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Discussion Starter #1
Several threads on SOTW have discussed the "pitch slotting" property of certain saxophone models (i.e. the tendency to resist pitch adjustments away from the fingered pitch). I have chosen to create a new "slotting" thread because previous discussions veered away from the topic or were focused on particular saxophone models. I will, however, bring up a comment posted on one such thread:

More than anything the "slotting" is simply a result of our attention to getting the pitch center of all the notes right.
Why should a saxophone's good intonation promote pitch slotting? I believe that slotting is not inherently connected to good intonation. In other words, one could conceivably design a saxophone to slot well on out-of-tune pitches. What internal acoustical characteristics of a saxophone promote strong slotting? Which saxophone models have these characteristics? Are saxophone manufactures attempting to create instruments that slot on twelve-tone equal temperament (despite the need of musicians to adjust pitch for a variety of reasons)? Why not just create instruments that have impeccably in-tune pitch centers but don't resist the player's pitch adjustments?
 

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Several threads on SOTW have discussed the "pitch slotting" property of certain saxophone models (i.e. the tendency to resist pitch adjustments away from the fingered pitch). .....................................
Do you mean mechanical adjustment of pitch eg tonehole crescents etc or do you mean alteration by changing embouchure, overblowing etc.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Do you mean mechanical adjustment of pitch eg tonehole crescents etc or do you mean alteration by changing embouchure, overblowing etc.
I'm referring to how a saxophone behaves when played. Some saxophones are said to be good at "slotting" (i.e. they lock into pitches when played) whereas others are said to be more "flexible" (i.e. easier for the player to bend the pitch via embouchure changes, oral cavity changes, etc.). What internal acoustical characteristics of a saxophone promote the slotting behavior? Which horns demonstrate such behavior?
 

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Saxophones are pretty dumb. If you hooked a mechanical blowing/fingering machine, with a static embouchure, up to ANY sax, modern or vintage, and had it play scales, intervals, and attempt to make actual music with real players, you would notice that it was no where close to being "in tune". Intonation, or "slotting" as you refer to it, is something that the player brings to the table, through training and developed subconscious habits, and concentration and intentional adjustments in the moment. A player may find that one horn responds better to his type of mental "slotting" (or lack of) capabilities and adjustments than another, but the sax will just do whatever the player makes it do, nothing more.
 

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Are saxophone manufactures attempting to create instruments that slot on twelve-tone equal temperament…?
In a word; yes. However, this may not have true of some vintage saxes. It is possible that some of those may have favored the common military band keys (Bb, F, C, Eb, etc.).
Why not just create instruments that have impeccably in-tune pitch centers but don't resist the player's pitch adjustments?
Manufacturers try to make the most in-tune horn they can. I don't think they intentionally try to make them hard to adjust, or even if that is possible. Building saxophones with "good" intonation is a compromise and some tough decisions have to be made by the makers. I've never understood the comments about some saxes being so "slotted" that they can't be adjusted. I would think that pitch adjustment away from tempered tuning is more a function of mouthpieces. Wider tip openings made it easier to bend and adjust pitch.
 

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Which horns demonstrate such behavior?
If you ask this question, you will get many opinions. Everyone hears correct pitch slightly differently. Everyone's mouth is made differently and players use all sorts of mouthpieces. So the answers can be dramatically different and still all be true for the player answering the question. The other problem with asking this question, is that hardly anyone here has played every brand of sax to say definitely: "brand x has the best intonation". However certain basic truths have come out of reading this forum.

Most saxes made in the last 15 years from the "Big 4" have good intonation.
Modern saxes tend to have better intonation than vintage saxes. (notice i said "tend").
Some saxophones that owners claim have very good intonation are: Selmer Mk VI, Series II, Series III, Yamaha 875EX, Yanagisawa, B&S, Buescher True Tone and Aristocrat, Couesnon, SML, Leblanc system, Cannonball, Mauriat, Barone, Keilwerth SX series. Obviously, you need to try a lot of horns and see what works for you.

I may be different than the folks here complaining about non-adjustable pitch because for me, the ideal intonation would be a sax that needed no embouchure adjustment at all to play perfectly in tune at 440 in equal temperment. I know enough about just intonation to use it when I want… at least for the common intervals.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Intonation, or "slotting" as you refer to it, is something that the player brings to the table ...
I agree that it is the player's responsibility to play the instrument in tune. However, I'm not really talking about playing in tune. Some people have the opinion that certain horns are "flexible horns" whereas other horns are "good slotting" horns. The philosophy is that both types, assuming each is a good instrument without serious intonation problems, can potentially play equally well in tune with a reasonably static embouchure. However the "good slotting" horn would be more resistant to embouchure pitch bends than the "flexible" horn. Randal Clark of Cannonball talks about slotting in this post and claims that Cannonball horns are adjusted to "slot" well. From what I've read about slotting, this means more than just "playing in tune" Brass players often talk about how well their instruments "slot", even that some tend to "slot" on out-of-tune pitches. Slotting applies to saxophones as well, and I'm trying to get a discussion about it here.

I don't think they intentionally try to make them hard to adjust, or even if that is possible. ... I've never understood the comments about some saxes being so "slotted" that they can't be adjusted.
I haven't really understood this either, hence I started this discussion. Randal's post (also see post #13 on that thread) seems to indicate that he can adjust the "slotting" ability of an instrument, but he's not at liberty to discuss his methods. I know that some players believe that certain horns are "flexible" and others "slotting." Are these people fooling themselves and really only referring to "poor intonation" and "good intonation?" That is, is a "flexible horn" simply one with which the player must struggle to play in tune? I know there are people who believe there's more to it than this, and I would like some insight into what acoustic properties (if any) promote "slotting."

Most saxes made in the last 15 years from the "Big 4" have good intonation. Modern saxes tend to have better intonation than vintage saxes. (notice i said "tend").
Yes, but isn't the quality of intonation a separate issue? Maybe not, but then there are many folks who believe in a fake principle called "slotting." Are there any brass players who could shed some light on this?
 

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Are these people fooling themselves and really only referring to "poor intonation" and "good intonation?"
Probably. I haven't seen any evidence to the contrary, but I'm happy to admit it if I'm wrong.
 

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The last thing I would want is a saxophone that makes pitch adjustment difficult, I'm even at a loss to wonder why anyone marketing a saxophone to professionals would imply it's a good thing. I can see why it makes sense to learners.

It would be a bit like putting frets on a violin.

Surely any saxophone has a tendency to different intonations, but that isn't what you mean I think.

One thing I have noticed is that some saxophones are easier to play in tune, not necessarily because of the dimensions of the toneholes etc, but because the actual sound and the harmonics are easier for the human ear to hear the pitch.

e.g. I have known two saxophones that both had the exact same tendencies to be in tune, but on one of them it's much easier to tell it's in tune with your ears. I have found that with an Inderbinen, I could play an octave and think "yes that is in tune octave, yet with another saxophone I play the octave, but am not quite as sure it's in tune, even when it is.
 

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Why not just create instruments that have impeccably in-tune pitch centers but don't resist the player's pitch adjustments?
Most modern horns tend to produce a more focused tone than the vintage models. Even the reference 36 tends to be more focused than a SBA.

Perhaps the saxophones that tend to produce a more focused tone are also less flexible.

One exception is the Borgani, which doesn't have that laser-focused tone that I associate with modern Selmers (especially the Series III). I've found the Borgani to be very flexible, and they are known for having really good intonation.

So maybe they have produced a modern horn that has great intonation and is flexible. The only problem is it sounds like a modern horn, and nothing like a balanced action or an old conn.
 

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My son's Yamaha YTS62II seems to have this slotting phenomena. It seems like it "tries" to play in tune no matter what you do with your embrasure. I believe some higher level of harmonics must have been considered when they designed this sax. The things just easily plays in tune.

The opposite of this is my late-model Buescher 400. It has scary good intonation, but a lot of that is probably based on my ear tuning each note as I play. That horn can also be used to "bend" the pitch as far as a whole step up or down on certain notes. The Yamaha really won't do that. It seem to always tend toward the correct pitch.

If you've ever listened to sound clips of me playing, you may have noticed that I constancy play some phrases sharp or flat with intentional inflection. This comes naturally to me and seems to add what I guess is a country "twang" to my sound. The audiences I play to generally love this type of phrasing. And this pretty well matches the way I talk which is very similar to Bill Clinton. When I play my son's Yamaha, I have a much more generic sound.
 

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One exception is the Borgani, which doesn't have that laser-focused tone that I associate with modern Selmers (especially the Series III). I've found the Borgani to be very flexible, and they are known for having really good intonation.

So maybe they have produced a modern horn that has great intonation and is flexible. The only problem is it sounds like a modern horn, and nothing like a balanced action or an old conn.
+1

The Borg' Jubilee is its own voice with many desirable nuances of older designs. It may not be a clone of a vintage Selmer or Conn and that's OK. I enjoy it for what it brings to me.

In contrast to the modern Selmers that will slot well - getting very close to the fingered pitch regardless of airstream - the Borgani requires a consistent airstream to land on/near pitch. If one has an inconsistent support or cavity - either because of lack of control or deliberate manipulation - the Borg' will easily vary pitch. This, of course, tends to be emphasized with large tip openings. Still, even with my .Vandoren V16 T9 .122" (with chamber and facing work by Juan Caino), the Jubilee works well in ensemble situations with the attentive player.

Executive summary: I like it.
 

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I know that some players believe that certain horns are "flexible" and others "slotting." Are these people fooling themselves and really only referring to "poor intonation" and "good intonation?" That is, is a "flexible horn" simply one with which the player must struggle to play in tune? I know there are people who believe there's more to it than this, and I would like some insight into what acoustic properties (if any) promote "slotting."
I don't have a ton of experience with different horns, but I was blown away with how easily the Barone played in tune. My other horn is all over the place. My guess is that the horns that folks say stay slotted are built so that the intonation is correct over a wider airstream/embrochure area. Visually the graph would look like a table top, rather than a smooth curve. I would guess that modern manufacturing has gotten to the point where they can control these features by minute tonehole adjustments. Maybe Phil or one of the other horn makers can chime in with some actual facts, since I'm just blindly throwing darts at the donkey here...
 

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Several threads on SOTW have discussed the "pitch slotting" property of certain saxophone models (i.e. the tendency to resist pitch adjustments away from the fingered pitch).
The term, "slotting", as used to describe brass instruments, refers to the player being able to hit and hold steady, the various harmonics of any fingered fundamental tube length - the response and stability of the integral harmonic "slots" of the overtone series, or in the acoustic terminology, the harmonic modes, by variations of embouchure and support. This has nothing to do with intonation, which refers to frequency.

One could use "slotting" when talking about saxophones, but that would refer to how easily one could produce and steadily hold, the overtone series off say, a fingered low Bb, or how easily you could over-blow to get the second register and hold it. It still has nothing to do with intonation.

Using it any other way, makes it purely, meaningless marketing terminology.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
One could use "slotting" when talking about saxophones, but that would refer to how easily one could produce and steadily hold, the overtone series off say, a fingered low Bb, or how easily you could over-blow to get the second register and hold it. It still has nothing to do with intonation. Using it any other way, makes it purely, meaningless marketing terminology.
I suspected that brass players reference slotting in the context of overtone production, since they rely so heavily upon the harmonic series. I have wondered if there is any real science to the "slotting" properties mentioned by various saxophone players and manufacturers. This is questionable. However, some saxophone players and instrument manufacturer representatives (see earlier references) certainly use the term "slotting" in reference to pitch stability of fingered fundamental pitches, not just their overtones. It indeed may be marketing or false perception.
 

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I'm referring to how a saxophone behaves when played. Some saxophones are said to be good at "slotting" (i.e. they lock into pitches when played) whereas others are said to be more "flexible" (i.e. easier for the player to bend the pitch via embouchure changes, oral cavity changes, etc.). What internal acoustical characteristics of a saxophone promote the slotting behavior? Which horns demonstrate such behavior?
Issues of terminology aside, this is a very good question. After years of playing a Selmer MK VI tenor I switched to a old Conn. In terms of intonation the Conn is like playing a violin compared to the Selmer which has more of a locked in feeling with respect to pitch flexibility.

I play a large chambered mouthpiece with an 8 tip opening. I've also played the Conn on a more closed medium chambered mouthpiece and this "fretless" effect did seem somewhat diminished. But comparatively there seems to be a fairly substantial difference between the horns in this respect.

Makes me wonder about bore size but that kind of information seems very difficult to come by. Given assertions that material and finish does not matter to the sound that pretty much leaves bore size (and taper), tone hole size and tone hole placement. If that's truly the case (and I tend to assume it is) I don't see why someone could not simply replicate the dimensions of say, an old Chu Berry Conn or an SBA Selmer and produce an instrument with the same tonal characteristics we've come to associate with those horns.

There seems to be a lot of saxophone lore surrounding these issues but when it comes down to specifics I'm still at a loss to determine the reasons for differences between vintage and modern horns in terms of sound.
 

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There seems to be a lot of saxophone lore surrounding these issues but when it comes down to specifics I'm still at a loss to determine the reasons for differences between vintage and modern horns in terms of sound.
There is no mystery to it. You can very easily cut through all the marketing hype, BS, and forum lore, by reading a few chapters and a couple of PDF publications on woodwind acoustics. You don't have to do ANY mathematics to get a good idea of what is going on. Once you have a grasp of that, you see how someone without that knowledge, using only personal playing experience and common sense reasoning, could be such easy prey for marketing predators.
 

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MM -
I've been looking for some time and I've yet to find any book or publication that describes the mechanical differences between various brands or vintages of saxophones with respect to bore size or tone hole placement (such as what models have larger or smaller bores sizes and so on).

But perhaps you're referring to more general treatises on woodwind acoustics. I've run across some and frankly still do not have a "good idea of what's going on" as it applies to horns made in the 20s and 30s as opposed to horns being made today.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
You can very easily cut through all the marketing hype, BS, and forum lore, by reading a few chapters and a couple of PDF publications on woodwind acoustics.
I would appreciate your reading recommendations if you have the references handy.
 

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I once tried a new 901 Yanagisawa tenor and found it very resistant to any bending of notes. This is the first time I have come across someone mentioning this phenomena. Whenever I bring this up I normally get a glazed look over the eyes type of reaction. So thanks for making me feel I'm not the only one!!
 
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