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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all, my first post here although I've been watching for a long time before I write.

I recently ordered my long desired Pro Bari and during my research regarding finishes, materials etc, I felt very confused...

-We know that the sound is produced by the vibration of the AIR in the horn, right? Nice.

-However, we see all different types of metal supposedly giving this or that quality to the sound. Hmm... If the sound is produced by the air's vibration, then the shape of the tube is more important, no?
-In addition, I saw "f sharp key haters" saying that the extra metal for that key adds mass to the horn so it isn't so freely vibrating. Let alone lacquer which grabs the horn from the throat and it cannot breathe...
Until now, I thought that the air inside the horn is vibrating, not the horn but it seems that the horn is vibrating, too?
In a video I saw a pro player saying that "when I took the horn in my hands it felt so heavy, I knew it would sound great". I guess less metal vibration gives better sound here...
To make things even worse, I watched another video yesterday with a guy playing on a plastic tenor. Without looking, you wouldn't be able to tell he was playing on a plastic horn.

So, what's true? What really affects the sound -apart from the player and the mouthpiece- and to what extend?

FYI, after reading hundreds of comments, reviews and watching hours and hours of videos (and being unable to play test any of the saxes in my short list), I decided to just get the Pro horn that seemed solid and I liked aesthetically the most: P. Mauriat PMB300 UL. It will be here any time soon.

Any light on the subject would be greatly appreciated. Happy new Year to all!
 

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You are liable to get different answers, but the scientific answer is that the air column produces the sound. The material is involved--just feel the sax when playing, you can feel the vibrations. However, the vibrations in the material are not audible. The sound is affected most by the shape of the bore.
Here is a good lay article on sax acoustics:

 

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Well, here we go again. Will this one top the Klangbogen thread with over 2000 posts? 😎 I guess we'll see.

To respond to the OP, from what all the experts say, you are correct in believing the vibrating air column is what you hear, not the resonating brass, bronze, plastic or copper alloy the sax is made from. But then to compose that sentence I found I used the word "believe" which is disconcerting. Is it belief or indiputable science? heh.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks hakukani, very interesting! Could somebody argue that the material affects how the air vibrates?
 

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Thanks hakukani, very interesting! Could somebody argue that the material affects how the air vibrates?
You could certainly argue it, and folks on here have. I come down on the side of no. The person on SOTW that is the best at explaining the acoustics is member @kymarto.
 
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Thanks hakukani, very interesting! Could somebody argue that the material affects how the air vibrates?
People here will argue both sides of most any issue vehemently - whether there are facts to be considered or not.

Welcome to SotW. Congrats on your purchase.

If you really want to improve the sound of your horn, then practice.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Well, here we go again. Will this one top the Klangbogen thread with over 2000 posts? 😎 I guess we'll see.

To respond to the OP, from what all the experts say, you are correct in believing the vibrating air column is what you hear, not the resonating brass, bronze, plastic or copper alloy the sax is made from. But then to compose that sentence I found I used the word "believe" which is disconcerting. Is it belief or indiputable science? heh.
Well, no matter what one believes, there IS an indisputable scientific answer, no? Which can contain a percentage of material participation to the sound. I just wonder whether this percentage (if it exists) is worth the time and the trouble.
 

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Well, no matter what one believes, there IS an indisputable scientific answer, no? Which can contain a percentage of material participation to the sound. I just wonder whether this percentage (if it exists) is worth the time and the trouble.
As a scientist (with decades of experience in materials and physics, I can tell you that it is not worth the time and trouble. Yes, there exist reasonable theories of why it doesn’t matter, but given the vagaries of doing the experiments right, there will always remain doubters.

Practice.
 

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Thanks hakukani, very interesting! Could somebody argue that the material affects how the air vibrates?
The material or "wall vibrations" in musical wind instruments has been studied extensively by acoustic scientists. Their findings show that in brass instruments played at the loudest levels, the vibrations of the large, thin metal bell do have an effect upon the soundwaves that are projected into the room. Simply put, those vibrations produce a more "brassy" sound with a bit more edge.

The latest research on reed blown woodwinds is that the wall vibrations exist, but are too weak produce a sound that can be heard. They also found that the conditions under which the wall vibrations can "couple with" (affect) the vibrations in the air column inside the "tube" are when the walls are extremely thin (.2mm) and slightly oval shaped---conditions not found on typical musical instruments.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks Dr G, I do practice!

However, I'm not talking about better or worse sound, I'm talking about qualities like warmth, punch, brightness etc. If an experienced player with great sound is given two identical horns made of say, bronze and silver, with the same mouthpiece setup will s/he sound different?
 

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Well, no matter what one believes, there IS an indisputable scientific answer, no? Which can contain a percentage of material participation to the sound. I just wonder whether this percentage (if it exists) is worth the time and the trouble.
The Klangbogen thread I referenced is more about hanging high mass metallic objects from the horn to change its resonance and response than about the material the horn is made from but the issue at hand is the same - does one metal vs. another metal make a difference in the sound quality of a saxophone. If you want to read through the thousands of posts on the subject you'll come to realize there isn't any scientific consensus. There have been a few scientific studies but I found the ones referenced here to contain too much subjectivity to be conclusive. Several members here who have knowledge of scientific method and materials science have proposed experiments but so far no one has acted on them, to my knowledge.

It's an endlessly interesting subject among musicians but until someone designs a solid scientifically based study the answer is still in question.
 

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Thanks hakukani, very interesting! Could somebody argue that the material affects how the air vibrates?
It does, but not in any way that has a real world effect. For example, a horn made of foam will certainly dampen the sound and have a major effect. But the rigid materials used today like brass, bronze, copper, etc. will have no audible difference.

In spite of this fact, which was known to Adolph Sax himself back when he invented the instrument, people continue to believe what they want to believe. Personally, if I bought a silver or bronze horn, it would be for aesthetic reasons only because I understand the science behind the sax’s sound.

If you’re looking for someone on this board to tell you different, then you’ll certainly get that a few posts from now. It’s up to you whether you believe opinions and anecdotes over facts.
 

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As I continue saying, even if the metal had any influence due to the incredibly minute energy of the passive vibrations of the cone compared to the energy of the air column, any and all of these vibrations would be absolutely absorbed by the very fact that it is made of many pieces AND thatr they are helf by two hands (the way vibrations of a bell are dampened) , the mouth and the clothes where the horn makes contact with the body.

The only way in which metal MAY play a role is in horns with pulled toneholes (but there are plenty with soldered toneholes like my King) , where if you pull the toneholes of brass or bronze or solid silver (vet very very few horns made of that) the angle of the base of the chimney MAY be slightly different due to the resistance of the material being different assuming the force applied stays the same. But that is absolutely all.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thanks Lydian,

I'm not looking for a particular answer, I just wanted to hear opinions (or facts) by experienced players and players who also have a scientific background. My reason says that material, f sharp key and lacquer may slightly affect the tone but so slightly that it's not worth mentioning it and definitely not worth paying serious money for it. But that's what I think, without having played a bronze or silver horn side by side with a brass horn, lacquered and unlacquered, with and without an f sharp key. So, I am looking for input to support that belief, or facts reasonable enough to overturn it.
 

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I'm not looking for a particular answer, I just wanted to hear opinions (or facts) by experienced players and players who also have a scientific background. My reason says that material, f sharp key and lacquer may slightly affect the tone but so slightly that it's not worth mentioning it and definitely not worth paying serious money for it. But that's what I think, without having played a bronze or silver horn side by side with a brass horn, lacquered and unlacquered, with and without an f sharp key. So, I am looking for input to support that belief, or facts reasonable enough to overturn it.
Use the search function. There are countless posts on this topic on SOTW.
 

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Thanks Dr G, I do practice!

However, I'm not talking about better or worse sound, I'm talking about qualities like warmth, punch, brightness etc. If an experienced player with great sound is given two identical horns made of say, bronze and silver, with the same mouthpiece setup will s/he sound different?

According to The Encyclopaedia Britannica, Sax "discovered a new principle in the manufacture of wind instruments, viz., that it is the proportions given to a column of air vibrating in a sonorous tube, and these alone, that determine the character of the timbre produced: the material of the walls of the tube is not of the slightest importance so long as it offers enough resistance."
 
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