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Hello, I have a question for people who play both the bassoon and the sax:

I had a conversation with my friend who plays the oboe, and we were wondering which instrument takes up more air - the bassoon or the saxophone.

Let's say we're talking about the alto sax here. My guess is that the sax needs a larger volume of air, and the bassoon uses less air and has more back pressure, instead. But this is only a guess as I've never tried the bassoon. So how is it?
 

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Both require less air than a tenor in some ways. Think of a Bassoon as requiring warm air, lots of support hwere as on alto you can get away with slightly less solidity of air. This unfortunately is a double edged sword because in reality you need the same amount of warm air support for both instruments. Back pressure will also come into play here and this will be greater on alto than on Bassoon.
 

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Alto saxophone uses more air. By a long shot. You are right about the back pressure--because of the smallness of the bassoon reed opening, the air seeps out of your mouth more slowly.

But then this leads to a curious situation that double-reed players have to deal with that single reeds don't. Because of the back pressure, you end up going into oxygen debt, and you have to expel the air that builds up along the way before you need to take another breath. So you have to develop a breathing technique where you sometimes have to blow air out (not into the instrument) before you need to take another breath in.
 

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I'd have to say that bassoon and alto have similar amounts of needed air, and tenor beating bassoon by a long shot. But there is a HUGE important part to this.

Tenor sax and below require you to USE a lot of air, but the bassoon requires significant amounts of breath support. You always have those diaphragmic muscles flexed as much as possible. Even our vibrato is caused by fluctuations by air support, unlike sax where you relatively easily just move the jaw.
 

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Alto saxophone uses more air. By a long shot. You are right about the back pressure--because of the smallness of the bassoon reed opening, the air seeps out of your mouth more slowly.

But then this leads to a curious situation that double-reed players have to deal with that single reeds don't. Because of the back pressure, you end up going into oxygen debt, and you have to expel the air that builds up along the way before you need to take another breath. So you have to develop a breathing technique where you sometimes have to blow air out (not into the instrument) before you need to take another breath in.
I agree 100%.
 

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Alto saxophone uses more air. By a long shot. You are right about the back pressure--because of the smallness of the bassoon reed opening, the air seeps out of your mouth more slowly.

But then this leads to a curious situation that double-reed players have to deal with that single reeds don't. Because of the back pressure, you end up going into oxygen debt, and you have to expel the air that builds up along the way before you need to take another breath. So you have to develop a breathing technique where you sometimes have to blow air out (not into the instrument) before you need to take another breath in.
Hei,
What is back pressure?
 

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the only instrument i really play is alto, but i have some experience on tenor, baritone, soprano, flute and others.
i feel that each and every instrument requires about the same amount of air once you get to the point that you properly use it. i mean, i may not be able to hold d1 on bari as long as d2 on alto, but all in all, the difference in the actual AMOUNT of air never occured to me as a factor that influenced playing. resistance, warmth of air etc. are a different thing, of course...
does this make any sense to anyone here?
 

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No it makes no sense at all. There are quite clear differences in the amount of air needed to play a given instrument at a given volume, and generally it varies most due to bore size. Oboe uses notoriously little air, and oboe players sometimes have to actually expel breath and then breathe again to keep playing when the carbon dioxide content builds up too much in their lungs. Bassoon uses much less air than sax for the same note.

Toby
 

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I believe the formula for this is speed=Pressure/resistance

The smaller the 'pipe' the greater the resistance, thus you must increase the pressure to get the same airspeed.


It's actually more complicated, but this is the basic model.
 

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But then this leads to a curious situation that double-reed players have to deal with that single reeds don't. Because of the back pressure, you end up going into oxygen debt, and you have to expel the air that builds up along the way before you need to take another breath.
Oxygen debt is not the issue.

Oboe uses notoriously little air, and oboe players sometimes have to actually expel breath and then breathe again to keep playing when the carbon dioxide content builds up too much in their lungs. Bassoon uses much less air than sax for the same note.
Bingo! The body's perceived need to breathe is triggered by the buildup of carbon dioxide - NOT the lack of oxygen.

A tenor sax easily flows more air than a bassoon. So does my soprano setup. Just look at the throat of a bassoon reed and a bocal - much smaller inner diameter. And then there is the matter of the geometry inside a bassoon reed...
 

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I believe the formula for this is speed=Pressure/resistance

The smaller the 'pipe' the greater the resistance, thus you must increase the pressure to get the same airspeed.

It's actually more complicated, but this is the basic model.
Ohm's law. It gets more complicated because losses are different in different pipes and the output in watts (actually milliwatts) is different for different instruments.

Toby
 

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Ohm's law. It gets more complicated because losses are different in different pipes and the output in watts (actually milliwatts) is different for different instruments.

Toby
Yep.

I believe that the resistance variable is really impedence in our scenario, too.
 

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According to Fletcher and Rossing, for a reed woodwind the blowing pressure typically ranges from 3 to 5 kPa, and the player is able to sustain the note at moderate loudness for about 30 seconds, corresponding to a volume flow of about 100 ml/s. This implies a power input of 0.3 to 0.5 W and an acoustic efficiency of less than 1%....

Things are not quite so simple, however, as blowing pressures (and hence volume flow) are not static, but vary both by dynamic and frequency. For instance, piano playing of both clarinet and alto sax across the range are just about 2 kPa, whereas for forte playing the clarinet ranges from 4-5 kPa whereas the alto sax ranges from 3-8 kPa. Forte for the oboe reaches 12 kPa in the upper octave. Even at that high pressure IIRC from my oboe playing days, flow rate of the oboe is much less than the larger bored instruments.
 

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The tip opening of the double reeds (oboe and bassoon) generally accepts less air than any of the other reeded instruments. That's really the deciding factor for me in suggesting that my saxophone playing consumes more of my air where my double reed playing (again both oboe and bassoon) tends to leave me with more left over.

Although saying more or less air also sort of (in my opinion) implies that the speed and quality of the air is the same. For that I will have to disagree. Because the bassoon (and oboe) take a smaller quantity of my air to function I feel like I have to work harder so (at least psychologically) I feel as if I'm putting more air into the instruments.

clearly the best answer is to play neither the bassoon or saxophone and perhaps take up the flute in protest. :)
 

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I believe the formula for this is speed=Pressure/resistance

The smaller the 'pipe' the greater the resistance, thus you must increase the pressure to get the same airspeed.

It's actually more complicated, but this is the basic model.
This is true. It in fact feels to me that I need more pressure on my diaphragm when playing the Soprano than when playing the tenor. I haven't blown it for about 3 days and tonight trying out a new more open mpc with reeds slightly too hard for it I found my diaphragm hurting me just below my ribs after what was barely any time. That never happens on Tenor no matter how many days off I have. I see it as a combination of these things: the greater resistance of the narrower bore + the larger tip + the slightly harder reed = greater blowing pressure on my diaphragm. On top of that, I probably didn't have a loose enough embouchure due to those factors and the greater pressure on the reed made the bore at the entrance of the airstream even tighter. This causes back pressure in the same way that trying to force water at high pressure through a narrower pipe actually blocks the flow. I believe that there is actually a limit on how many cubic liters of liquid or air can pass through a pipe at maximum pressure depending on its diameter. Is that correct, and if so I don't know the exact term for it but Dr. G proablay does. Maybe that's the venturi effect, or is that something else?
 
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