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.... In fact, even in the most efficient instrument, 99% of the energy input is lost to the walls (and mechanical losses at the reed), only 1% emerges as sound.
@kymarto are you sure about this? I cannot readily find back the source, but I had in mind that for example a trombone can produce up to 3W of sound power (and a symphonic orchestra at ff dynamic, around 100W). Obviously a trombone player doesn't input 300W. Something doesn't look right...

EDIT: it was my memory that's off by a factor of 100. Sorry!
 

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What, you think that saxophones don't obey the laws of physics?

Even more than with sax players, flute players believe that the metal that their instruments are made of affect the sound and response, and with reason. If you pay an extra $30,000 for a gold flute, you damn well have to believe that it plays better than the silver one of the flutist seated next to you. There have been some pretty compelling studies done with flutes. One thing that is vital is that all the instruments be identical except for the metal. If another factor is coming into play, then the experiment is worthless. With saxes, you would have to make sure that the instruments came off the assembly line from exactly the same machines at the same plant at the same time, and only afterwards got their different lacquers or body metals. This is pretty much impossible, as there is always more than one assembly station, and bore variations that are barely measurable (in the tenths of millimeters or less) can make a significant difference in the sound and response.

It has been done, however, with flutes, and here is one of the most cited studies:


Read the whole thing, it is easily understandable. Here is the spoiler:

"Tests with experienced professional flutists and listeners and one model of a flute made by Muramatsu
from 7 different materials showed no evidence that the wall material has any appreciable effect on the
sound color or dynamic range of the instrument. The common stereotypes used by flutists and flute
makers are exposed as "stereotypes".

I would further direct you this classic experiment by Coltman with flute bodies:


If you think that studies of flutes don't apply to saxes, write your arguments and let's discuss them.
I wasn't arguing at all and I'm long out of school for a debate. I simply stated on here that I have owned saxophones with different finishes in the same brand and model family that sounded and responded differently and I stated that I think it's partially the result of the material finishes. I also stated that my experience with saxophones that had different types of key work and other things that added mass, or where the brass was of a different composition, etc., respond differently for me and they sound different to me when I listen to others. I stand by those statements, and I already told you - you can't cure me here.
You asked if I thought saxophones disobey the laws of physics.
Modern science is a way of interpreting our reality, but it doesn't define it. It's not infallible and furthermore it is still developing. It certainly doesn't determine our perception of reality, or our experience of it, as you know. To me the most important thing about music is the personal experience of it, not the scientific analysis of it. Life is for the living, music is for the playing, and you are the instrument... not the saxophone. Enjoy whatever saxophones you play.
I don't know whether saxophones disobey the laws of physics as you understand them or as the current prevailing body of physics dictates, but the thing is... the prevailing body of knowledge at any given time is still changing.
"There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom."
-Robert Millikan, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1923
This thread has become a little "un-fun" for me so, I'm out.
 

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I don't know if it's possible to reach definite conclutions in all this, as like they say; any sufficiently crude magic is indistinguishable from technology..

(i'll my get my coat)
 

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selmer 26 nino, 22 curved sop, super alto, King Super 20 and Martin tenors, Stowasser tartogatos
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I wasn't arguing at all and I'm long out of school for a debate. I simply stated on here that I have owned saxophones with different finishes in the same brand and model family that sounded and responded differently and I stated that I think it's partially the result of the material finishes. I also stated that my experience with saxophones that had different types of key work and other things that added mass, or where the brass was of a different composition, etc., respond differently for me and they sound different to me when I listen to others. I stand by those statements, and I already told you - you can't cure me here.
You asked if I thought saxophones disobey the laws of physics.
Modern science is a way of interpreting our reality, but it doesn't define it. It's not infallible and furthermore it is still developing. It certainly doesn't determine our perception of reality, or our experience of it, as you know. To me the most important thing about music is the personal experience of it, not the scientific analysis of it. Life is for the living, music is for the playing, and you are the instrument... not the saxophone. Enjoy whatever saxophones you play.
I don't know whether saxophones disobey the laws of physics as you understand them or as the current prevailing body of physics dictates, but the thing is... the prevailing body of knowledge at any given time is still changing.
"There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom."
-Robert Millikan, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1923
This thread has become a little "un-fun" for me so, I'm out.
I'm sorry you are not enjoying this discussion. I will just say that the elephant in the room is the fact that all these horns that seem different because of the finish or the keyword have never been measured to see if the bore is the same. That is ever and always going to be the main determinant in the sound and character of a horn, and until you can control for that you are flying totally blind. Even if two horns are the same model and the same run, there can be and are major differences in sound and response, with identical design, metal, finish and keywork.

There is an interesting story about some research conducted on flutes in different metals by the flute professor and concert player Joan Lynn White. She and her team got five identical flutes, two in silver, one in 9K gold, one in 14K gold and one in platinum. The reason that they got two in silver was as a control: they wanted to set a baseline in variability due to manufacturing before they started trying to determine differences due to the metal. As it turned out the variability between the two silver flutes was great enough to exceed any differences due to the material. The only thing they discovered that might have been of significance was a slight difference in the 7th partial of the 9K flute, but admitted it might have been due to measurement error, and anyway it would not have made any difference to the sound.

While there is always room for refining the scientific model, it is extremely unlikely that any further discoveries are going to revolutionize acoustics, because it works in predicting things very accurately and repeatably. This is not the heliocentric revolution watiing to happen. The math works.
 

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Discussion Starter · #65 ·
@kymarto are you sure about this? I cannot readily find back the source, but I had in mind that for example a trombone can produce up to 3W of sound power (and a symphonic orchestra at ff dynamic, around 100W). Obviously a trombone player doesn't input 300W. Something doesn't look right...

EDIT: it was my memory that's off by a factor of 100. Sorry!
A great deal of useful information can be found in the attached course notes by Benade. See p. 65.
 

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i played oboe/english horn for 25 years. if you're having reed problems, it seriously
steals brain bandwidth from your ability to play. to a lesser extent, i find the same thing with sax. but i often honk along with the stereo, and that means that i'm constantly retuning to whatever i'm listening to. if they're playing close to A440 tuning, my horns are in tune. if they're way off from A440, my horn isn't so in tune with itself and playing becomes harder. and when playing becomes harder, my abilty to improvise suffers. so easy blowing is a matter of how much lipping of notes is needed.

but there are certainly other issues. i have what might be affectionately know as a mexiconn 12m, where the bell tones seem like a totally different instrument from the main body notes. the upper notes are relatively free blowing and the bell tones are nearly impossible.

but i buy cheap horns, usually retired school instruments, and fix them up. and while i'm at it, i'm totally willing to try acoustics experiments, if i come up with something i'd like to try. my latest experiment was to try reaming out the cork end of the necks of my two baritone horns, so that there was a smooth transition between the neck and body. it did wonders for the playability of both horns. so i also did it with soprano. i also remove the throats of my mouthpieces and i've flared the cork end of the neck tube, so that there's a smooth transition between the mouthpiece bore and the neck. that too, really helps with the ease of playing my horns.

now, i agree that the second mod is pretty odd, but having the inside bore
of the instrument be continuously expanding, with no steps in the bore, seems like an obvious design issue. so why was that not part of the design of any of my saxes?
 

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that experiment of seeing if an audience could distinguish which flute was made
of what, is notoriously bad science. if you buy a platinum flute, chances are very good that
it was thoroughly tested and tweaked. if you buy a cheaper flute, chances are it was manufactured and shipped, with no adjustments.

i play flutes and spent years making headjoints for my alto flute. the material matters. i used form tools, to make sure that i could repeat a design. and i made lots of headjoints out of plastic, to make sure that i could repeat a design and that the headjoints would sound the same. i'm an engineer, so i used as much scientific method as i could. different woods have different tones. and i suppose different metals have different tones, as well. at the extreme, we used to use aluminum fixtures at a shock and vibration lab i worked at, unless the tests needed to be exacting. then we'd use magnesium jigs.

but ultimately, you are the one who is going to hear and feel the differences. so get equipment that helps you sound the way you want to sound, regardless of what others think. i like my nuvo plastic flute, for example, more than i like my metal ones. i don't expect anyone else to feel that way and i honestly don't care.
 

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i played oboe/english horn for 25 years. if you're having reed problems, it seriously
steals brain bandwidth from your ability to play. to a lesser extent, i find the same thing with sax. but i often honk along with the stereo, and that means that i'm constantly retuning to whatever i'm listening to. if they're playing close to A440 tuning, my horns are in tune. if they're way off from A440, my horn isn't so in tune with itself and playing becomes harder. and when playing becomes harder, my abilty to improvise suffers. so easy blowing is a matter of how much lipping of notes is needed.

but there are certainly other issues. i have what might be affectionately know as a mexiconn 12m, where the bell tones seem like a totally different instrument from the main body notes. the upper notes are relatively free blowing and the bell tones are nearly impossible.

but i buy cheap horns, usually retired school instruments, and fix them up. and while i'm at it, i'm totally willing to try acoustics experiments, if i come up with something i'd like to try. my latest experiment was to try reaming out the cork end of the necks of my two baritone horns, so that there was a smooth transition between the neck and body. it did wonders for the playability of both horns. so i also did it with soprano. i also remove the throats of my mouthpieces and i've flared the cork end of the neck tube, so that there's a smooth transition between the mouthpiece bore and the neck. that too, really helps with the ease of playing my horns.

now, i agree that the second mod is pretty odd, but having the inside bore
of the instrument be continuously expanding, with no steps in the bore, seems like an obvious design issue. so why was that not part of the design of any of my saxes?
There actually has to be a discontinuity at the end of the mpc, because that causes a small reflection that travels back up the mpc and helps to open the reed back up. No matter how much you ream out the neck end, you are going to have a step there. If you ream it out, anyway what you have done is to reduce the step edge, but there is still a discontinuity there, albeit more gradual. While ideally there would be no steps in the bore, there are lots of them. Every tone hole is an edge in the bore. Reaming out the throat if the mpc simply changes its internal volume, which somewhat rearranges the highest partial impedances. The mpc anyway is a huge interruption in the bore profile.
 

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selmer 26 nino, 22 curved sop, super alto, King Super 20 and Martin tenors, Stowasser tartogatos
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that experiment of seeing if an audience could distinguish which flute was made
of what, is notoriously bad science. if you buy a platinum flute, chances are very good that
it was thoroughly tested and tweaked. if you buy a cheaper flute, chances are it was manufactured and shipped, with no adjustments.

i play flutes and spent years making headjoints for my alto flute. the material matters. i used form tools, to make sure that i could repeat a design. and i made lots of headjoints out of plastic, to make sure that i could repeat a design and that the headjoints would sound the same. i'm an engineer, so i used as much scientific method as i could. different woods have different tones. and i suppose different metals have different tones, as well. at the extreme, we used to use aluminum fixtures at a shock and vibration lab i worked at, unless the tests needed to be exacting. then we'd use magnesium jigs.

but ultimately, you are the one who is going to hear and feel the differences. so get equipment that helps you sound the way you want to sound, regardless of what others think. i like my nuvo plastic flute, for example, more than i like my metal ones. i don't expect anyone else to feel that way and i honestly don't care.
No, your understanding of what Coltman achieved is notoriously bad. What he proved was that, at least in the case of this experiment, people who thought they could distinguish flutes by the material of which the body was made were fooling themselves. Your point that an expensive platinum flute may be better set up than a cheaper flute says nothing about the material of which the flute is made. And anyway, did you read this?


The spoiler:

"CONCLUSION
● The sound analyses showed that each flutist was able to realize his or her individual conception of an ideal sound almost 100% with each instrument.

● The examination of the RMS values for the scales played over 3 octaves impressively proves that the characteristic pattern of the „envelope" for a player is clearly recognizable on all instruments, but that no pattern typical of an instrument was present on different players.

● A statistical analysis of averaged sound spectra (cepstrum with 128 coefficients up to 16 kHz) showed that the spectra of the players differ from each other by up to 7 dB at various frequency regions, while the maximum difference caused by the played instruments was only 0.5 dB at most.

● An even clearer picture shows the evaluation of the „dynamic range", that is for each of the 4 notes a4, f5, d6 and bb6, the difference between the lowest possible and highest possible volume.The achieved dynamic range by each flutist, averaged over the four tones and over all flutes is between 7 dB and 19.6 dB. Therefore the highest obtained dynamic is three times as much as the lowest. In contrary to that the mean value of all players and the 4 above mentioned notes for each instrument: The difference of the instrument with the smallest dynamic range (14 karat gold flute = 14.57 dB) and that with the largest range (platinum flute = 16.14 dB) is only 1.57 dB. The possibility that this difference becomes zero with an increased number of test players cannot be excluded.

● It must not be forgotten, however, that the analysed sounds represent the product of musician and instrument, i.e. what the audience gets to hear! This doesn't say anything about whether one or the other flutist can reach his ideal sound more easily (or only with difficulty) with one or the other flute. To investigate this, a different setting would be required.

● The common stereotypes regarding the timbre caused by the material, which are persistently held by flutists and flute makers, have been exposed as „stereotypes".Although the test subjects were very experienced flutists from top international orchestras with an average of 20 years of professional experience and were all firmly convinced that they could immediately tell from the sound whether it was a silver, gold or platinum flute, the results of the instrument recognition tests were a complete disaster. Even those people who recorded the sounds themselves were not able to identify the instruments correctly when listening to their own sounds."

Woods will have slight influence on the sound because of porosity and grain patterns. If a material is sufficiently rigid to put the resonance frequencies of the material above playing frequencies, the material simply will not make a difference. As an engineer you should be able to understand that the only way material can influence sound is by vibrating and adding some of its own sound, or because that vibration changes the local geometry at the point of vibration.

Your example of jigs is flawed, because this has to do with elliptical deformation stresses. If you tap a silver headjoint it will make a totally different sound than if you tap a nickel or wood one, but that is an elliptical deformation, which is totally different from the way pressure is distributed in a sound wave, which is equally around the circumference of the tube. It is like trying to blow up a metal tube like a balloon. There is, in fact, a slight expansion of the tube due to the pressure, but it is extremely small (on the order of a micron). That translates to a output sound 40 dB below that of the standing wave in the tube, which is 10,000x weaker and not audible. Nor does an expansion on that level have any perceptible effect on the impedances of the tube.

What is true is that different materials react differently to forming, so it is entirely possible that your head joints in different materials have different enough geometric proportions to affect the sound. You would need to check dimensions to +- .01mm, as variations this small can affect partials if the variation is over an area that is within a quarter wavelength of a significant partial frequency.
 
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