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Discussion Starter #1
Bought a used Alto and love the sound I get but was having difficulty with anything below low D. It sounded like I had a leak. Had the tech drop a light and we could not find a leak. He replaced the usual suspect pads and thought they were not seating and tried other adjustments but it still sounded like a leak. Then he remembered that years ago he had the same problem with one of own horns and another player told him to crumple up a little paper and drop it in the bell. He did and now the horn plays those low notes a lot better but still there is a little of the modulation. Anybody ever hear of such a ting?
 

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Any number of items have been used in this manner (mouthpiece cap, neck plug, wine cork . . .). Some folks believe in it, others think it is a temporary "fix" for whatever low-end response problem one may suffer.

I'm one to think that your horn has a leak somewhere and you have yet to find it. I always recommend taking the horn into good light, holding it on your lap and closely examining each pad, from top to bottom while you work the mechanisms to play each note. It could be something as small as a hair stuck on a tone-hole lip to a pad-face that is coming off the pad when you open a tone-hole. Also, check the G#, bis Bb, and all interconnected pads (like the bell-pads) to see if one somehow is lifting ever so slightly. These things can't be found by a leak-light.

I'm having a problem with my curved SC902 and I narrowed it down to the small replacement plastic sleeve that covers the upper-octave rod-actuator that opens the upper octave pad. The sleeve is just big enough that it doesn't allow the upper octave vent to close sufficiently. The repair-tech missed it and now he is working on it. DAVE
 

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You will find plenty of discussions of this issue in past SOTW threads. As noted above, the preferred corrective object is usually a wine cork. I have employed this with success.

The point of the cork or ball is to address an inherent acoustic problem, not a leak. A slightly "incorrect" bore size in the bow can lead to a gurgling effect on the low notes, especially low C or B. Placing an object in the bow can be a quick but effective fix for this issue.
 

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I suspect that the vast majority of low-end response issues are because of leaks and not an inherent acoustic problem in tube-design. DAVE
 

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I’m predicting a leak in the joint between the body and bow.
 

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Yup....a wine cork is often used...
You will find plenty of discussions of this issue in past SOTW threads. As noted above, the preferred corrective object is usually a wine cork. I have employed this with success.
I think we need to clarify something, however.....

Reading the OP:

Bought a used Alto and love the sound I get but was having difficulty with anything below low D. It sounded like I had a leak. Had the tech drop a light and we could not find a leak. He replaced the usual suspect pads and thought they were not seating and tried other adjustments but it still sounded like a leak. Then he remembered that years ago he had the same problem with one of own horns and another player told him to crumple up a little paper and drop it in the bell. He did and now the horn plays those low notes a lot better but still there is a little of the modulation. Anybody ever hear of such a thing?
You see, the wine cork thing is the sorta-solution to a gurgle.

But what OP seems to describe is not a gurgle, at least as I interpret it. It sounds like the notes are unstable and they wanna jump, or they are just not speaking easily or well.

As the crumpled paper improved but didn't solve the issue, I would agree with others who have stated there is still a leak someplace (unless your horn is a Conn NW I or II, or a certain serial number series of a VI).

It might be a ferrule leak, or it might be a non-pad related leak. Meaning: all PADS may be sealing fine, if one is focusing on the pads. But what about mechanical regulation issues ? For example, on C#, B, Bb...is it possible the G# key is jumping (due to a poor regulation between it and the F#) ? This would create an instability in those notes.

So. 3dogie...can you describe the instability in more detail ? Is it a gurgle, with the notes easy to blow ? Or are the notes actually difficult to make speak (i.e. you have to change your embouchure to do so, or all you get is air) ? Or do they speak but they wanna jump an octave or elsewhere ?
 

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I lean toward the cork from a 12year old single malt.
However this only works if you consume the whole bottle in a single sitting prior to testing.
In more modern horns a blended variety is all that is needed.
 

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I find this often mostly on Conns and Bueschers. I just glue a wine cork in the bow. I feel it is the modern mouthpiece need to be pushed on the neck more making them sharp but eliminating the gurggle. Old tubby originals don't have the issue as they tune out more on the cork.
 

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I find this often mostly on Conns and Bueschers. I just glue a wine cork in the bow. I feel it is the modern mouthpiece need to be pushed on the neck more making them sharp but eliminating the gurggle. Old tubby originals don't have the issue as they tune out more on the cork.
I agree with Bruce. I observed this low note gurgle in both my vintage alto sax (conn variety) but never in my Yamaha. Often "fix" this by throwing the MP cap in the sax. Weirdest thing I've tried is a golf ball :) Got to get me a proper wine cork!
 

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All that aside I would not stick paper in my bow. The bow gets wet. Paper gets soggy. Next it starts to mold, decompose and a bunch of other things you dont want happening in the bore of your horn. Get the horn fixed and if you do put something in the bow stick with something you can pop out and clean on occasion and wont make your horn nasty. Some folks also use a plastic mpc cap.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I lean toward the cork from a 12year old single malt.
However this only works if you consume the whole bottle in a single sitting prior to testing.
In more modern horns a blended variety is all that is needed.
Thank you all for throwing some light (reference to drop light) on the issue and I am working on a bottle of Balvenie 15yr so now I can recycle the cork. Tried another mouthpiece that made the problem worse and expanded the issue to all of the lower register. I am still thinking there may be a leak or it may be a combination of things. I have not ruled out my playing but the repair guy is much better than I and he reproduced the issue with his own mouthpiece and reed. There is some corrosion around the joints so there may be a pin hole or something. Maybe it needs a CAT scan but it would not do well with the magnetic field. I have heard of a study where they tried to scan the brain of a jazz player with a trumpet to see what is going on and it trashed the trumpet as soon as the the switch was thrown. Still love this horn so I can live with the temp fix and maybe after about 15 techs I may find out what it is. I plan to be be buried or cremated with it so I will not pass it on to anyone but it is a great horn for the price. (my opinion) Too good to made into a lamp as I did with a metal clarinet.

Tested some of the suggestions and found a combination of opening my throat up and the plastic mouthpiece cap in the bell worked the best. I think with more practice I can get a better sound without the honking sound I get now.
 

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Matt Stohrer has the answer:

 

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Matt Stohrer has the answer:
Good vid, but we still don't know the problem. People have been making assumptions as to the problem.

Thank you all for throwing some light (reference to drop light) on the issue and I am working on a bottle of Balvenie 15yr so now I can recycle the cork. Tried another mouthpiece that made the problem worse and expanded the issue to all of the lower register. I am still thinking there may be a leak or it may be a combination of things. I have not ruled out my playing but the repair guy is much better than I and he reproduced the issue with his own mouthpiece and reed. There is some corrosion around the joints so there may be a pin hole or something. Maybe it needs a CAT scan but it would not do well with the magnetic field. I have heard of a study where they tried to scan the brain of a jazz player with a trumpet to see what is going on and it trashed the trumpet as soon as the the switch was thrown. Still love this horn so I can live with the temp fix and maybe after about 15 techs I may find out what it is. I plan to be be buried or cremated with it so I will not pass it on to anyone but it is a great horn for the price. (my opinion) Too good to made into a lamp as I did with a metal clarinet.
Dogie.....in your reply you still have not specified the nature of the problem:

So. 3dogie...can you describe the instability in more detail ? Is it a gurgle, with the notes easy to blow ? Or are the notes actually difficult to make speak (i.e. you have to change your embouchure to do so, or all you get is air) ? Or do they speak but they wanna jump an octave or elsewhere ? Or are you feeling a 'vacuum' when you blow ?
Which is it ? Because, people keep chiming in with answers "THIS is the solution !".....BUT it could be 2 completely DIFFERENT problems...which would make some of the solutions being suggested...ersatz.

You have written "honking sound", "a little of the modulation", and "difficult with anything below low D". Hard to ascertain what is going on without more specifics.

 

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Thank you all for throwing some light (reference to drop light) on the issue and I am working on a bottle of Balvenie 15yr
Single barrel, I presume?
 

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The OP used the word "modulation" which suggests to me the sound of a "warble" which alternates between two different tones. The other clue is that putting some type of object in the bell tends to help. I have studied "warbles" since I was in high school and it happened on my Mark VI and I found putting the plastic end plug in the bell made it stop.

My investigation of the saxophone "warble" showes it to be caused by the "inharmonicity" of the overtones of the low note it occurs on. The one thing all of these low notes have in common is that the strength of the fundamental is weaker than the 2nd and 3rd harmonic. When these two overtones are out of tune with each other, they fight over control of what Benade calls the "regime of oscillation". What one hears during a warble is the pitch of the note going back and forth as these harmonics fight for control.

I have not once found the cause of this "inharmonicity" to be a leak somewhere in the air column. A leak saps energy from the sound wave, it doesn't make the harmonics out of tune. I have seen where a strong soundwave opens and closes a large key cup with a weak spring, but this is not the same as a "warble" in my definition.

The causes of this type of "inharmonicity" generally have to do with the taper of the body tube, and the related issues of mouthpiece placement on the cork (instrument length), the mouthpiece effective volume compared to that of the "missing cone", and the effects of the player's oral cavity. On a conical instrument increasing the amount of taper causes the overtones to go flat. Reducing the amount of taper causes the overtones to go sharp. Shrinking the diameter of the small end and/or increasing the diameter on the large increases the degree of taper. Expanding the diameter of the small end and/or shrinking the diameter of the large end decreases the degree of taper. Putting a liner on the bell bow reduces the diameter at the large end. The real issue in an imperfect cone is that the overtones don't go flat or sharp by the same amount.

Many have experienced that on a straight soprano saxophone pulling the mouthpiece out too far causes a warble on low B and adjacent notes. Making the instrument too long for its intended tuning actually changes the overall taper. This can also be done on the larger saxes but with a smaller effect. Some players try to use long narrow chamber modern mouthpiece on vintage saxophones that have to be pulled way out to get down to pitch, and they wonder why their octaves are so out of tune.

On the C melody I used to record and analyse the warble in my study, I used a tenor vintage brilhart mouthpiece which was a poor match for its missing cone which I believe created the "inharmonicity". However I found that I could turn the warble on and off at will by changing my voicing and embouchure which shows that it is all related. The warble study video can be viewed below. It is a low C on a C-melody sax that has been slowed down with spectrograph images taken at regular intervals and then strung together like the old animated cartoon drawings.

 

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Discussion Starter #18
Well we have modulation, warble and gurgling all of which can kind of fit. The best thing will be to record and figure out how to post. Didn’t expect this much help. I wish I had this instrument when it was new so I would know if it is a design issue or something that developed with age. Thinking now that is why the PO unloaded it. Also it is a Chinese stencil horn so that will raise eyebrows as it did mine. Twenty years ago when I purchased used horns I would try about 15 before I would go back to first one Emilio Lyons handed me at Rayburn in Boston. Didn’t have that available in Fla nor did I have the money. I am still liking the plastic mp cover solution. Been around a lot of sax players in the past 50 years and even the ones I am playing with now never heard of this issue. I initially looked at the usual suspect (me) and the mouthpiece or reed. This is a wonderful forum. Thanks again.
 

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OK.

As an aside... 'modulation' could also mean jumping to a different note or tone from the one which should be emanating from the horn...which isn't necessarily the same thing as your typical gurgling.

Gurgling is also called 'motorboating', for obvious reasons. So if your problem is that the notes make a motorboat sound, then it is a gurgle issue. If the problem is you have to do embouchurial calisthenics and throw something down the bell to make the right note come out....then that isn't a gurgle issue.

The reason I am sticking on this is.... when a horn has a gurgle issue, it is usually NOT on 3 or 4 notes (C, C#, B, Bb). It's usually one, or perhaps two.
Also, typically the gurgling note will not be particularly difficult to blow or make speak.
It'll just foookin' gurgle, which can be incredibly frustrating.

In my experience, most of the time gurgling/motorboating does, in fact, indicate something is leaking. 90% of the time a thorough going over all pads and linkages/mechanisms, in a pitch-black room with a good leaklight...will in fact find something which might have been overlooked before.

In some instances, yes...there is something intrinsic to the design of the horn body that causes it...and these certain models have been identified over the years. But most of the time, not.

Kinda hard in this instance to point the finger at the horn model, since it's a modern Chinese stencil....


FWIW, to post a vid....go to the 'advanced' button below the Quick Reply window. On subsequent page, there is an expanded toolbar allowing one to post a vid on the thread; you can also just provide a url to the vid or soundfile and readers an navigate to it.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
OK.

As an aside... 'modulation' could also mean jumping to a different note or tone from the one which should be emanating from the horn...which isn't necessarily the same thing as your typical gurgling.

Gurgling is also called 'motorboating', for obvious reasons. So if your problem is that the notes make a motorboat sound, then it is a gurgle issue. If the problem is you have to do embouchurial calisthenics and throw something down the bell to make the right note come out....then that isn't a gurgle issue.

The reason I am sticking on this is.... when a horn has a gurgle issue, it is usually NOT on 3 or 4 notes (C, C#, B, Bb). It's usually one, or perhaps two.
Also, typically the gurgling note will not be particularly difficult to blow or make speak.
It'll just foookin' gurgle, which can be incredibly frustrating


FWIW, to post a vid....go to the 'advanced' button below the Quick Reply window. On subsequent page, there is an expanded toolbar allowing one to post a vid on the thread; you can also just provide a url to the vid or soundfile and readers an navigate to it.
I think this is going to be painful but here goes: https://soundcloud.com/michael-homan-892886876/alto/s-MUTQ9
I am really working on my embrocure on alto, tenor and clarinet these days and the alto is the only one with this issue. I am most likely part of the problem.
 
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