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Forum Contributor 2010-2016
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Like steel, aluminum, titanium or other materials?

Why only brass, gold or silver?
And plastic! Brass (which is what your gold and silver saxes are really made of) is an ideal alloy. It's relatively cheap and can take working into the complex shape of a saxophone without becoming brittle. It has good strength to weight ration in the thin sheets used for instrument making. It also polishes up well and when lacquered can look like gold. It also takes electro plating pretty well.
 

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Like steel, aluminum, titanium or other materials?

Why only brass, gold or silver?
Malleability, cost, strength... Ever consider taking a course in Selection of Engineering Materials?
 

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Like steel, aluminum, titanium or other materials?

Why only brass, gold or silver?
Grafton made a very good plastic sax, and there is a modern sax maker making another attempt.

So, saxes are made of:

Yellow Brass
Red Brass
Copper
Sterling Silver
Plastic

Some are made of a combination of these materials (sterling necks and/or bells, solid copper necks and/or bells), and plated and laqcuered in many different finishes, from no lacquer/plate, to clear lacquer, to Gold plate and many colorful finishes.

The plastic saxes are always white plastic for some reason.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Yeah,I read about the vibrato sax too, but wouldn't aluminum be better? I mean it is very soft too, and very very light weight (just like titanium); it only does not respond well to soldering.
 

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Yeah,I read about the vibrato sax too, but wouldn't aluminum be better? I mean it is very soft too, and very very light weight (just like titanium); it only does not respond well to soldering.
That's because you weld onto aluminum. Plastic is the same way. Welding (either by heat or by chemical).
 

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My understanding of aluminium (I'm not a metallurgist) is that because you can't work it in sheet form like you can with brass or copper or silver you would have to either extrude it (hard for bent conical shapes) or cast the shape in a mould. The walls would be much thicker than a brass instrument. The plastic Vibratosax is made up of sections welded together with reinforcing rings.

After 150 years of making saxophones mainly from brass you can bet that the reason that they're not made from other metals is NOT because no one thought of it. It's because brass is cheap, light, easy to work, presentable and durable. Moulded plastic may be the way of the future, but other metals? I don't think so. None ticks all the boxes.
 

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I want a saxophone made of kryptonite.

Then Superman wouldn't steal my horn. I constantly worry about this happening to me...

:TGNCHK:
 

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He's only doing it for the good of all mankind, though....

(sorry, I couldn't help myself...and I am pretty sure you actually kick my #ss as a player).

I think Pat has it right. Some metals need to be cast or extruded. Others can be fabricated from sheets.

It's a good question, though....and Chestnuts such a this :

... Ever consider taking a course in Selection of Engineering Materials?
...can be duly ignored. Yeah, I know if I went back to school to take some courses (in all of my spare time)... that class would be right at the top of my list.

I think the question of durability always arises. This is why folks inquire about alternative materials.

(Hey, don't forget wood...that guy in, where...Thailand ?...who makes the wood saxophones).

Honestly...casting is pretty doable, really. I would imagine it's just expense and production rate which makes it unfeasible.

I do have to disagree with people who call brass "durable". It may be so in the sense that it's not brittle and wont 'break' easily....but 'durable' is hardly a term that comes to mind. The main knock against the material is just the fact that it's malleable enough to sustain pretty easy damage as well as go out of regulation due to a relatively light impact.....

Bell-bronze or cymbal bronze...B20, B15, B12, B8 alloys...or "nickelbronze" NS12 alloys...a tad more brittle, but malleable & stronger...& available in sheets...hmmmmm.....

I think tradition and ease of production are the two main factors. I do disagree with those who consider it to be the obvious and only choice, though. It's very hard to change perceptions of something like a musical instrument. This goes across all instruments, not just brasswinds.
 

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Resonance has to be considered too. In flutemaking, the metal needs to be both hard and dense thus nickel is the best for cheapness and playability. Brass won't work well for flute thinness. Silver or gold would be good for saxes except it is just too expensive. Aluminum is just too dull sounding so for now brass saxes tend to be the norm.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Resonance has to be considered too. In flutemaking, the metal needs to be both hard and dense thus nickel is the best for cheapness and playability. Brass won't work well for flute thinness. Silver or gold would be good for saxes except it is just too expensive. Aluminum is just too dull sounding so for now brass saxes tend to be the norm.
I don't understand this. Surely it has been discussed ad nauseam that material makes no difference to the sound, and that saxophones don't "resonate" in the way percussion or string instruments do.

Plus, wood and plastic are ideal materials for woodwinds, inc flutes, piccolos. Also aluminium flutes are sound great.
 

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Resonance has to be considered too. In flutemaking, the metal needs to be both hard and dense thus nickel is the best for cheapness and playability. Brass won't work well for flute thinness. Silver or gold would be good for saxes except it is just too expensive. Aluminum is just too dull sounding so for now brass saxes tend to be the norm.
I've got an ali. flute. It's not great, by any means, but neither does it sound dull.
Mind you, it's bloomin' thick - you could hit someone over the head with it and lay them out cold...which was partly why I bought it :)

Regards,
 

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Don't want to beat the dead horse too much, but there is no good evidence that materials make any difference to the sound. In terms of flutes, this is a worthwhile study:

http://iwk.mdw.ac.at/Forschung/english/linortner/linortner_e.htm

'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”.'


The Uebel aluminum (aluminium) flute is a totally decent instrument....And Galway likes to play one made out of concrete just to show that it sounds fine, too.
 

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My understanding of aluminium (I'm not a metallurgist) is that because you can't work it in sheet form like you can with brass or copper or silver you would have to either extrude it (hard for bent conical shapes) or cast the shape in a mould. The walls would be much thicker than a brass instrument. The plastic Vibratosax is made up of sections welded together with reinforcing rings.

After 150 years of making saxophones mainly from brass you can bet that the reason that they're not made from other metals is NOT because no one thought of it. It's because brass is cheap, light, easy to work, presentable and durable. Moulded plastic may be the way of the future, but other metals? I don't think so. None ticks all the boxes.
Well said!
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Don't want to beat the dead horse too much, but there is no good evidence that materials make any difference to the sound. In terms of flutes, this is a worthwhile study:

http://iwk.mdw.ac.at/Forschung/english/linortner/linortner_e.htm

'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”.'


The Uebel aluminum (aluminium) flute is a totally decent instrument....And Galway likes to play one made out of concrete just to show that it sounds fine, too.
Well, perhaps different metals make a smaller impact to the sound than the wood from a woodwind or guitar.
I do believe the type of metal does make a difference, in the higher frequencies and at louder volumes,
it is audible, and recognizable for trained ears and in the studio.
I'm not saying that blindfolded you can hear what kind of material the sax is made of, but if you'd A/B say a copper sax to a nickel one, you will hear some differences.

Any material being exposed to soundwaves on the microscopic plane, do resonate, compress somewhat, bent assymetric, or even deform. Especially saxes.
Many things for the human eye seem impossible, but if you look at a slow motion recording of a golf player hitting a golf ball, or a drummer hitting his snare, you'd be amazed just how much the drumskin or golfball deforms when playing. Something not visible to the eye at normal speeds. (They do have them on youtube those vids).
In a lesser way sound pressure waves do cause a deformation within the instrument, stretching or expanding certain parts of the horn (in places where there is an overpressure of air), and compressing others (pieces within the horn that are near to vacuum)

Even if they did not, just the fact that a sax vibrates as you play through it, and you can feel that, proves that perhaps the walls aren't as neutral (or unaffected) as first thought!

It may be so, that one material would create a much heavier sax than another, even if both materials are as tough as the other. When the sound waves exit the sax's horn, the horn gets pushed back by the back pressure of the sound wave (law of action reaction).
I suppose heavier saxes (eg made by heavier materials or thicker walls) would be less affected by the vibration of the sound waves coming out of the horn (it is only natural to believe that most sound waves get portrayed FORWARD, meaning away from the player, through the horn's bell and valve openings, and that the horn would start being pushed backwards as the soundwave exits the horn. The reverse happens when you'd be at the negative part of the soundwave, the horn actually sucking in air causing it to be thrusted forward.
And an instable instrument, say a sax made of the same material and thickness as a plastic 'throw away' drinking cup, would most likely vibrate enormously at such SPL's, making the quality of the sound less nice, having a less good projection of sound, and that affects the sound quality as well).

So even if the material's strength plays little role in the deformation of the sound (which I do not believe, I think it does make a difference), it's weight could also make the difference in the projection of sound.
Our ears are very sensitive instruments, and soundwaves are very rapid waves. Those waves can be very small, a fraction of a decimeter apart at 340m/s, meaning that a small resonant vibration of the sax could deform the soundwaves at least enough to be audible.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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I'm not saying that blindfolded you can hear what kind of material the sax is made of, but if you'd A/B say a copper sax to a nickel one, you will hear some differences.
Er, yes of course, they are different saxophones. That doesn't make it the material that causes the difference.
Even if they did not, just the fact that a sax vibrates as you play though it, and you can feel that,
I can't
When the sound waves exit the sax's horn, the horn gets pushed back by the back pressure of the sound wave.
Could that explain why I keep falling over backwards when I play? :)
 

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Well, perhaps different metals make a smaller impact to the sound than the wood from a woodwind or guitar.
I do believe the type of metal does make a difference, in the higher frequencies and at louder volumes,
it is audible, and recognizable for trained ears and in the studio.
I'm not saying that blindfolded you can hear what kind of material the sax is made of, but if you'd A/B say a copper sax to a nickel one, you will hear some differences.
Of course there's a difference. They different horns, so that's why. It has nothing to do with the material being used.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I can't


Could that explain why I keep falling over backwards when I play? :)
Well then it appears you either can not feel anything, or you're just playing plain old ignorant.
Any sax player can feel the horn vibrating as they play through it, even more so on the lower notes!

The fact that you don't fall back is explained, but for your sake, hard for me to explain because I'm not english native, it is because a soundwave has a positive and a negative pressure level. A tick and a tock, over pressure and under pressure.
at 1khz your sax is resonating 1000 times per second. Meaning 1000 times per second the horn gets pushed back, and 1000 times per second it gets pushed forwards because of the absence of sound pressure wave (in other words a sort of 'vacuum' that exists in the horn).
If you look at it in our timing you won't understand this.
This all takes place 1000 times per second. And our ear is even more so sensitive than this!
 
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