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Other things being equal, SPL is a function of root-mean-square sound pressure.
RMS sound pressure is in turn a function of frequency and the rate of airflow being put though the horn.

So I predict that for a single horn, two totally different players on two totally different mouthpieces will generate the same SPL, as long as they're exciting the same frequencies at the same airflow rate.

:popcorn:
No argument there. But we're talking about the upper limit of a closed MP vs. an open one. Blowing as hard as you can will ultimately cause the reed to close and stay closed. This happens at a lower pressure on a closed MP than an open one. So at some point the SPL on the closed MP goes to zero since the airflow goes to zero. Blowing just as hard on the open MP will not cause the reed to close up, producing a higher SPL at the higher flow rate which was unobtainable on the closed MP.

Since you know your physics, you know you can get more flow through a garden hose than through a straw. Same principle.

My point is, since the upper limit on flow rate is higher on a bigger opening, the upper limit on volume is as well. But I agree that there are many other factors at play (reed hardness, baffle, embouchure, etc.), and that an opening can be so big you reach a point of diminishing returns.
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
Thanks for continuing the discussion, folks.

Another factor that comes to mind as I read these discussions, is the variation in restoring force of the tapered reed. Most mouthpieces vary the length of the lay as they go to larger tip openings. Since reeds are similarly tapered - although not a match - there must be other than a linear relationship in the restoring force of the reed as it swings from max back to center. There is also the matter of single cut reeds vs double cut.

If we consider that spl is a function of frequency, when the peak frequency shifts for any reason, there will be a commensurate shift in measured output, even if overall energy output is constant.

Bottom line: For a given reed, there must be a set of optimum tip opening/lay length parameters. In the second order, there are factors of chamber design and geometric volume.
 

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Two comments on this thread so far about "proper breath support". But what does that actually mean? Air pressure (which is not the same as velocity)? Maintaining a rigid oral/throat cavity?
It's a very difficult thing to explain. I said earlier about just blowing harder, but it isn't just that. I think air support is more about constant pressure than air speed. Could be complete nonesense, but it is something I think of as diapphragm support rather than squeezing your throat to speed up the air.
 

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It's a very difficult thing to explain. I said earlier about just blowing harder, but it isn't just that. I think air support is more about constant pressure than air speed. Could be complete nonesense, but it is something I think of as diapphragm support rather than squeezing your throat to speed up the air.
That's the Venturi effect. For a given pressure from the diaphragm, any narrowing of the throat will cause the pressure to drop and the velocity to increase. In practice, you'd probably unconsciously increase your diaphragm pressure to make up for the pressure drop. However, the Venturi effect would be most pronounced in the mouthpiece opening making the velocity much greater and pressure much lower at that point. But things get really complicated due to the vibration of the reed, causing the pressure and velocity to fluctuate at the frequency of the sound being produced. To quantify the boundary conditions, take the cross sectional area of the mouthpiece opening for the open and closed mouthpiece and plug those into the Venturi equations.

Or, just play two different mouthpieces, one open, one closed, and see how loud you can play on each after finding the optimum reed for each.

For me, there is a sweet spot where the opening is just right. Too open, and I cannot push enough air to make the reed speak. Too closed, and the reed closes at the pressures required for sufficient volume.
 

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Two comments on this thread so far about "proper breath support". But what does that actually mean? Air pressure (which is not the same as velocity)? Maintaining a rigid oral/throat cavity?
My first teacher taught me this about breath support:

1) Throat should be open and relaxed.

2) When breathing in, diaphragm goes down and lower gut goes out

3) When breathing back out to play, lower gut muscles tensed as if someone was going to punch your navel. Having that hard cavity makes the tone better and projection better and that's what he called the support in breath support.

It works for singing too!

Insights and incites by Notes
 

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It's a very difficult thing to explain. I said earlier about just blowing harder, but it isn't just that. I think air support is more about constant pressure than air speed. Could be complete nonesense, but it is something I think of as diapphragm support rather than squeezing your throat to speed up the air.
Pretty much my understanding too. I remember working on that with a good friend, professional French horn player. He insisted on pushing the air with the belly muscles (diaphragm), and not the chest. The flow is much more stable, and doesn't get weaker as your lungs empty. AFAIK, singers work on that too.
 

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I believe that the overall "amplitude" of the sound waves is directly proportional to the distance traveled by the reed throughout it's opening and closing cycle. This travel is determined by the tip opening, and lay of the mouthpiece. the tightness of the player's embouchure. the amount of mouthpiece in the mouth, the amount of lip in contact with the reed, and the volume and velocity of the air. The amplitude of each of the harmonics in relation to the fundamental pitch is partly determined by the baffle and other geometry inside the mouthpiece and by the amplitude of the fundamental itself.

In "The Fundamentals of Musical Acoustics" p.442 Benade writes:

". . . starting from pianissimo playing levels there are virtually no harmonics present in the tone beyond the fundamental; then for every doubling in the amplitude of the fundamental component, harmonic 2 increases from its initial tiny value by a factor of 2² = 4; similarly harmonic 3 will grow by a factor of 2³ = 8 for each doubling of the fundamental component. . . . Once the blowing pressure is raised to the point where the reed is blown entirely closed for a portion of each cycle of its oscillation, the player notices a change of feel, the listener notices a change of tone, and the higher partials tend to grow in a way that parallels the growth of the fundamental."
 

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I believe that the overall "amplitude" of the sound waves is directly proportional to the distance traveled by the reed throughout it's opening and closing cycle. This travel is determined by the tip opening, and lay of the mouthpiece. the tightness of the player's embouchure. the amount of mouthpiece in the mouth, the amount of lip in contact with the reed, and the volume and velocity of the air. The amplitude of each of the harmonics in relation to the fundamental pitch is partly determined by the baffle and other geometry inside the mouthpiece and by the amplitude of the fundamental itself.
Thanks for the reference. Matches my earlier statement that started this thread:
If you want more power and volume while un-mic'd, you must get a bigger tip opening due to the laws of physics. Bigger tip means higher max amplitude which translates to higher max volume.
So keeping everything except tip opening constant, the science shows that bigger tip = longer travel = bigger max amplitude = bigger max volume.
 

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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
Thanks for the reference. Matches my earlier statement that started this thread:

So keeping everything except tip opening constant, the science shows that bigger tip = longer travel = bigger max amplitude = bigger max volume.
What makes one mouthpiece of the same tip opening louder than another?
 

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What makes one mouthpiece of the same tip opening louder than another?
Exactly. At the same tip opening, some mouthpieces are much louder than others. The most extreme example I have played was a François Louis SP Tenor mouthpiece which could reach incredible volume at a moderate tip opening and moderate blowing pressure. I would guess the chamber geometry plays an important role, but I don't have any understanding of which parameters of the chamber determine the amplification.
 

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What makes one mouthpiece of the same tip opening louder than another?
We've already covered this many, many times - baffle, facing shape, facing length, reed, chamber size, chamber shape, oral cavity shape, oral cavity volume, embouchure, air velocity, air pressure, air direction, all the same factors that affect other aspects of tone.

What is the purpose of this exercise, to narrow it down to a couple of things? If so, my top three (besides technique) would be baffle, reed, opening, in that order. Regarding technique, I'd say blowing harder and taking in more mouthpiece would increase volume, but at the expense of tone quality and control.

In the OP's case, I assume he'd changed all the other variables. He pointed out that he was playing a very closed mouthpiece. The one variable left was tip opening.

What I love most about this forum is that we can take one simple, obvious piece of advice and spend weeks picking it apart rather than just trying it. If I wanted to get more volume, I'd try changing all of the above, then if I still wasn't loud enough, I'd get a more open mouthpiece. Simple. No need for equations or theories or arguments.
 

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Discussion Starter · #32 ·
We've already covered this many, many times - baffle, facing shape, facing length, reed, chamber size, chamber shape, oral cavity shape, oral cavity volume, embouchure, air velocity, air pressure, air direction, all the same factors that affect other aspects of tone.

What is the purpose of this exercise, to narrow it down to a couple of things? If so, my top three (besides technique) would be baffle, reed, opening, in that order. Regarding technique, I'd say blowing harder and taking in more mouthpiece would increase volume, but at the expense of tone quality and control.

In the OP's case, I assume he'd changed all the other variables. He pointed out that he was playing a very closed mouthpiece. The one variable left was tip opening.

What I love most about this forum is that we can take one simple, obvious piece of advice and spend weeks picking it apart rather than just trying it. If I wanted to get more volume, I'd try changing all of the above, then if I still wasn't loud enough, I'd get a more open mouthpiece. Simple. No need for equations or theories or arguments.
Yes, you gave your simplistic reason in another thread, and I avoided hijacking that thread to have this discussion. If you don't care to participate, you don't have to. Some of us are intrigued by what makes the saxophone work, when others are satisfied by the simple answer in the back of the book.
 

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.... I think air support is more about constant pressure than air speed...
Air support refers to the pressure exerted into the air by tension in the abdominal muscles and the intercostal (between-rib) muscles.
That pressure (energy) is converted to air speed (energy) between the reed and mouthpiece, and that speed will depend on parameters of reed, mouthpiece and emboushure.

... Could be complete nonsense, but it is something I think of as diaphragm support
The diaphragm is used only for inhaling. It is passive (or should be - Alexander technique) during exhaling. It is pushed upwards again during exhale by pressure from the gut which originates from the tension in the abdominals and intercostals. Contrary to misconception by many wind and singing teachers.

... rather than squeezing your throat to speed up the air.
If you squeeze your throat or raise the pack of your tongue sufficiently to significantly speed up the air, the air will return to its previous speed within the mouth cavity, where the constriction ends. It will have lost a little energy in the process.
 

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My first teacher taught me this about breath support:

1) Throat should be open and relaxed.
2) When breathing in, diaphragm goes down and lower gut goes out
3) When breathing back out to play, lower gut muscles tensed as if someone was going to punch your navel. Having that hard cavity makes the tone better and projection better and that's what he called the support in breath support.
It works for singing too!
Correct, but intercostal muscles are involved too. Some of them can spread the ribs during inhalation, and others draw the ribs together for exhalation. Clever design, having both!
 

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We've already covered this many, many times - baffle, facing shape, facing length, reed, chamber size, chamber shape, oral cavity shape, oral cavity volume, embouchure, air velocity, air pressure, air direction, all the same factors that affect other aspects of tone.

What is the purpose of this exercise, to narrow it down to a couple of things? If so, my top three (besides technique) would be baffle, reed, opening, in that order. Regarding technique, I'd say blowing harder and taking in more mouthpiece would increase volume, but at the expense of tone quality and control.

In the OP's case, I assume he'd changed all the other variables. He pointed out that he was playing a very closed mouthpiece. The one variable left was tip opening.

What I love most about this forum is that we can take one simple, obvious piece of advice and spend weeks picking it apart rather than just trying it. If I wanted to get more volume, I'd try changing all of the above, then if I still wasn't loud enough, I'd get a more open mouthpiece. Simple. No need for equations or theories or arguments.
Yes, you gave your simplistic reason in another thread, and I avoided hijacking that thread to have this discussion. If you don't care to participate, you don't have to. Some of us are intrigued by what makes the saxophone work, when others are satisfied by the simple answer in the back of the book.
Because the OP tried changing every other variable already. Tip size was the only obvious thing left. It's a simple problem with a simple solution.

If somebody posted that they were having problems watering their garden with a straw, would the first recommendation not be to use something larger than a straw? Or would you instead tell them various techniques that would slightly improve flow through the straw? Often, the simplest and most obvious solution is the correct one.
 

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Could be complete nonesense, but it is something I think of as diapphragm support
The diaphragm is used only for inhaling. It is passive (or should be - Alexander technique) during exhaling. It is pushed upwards again during exhale by pressure from the gut which originates from the tension in the abdominals and intercostals. Contrary to misconception by many wind and singing teachers.
You are correct (although I'm not even sure the diaphragm is actually "used" when inhaling, being a mainly involuntary muscle. I have often said "using" that it is more of a visualisation technique than something most people can literally control. Hence I said "I think of as diaphragm support." Although it actually involves other muscles that are less easy to picture and explain.

Because the OP tried changing every other variable already. Tip size was the only obvious thing left. It's a simple problem with a simple solution.

If somebody posted that they were having problems watering their garden with a straw, would the first recommendation not be to use something larger than a straw? Or would you instead tell them various techniques that would slightly improve flow through the straw? Often, the simplest and most obvious solution is the correct one.
An odd analogy, but if they actually wanted to use a straw, it would be worth checking it was actaully connected to a decent water supply, and that it wasn't leaking. However I'd venture to suggest there is a lot more to playing the saxophone than making things wet.
 

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An odd analogy, but if they actually wanted to use a straw, it would be worth checking it was actaully connected to a decent water supply, and that it wasn't leaking. However I'd venture to suggest there is a lot more to playing the saxophone than making things wet.
We're way past all of that. We've checked the supply and checked for leaks. The OP knows how to play and would have already addressed all those other possible causes. The ONLY variable that he changed recently was going to a closed mouthpiece. So the obvious solution is to go back to a more open mouthpiece.

I'm not great with analogies, but I tried to find one related to cross sectional area and flow rate that was easy to understand. That's a very direct correlation to air flow through a small mouthpiece opening. How about this one: I get really hot in my car, and my AC vents are 95% closed. How do I make my car cooler? My answer: Open your vents. Everybody else's answer: roll down your windows, install a fan, check your freon, wet yourself down, take off all your clothes, put ice in your seat, do everything under the sun besides touching those vents. All of those will solve the problem. But the easiest and most obvious solution is opening the vents. Apparently that's far too simplistic when there are so many other factors. God forbid we try the simple solution first.

If somebody posted that they get a terrible sound when they play their mouthpiece upside down, I'd be crucified for telling them to play it right side up. Everybody else would say to try a different reed, use more air support, try a different ligature, add a high mass screw, wear a stylish hat.

I seem to be having a lot of trouble getting my point across. So I'll try to reiterate in the most succinct way I can. Maximum amplitude is directly proportional to tip opening.
 

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If somebody posted that they get a terrible sound when they play their mouthpiece upside down, I'd be crucified for telling them to play it right side up. Everybody else would say to try a different reed, use more air support, try a different ligature, add a high mass screw, wear a stylish hat.
It seems very strange that you consider you are the only person with the right answer. I would also say, play with the mouthpiece the right way up (In fact I have sometimes played with it upsiade down to purposefully sound awful) and I can't see why you would be crucified.

But I am at a loss to undwerstand what this or air conditioning has to do qwith tip openings. ( would also open the aircon vents, but I might also turn on my seat cooling also.
 

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It seems very strange that you consider you are the only person with the right answer. I would also say, play with the mouthpiece the right way up (In fact I have sometimes played with it upsiade down to purposefully sound awful) and I can't see why you would be crucified.

But I am at a loss to undwerstand what this or air conditioning has to do qwith tip openings. ( would also open the aircon vents, but I might also turn on my seat cooling also.
I never claimed to be the only person with the right answer. I agreed that the issue is very complex and has many variables. All I'm saying is hold all those other variables constant and increase the tip opening, and you'll have the potential to get more max volume. Can anybody refute that? Why is that such a controversial idea?

I changed my analogy from water flow to air flow for your benefit. Apparently the flow of air through an open or closed vent is in no way similar to the flow of air through a large (open) or small (closed) tip.

It seems the only "analogy" that works for you is literally the exact thing you're trying to describe. So if I said, "Pete is as happy as a clam", you'd say what does a clam have to do with happiness. The only valid analogy in your mind would be, "Pete is as happy as he would be if he were content".

Please tell me what analogy you would use to illustrate the difference in cross sectional area between a large and small mouthpiece tip opening.
 

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Please tell me what analogy you would use to illustrate the difference in cross sectional area between a large and small mouthpiece tip opening.
I wouldn't use one. I honestly can't think of one in the context of this thread that is relevant to playing the saxophone without oversimplying or going into irrelevancies. That doesn't mean there isn't one, but when you are thinking about the complexities of the combination of sound, tone, timbre, volume, dynamics, loudness and projection - it goes beyond one (small yet not insignificant) parameter of the piece of equipment that is involved.

Someone more expert than me can probably come up with a suitable analogy though.
 
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