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· Registered
129 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I understand that the principle in venting is to bring the key down to the point just before the note begins to sound flat.

Is a saxophone designed like a recorder in the sense that a good quality recorder’s tonehole plays true when unobstructed and than is the end of the matter

Or is it designed for the tone hole to flatten the note a little thus imparting a richness and an intuneness that the note would not otherwise have?

· Distinguished SOTW Member
selmer 26 nino, 22 curved sop, super alto, King Super 20 and Martin tenors, Stowasser tartogatos
3,445 Posts
It is not possible with a keyed instrument to have the tone hole completely unobstructed. Key heights are important to correct intonation, and different manufacturers design their instruments for different key heights. It is not a question of imparting richness, but rather of a compromise between key height for good action and reasonable tone.


· Distinguished Technician & SOTW Columnist. RIP, Yo
17,082 Posts
In my experience, for any woodwind instrument:

First imagine a pad opening well above the tone hole, say a couple of centimetres. As we lower the key, we go through a region where:

a. Progressively lowering the key makes no difference to pitch or tone.

Lowering the key further still, we eventually enter a region where:

b. Progressively lowering the key progressively flattens the note, but does not affect tone.

Then even more lowering, brings us to a region where:

c. Progressive lowering the key progressively flattens the note and dulls the tone.


1. Some keys on most saxes, operate near the bottom of region 'a', and the note is in tune. No problem.

2. Some saxes have notes with key in region 'a', and the note is still sharp. Poor acoustic design! Technicians possibly resort of partial filling of tone holes.

3. Some keys on most saxes, operate in region 'b'. For keys in this region, the technician needs to be attentive to the venting, in order to get the tuning right. (Of course there is also the issue of the player liking to have the stack keys with no 'double action'.)

4. Some saxes have notes with key in region 'c', and the the note is still sharp. Poor acoustic design. Technicians may resort to the claimed benefits of lining the tone hole with sand paper, or the equivalent.
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