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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently learned that adding some sandpaper to the inside of a tone hole can help a note that doesn't speak well. I don't fully understand the science but it seems that adding turbulence makes the air resonate better. I wonder if anyone has tried lining the first inch or so of the inside of a saxophone neck with sandpaper and what kind of effect that might have on sound.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I think what you may have experienced was the same as a tone hole crescent effect.
Nothing whatsoever to do with the sandpaper.
No this is something else. I haven't tried it myself, but have read several reports on the internet. But the thickness of the sandpaper should not be enough to appreciably change the diameter, and also reducing the diameter of a tone hole should make a note speak worse, not better.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Maybe like having a texture on a yacht hull or air plane wing.
Yes, I believe the same principle is how sandpaper helps in a tone hole. So maybe a rough inside of the neck = more resonant sound?
 

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The problem with that theory is that, unlike a golf ball, yacht hull, or wing, where there is flow over a surface, sound is not produced by a flow of air eminating from a tonehole, but rather by vibrations in a column of air. Opening or closing toneholes affects the length of the column.

There would need to be proof that a rough surface affects these vibrations.
 

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The air/water on hulls & wings goes way faster than the air in a sax.
Maybe the rough surface changes the sound wave.
I know that wooden wind instruments sound different than metal partly because of the inside texture.
I had 1st hand experience with that.
I bought a rosewood and ivory tenor recorder.
It was lacquered inside and out.
I melted bee's wax on the ivory to protect it from the stripper that I applied.
Carefully melted the wax off.
Once the finish was gone I realized that they didn't sand the inside smooth so I did that.
Of course it still was rougher than the lacquer.
Oiled it up good and tried it.
Before it sounded like a Yamaha plastic after it had the "woody" sound.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The air/water on hulls & wings goes way faster than the air in a sax.
Maybe the rough surface changes the sound wave.
I know that wooden wind instruments sound different than metal partly because of the inside texture.
I had 1st hand experience with that.
I bought a rosewood and ivory tenor recorder.
It was lacquered inside and out.
I melted bee's wax on the ivory to protect it from the stripper that I applied.
Carefully melted the wax off.
Once the finish was gone I realized that they didn't sand the inside smooth so I did that.
Of course it still was rougher than the lacquer.
Oiled it up good and tried it.
Before it sounded like a Yamaha plastic after it had the "woody" sound.
That's a very interesting anecdote -- maybe surface smoothness could explain how finish affects sound in saxes!
 

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Here's the tone hole with sandpaper article.
https://musicmedic.com/fixing-a-stuffy-note-with-sandpaper

The article on tuning with crescents
https://musicmedic.com/tuning-a-saxophone-with-crescents

And as far as airflow over a golf ball finish.
As a high school project we took a bucket of mixed used golf balls. Half were painted with clear lacquer. We even did a couple with a clear fingernail polish. With three different people using the same club. The coated and uncoated balls were hit and measurements taken. The balls that were coated traveled 20% further on average.
 

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Guys in the past polished the inside of necks and sax bodies in the mistaken idea that airflow, or aerodynamics, would be improved. Well, it would, except there is no high-speed air in a sax. Also, they discovered that (mainly because of what they did to the neck) playing was not as good as before the polishing. We know that rough textures in mouthpieces and necks generally improve playing in certain ways, so the thought of the sandpaper in the neck is not misplaced, just unnecessary. What you could do is use a wire brush of the right diameter and flexibility to twist into the neck, 'scoring' it with the brush marks. Selmer cut grooves into the inside of neck tenons to boost altissimo response - don't know if they still do. Certain mouthpieces have a rough or deliberately scored surface on the baffle surface. Others have a high polish, at least on the very tip baffle.
I think the wise thing to do is to judge these things on the basis of what they do for you, if anything, not really take them on face value. If you have necks and mouthpieces you love, I would say to leave them alone in this respect.
 

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Yes, I believe the same principle is how sandpaper helps in a tone hole. So maybe a rough inside of the neck = more resonant sound?
I don't know about more resonant, but even if the grit doesn't change the sound, the change in dimension might.

And if you are interested, v=why stop at the neck - you could also do the mouthpiece.

With anything like this I say it's fine to experiment and if you like the results better than what you have without, then why not.

But you should be super self-critical, ideally get someone else to listen and see if they perceive any difference (without knowing when the sandpaper is there or not. Also record yourself.

If you end up not being sure, then give up and do some long notes. (NB: The best long note exercise I found so far is the resonance exercise.
 

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It is well established by Curt that using sandpaper does fix the problem with C3 and C#3 on alto saxes. I’ve used it on a few of my horns and it definitely works. But I don’t think anyone has tried it in the neck or bore as you are suggesting. You are just going to have to try it and let us know.
 

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Also, eventually the sandpaper will fall out or deform. This is because it is paper and the moisture inside the sax. A non-slip paint with some sort of sand particles in it would be a better fix than using sandpaper. But it would also be more permanent.
 

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The music medic site states that this technique at tone holes help eliminate stuffiness of individual notes and sometimes warble. The sandpaper could possibly affect a small, localized area, and may help reduce acoustic instabilities very close to the location of the paper. So I am not sure what the sandpaper in the neck would be expected to do. If you think that your whole horn is stuffy due to a bad neck, then it may be more appropriate to see if the neck can be fixed or replaced.

BTW: I made some measurements and calculations, and adding a ring of relatively fine grit sandpaper around the inside of an alto sax neck can locally reduce the flow area by as much as 9% if it is placed near the cork end of the mouthpiece.
 

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The often heard assumption that the aerodynamic effects of "dimples" in golf balls applies to the soundwaves inside musical instruments is simply not true. The amount and velocity of air flow acting upon a golf ball traveling through the air does not exist inside a saxophone.

My understanding from reading Benade's works is that anything inside the bore of an instrument that is a rough or irregular surface "eats" energy from the flow related parts of the soundwaves called "velocity anti-nodes" where the air molecules are moving back and forth the greatest distance. Adding the rough surface of sandpaper inside the neck or bore of the saxophone would sap this energy and have a negative effect upon the intensity of the sound. In addition, reducing the volume inside the bore, even a small amount will lower the pitch of notes having a velocity anti-node at that location and raise the pitch of notes having a "pressure anti-node" at that location. Small changes inside the bore can make a big difference.

Cleaning and polishing the inside of a neck or saxophone body often has a perceptible effect upon the response and "brilliance" of the sound. It does this by reducing the amount of energy lost when the surface is not smooth. When a player has played a sax with a neck that has not been cleaned for a long time, it will take some time to get used to the different sound and feel after it has been professionally cleaned. A repair tech I know did this to a player's neck and the player didn't like the difference in sound and insisted he put back all of the "gunk" he removed. He eventually talked the player into trying it for a couple of weeks and then bringing it back if he still didn't like it. He never returned.

Benade writes that sharp corners, perturbances (irregularities), and gaps between joints inside a bore create "turbulance" which interferes with and takes energy from the soundwaves. A tonehole that is too small can "hiss" when the oscillatory flow is at a level too high for it to handle. On thick walled woodwinds made of wood this effect can be sometimes be addressed by "undercutting" or "fraising" the underside of the tonehole. If lining a small tonehole with sandpaper reduces or eliminates "hiss" it is possible that the rough surface slows the airflow. Putting a nylon panty hose over a neck octave vent is also used as a way to reduce or eliminate hiss. I have used this technique on a few saxophones with that problem.

For more detailed information on this topic and others, go to Benade Archives and select 1977 "Acoustical Evolution of Wind Instruments"
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
The often heard assumption that the aerodynamic effects of "dimples" in golf balls applies to the soundwaves inside musical instruments is simply not true. The amount and velocity of air flow acting upon a golf ball traveling through the air does not exist inside a saxophone.

My understanding from reading Benade's works is that anything inside the bore of an instrument that is a rough or irregular surface "eats" energy from the flow related parts of the soundwaves called "velocity anti-nodes" where the air molecules are moving back and forth the greatest distance. Adding the rough surface of sandpaper inside the neck or bore of the saxophone would sap this energy and have a negative effect upon the intensity of the sound. In addition, reducing the volume inside the bore, even a small amount will lower the pitch of notes having a velocity anti-node at that location and raise the pitch of notes having a "pressure anti-node" at that location. Small changes inside the bore can make a big difference.

Cleaning and polishing the inside of a neck or saxophone body often has a perceptible effect upon the response and "brilliance" of the sound. It does this by reducing the amount of energy lost when the surface is not smooth. When a player has played a sax with a neck that has not been cleaned for a long time, it will take some time to get used to the different sound and feel after it has been professionally cleaned. A repair tech I know did this to a player's neck and the player didn't like the difference in sound and insisted he put back all of the "gunk" he removed. He eventually talked the player into trying it for a couple of weeks and then bringing it back if he still didn't like it. He never returned.

Benade writes that sharp corners, perturbances (irregularities), and gaps between joints inside a bore create "turbulance" which interferes with and takes energy from the soundwaves. A tonehole that is too small can "hiss" when the oscillatory flow is at a level too high for it to handle. On thick walled woodwinds made of wood this effect can be sometimes be addressed by "undercutting" or "fraising" the underside of the tonehole. If lining a small tonehole with sandpaper reduces or eliminates "hiss" it is possible that the rough surface slows the airflow. Putting a nylon panty hose over a neck octave vent is also used as a way to reduce or eliminate hiss. I have used this technique on a few saxophones with that problem.

For more detailed information on this topic and others, go to Benade Archives and select 1977 "Acoustical Evolution of Wind Instruments"
Interesting, thank you for the link!
 

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There are a lot of old wives' tales out there. Just because you read it on the Internet is no promise that it is true. The plain fact is that people hear and experience what they expect to hear and experience, and absent decent double blind testing, nothing can be believed. There are plenty of cases where good blind tests absolutely erased whatever people were convinced they were experiencing.

The physical fact is that surface roughness anywhere in the air column drains energy from the standing wave, and this is before we get to turbulence. There is something called the "boundary layer effect". At a certain distance from the wall in an air column, there is a viscous effect where air molecules do not move as freely as they do in the center of the air column, and they lose energy to heat. In fact, 99% of the energy that a player puts into a wind instrument is lost before it makes it out as sound, and viscous losses are a big part of that. Smooth walls are advantageous to sound production, full stop. In the context of smooth walls, turbulence is not an issue. What causes turbulence in an air column are sharp edges.

I'd agree that any effect of adding sandpaper inside a bore would be more down to a change in geometry, but even then, I'd bet dollars to dimes that the effect is actually fictitious, and that any decent double blind test would show it to be illusory. However if you think it's gonna make an improvement, you will experience that improvement, especially if you hear it from someone you invest with any kind of authority or credibility. And then you will post it and add to the growing chorus of voices that will influence the next person to believe that it is true, and on and on it goes.
 
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