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Discussion Starter #1
It occurred to me that one of the factors which makes the action on a better quality saxophone feel better is the weight of the keys.

With this in mind what do members think of the idea of placing behind each pad a few bb gun like steel pellets, embossed in the cardbourd backing so as to make the pad and by extention the key weigh more?

This should be done in such a way as to not to affect the sealing of the pad.

Another way would be to use metal instead of pearl or plastic for the touch pieces.

Or you could both use the pellets and metal instead of pearl or plastic for the touch pieces.

Incidentally, I used ruby coloured shellac as a filler for a missing pearl and it feels good and looks nice.

Perhaps it could be possible to sholder a bit of interestingly shape metal in the pearl holder and coat it with shellac, and in this way add to the mass of the key?
 

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No, this is bass-ackwards. You want to reduce weight as much as possible and adjust spring tension accordingly. Why do more work for nothing, both in repairing and in playing?

Toby
 

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If you really like this idea, you could use Resotech solid silver oversize resonators...never really understood why these are popular for the reasons Toby mentioned...
 

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You're robbing Peter to pay Paul. It's basically a balance between spring quality, type, diameter and length, vs. the weight it is lifting. There are several manufacturers of saxophones now using ordinary brass for the touchpieces on main stack keys.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
So I am mistaken in thinking that the comfortable action of a superior horn is due to the keys weighing more than keys weigh on cheaper horns.
 

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What you are finding in a good horn is, I believe, the lighter springing, which allows you to feel the weight of the key through its acceleration as you close it. Cheaper keywork has heavier springing to compensate for certain deficiencies, and you automatically increase finger pressure without realizing it. So now you are pushing mainly against the spring tension, which is linear, as opposed to the inertia of key weight, which is not.

Toby
 

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On a feel-good sax you are also feeling the lack of great INCREASE of finger pressure required, DURING the travel of the key. That is, the springs are not too STIFF in their action.

This needs low diameter to length ratios in the springs, which is balanced with the strength requirement of the spring, and the available space for the spring's length. Also therefore coming into the equation is the positioning of spring cradles and posts, in order to give the springs length, and therefore a whole raft of other design considerations in the mechanism and the layout of keys. It was done well in the Mark-VI, which is probably one of the main reasons it is so liked. (Asian makers typically now do it better than makers in other countries.)

To make the keys heavier is highly counterproductive, because it means the springs must be stronger, which means the diameter to length ratio needs to be INCREASED.

Another design consideration, that is related to weight, is the distribution of the weight about the hinge, the keys "moment of inertia". The analysis of this quickly takes one into some fairly heavy maths. See:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moment_of_inertia

Yet another consideration is the springiness characteristics of the key stops themselves (and also other parts of the key)... And also the way this springiness interacts with the springiness other parts (such as the body, and linkage arms) when they stop the movement of the key. This affects the way the keys 'bounce' to a stop. On some saxes this bounce is excessive, so extra spring tension is used as a band-aid. Silencing materials on key stops and in linkages are also involved with this, in the damping they provide.

My guess is that a lot of this engineering design, when it is good, is carried out intuitively by the design engineer (if there is one!) and then any conspicuous anomalies re-done. I suspect that mechanical engineers with this type of intuition that is applicable to saxes, are rather rare. Selmer's modern approach seems rather bull-like, to me, compared with Mark VI. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Yes, Kymarto what you say makes sense.The problem then is how to have springs that are light without being slow.

If the springs are both light and quick, you are suggesting there will be that sensation of acceleration as the key closes.

Putting weights in the keys is not going to help create this sensation of momentum under the fingers,

Perhaps the answer lies in the selection of springs that have a favorable diameter-length ratio ie springs which are not to thick.

And also perhaps in the way the spring is bend.

This was what I was getting at in my post How to Get the Most out of Springs

Thorp in the Manual of Woodwind Repair suggests bending the spring in a gentle curve from the base upward.

Perhaps this is an important point in imparting springiness to a spring.

He also suggests burnishing old springs so as to revive them.

Or perhaps one could even try to burnish new springs.

As Gordon suggests, there is a limit to what a spring can do since its length is determined by the construction of the horn.

Further stiffer springs are somettimes necessary to compensate for imperfections in the horn’s construction.
 

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There is another consideration, which is the precision of the keywork itself. Good keywork means tight tolerances without either slop or binding. If there is slop then the action doesn't feel crisp and precise. Conversely, if there is binding then the spring tension has to be increased to return the key against mechanical drag, not just the weight of the key.

As Gordon mentions in his excellent post, design plays an important role in feel, but then so does the setup. At this point, with good machine tools everywhere, one of the main costs of an instrument is whatever handwork is done. Cheap instruments generally have a lot less handwork than more expensive ones (one would hope). Key tolerances are sloppier so that things can be thrown together and work without the need for expensive hand adjustment.

A good tech can do a lot for a cheap horn, but at the end of the day precision is important both so that a tech can do a good setup and so that the setup lasts. It is not just how a horn sounds, but how it feels that is important, and at the end of the day the latter is much more costly than the former.

Toby
 

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It should also be mentioned here that some players do not like a light feel in the keys and springs, but instead prefer more resistance for a more crisp feel to the fingering of the sax. Cannonball saxes which are becoming more popular all the time add to the weight of the keys by using real stones rather than plastic or Pearl's mother for the touchpieces.

I would also mention that the Cannonball folks claim that the stones in the keys actually make a difference in the sound, but I won't say that because it will start another 50 post thread on acoustics, and we wouldn't want that now, would we? :D

John
 

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jbtsax said:
I would also mention that the Cannonball folks claim that the stones in the keys actually make a difference in the sound...
You mean it plays with more stones, than other horns?
 

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jbtsax said:
rather than...Pearl's mother for the touchpieces.
Absolutely right! I've met Pearl's mama, and not even Pearl's papa wants to touch her. :twisted:
 

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Take a tip from the racing community and lighten the key cups by DRILLING.
 

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jbtsax said:
I would also mention that the Cannonball folks claim that the stones in the keys actually make a difference in the sound....
People only buy those for playing hard rock. Don't they?
 

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I believe that I heard about saxes with titanium keys to lighten weight and supposedly improve response.

BTW John, I suppose if the stones in those keys added inertia and stopped the keys from vibrating as much it might just change the sound and response...

Double-blind tests! We need double-blind tests!!!

Toby
 

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"and stopped the keys from vibrating as much"
It may well do, and yes, an effectively more rigid container of the air column may well alter toen and response as you say.

I guess that would have to be balanced with that lovely feel of vibrating keys, which make the player think he is playing better, and may even inspire hiim to do so, whether or not the weights contributed!

LOL!
 

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jbtsax said:
I would also mention that the Cannonball folks claim that the stones in the keys actually make a difference in the sound...

John
Well, I know that when I am stoned it certainly seems that there is a difference in the sound, so perhaps when the sax is stoned the same thing applies ;^}

Toby
 
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