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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am trying to come up with a tool to quickly measure saxophone key openings to the closest millimeter. The measurement would be the perpendicular distance from the outer edge of the tonehole up to where the pad touches.

I would like some ideas and input as to the design and materials to use. It is not absolutely necessary, but I would like it to be something anyone could make without a lot of elaborate tools.

The pdf file below shows the initial concept so far. In the first trials #3 seemed to be the best taper to measure many of the key heights of the alto sax I am currently working on.
 

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Why the tool. Genuinely.

Any deviue that is inserted between the pad and tone hole is really just going to be an approximation device, fllexible brass, point of measurement soft pads etc. Realistically most people can do this by sight alone. Try it, draw a line on a paper and approximate the distance then measure it, you will be surprised after a bit of practice how accurate you can be

If you want an accurate tool, then its got to measure travel from the outside of the keycup unitil closure of the key (as in all leaks gone), I have a tool that can do this, but never used it for this application
 

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I don't often measure them. When I do, a vernier calliper does it just fine.
 

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I did once have a need for a tool like this.

Was not hard to make though....

 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Where I am going with this idea is to find some way to accurately measure the height of the key openings on saxophones to use those measurements in "tuning and toning" saxophones similar to the method Curt Alterac uses.

Ultimately I want to use my artificial embouchure device to produce a uniform and constant tone, and then take accurate measurements of how much the pitch is affected by raising or lowering key openings of notes on the saxophone---especially the stack keys.

I want something that will sit level on the tone hole and take a measurement perpendicular to the tonehole up to the pad directly above the outer edge of the tonehole in order to measure every key consistently. I am thinking millimeters or half millimeters would be sufficiently accurate for this purpose. Attached below is the chart of Yamaha's recommended key opening measurements for those who might not have it.
 

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Allow me the question - what would it be good for?
Another question, if the imaginary volume created by two different key openings, with two different angles and diameters, were equal, would you consider their effect to be equal as well? (so why the fuss about resonators and their shapes?)

Don't get me wrong, I can see the urge in getting to know all that, but...where's the benefit?
What does a (hypothetical) Klingon sax engineer know about a Louisiana Blues player? What does said Blues player's embouchure (after two stiff G&Ts) know about a Romulan engineer's intention?
Or, to quote a banker "Yeah. We measured it. We know the numbers. We did the math. So why did our money making scheme fail?"

(I should add that I find a "little askew tuning" quite charming sometimes. It's like vibrato - don't overdo it, but a pinch of it can be just right)
 

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I didn't design it, but I use it frequently:



hehe. In all seriousness, the only time I EVER use measurements first and ear second is when a player loves their intonation and feel and tone etc. but needs new pads. I'll use calipers to measure the old key heights and put those on the newly padded and adjusted horn and start from there when the player gets it back in their hands.

Aside, and IMHO: every player is different physically. The reed is open most of the time- clap your hands and see how often they are actually touching- the reed is the same. Sound travels fast. The sound "wave" travels out AND back, and the player's mouth, throat, lungs are part of the instrument most of the time. Hence individual sounds, ability to voice altissimo in the throat, adjust intonation, improve sound through a more open throat, better "support" etc. So really, the saxophone is only half of the instrument. The rest is the player, and as we are all unique, the job of the technician is to find the place the the horn and the player meet most perfectly- while allowing that each by themselves may be something other than the "ideal".

So (IMHO still), using hard measurements and artificial embouchure devices may be educational for the repairman and possibly therefore indirectly help the player/customer, but believing there is an ideal measurement is a flawed premise.
 

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The problem with the wedge type gauge is it won't measure the venting at the impression on the pad, but it will measure the outermost lowest point of the pad circumference which will vary depending on who fitted the pads. Some people prefer to have the entire circumference standing proud of the pad cup and others will push the entire circumference so it curves down towards the edge of the pad cup making it almost to completely flush, so that will make a difference whe it comes to measuring them this way.
 

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Ill take a pic today of the tool I would use If I needed to measure the travel or key height opening ""excatly"", however an artificial embochure device, good luck, would like to see the end results on that one

The only thing that works is the sax robot. For info I spent about a week of "hobby machine" time trying to duplicate a replica system that could substitute the human being for testing. End of week equaled nil advances. It is a lot harder than it looks and requires movement of the under support of the reed in conjunction with the corresponding note being played
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Ill take a pic today of the tool I would use If I needed to measure the travel or key height opening ""excatly"", however an artificial embochure device, good luck, would like to see the end results on that one.
Thanks. That is the type of input that I was asking for.

The only thing that works is the sax robot. For info I spent about a week of "hobby machine" time trying to duplicate a replica system that could substitute the human being for testing. End of week equaled nil advances. It is a lot harder than it looks and requires movement of the under support of the reed in conjunction with the corresponding note being played
Actually practically all of the notes in the normal playing range of the saxophone take the same embouchure pressure, so one pressure setting of the artificial lip would suffice to make the device work. Of course the fingering of the different notes would be done by a human being or maybe accomplished by using key clamps. The device is still being tested, but the basic design can be seen in the photos below.

 

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Nicely done, looks very similiar to the one I made. However I used a box instead of a cylindrical tube because I found it was necessary to vary the under lip point for the synthetic reed to vibrate at its optimum point. This point could not be duplicated by a singular position. Whilst the singular point did generate a note out of each respective fingering it was dull and lifeless, When anaylsed with a frequency analyser it was a distinctive wide shape not a singular peak as achieved by moving the reed underlip[ ever so slightly. I was actually going to analyse it with the audi-graph systeme, but the owner never did get back to me.

In my original design, the box allowed the fitment of a slide on the underside of the reed which moved accordingly to where I wound it too.

In the end it was pointless for me as it required multiple locations to get the right vibration. The human mouth is quite skilled and when trying to mechanicalise it, it can beccome exceptionally difficult

I based mine around the same design as the japanese sax playing robot
 

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Years ago I wrote an article for the NAPBIRT Technicom, which has been ignored for years by authors of articles on key openings. All I can say is, do some research before posting your thoughts. My article had the basics, including mechanical drawings of keys and problems with mechanism. My article won a $100 reward from Saul Fromkin, and another $100 reward from J.L. Smith for best article of the year.
My method for measuring key heights was a cardboard wedge. Careful practice, using consistent pressure will give you a good relative measure of key openings. Perhaps not the exact opening at the level at the pad seat, but a consistent measurement for various key openings.
As stated in the article, I have set key heights at radically different levels depending on the horn. For example, two Mark VI sopranos, completely overhauled for two brothers who were top players, played best with significantly different key heights.
Some key height issues are personal preference from the player. As a technician, sometimes we must listen to the desires of the customer, especially in the case of a worls class player.
 

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Heres a pic of a tool I would use if I wanted to measure key height openings

Basically open the jaws, zero it on the back of the sax and the touch point or where ever you wanted on the key and then allow the spring tension of the micrometers to close the key, it will give ""exactly how far the key travelled"

An alternative could be a set of carpeneters wood units which are used for measuring thickness's across a violin body
 

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I think Yamaha's key openings are prettty well large enough that slight changes will not make a perceptible change in pitch, i.e. Yamaha's acoustic design is good enough that they do not need to rely on key heights for pitch adjustments. And I think that approach to design is a good one, otherwise we start compromising the tone when we lower venting to lower pitch. Perhaps this is a result of Yamaha's computer modelling for acoustic design of their saxes?
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Years ago I wrote an article for the NAPBIRT Technicom, which has been ignored for years by authors of articles on key openings. All I can say is, do some research before posting your thoughts. My article had the basics, including mechanical drawings of keys and problems with mechanism. My article won a $100 reward from Saul Fromkin, and another $100 reward from J.L. Smith for best article of the year.
My method for measuring key heights was a cardboard wedge. Careful practice, using consistent pressure will give you a good relative measure of key openings. Perhaps not the exact opening at the level at the pad seat, but a consistent measurement for various key openings.
As stated in the article, I have set key heights at radically different levels depending on the horn. For example, two Mark VI sopranos, completely overhauled for two brothers who were top players, played best with significantly different key heights.
Some key height issues are personal preference from the player. As a technician, sometimes we must listen to the desires of the customer, especially in the case of a worls class player.
The online technicoms go back to May-June 2002. Was your article before this date? If you could be more specific as to the year, it would be easier to find your article which I am interested in reading.
 

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Are we, yet again, attempting to make a science of what, as most have indicated, is in most cases, little more than empirical. Most replies have clearly (and accurately) shewn that it is not necessary to take this to esoteric levels...all that is perhaps necessary is a pair of callipers.
A direct analogy is the motor car engine....once the inlet valve opening is 29% of the valve throat diameter the maximum air flow has been achieved. Consequently, any opening below this value is a restriction, but no benefit is achieved above this figure. I am aware...before I am contradicted, that most inlet valves on engines exceed this 29%, but that is to reduce the critical valve acceleration; a problem which does not concern us with saxophones.
Therefore, provided that the average key height is more than 29% of the tone hole area, no further raise in pitch is available....indeed, it may be necessary in some cases to reduce the opening to flatten the pitch....that is the only option open.
As you can see, it is a very rough measurement...minimum (except for the exception given) 29% of the tone hole area...above that, say 35 or even 40% it matters little. The feel & the action is predominant at this point...the pitch will not be affected.
It really is not that difficult or precise, despite what some would have us believe.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Are we, yet again, attempting to make a science of what, as most have indicated, is in most cases, little more than empirical. Most replies have clearly (and accurately) shewn that it is not necessary to take this to esoteric levels...all that is perhaps necessary is a pair of callipers.
For those who are not familiar with the following articles from the Music Medic Website.

Saxophone Intonation: Uppers, Lowers, Mids Cut in Half

Setting Key Heights With the Balanced Venting Method

It is well known that raising the tonehole opening beyond approximately 1/3 the diameter of the tonehole has no additional effect upon the clarity or pitch of the note.

My attention therefore is focused upon the measurable and hopefully predictable effects of making small adjustments in key openings within the parameters of 1/3 of the diameter of the tonehole. It is also a given that within that area there is a trade-off between pitch adjustment and the venting of the note to produce a clear tone.

I believe than an investigation into what range of openings that "trade-off" is practical from a performance standpoint could provide worthwhile to repair techs interested in custom saxophone adjustments related to venting of notes and making slight intonation adjustments using key heights.

There have been some measurements and mathematical calculations done by Benade. The pdf file below shows the adaptation of Benade's measurements to the effects upon the pitch of low D on an alto saxophone by the opening of the low C key.
 

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There have been some measurements and mathematical calculations done by Benade. The pdf file below shows the adaptation of Benade's measurements to the effects upon the pitch of low D on an alto saxophone by the opening of the low C key.
Source of file? ("Uses Benade's formula" and Nederveen's data.. but who applied the formula to the data to create the chart?)

Benade posits effects from a flat disk hanging over the hole. Given that sax pads in cups are angled over the holes when open, is the height at the widest point or taken as average height above the rim? Is the non flat surface of the pad taken into account? Different pads have different profiles, (even discounting resonators- a big discounting). Sax pads go from the almost flat resopads through marshmallow specials with substantial seats which offer a very rounded surface - effect is... or is that "step two" in the analysis?

Interesting "piece of the puzzle" though probably difficult to use as other than a starting point for real world application. For most an experienced eyeball probably offers as close a starting point as the formulas when adjusting a sax on the bench. Application in a start from scratch sax design process might be more fruitful though.
 
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