• Bench Notes #22


    We’ve had a lot of changes here at MusicMedic.com and we're continuing to grow thanks to you!

    One of the coolest things at MusicMedic.com is what is not happening. We no longer backorder pads to our customers. As you know, we're making our pads here at the shop and have now for a couple of years. Well, it's taken some time and some hard work but we no longer have any backorders on pads. It has now been over three months without a single backorder on any size of pad in any of our lines. That is a new company record for us and our goal is one year! The new pad company can make custom pads and our stock pads are now way more awesome than they ever have been. With free shipping, and no backorders, let MusicMedic.com be your pad supplier. You can carry less inventory, offer better pads to your customers and get custom pads in a jiffy. Aren't you glad MusicMedic.com is your supplier?

    In the shipping department, we've taken one day off most orders. Where we used to ship most orders the "next day" we now ship most orders the day they are ordered. Although we can't guarantee it (yet) we are all working hard to make same day shipping a reality!

    The Sax ProShop has taken on a new goal. Build a saxophone! How cool is that? Check out our blogs for the progress and watch this amazing project unfold.

    Our really big news is the re-launch of a new website. We’ve redesigned our website, in order to make your experience even better. We now have a virtual showroom for the horns available from our Sax ProShop, the ability to embed videos (yes more videos are coming!) and the ability to update and edit quickly. If you have any problems ordering, we want to know. You can reach us to ask a question or place an order at (910) 667-0270 and questions@musicmedic.com.


     

    Tuning a Saxophone: Part 1

    For years I worked on Saxophones and learned to tune them very effectively. My work was limited to adjusting the intonation of notes in relation to each other, adjusting the width of a scale, and moving tone holes to change single notes. After many experiments and much research, I made a discovery about tuning the octaves on a saxophone.

    Luckily I went through that time when I could not tune octaves and was forced to find creative ways to make instruments play as in-tune as possible for some very discerning players. Very often I draw on this knowledge and trickery I gained from trying to find ways around my lack of knowledge.  That often allows me to the freedom to avoid doing major tuning work that may change some fundamental characteristics of the instrument or just cost a lot of time and money. I mention this point in the opening of this article to stress the importance of understanding all parts of the intonation of a saxophone before assuming one issue can be fixed to solve the problem. Understanding how mouthpiece placement, key heights and tone hole location affect intonation and even how these things affect each other is key to a successful and thoughtful tuning job.

    My goal in writing this article is to share with you a knowledge of tuning that I have yet to find readily available; altering the octave spread on a saxophone. I hope to give you information that is practical and usable. I find a huge divide between practical repair and acoustical science. I hope that my work, shared with you, will bridge this gap and help technicians to incorporate more practical acoustical work, such as tuning and toning, into their everyday repairs.

    Note that an octave is a unit of measure and normally adjusting it would not be possible as it would become something other than an octave. However, in music and particularly on saxophone, we assume that octave means a range and a perfect octave is the goal. In this article, I hope to show you where to modify the bore to correct octaves. In the next article, I will show you some ways you can go about modifying the bore of the instrument to tune.

    How to approach intonation on a saxophone.

    When considering the intonation of a given saxophone, after having proper mouthpiece placement, begin to collect the data from the tuner and contemplate the best course of action for adjusting the intonation. First, consider the intonation of the fundamental notes on the instrument. I call the lower notes that play in the first octave, those played without the octave key, fundamental notes. These notes, unlike those played with the octave key, are the lowest note that can be played with the given length of tubing; they are the fundamentals of their harmonic series. When I play these fundamental notes into a tuner, I am considering how their intonation relates to the intonation of the notes surrounding them. I'm also comparing the intonation of the fundamental to its octave with a keen eye on the octave spread, or length of the octave. From this you can quickly figure out: What notes are flat or sharp in both octaves? What octaves are out of tune and in which way? With this information, start to develop a plan to fix the intonation issues.

    A saxophone is, very simply, a tapered tube with holes in it. When we attempt to tune a saxophone, we have only a few things at our disposal to work with. We have the tapered tube, the tone holes, and the key heights. With these three things, we can change everything about the intonation of a saxophone. However, for the sake of time and money (my customers' money) I first consider how I can solve the problem without major modifications. For example, often intonation can be corrected (or ruined) with key heights alone.

    Tone Holes don't affect octaves

    This article is specifically about adjusting the distance between "octaves" on a saxophone. The holes that run down the tube serve to change the length of the instrument as the player moves his or her fingers depressing various keys. Each hole down the saxophone tube produces a note that is one half step lower in pitch. The location of the holes on a saxophone body, along with the placement of the mouthpiece, dictate the intonation of the first octave (or fundamental), on the saxophone. If a technician were to move a tone hole, the note would change depending exactly on where the tone hole was moved to. This note would, for the most part, change exactly the same in both octaves.

    Moving tone holes is an effective way to fix some intonation issues on saxophone especially when the issue is apparent in both octaves. There is some discussion about tone holes and their placement in this article I wrote about tuning saxophones with crescents. In this article, I want to tell you about changing the pitch of a note in the second octave, or another way to look at it, changing the octave spread.

    Key Heights don't affect octaves.

    Key heights DO affect intonation but Key heights DO NOT affect the distance between the octaves or octave spread. There is an article on key heights and intonation here if you would like to know more about key heights. There is more to consider about key heights than I have written in articles at the time of this writing. When I can, I will put some into article form. No matter though, key heights never affect the octave spread.

    Body Taper affects intonation of octaves on saxophone

    The taper, or the tube, and the degree to which the instrument is tapered affects the relationship between the first and second octaves on a saxophone. When I talk about the tapered tube that is a saxophone, I am speaking of the entire instrument including the neck, not just the main body section.  It is the shape of the saxophone body alone that forces many saxophones to play sharp in the second octave and some to play flat. Or worse, some instruments play sharp in one part of the second register and flat in other parts. If the problem is octaves that don't play octaves, the cause is likely the shape of the bore.

    Once you understand this, you will have a better chance of diagnosing the intonation of a saxophone. For this article we are going to make a lot of assumptions, many of which are not often true in the real world of saxophone tuning. That said, for this article, let's assume that all the fundamental notes (those notes played without the octave key or notes up to open C#) are all in tune with a tuner. Consider that, if it were the case that the first octave played very well in tune, this would tell you that the mouthpiece was in the right location and the tone holes are as well.

    The Problem: Wide or narrow octaves.

    Saxophones have a common intonation problem, octaves tend to be too spread or too short.  Most often some of the second octave notes are sharp because the octaves are too wide. If this is the case, and solving that isolated issue only, you can locate the areas in the bore specifically that adjust the spread of those problem octaves and begin to fix the problem.

    Locating the Areas in the Bore that adjust specific octaves: Tuning regions

    There is a place in the bore of a saxophone that one can change to affect the intonation of a second octave note. This location is easy to locate once you know a couple parameters. There are certainly ways to pin point these locations, but that is unnecessary in most cases. To find the tuning region of a note on a saxophone, you need to know where the instrument ends and the first open tone hole. Let me explain.

    When a saxophone is played the first open tone hole dictates the basic length of the instrument. No matter what note, in the second octave, that you are wanting to tune, you first need to find the location of the first open tone hole when this note is played. For example, when you play low D or a middle D, on the alto sax, the pad we call the low C pad is the first open pad. Of course the tone hole under it is the first open tone hole.  This is the tone hole located on the front of the saxophone bow near the bottom. With this tone hole located we have one part of the puzzle.

     The saxophone is a tapered tube where the small end of the tube is truncated. The end of the cone is cut off, this is where you put your mouthpiece. For tuning purposes, let's pretend that the end of the neck is not truncated, that it continues to a point, this is often called the theoretical neck. To locate the tuning region for a second octave note, we will want to know roughly where the theoretical neck ends. With this, you can find the tuning region for a second octave note. To gather this information, you use your eye and imagine the taper continues or math. As we will ultimately check our work by playing the instrument, the method of imagining where the neck might come to a point will suffice.

    Now that you know where the sound comes out, the first open tone hole, and where the end of the theoretical neck is, finding the tuning region for our example note D is simple. The region we find will tell us where, in the bore, we would need to make a modification to alter the saxophone note D2. Although, you will not need to measure once you have even a little practice finding tuning regions, measuring is a good way to start your education.

    There are a few ways to find the tuning region. One involves math, one involves playing, and one measuring. Let's talk about measuring first. Get a string and place it on the top of the low D tone hole (where D comes out) and run it up the body, past the neck to the end of your theoretical neck. Now, fold that string in half and place one end on the top of the Low D tone hole. Run the string up the body and see where it ends.  You will likely notice that the string ends around the palm Eb tone hole. This is your tuning region for second octave D.

    As you see, the tuning region for second octave D is half way between the top of the tone hole and the end of the theoretical neck. This appears to be true for every note on the saxophone; the tuning region is half way between the tone hole and the end of the theoretical neck. In the case of D, there is a tone hole that you can verify your findings. In doing so, you are using another method of finding the tuning region for a note.

    Play the note that comes out when you play a palm Eb without the octave key. When you open the Eb pad and play that note, it should play an in tune or out of tune D. So, the location of the bore that you tune with is directly between the top of the first open tone hole and theoretical neck AND in the location that plays an octave above the fundamental.

    Some notes, like my example of low D, have a tone hole in the location that we tune with. The tone hole is always a palm key tone hole. Don't confuse the location of the tuning region with the note you play from the palm key. For instance, when you play a palm F with octave key, you get an F3. However, if you play that same fingering but without the octave key it will usually be a lot flatter and may even be an E or an Eb. So the location of the palm F tone hole in this instance would be the tuning region for second octave E or Eb.

    Now, let's look at a note that does not have a tone hole in the tuning region. For example the note A. To find the tuning region for the note, A, find the first open tone hole when the note A is played. This tone hole will be below the G pad. Measure with your string. Once you find the area half way between the end of the theoretical neck and the top of the A tone hole, you will be close to the tuning region for the note A. This region, located on the neck near the octave vent, will help you to tune the note A2 (A with octave key) on the saxophone. Again, if the note is sharp you will need to decrease the bore diameter in the area that corresponds to A2.

    What to do with your newly discovered tuning region.

    Once you have found the tuning region for a note, you can change the bore diameter, or volume, to tune the second octave note that corresponds to that region. If the second octave note is sharp, you will want to decrease the bore volume in that area, if the note is flat, you will need to increase the bore in that area. I will show you how to make temporary liners and alter the bore temporarily or permanently. As you experiment with this method of tuning, the results should always be predictable and noticeable. That is, I never think a note is going to drop 30-50cents only to find that the results of altering the tuning region of that pitch are contrary to what I've seen previously. If you find that your results are not as you predicted, you have miss measured or your predictions were wrong for some reason.

    As I mentioned, when tuning a saxophone I take in several factors. Now that you know something about tuning octaves on the saxophone, I hope you can incorporate this information into what you know already and what you will learn. Certainly you should not make the common mistake of trying to tune octaves with tone hole liners or some other method. In part two of this article, I will show you how I apply liners, move them and use them for diagnostic purposes.

     


     Carolina Saxophone Day

    This Fall, on Saturday, September 20, UNCG will once again be hosting the Carolina Saxophone Festival.

    The major performing artist for the day will be Greensboro native and Duke saxophone professor Susan Fancher. Curt will be bringing the entire MusicMedic.com shop - technicians, benches, tools, and even a darkroom - and will adjust and assess any and all saxophones throughout the entire day. It should be very cool!

    The day will begin with a mass-saxophone ensemble rehearsal and a short welcome concert. After that, Susan will present a concert and master class. The afternoon will consist of break-out sessions, and the day will end with the mass sax ensemble presenting a concert. Last year there were over 80 saxophonists on stage!

    This event will be a great chance to bring the saxophonists of North Carolina - students, performers, and teachers alike - together for a great day! And, considering 2014 marks the 200th birthday of Adolphe, there is plenty to celebrate!

    For more information on Carolina Saxophone Today, check out the website here.

     


     

    Recap of the meeting of the minds….

    Back in July, we were joined by Bryan Vance, of Theo Wanne, and Tim Price, a Theo Wanne featured endorsing artist, for a two day exploration of set-up on the Theo Wanne MANTRA tenor.

    In the days leading up to their arrival, the Sax ProShop worked hard setting up and perfecting a horn especially for Tim. Tim has had a lot of input on the design of the MANTRA, and helped to make improvements to the horn's tone and playability.

    Tim was able to test and play his personal MANTRA which was set up to his specifications, Theo's "sound concept" horn, the horn that the Sax ProShop had just set up, and MANTRA's that have been set-up to standard specifications. Tim and the Sax ProShop are using the comparisons of the different horns to further improve the set-up and manufacturing process for the MANTRA.

    All five specialists in the Sax ProShop, plus Bryan and Tim, focused on nothing but the MANTRA in this elaborate meeting of the minds. Check out the video for a recap of the two days, as well as a chance to hear Tim play the new MANTRA.


     

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  • Have you checked out the new website?

    MusicMedic.com prides itself on great customer experiences and quality products.

    Partnering with local company WordWrightWeb, we have transitioned to a new website and platform, and have redesigned our ordering processes and systems. Integrating the new website and ordering system with our top-notch customer service team, customers can expect even better results when placing orders online.

    musicmedicfrontpage

    The Sax ProShop section of the website now acts a virtual showroom, and customers can purchase vintage and new saxophones with just a click of a button, with more stock and viewing options coming through in the future.

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    The new online platform and presence allows us to provide you with an even better shopping experience. We welcome feedback on our online presence at this transitional time, and as always, we can be reached at Questions@MusicMedic.com with any suggestions or questions that you might have.

  • Keith's MKVI Tenor Uberhaul is finished

    The Sax ProShop just finished the uberhaul on Keith's horn.

    Mods included Low B → C# Adj. Screw, adding side Key Contacts for Side Bb & C, and also adding a Teflon Ball Octave Rocker.

    Check out the photos below for a closer look:

  • Meeting of the Minds: Sax ProShop and Theo Wanne Collaboration

    We are going to have an exciting few days here at the Sax ProShop next week, with several guests from the Theo Wanne company.

    Theo Wanne and the MusicMedic.com Sax ProShop have been working together to make a very unique saxophone, the MANTRA, the best it can be. Theo's design for the Mantra implements many unique features to help realize his dream of a super-resonant saxophone: an altered neck and body tube shape and size, a reduction in the amount of parts soldered onto the body, and a reticulated finish both inside the body and outside are just a few of the features.

    tw-mantratenor-5-22-2014-5

    To my knowledge, there is no other manufacturer that puts as much time and care into their saxophones as Theo and his gang do with the MANTRA. In order to have excellent control over all aspects of the work, we completely assemble and set-up every instrument in the Sax ProShop. That means we make the pads, we fit the keys, we level everything, and we do what no factory in the world can do. The end result is a saxophone that plays with the huge tone that Theo is after and with the mechanical precision that the Sax ProShop demands.

    We will be joined by Bryan Vance, of Theo Wanne, and Tim Price, a Theo Wanne featured endorsing artist, for a two day exploration of set-up on the Theo Wanne MANTRA tenor.

    Tim Price, a Berklee College of Music graduate, is one of the country's foremost woodwind artists. As one of the Selmer Company's most requested clinicians, Tim travels worldwide performing with and teaching student and professional jazz ensembles. Tim teaches jazz saxophone at the New School University in New York City, one of the top jazz schools in the world.

    In the days leading up to their arrival, the Sax ProShop has been hard at work, setting up and perfecting a horn especially for Tim, and we are looking forward to collaborating with Bryan and Tim in person. Tim has had a lot of input on the design of the MANTRA, helping to make improvements to the horn's tone and playability.

    Tim will be able to test his own personal MANTRA which is set up to his specifications, Theo's "sound concept" horn, the horn that the Sax ProShop has just set up, and MANTRA's that have been set-up to standard specifications. Tim and the Sax ProShop will use the comparisons of the different horns to further improve the set-up and manufacturing process for the MANTRA.

    For two days, all five specialists in the Sax ProShop plus Bryan and Tim will be focusing on nothing but the MANTRA in an elaborate meeting of the minds! With so many specialists, the Sax ProShop can immediately implement ANY change that Tim wants, and Tim will be able to test the result while he is here. There's a lot of pretty cool possibilities!

    Later on in October, Theo and Curt will be able to meet at the Shanghai trade show to discuss the findings from the session with Tim, in addition to other exciting details for the future of the MANTRA saxophone. Stay tuned!

  • Become a MusicMedic.com Pad Tester!

    Recently, we told the world how we can truly make any pad and the world responded! We are getting requests for all sorts of odd pads for various instruments in various thicknesses. It's so great to be able to make the pads our customers need and provide a quality that we stand behind and that we can work to improve.

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    We have also been making and testing special pads here at MusicMedic.com to create a pad with superior materials and consistency. I think we found a winner! We have developed pads that combine natural and synthetic materials that really perform. They install easily, are super flat, are airtight, aren't sticky, and they seem to last forever. The technique and materials that we're using to keep the synthetic felt dry so it will not harden, has yielded pads that stay quiet and seal better for much longer. These pads have been in Curt's Bari for almost a year and in local player’s horns who help us test. Everyone is excited about the results.

    Because of the extreme amount of work we've put into this project and the cool synthetics we're using, we have been calling these XtremePads here at the shop. They use the same great Roo leather that comes with RooPads for durability and the no-stick factor. So, these new pads are affectionately called RooPads Extreme. Extreme because they are Air tight and water tight without a sticky painted coating.

    Now, we need some help from you! We made a few sample sets for Selmer MKVI tenors; if any tech wants to try these pads, let us know. Your feedback will help us to make improvements and turn the RooPads Extreme dream into reality! Because sample sets are not cheap or easy to make, we do ask that you have a MKVI Tenor ready to install these into. Send a picture of the horn and a request for a sample set to: Curt@MusicMedic.com and we'll send out a few sets to our first RooPads Extreme pioneers. If you really-really want a set for some other instrument just send an email and let Curt know.

  • Überhorn Project Update 2:

    You may remember that the original experiment for this project "make a sax" was designed to tell us what the different tapers and different materials might do to the tone. The goal was to: cheaply make three different tapers and gain first hand knowledge of how taper affects tone and response. Well, that didn't exactly work. The goal is good but the process is not as easy as we hoped. It turns out it was difficult to make the three sizes. We made one tapered tube but making the others was obviously going to require a mandrel made from some metal and without a draw bench the experiments would not be very consistent. In the end, we would have three mandrels that were no longer usable and possibly still no answer to the initial question. Considering our options, we decided that, no matter what this experiment gives us, we are going to want to proceed.

    A draw bench is a machine that pulls the sax, put over a mandrel of the exact desired size, through a donut or washer that expands as it's pulled through. The end result is a Tapered tube with inside dimensions exactly the same as the tapered mandrel. To do this, we need a draw bench.

    So, we fired up an old project of making a draw bench while considering the issues and cost of having someone make us the bodies to our specs. For the long run goal: "make a sax (and some necks)", we decided to make a draw bench. Late last week our Hydraulic power unit for the new bench and the Cylinder showed up.
    The Cylinder has a 48" stroke (enough to pull a Bass Sax body Tube!) and way-way more power than it should need. The power unit is capable of even more power pressure than the cylinder so we can get pull if we need it.

    Over the weekend, a group of ProShop folks got their ideas into a design drawing and this week we'll finalize the drawing and begin manufacture of this baby. We have some of the materials we need around the shop and some that are a little too burly for this project but we're going to use them anyway. The current plan is to wall mount the draw "bench" in the Sax ProShop. The folks in the PadCompany love to name (and put name tags on) their machines, so we'll probably go to them for an appropriate name. Now we need to decide what color to paint it....

  • MusicMedic.com custom pads!

    Did you know that MusicMedic.com offers custom pads? If you've been a long time customer, you remember that in the past, we could only offer the pads we had on our website. Custom and special orders came at a big price.

    Now, the PadCompany at MusicMedic.com can make you any pad for any instrument.
    Any size.
    Any thickness.
    Any material.

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    Just tell us what to make and, for a very reasonable price, we'll make it up for you. Turnaround is usually around a day.

    The PadCompany only uses the finest materials available in the world and we are constantly improving our pads and processes.

    It’s time to try a set of our standard pads or order those pads you've always wanted.

    Call us today at 910.667.0270 or email us at Questions@MusicMedic.com for more information.

  • Keith's Selmer MKVI Tenor

    We've started the uberhaul on Keith's Selmer Mark VI Tenor. Here are a few before pictures....we can't wait to show you the finished photos!

  • Archie Cowen's Mark VI Uberhaul is complete

    We just finished Archie's horn. For this horn, we left the original lacquer in place. Josh converted Side Key Ball Joints to Forks, and we added a Low B to C# Adj Screw. We also added the Key Contacts: Side C and Side Bb and a Teflon ball octave rocker.

    Here are some finished photos of the like new horn:

  • Starting a new project here at the Sax ProShop...

    Today is an important day in Sax ProShop history! Over the years, we've learned a lot about making the mechanisms on the saxophone near perfect. We can also tune saxophones without a problem. In fact, I dare say that, given enough time and money, we can make any saxophone play in tune. What we can't do and what I've never known anyone to be able to do, is really change the sound predictably. Sure we can make a horn brighter or darker but we can't turn a Selmer into a Yamaha or make a Buescher sound like a Yanagisawa. This is what we want to learn. Maybe we'll take this knowledge and make a saxophone, maybe we'll just use it to improve our work. At this point it's not important, what we want to do is learn.

    So today, we are starting to experiment with body tapers. We've retapered a lot of necks and things but now we're starting from scratch. With this sheet of brass and these pieces of delrin, a lathe and some torches, we're going to make bodies of various tapers. This will allow us to understand first hand, as players, what body tapers on the saxophone as well as brass thickness do to the sound. As usual, we're going to learn by doing and experiencing first hand. wish us luck! Like we always do, we'll share the results of this experiment with you as we learn.

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