effect of thin tip rails, which do articulate a little faster. But there are other trade offs.

Wider tip rails chirp less (mostly for beginners) and have fewer high frequencies in the sound spectrum. Some want this sound, some don’t. Ultra thin tip rails may limit your reed choice to shapes that fit the tip rail.
I have the craziest classical piece I’ve ever seen: a Playnick LM1. It has super wide rails all the way around that lead into a small chamber with a square throat. The idea, as I understand it, is to produce a darker sound but with the same response as a French mouthpiece.

It has a few other advantages too. It has a fairly short facing, which is designed for people with jaw issues like mine.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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Super thin tip rails can cause issues with reed placement.
So the advantages of having a thin tip rail, (ie: faster response) would be lost if reed is slightly over or under tip rail.
Also a very thin tip is more succeptable to damage.
Thin side rails doesn’t necessarily mean a wider throat, often material is taken from the outside which has no effect on the throat width.
 

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Well I am not a mpc acoustician but I'm pretty sure I speak on good authority that all these thin rails (especially tip rail) magnify the importance of A WELL-DONE FACING. In any given mouthpiece.
In other words, a lot of thinness may be a really boss thing... if you have a boss facing. If not, it could kill you as a player.
 

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Some thin rail mpcs let the reed hang over the edges which can mess with the reed and pinch the lips/mouth.
 

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Just as with the edge of a tone hole against a pad, I would expect a thin rail to seal better against the reed.
I suggest that better sealing results in the upper partials not being damped.

If the reed is wet then it would seal well. However Then there is a damping effect - possibly mainly the upper partials again, as mohnjahoney indicated in C:
"...If there is a water/spit seal there, some energy will be required to break the surface tension (hundreds of times / sec)."
 

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Just as with the edge of a tone hole against a pad, I would expect a thin rail to seal better against the reed.
I suggest that better sealing results in the upper partials not being damped.

If the reed is wet then it would seal well. However Then there is a damping effect - possibly mainly the upper partials again, as mohnjahoney indicated in C:
"...If there is a water/spit seal there, some energy will be required to break the surface tension (hundreds of times / sec)."
I can understand that theory with a pad as it is soft and will compress easier on a thin surface.
But I don’t see how it is of benefit to a reed sealing, as a reed will not compress like a pad.
Once the reed makes contact that’s it, it won’t wrap around a thin rail.
In theory I can understand the response being faster with thin rails, but I’m not sure I have really noticed it.
 

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Possibly different factors involved here. I know I am repeating some of what has been said above, but I want to bring those in, add my own thoughts and summarise what I think is ore may be involved.

For a start, let's we suppose there is a difference in sound when a mouthpiece rails are made thinner. (Disregarding the obvious issue that if made so thin they will break and so affect the sound by not not being there any more)


If they are made thinner by removing material from the outside it seems to me two things may cause a difference:


  1. The rails may vibrate differently due to becoming thinner.
  2. The very outside of the reed overhangs slightly outside the rails. Those areas of the reed are no longer directly over some material and may vibrate differently or beat differently during the reed's closed part of the cycle (McGinnis & Gallagher, Journal of the Acoustic Society of America 1941)


A possible third difference is that this overhang causes discomfort to the player, which may also affect the way they play, but this is more subjective than the above two so we can disregard it for now)

If they are made thinner by removing material from the inside:

  1. The rails may vibrate differently due to becoming thinner.
  2. The sound may change due to increased volume within the mouthpiece. I might add to that the possibility that by doing this you effectively widen any baffle present which could have the same/similar effect as lowering the baffle, ie more (or quicker) air can get passed it. I'm no scientist so just presenting that as a layman's theory.


If they are made thinner by removing material form both inside and out:

All of the above can apply as well the additional subject possibility of the player's lip being uncomfortable.

  1. The rails may vibrate differently due to becoming thinner.
  2. The very outside of the reed overhangs slightly outside the rails. Those areas of the reed are no longer directly over some material
  3. The sound may change due to increased volume within the mouthpiece.
 

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In my own experimentation with working on mouthpieces, it seems to me that thinning the rails can brighten up the sound a bit, but also can loose some of the full bodied, meaty, characteristic to the sound. This could be good or bad depending on what you are looking for. I decided not to thin rails past what you would generally see on a standard Link or Meyer because when I go thinner than that, I feel like some of the sound characteristics that I am looking for start to get lost. I might summarize it by saying I feel like thin rails can add quickness, brights and focus but can lose some darks and complexity. Of course there are a ton of changing variables possible when the rails get thinned, so anything can happen depending...
 

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Hi all,

I am interested in many aspects of saxophone acoustics.

Here is one aspect that I see mentioned frequently but not discussed: the importance or function of "thin rails" in a saxophone mouthpiece.

It is probably common enough that I don't need to cite this idea, but you will find people talking about thin rails all over the place. People use the "thinness" as a selling point, often talking about the improved response of the mp.
http://www.drakemouthpieces.com/Studio_Tenor_Model.html
https://westcoastsax.com/shop?olsPage=products/westcoast-sax-moam-tenor-105-saxophone-mouthpiece
https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showt...in-rails-reed-to-darken-it-make-it-less-buzzy

I would like to know what is going on here.
My question is in part motivated by the 10mfan Black Widow I just started playing -a really nice mp.
The rails are not particularly thin, and moreover the material just beyond the rail surface is *quite think - that is, the thinness is really only relevant to the surface on which the reed sits.

What could be going on here? Some thoughts...

Thin rails imply:

  • A - a larger window.. and this has some desired effect like less resistance? or less wasted airstream?
  • B - extra resonance of the MP walls - maybe this is debunked by the 10mfan, and I'm not convinced this matters to the sound.
  • C - less contact area between the mouthpiece and reed - and therefore maybe less energy loss? If there is a water/spit seal there, some energy will be required to break the surface tension (hundreds of times / sec).
  • D - better overall craftsmanship. Correlation not causation.
  • E - that the material must be strong / rigid enough to support it. This rigidity may be the main difference not the rail thinness.
  • F - less opportunity for waviness in the surface and therefore more uniform reed contact - no gaps.
  • F2 - similar to F except that the thinness leads to a greater pressure on the reed (smaller area with same force) and deformations in the reed are therefore able to yield a better seal.
  • G - very little at all.

I look forward to your collective thoughts and wisdom.
Forget "extra resonance." The mpc walls are thick enough to not vibrate appreciably at any playing frequency. Also forget energy loss. The mechanical strength of the reed is so many times greater than there is no appreciable effect to a little extra area of contact with a wet surface. What you are really looking at is airflow. The aeroacoustics of single reed mouthpieces is incredibly complex, and the real question concerns how various aspects of the geometry of the reed channel affect the reed oscillation. Nor is the oscillation of the reed a constant speed; it changes as the reed nears closure due to the Bernoulli effect, which has a large effect on the sound and response (mostly this is affected by baffle height. Changes in side rail thickness add very little area to the window overall, so they are probably pretty much negligible. The tip rail is another matter due to what is happening there when the reed closes, and the pressure changes inherent at that area. This makes interesting reading if you've got some math:

https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/jpa-00252796/document
 

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...What you are really looking at is airflow....
hmmm. I guess so. So would it be interesting to experiment with reducing airflow turbulence, hence increasing efficiency of airflow, by chamfering the inside &/or outside edges of the rail?
I've never seen that, except perhaps inside the tip.
Perhaps chamfer the edge of the underside of the reed as well.
 
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