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Discussion Starter #1
Hello everybody, i have a few questions and how some of the more knowledgable members can answer them. Thanks in advance!!

1) "Properly Set-Up"

What exactly does this mean? From what i am reading is that most modern sax are not "Properly Set-up" and they need a tech to look at them. I do not know what exactly goes into setting up a saxophone. I am guessing other than the obvious stuff like making sure the keys work, is to adjust the spring so that it is better? Does it have to do with the height of the keys too?

I have a couple of saxophones which i think may/may not be "Properly set-up" but i cannot find a good tech where i live. I was thinking maybe if i can understand how to set up a saxophone, i can either do it myself or get some more experienced player to help me.

2) "Response"

I am reading about the "response" of the saxophone and how different brands have better response than the rest. What exactly does this mean? Does it mean that the notes come out more easily? or does it mean you can change notes more easily?

Also how is "response" related to "properly set-up" if there is a relationship

3) "Bright Tone"

Again, what does this exactly mean? The high tones are very piercing? or the low notes lack low frequency punch? Is "bright tone" inherently bad? Or it is a personal preference? Is "Bright Tone" more suitable for certain type of music over the rest?

Thanks for reading so far. I apologise if my questions sounds really simple and obvious. I do not have a saxophone teacher in my area and my experience with playing with different instruments are limited. All i have is my own instruments and the internet. I need some confirmation that what I read on the internet actually translate to the right thing.

Thanks again
 

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Discreet said:
Hello everybody, i have a few questions and how some of the more knowledgable members can answer them. Thanks in advance!!

1) "Properly Set-Up"

What exactly does this mean? From what i am reading is that most modern sax are not "Properly Set-up" and they need a tech to look at them. I do not know what exactly goes into setting up a saxophone. I am guessing other than the obvious stuff like making sure the keys work, is to adjust the spring so that it is better? Does it have to do with the height of the keys too?
Proper setup deals with many of the things that you referred to. A tech will go through your horn and first determine that all of your keys are working properly. Then he will adjust different springs, screws, corks, felts etc. to modify the "action" of the horn, which is how the keys feel when you play. Then, he will adjust the key heights to a specification which would match the player's playing style, or to a generic setting insuring good tone and intonation.
Discreet said:
2) "Response"

I am reading about the "response" of the saxophone and how different brands have better response than the rest. What exactly does this mean? Does it mean that the notes come out more easily? or does it mean you can change notes more easily?
Both. Notes will pop out more easily in the extreme registers of certain horns or models. Playing intervals between two notes will be somewhat cleaner. Also, I tend to tie response in to the overall feel of the horn. Some horns, such as Yamaha, are reputed to be more free-blowing and offer little feedback to your mouth. A Selmer will likely feel like there is more resistance when you play, but may have a darker sound than the Yamaha.

A horn which has not been properly setup may not exhibit any of the characteristics that one would expect. Improper setup can lead to tuning problems, can adjust the tone, and all sorts of other things. If a pad isn't sealing, certain notes may be far more difficult to get out.

Discreet said:
3) "Bright Tone"

Again, what does this exactly mean? The high tones are very piercing? or the low notes lack low frequency punch? Is "bright tone" inherently bad? Or it is a personal preference? Is "Bright Tone" more suitable for certain type of music over the rest?
This is a hard one to describe. Bright tone to me is a direct, cutting tone, suitable for some classical playing but especially certain rock applications. A dark tone I tend to envision in a jazzy or bluesy environment. This is definitely a personal preference kind of thing.

Discreet said:
Thanks for reading so far. I apologise if my questions sounds really simple and obvious. I do not have a saxophone teacher in my area and my experience with playing with different instruments are limited. All i have is my own instruments and the internet. I need some confirmation that what I read on the internet actually translate to the right thing.

Thanks again
It sounds to me like you're definitely getting the right ideas. Where (roughly) do you live? We have members all over the world and might be able to point you in a good direction as far as techs/teachers. We were all beginners once, most of us still are. A famous saxophonist by the name of Stan Getz once had a quote "I think I'm finally learning how to play the saxophone." By the time of the quote, he was already exceptionally popular and 50 years old.
 

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I will answer ou as best I can...

1: Properly Set-Up
To me, this means that a sax has had it's key openings adjusted so the sax has the best intonation that it can get, the keys move freely (not stiff), and all the corks, etc. are the right thickness.

2: Response
To me, this means how quickly a horn will begin to "speak", or play the note that you are trying to play, especially in the lower register (low D to Bb), and how easily the note comes out. Faster response=a note coming out quicker, easier response=a note coming out easier. Based on your signature, seeing that you are also a pianist, I would equate response with the hitting of a piano key and how quickly the hammer strikes the string. Please forgive my butchering of proper piano terminoligy!

3: "Bright" Tone
I honestly do not know how to describe this one, so I will steer clear of it. Perhaps somebody else on the forum can help you out with this one. To me, brightness is just something that I feel, so sadly, I do not know how to describe it. Maybe a brighter instrument has a more "piercing" sound that will cut through (think lead trumpet player), while a "dark" tone would be more like a flugelhorn, mellow and gentle, but still powerful.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
rs1sensen said:
Proper setup deals with many of the things that you referred to. A tech will go through your horn and first determine that all of your keys are working properly. Then he will adjust different springs, screws, corks, felts etc. to modify the "action" of the horn, which is how the keys feel when you play. Then, he will adjust the key heights to a specification which would match the player's playing style, or to a generic setting insuring good tone and intonation.
Thanks for the quick reply. Just to further clarify a few things

When you talk about "action", i am assuming it is better to have an action as light as possible. I can key notes faster on a soprano because the action is lighter compared to say a tenor saxophone. So to improve action, you need to have better springs and oil them regularly. If that is the case, how about the height of the keys. In order words, how far the keys will open. I heard from some people that is you lower the keys, the action will be faster as there is less distance to travel. But you might lose volume? (not too sure). If you increase the key height, what happens? I think the tuning will be affected too.

So if I am correct in my assumption, you must find the optimum height when you "set up" the saxophone. So how is the typcial way you do that? Do you like go to the technican and say "hey, make the action lighter"? Or does he look at the way you play and makes a recommendation to lower or increase the height? Is this something you can do yourself? You also mention about playing style. If i want to play jazz, what kind of "setup/action" should i be looking at?

(BTW, I am happy with the way my saxophones are, but then again, i dont know any better because i dont play other saxophones that often. The reason i am asking these questions is to find out if there can be any marked improvement by making minor adjustment.)


*PS, I am currently based in China. In western china, in the city of Chengdu.
 

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Discreet said:
(BTW, I am happy with the way my saxophones are, but then again, i dont know any better because i dont play other saxophones that often. The reason i am asking these questions is to find out if there can be any marked improvement by making minor adjustment.)


*PS, I am currently based in China. In western china, in the city of Chengdu.
Don't torture yourself. As long as the pads are all covering and everything is operating smoothly and you can play the horns in tune, be happy.
If you really want to do a simple check, you might want to buy/make a leak light http://www.musicmedic.com/catalog/products/tool-lt100.html .
 

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Discreet said:
Hello everybody, i have a few questions and how some of the more knowledgable members can answer them. Thanks in advance!!
Hi there. I don't count as "more knowledgeable" just "more voluble" but just a couple of things to add to the excellent advice so far...

Discreet said:
From what i am reading is that most modern sax are not "Properly Set-up" and they need a tech to look at them.
It's not a problem that is more or less inherent in modern horns, a vintage horn could also be in dire need of a set up and a modern horn might be beautifully set up. What is true to say is that most brand new horns come with a "factory set up" that may not be that great - my Keilwerth for example had a very stiff action. If you buy a secondhand sax (regardless of modern or vintage) then it will depend upon each individual sax and you could get anything from a perfectly set up horn to one that needs a complete overhaul. This is definitely something to consider as a set up from a good technician costs money of course.

Discreet said:
I was thinking maybe if i can understand how to set up a saxophone, i can either do it myself or get some more experienced player to help me.
For me this would be a complete minefield because I'm not good at that sort of thing. You might be the type of person who finds this sort of thing easy. Some saxes are easier than others because they have screw adjustments for regulating the keys. There are books and "kits" you can get for more fancy stuff, checkout www.musicmedic.com I think they do a kit of some kind.

Discreet said:
When you talk about "action", i am assuming it is better to have an action as light as possible...
Not necessarily. You need to have something to push against for musical expression, so it's down to individual's choice.

Discreet said:
...Do you like go to the technican and say "hey, make the action lighter"? Or does he look at the way you play and makes a recommendation to lower or increase the height?
For someone like me who is not a profesional and to be frank not all that great an amateur either :) I leave much of these decisions to my technician except I might say "I find this a bit stiff" or "I find this key a little awkward to reach" for example. If you're there with the technician then he can ask you to try it, but often you need to leave the instrument with him, so you need to give him guidance yes.

Saintsday said:
Don't torture yourself. As long as the pads are all covering and everything is operating smoothly and you can play the horns in tune, be happy.
mmm... sounds like good advice. If you can get a good sax player to try your sax for you they might also be able to set your mind at rest or suggest a few small tweeks you could make for yourself.

I wish you every success for sax playing in China - I would love to visit your country some day!
 

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Discreet said:
When you talk about "action", i am assuming it is better to have an action as light as possible.
Not necessarily. It is a compromise. Light springs make it easy to close the key quickly but they are slower to raise the key. On the other hand very stiff springs make it harder to press the key closed, but the key returns quickly to its open position. Some players prefer the "light" action and some the crispness of the "stiff" action.
Discreet said:
So to improve action, you need to have better springs and oil them regularly.
It is not a good idea to oil the springs.
Discreet said:
If that is the case, how about the height of the keys. In order words, how far the keys will open. I heard from some people that is you lower the keys, the action will be faster as there is less distance to travel. But you might lose volume? (not too sure). If you increase the key height, what happens? I think the tuning will be affected too.
As the keys are lowered, there is less distance they have to travel and so technically one should be able to play faster. The problem arises when the keys are too close to the holes in that the venting of the notes is affected causing them to sound stuffy, and the pitch goes slightly flat. A very general rule of thumb is that the key should open approximately 1/3 of the diameter of the tone hole. Opening a key significantly more than 1/3 of this distance has no additional effect upon the venting or the pitch. It is only when the key is closer than this distance that the sound and pitch is affected.
Discreet said:
So if I am correct in my assumption, you must find the optimum height when you "set up" the saxophone. So how is the typcial way you do that? Do you like go to the technican and say "hey, make the action lighter"? Or does he look at the way you play and makes a recommendation to lower or increase the height? Is this something you can do yourself? You also mention about playing style. If i want to play jazz, what kind of "setup/action" should i be looking at?
A good technician can adjust the key heights if they are not properly set for your model of saxophone. It is complicated due to the relationships of the keys. I wouldn't recommend you try this yourself. The tech can also adjust the springs more to your liking, but there won't be a huge difference due to the range of tension that the springs will operate correctly. My opinion is that there is not a different "jazz set-up" from a "classical set-up".
Discreet said:
(BTW, I am happy with the way my saxophones are, but then again, i dont know any better because i dont play other saxophones that often. The reason i am asking these questions is to find out if there can be any marked improvement by making minor adjustment.)
You are asking some great questions. You can learn much more about tone in the book "The Art of Saxophone Playing" by Larry Teal. Please realize that if you are playing on an inexpensive saxophone that there may be limits to how well it can be made to play due to the quality of the springs and other materials, the design of the body and the keys, and how well it is assembled. There is a reason that the very best saxophones list prices are in the $4000 range (US). Good luck. Hope some of this helps.

John
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for all the advice.

I think I have a much better understanding of how my instrument works. It is kinda hard to get such information at where I am working. Reason being, I am not a full time musician, working full time at a deskbound job. At the same time, I am now working in Chengdu, China, where saxophone = kenny G. The environment is not as rich as in the states. Well, that is what the internet is for.

Anyway, i will try to find a good technician when i return to singapore (i am not from mainland china) as i think i know what kind of action i want on my saxes (soprano too light, tenor a tad too heavy). Nevertheless, I will try to try out some professionally set-up instrument and get a better idea on what will work on me.

Thanks
 
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