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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015-
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It seem to me that palm keys were broadly accepted for the first 50+ years of saxophones. When did it become popular to add risers? It’s not like the average size of a player’s hands changed over a few short years. What happened?
 

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That's a good question, G. Interestingly, I just added a riser to my palm D and I can't believe the difference. I've struggled with that key for about 50 years and just chalked it up to "that's the way it is". Not even sure what made me try one but it's like night and day...much easier to navigate now.
 

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That's a good question, G. Interestingly, I just added a riser to my palm D and I can't believe the difference. I've struggled with that key for about 50 years and just chalked it up to "that's the way it is". Not even sure what made me try one but it's like night and day...much easier to navigate now.
Ditto to that GT. Except I added it about 3 years ago.
 

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Counterpoint: I hate the things. Swapped horns with a fellow recently at a rehearsal.

Mine the stock Conn 6m alto (oh ... the shame. Yes, alto!), his a YAS-23 that plays very well.
And he has those infernal risers on the palm keys. It is curious that my hands are quite a bit larger than his.

He likes to play elbows out, hands curved more. I play elbows in, hands straighter.

The risers certainly take up the space. I get rid of the space by allowing my hands to conform to the shape
of the sax more. Both of us have been playing for quite a long time, to there is nothing obvious there.
Of course, each of us thinks our hands are in the more relaxed position.



dsm
 

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Interesting question. I suspect they go way back.
 

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I noticed in videos of myself playing that I was really having to pull out of position to play palm key key. I hadn't really thought about it until I was watching other players and their hands seemed to float over the palm keys without any big shift. No my hands are larger then average so I built up the palm keys. After some trial and error I realized I really only about 1/2 in cork on the D key and it's all good. Alto is a completely different story. I've built up all three palm keys and the RH Side Keys.
 

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It seem to me that palm keys were broadly accepted for the first 50+ years of saxophones. When did it become popular to add risers? It’s not like the average size of a player’s hands changed over a few short years. What happened?
It really took off after this forum started. Before that you played the sax like it came. I despise the sight of risers.
 

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Interesting question. I suspect they go way back.
I knew a professional sax player in 1978 who had them.

But I think the basic premise is still accurate. After all, 1978 was a long time after 1850. I have not seen photos of the "old greats" of the 30s with corks etc. on their palm and side keys.
 

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I just know what feels right. Someone can hand me a horn and if the palm keys feel super close to the body it feels awkward, like I have to scrunch my hands up weirdly in order go up there. I think I have only played two horns where the palm keys were bang on and they are both horns that a lot of people consider beefy ergonomically.

The first thing I thought when I tried out my 61 was "This thing will be wicked as soon as I add my regular risers." And it is.

One thing that may seem unrelated but I think correlates is the strap ring position. I think it can mitigate some issues on certain horns. Mine is set fairly offset so the whole horn is a little twisted. It's comfortable but it takes some getting used to.
 

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Good question. I sure don't know the answer, but obviously someone came up with the idea at some point. It's such a simple solution to the problem for those who find it a problem that is was inevitable someone would think of it.

I put a small cork riser on the D palm key of both my Buescher Aristocrat tenors and it did make a positive difference. I haven't found the need for them on my MkVI tenor, which has the palm keys a bit farther out from the body.
 

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A note that should be added is that often it's not the absolute heights of the palm keys that matter (the distance from the key tops to the body tube), but rather their heights relative to each other. Risers may be necessary to address this issue even if each palm key individually "fits" the player's hand to a reasonable degree. Personally, I like a certain gap between the D key and the D#/Eb key. If their heights are too similar, they are more difficult to play cleanly. I'm not sure if littlewailer (above) noticed this, but on the YTS-61 I used to play, these two palm keys seemed too close together to be ideal.
 

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A couple of thoughts: 1) Economy of motion has always been an important part of technique from the beginning of saxophone study. 2) It is much easier to make palm keys higher than to make them lower for the person with small hands who keeps bumping them open. Somewhere in between is where manufacturers try to make them. Players have had access to cork and various kinds of glue for since the beginning. Just because we can't find photos doesn't mean early players didn't build them up back then.
 

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When I bought my YSS-62 soprano in 1983, the first thing I noticed was the position of the palm keys. Same for my YTS-62 tenor. They were both more comfortable and usable than the palm key heights of my Mark VI horns.
 

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I already bump mine open too often without the damn things. Why anyone would want them is beyond me, but I feel the same way about automatic transmissions too...

And I’ve got one.
 

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One thing that may seem unrelated but I think correlates is the strap ring position. I think it can mitigate some issues on certain horns. Mine is set fairly offset so the whole horn is a little twisted. It's comfortable but it takes some getting used to.
They're totally related, IMO. Neck strap positioning affects how one holds the horn, and thusly ergonomics. The strap can also impact one's airstream, and is directly connected to good technique. It's just as important for us as a strap is to a guitarist.

And I'm not sure when these became popular, but I'm always impressed by the seemingly endless ways to create, sometimes impressive looking, risers. Personally, I'm pretty adaptable to most palm key setups, but prefer something more akin to the 10M or Serie III setup. I've never been compelled to add risers to my SA80, but it probably wouldn't hurt. Maybe I'll try it sometime.
 

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In the early 1980s, I would visit Emilio at Rayburn’s in Boston, and he would build up the palm keys with plumbers epoxy, shape them, and then paint them with nail polish.

He did it quickly and masterfully, in my opinion. I always like the way the palm keys felt after he was done with them. Much more than the rubber risers that people put on top of the palm keys.
 

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10mfan, I assumed this was a regional thing because of Emilio. I got to Boston in the 90s and before I'd arrived, no teacher or player I'd known used them in the south. Almost everyone was using Emilio and thus likely had his version of the riser then.
 

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I have large hands and really like them on the D & F keys on my mk VI tenor. The black rubber ones are fine for me, I don't like the clear squishy ones.
 

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I knew a professional sax player in 1978 who had them.
I was playing professionally in '78 & had cork risers on alto & soprano sax. Walt DeHope at House of Woodwinds in Oakland, California, made them for me. At the time, pre-manufactured risers were not available as far as I know. The soprano corks still live on my Buescher TT & have held up beautifully.
 
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