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The reason tone holes are mostly in line, except when they aren't (all the side keys, all the palm keys, all the bell keys) is for simplicity in fixturing the tube in the tone hole process. Once someone suggested that it would be ergonomically superior to have the left and right hand stacks rotated from each other, it was a relatively minor change in the tone hole pulling process, just one rotation on the fixture (which has to be rotated many times in order to place all the side key and palm key tone holes).

If you look at alt F# vs. fork F#, side C vs. regular C, and side Bb vs. bis Bb, the tonal differences are quite small indeed and are pretty much driven by different pad heights. Yet the tone holes are all over the place.

Keep in mind as well, there are only 10 or 11 stack holes out of the 22 of 23 tone holes on the horn. No one is suggesting that all those other tone holes have to be located at a particular angular orientation. Further, flutes come in two common configurations - offset G and in line G, where the two tone holes in the middle are offset way more than saxophone stack holes are. Every reputable authority, as well as the vast majority of flute manufacturers, state unequivocally that in line G vs. offset G makes absolutely zero tonal difference.

A last example is the Conn and King Zephyr baritones, which have a fork Eb capability from a full size tone hole in line with all the rest of the stack. Of course, the regular Eb exists as well, with its tone hole around the back of the horn. Having played a 12M for 35+ years as my main saxophone, I can tell you positively that there is absolutely no difference in tone between the forked Eb and the regular Eb, because they are vented exactly the same and have the same (or extremely close) tone hole size.

As far as I am concerned I have seen no evidence except some doubtful hearsay for any tonal effects of the offsetting of the stacks by (first) Selmer and then most other makers.

I remain agnostic on the ergonomic effects. I can say that when I have picked up a Selmer on occasion to have a blow, I am totally unaware of the offset. They feel like damn nice horns with good slick action (aside from the left hand little finger), but I have never in my life noticed that my wrists are bent slightly differently. Given the amount of angular rotation possible with the wrist - it's got to be 10 times the angle of the stack offset) I suspect this is another example of designing to a theory of what "would be best" rather than something that really matters.

Honestly, I would bet that the rotation has a lot more to do with getting room for the opposite-hinged bell keys so the key touch arms aren't too short, than it has to do with purported ergonomic effects.
 

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Old thread yes, and I think the OP (long-gone now) assertion of sonic or blowing performance differences is, as others had already stated, highly dubious.

FWIW, I agree with Turf - I also find the "rotated lower stack hole placement = better ergonomics" argument to be highly specious (my ostepath back in SF found it laughable, actually).
I know, I know, that is like attacking a fortified castle of accepted opinion, but I find claims of "I can play faster" or "it's more comfortable" to be quite subjective....

Is there anything 'bad' about it ? No. Is it different from playing in-line ? Yes.
 

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Old thread yes, and I think the OP (long-gone now) assertion of sonic or blowing performance differences is, as others had already stated, highly dubious.

FWIW, I agree with Turf - I also find the "rotated lower stack hole placement = better ergonomics" argument to be highly specious (my ostepath back in SF found it laughable, actually).
I know, I know, that is like attacking a fortified castle of accepted opinion, but I find claims of "I can play faster" or "it's more comfortable" to be quite subjective....

Is there anything 'bad' about it ? No. Is it different from playing in-line ? Yes.
One marginally bad thing about it is that, since the stack offset occurs between the "G#" and "F#" toneholes (i.e., the toneholes under the pads actuated by those respective keys), it moves the lower-stack arm responsible for keeping the articulated G# closed in the "wrong" direction, towards the hinges of the upper-stack keys. The result is that, on most horns, this reduces the leverage of that arm (i.e., moving it closer to the fulcrum of the G# key) and makes regulation of the linkage much more finicky, especially on larger horns (where the leverage makes more of a difference) and/or those on which the G# hinge is not swaged absolutely perfectly onto its rod.
 

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The easiest way to understand the purpose and advantage of the offset lower stack toneholes resulting in keys that are rotated toward the player is to do this:

While sitting or standing, take a moment and play an "air saxophone". Notice the position and angle of each wrist. While the left hand fingers are parallel to the body, the right hand and fingers naturally are at an angle. Next position your right arm so that the right hand fingers are in the same plane as the left hand fingers. In order to do so the right elbow goes from its relaxed position close to the body to an outward position which puts tension in the right arm and shoulder. It is that simple. The rotated lower stack allows the right arm and wrist to be in a more relaxed position while playing. In other words Selmer got it right.
 

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The easiest way to understand the purpose and advantage of the offset lower stack toneholes resulting in keys that are rotated toward the player is to do this:

While sitting or standing, take a moment and play an "air saxophone". Notice the position and angle of each wrist. While the left hand fingers are parallel to the body, the right hand and fingers naturally are at an angle. Next position your right arm so that the right hand fingers are in the same plane as the left hand fingers. In order to do so the right elbow goes from its relaxed position close to the body to an outward position which puts tension in the right arm and shoulder. It is that simple. The rotated lower stack allows the right arm and wrist to be in a more relaxed position while playing. In other words Selmer got it right.
Or, you could bend your right wrist a couple degrees.

In a world that contains the violin, the double bass, and the french horn, getting all wound up over a couple degrees difference in the angular position of one wrist seems a bit princess-and-the-pea to me.
 

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It seems to me that the major design difference in saxophones is the alignment of the tones holes. Conn, Buescher, King and early selmers have in-line tones holes like a flute or oboe. Selmer eventually redesigned and re-drilled the holes for ergonomic reasons and significantly changed the intonation, response and tone color. Most modern manufacturers have copied the newer Selmer design. The debate about vintage vs modern seems to be better framed by "in-line or not". I currently play a '58 TH&C Buescher 400 tenor (in-line) and love it. I've also owned and gigged with altos and tenors from Selmer, Guardala, and Buescher (aristocrats). I'm now thoroughly in the in-line camp and prefer any in-line horn to any modern (selmer-type) design. I wish we had a category for In-line instruments as I think it reflects the reality of the situation better than brand names. Is this too weird? Peace, T-dog
Not weird, just inconsequential. If offset tone holes dramatically effected the sound of Selmer saxophones I doubt they would have introduced the offset tone holes in the first place. I think it's purely ergonomics and has nothing to do with sound. If you were to listen to someone playing a Selmer Balanced Action which was an in-line horn and then a Selmer Super Action (SBA) which was the first offset horn I think you would be hard pressed to tell the difference. Also, I've never heard of this debate of modern vs vintage framed around in-line or not, at least until this thread appeared.

I think it's primarily the bore of the saxophone that produces the sound that is unique to each horn. The fact that a lot of today's modern horns are based on the Selmer design (this includes the bore as well) means they will sound and project similar to the Mark VI design. However, there are a few out there that while having offset tone holes they have a different bore and subsequently they sound different.
 

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If you were to listen to someone playing a Selmer Balanced Action which was an in-line horn and then a Selmer Super Action (SBA) which was the first offset horn I think you would be hard pressed to tell the difference.
Are there differences in bore between BA and SBA?

If you want to explore the effects of tone hole relativity on tone, just lean to one side (any side) while playing, and listen for a change in pitch.
 

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Are there differences in bore between BA and SBA?

If you want to explore the effects of tone hole relativity on tone, just lean to one side (any side) while playing, and listen for a change in pitch.
:)

I can't comment on differences in the bore since I haven't taken any measurements. I can say in my experience the intonation is better on the SBA. A few years back I overhauled a former student's BA and played it back and forth with my SBA. At the end I was glad the BA was his. ;)
 

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The question about the tone hole position in Keilwerths is a good one regardless.
Yes, and new life has brought in better information to an old thread! I was simply warning about the fact that the OP and others who originally answered would not be available to respond to comments like mmichel had quoted.
 

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I would have supposed that the distance from the mpc to the tone hole was the deciding factor on the note that resulted, rather than where on the circumference of the tube the hole appeared.

My thinking is that the column of air, or standing wave, is measured flat, straight across more or less, based upon the distance from the mpc.

Are there any studies of sonorous tubes that involve placing the tone holes around the tube in differing positions, rather than in a line, or near a line?
The position of the tone hole around the circumference of the tube (if at the same longitudinal position) will make absolutely no difference, since the standing wave exerts the same pressure (and has the same air movement) equally around the tube.

However the positioning of tone holes can and will affect the sound radiation, and so two horns with identical bores but with tone holes in different positions could sound different to the player.
 

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Are there differences in bore between BA and SBA?

If you want to explore the effects of tone hole relativity on tone, just lean to one side (any side) while playing, and listen for a change in pitch.
Yes, well I should rephrase my sentence to (I) would be hard pressed to tell the difference. I'm afraid I'm not that astute in hearing the small discrepancies between the different models. Heck, it took me a couple months to realize I was playing badly out of tune! However, I do think that Selmer horns from the Balanced Action right on up to today's models have the same core sound. And while the change in tone hole placement probably has some small effect on the overall tone of the instrument, is it enough to support the OP's theory of the Vintage VS Modern tone quality? I don't think so, I'm not an expert, but I don't think there's enough evidence to support it.
 

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Well... it has, since it has been discussed for the last 17 years (here and who knows where else), indeed.

This is a much discussed thing also among flute players which at most have the off set G#

again

http://www.saxpics.com/model/13/Selmer-Super-Balanced-Action.html

"...According to Selmer, from the 1948 catalogue:
The main right-hand and left-hand key groups are offset to place the fingers, hands and wrists in easier playing position. This is a basic saxophone improvement and makes possible better, faster, easier key action - truly effortless playing..."


The most striking and truly innovative design change concerned the keys and tone-holes between the upper and lower stack. The upper and lower hand keys were offset from each other. This ergonomic approach considered the natural position of the hands and fingers in designing and adapting the saxophone mechanism. Up to this time, tone holes of the main scale were positioned in a straight line. This linear symmetry of the key position relative to the straight line tone holes was an accepted and standard design. The Super-Action modification was a radical departure from this norm. The top and bottom hand tone-holes are not in a line but are now at an angle to each other. This change accommodates the natural position of both hands, and theoretically enables a more comfortable and fluid technique.

This was a fundamental change from all previous saxophone mechanisms, and no doubt felt unfamiliar to players of the time. But the more natural positioning combined with the advanced design of the shorter key arms, direct leverages of the lower tones, ribbed key construction and new octave mechanisms set a new unrivalled standard. To be sure, other manufacturers were implementing their own enhancements and improvements, but none were as revolutionary as the Selmer Balanced-Action and Super-Action.


I have examples of both , at the moment I play on two in line horns (King Super 20 and Keilwerth JK toneking special) but also a B&S blue label (off set)

They all have their ways to deal with the mechanic challenges.
 

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However, I do think that Selmer horns from the Balanced Action right on up to today's models have the same core sound.
Have you played the tenors spanning that range? I played a Balanced Action for 15 years or so, then a Serie III for about 5 years, and finally a Ref 36 for 5+ years. They are very different sounding horns. Just the III and the 36 are very different to me.

Same core sound??? Compared to a Yanagisawa? Sure.
 

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Great Question! For those of us sax players with long fingers, the twisting of the lower stack is the worst change to saxophones.................ever! I get wrist pain playing offset horns, especially an alto. I feel like a T-Rex trying to play basketball. My theory is that during the post WWII years, the market shifted more to schools, so they made their saxophones to accommodate younger players and left us big hand adults out. I mean, why would a company make a straight line bore only for professional players?
 
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