Whether you are into competitive sports, weight loss, golf or the saxophone, you have probably heard claims about products that you didn’t believe. Many times I refer to these claims and products with a term you have probably heard before: “Snake Oil”. The definition of the term is :
“Snake oil is an expression that originally referred to fraudulent health products or unproven medicine but has come to refer to any product with questionable or unverifiable quality or benefit.”
We have all heard claims for products related to the saxophone that we have had a hard time believing. A little while ago, I was asked to review a device that you connected to your saxophone. Supposedly, the device could play your favorite recording of a sax player and the sound vibrations would travel to the saxophone and over time the molecules and atoms would align to be in perfect symmetry with the tone of your favorite sax player. You would soon find that your saxophone sounded like your favorite sax player’s perfect tone. I think that was the gist of it basically. I consider myself a pretty open minded person but that was a leap that I couldn’t take. I said “No” in a polite way to that review……..
Now, that persons claims and findings could be true, I’m not saying they are 100% not true but in my mind I have a hard time believing these claims until they are proven to me. So in my mind, I categorize something like that as “snake oil” until it is proven to me that it is not.
A number of years ago, I started hearing about assorted little devices and products that could effect a sax player’s tone and playing. One of these was a heavy screw that you could replace your lyre screw with and it had a positive affect on your sound. So again, here I am reading these claims and thinking “C’mon it’s a frickin’ screw!” “It’s on the outside of your sax!” “This is stupid!” “Snake oil”……….
“The Buzz” Oversized Neck Screw by Westcoast Sax
Then a month or two ago, I was at my repair guys shop in Boston. His name is Jack Finucane and he owns the Boston Sax Shop. I just started going to Jack last year because my old repair man Ernie Sola had passed away and Jack had trained with Ernie. In my three visits with Jack in the last year I’ve come to really respect his opinion about all things pertaining to the saxophone. He tells it like it is and is very honest in my opinion. (He is also an unbelievable repairman!)
So on my last visit, I am sitting there as Jack adjusts my saxophone and we are talking about a variety of sax related subjects when he asks me if I have tried one of those “Heavy Mass Screws” on my sax. My response was “Yeah right….” thinking he was joking. He then proceeds to tell me that they do have an effect on the sound and I should try one. He opens up a drawer with a bunch of them in there and asks if I want to try one. This is how you know how skeptical I was, my response was “Yeah, no thanks”. Although I respect Jack and his opinion a ton I was still thinking “C’mon it’s a frickin’ screw”………
By this point, you might be wondering where I’m going with all this but hang in there. A few weeks ago I get a call from Matt Wickam who is the owner of Westcoast Sax and we are talking about having me review his new MoFo mouthpiece that is coming out soon. At the end of the conversation, he says he will send me one of his “Buzz” oversized neck screws to check out and perhaps review. I tell him honestly that I don’t believe a screw will make any difference in a saxophones sound whatsoever. Matt tells me that lots of guys say that to him but in his opinion there is a difference and I really have to try it for myself. After talking to Matt about it and thinking back to what Jack Finucane told me, I decide to give this Buzz screw a try.
I got the screw in the mail and the next day decided to try it out. The whole time I was thinking “This is stupid” “A screw will have no affect”. I got my sax out and warmed up for about a half hour to the point I was feeling pretty good. “The Buzz” neck screw can fit into the neck screw position or the lyre screw position on my SBA tenor. I decided to try it in the lyre screw socket which is right next to the neck screw on the neck receiver. I gently took out my lyre screw from my Selmer SBA which probably has never been separated from my sax since it was made around 1950 and gently put in the “Buzz” screw. It was threaded perfectly for my Selmer SBA saxophone and went in effortlessly. Once all the way in I started to play again………..
“The Buzz” Oversized Neck Screw by Westcoast Sax
Now, my first thought was “There is no difference what so ever. I was right!” As I was playing though, other thoughts started creeping in to that looping preprogrammed thought tape of “There is no difference”…….Thoughts like “It seems fatter sounding” “It feels like the notes have more resonance” “It sounds like the notes are richer” “The low notes seem so fat and rich” These thoughts were going back and forth in my head with “There is no difference, there can’t be, it’s a frickin’ screw!”
So, I stopped and gently took the Buzz screw out and put the lyre screw back in. I started playing again and the tone sounded thinner to me. Less vibrant and resonant. I stopped and looked at the sax and screw and thought “What the heck is going on here?”
Over the next 2 -3 hours I went back and forth between these two screws trying to figure out if there was a real difference or it was all in my head. I was even trying to psychoanalyze myself and figure out if I had been brain washed and was now part of a saxophone screw cult. Maybe I had been and was just drinking the Kool-aid!
The last hour I just played my SBA with the Buzz screw in. I was in heaven! To be honest, I noticed a big difference while playing. Whether it was psychological or real is up for debate but for me it seemed very real. I would say I feel like it is 100% real although I do admit that there could be a psychological element to it but I really don’t think there is (but who really knows). I came at this trial not hoping for anything positive and at best thinking there would be no difference whatsoever. I came away from it believing otherwise.
If this heavier Buzz screw does work like I say, how does it work? I have no idea. Matt told me he feels like the extra weight and mass at that important part of the neck to the body connection provides some deeper resonance or vibration. (I think Jack Finucane said something like this to me also) I am more of the mindset that the extra weight at the base of the neck changes the pivot and balance of the sax on my neck strap and something about that change is changing the way I’m playing or the way I’m perceiving the sound. Without the screw, the upper part of the sax is lighter but with the Buzz screw it feels heavier and the sax feels like the weight is pivoting towards my mouth more. I’m not sure how that would change things but my skeptical mind can latch on to that easier than thinking a heavier screw on the outside of my sax is adding to the vibration or resonance of the saxophone. This can be debated by you more scientific minds out there though……….
“The Buzz” Oversized Neck Screw by Westcoast Sax
Now, this review is much longer than my average review but I thought it was important that you understand my skeptical mindset leading up to the review to understand my conclusions. My goal whether I am right or wrong is always to be honest. You might argue with me that this is all in my head, or that I’m losing it or have lost all credibility in your eyes but what I have stated above is my honest opinion of this product and the changes that I noticed while using it.
At this time, I am not choosing to do a recording of the differences in sound because I think it would be fruitless. I might change my mind on that later but I have done enough comparison recordings of stuff like this in the past (such as ligatures) where the feedback is generally split between it sounds worse, it sounds the same or it sounds better between all the listeners. Even if there is a difference in sound on the recordings, many of you will say it is not scientific and doesn’t prove anything or that I’m probably playing different on the recording with the screw because I “think” it makes me sound better so I play better, etc………I don’t really feel like dealing with all the back and forth discussion on all that so no recording for now.
The important thing for me, is not any differences in sound the listener might hear but rather the sound, feeling and excitement I have when playing from my end of the horn. No one knows my sound better than I do. When I play day in and day out and have one of those moments where my sound is better or I feel like I’m in heaven, those are the gold moments that are important to me. When I dig my own sound that much, that is when I play better, have better ideas, and can execute those ideas much easier. All that being said, I’m leaving my Buzz screw on my tenor for the time being because I experienced all those things while playing over the last two days. All from a frickin’ screw!
Here is some more info from Matt at Westcoast Sax about the Buzz screw and where to get it:
Introducing: “The Buzz” SS Oversized Neck Screw by Westcoast Sax – Made in the USA
“The Buzz” Oversized Neck Screw by Westcoast Sax
How Does It Compare To The Rest? I designed “The Buzz” Screw to be a little larger in the fingertips with an Easy On Off Grip. The grip texture makes it really easy to tighten the screw. I also made the threads a little shorter for additional strength…You will Not Break “The Buzz” Screw! I added extra weight to the screw that will definitely give you more of a Buzz! (Results Vary)
Product Details: “The Buzz” SS Oversized Neck Screw is made from *1 Piece Stainless Steel Construction *Extremely Durable *It Won’t Rust or Break *Easy On Off Grip Texture *Extra Weight Added *Cosmetically…It Looks Great!
– Selmer – Yanagisawa (Same Threads) In Stock
– Yamaha – Keilwerth – Antigua Winds (Same Threads) In Stock
– P. Mauriat – Eastman – Cannonball – Macsax (Same Threads) Not In Stock – Coming Soon!!
Call Matt at: 951-805-5611 or Email: WestCoastSax@Yahoo.Com and you can also order from the Westcost Sax Facebook page.
* At the time of this review the price is $50 with free shipping included. There is a return policy but you would have to communicate with Matt on the details of that. Let me know if you try it and what you think below. Steve
Please do not vote below unless you have tried an Oversized Neck Screw of some kind on your saxophone:
Ted Maciag says
You really need to get the whole truth on this subject. Heavy Mass screws were invented by Eric Satterlee, Meridian Winds in Okemos, MI, https://www.meridianwinds.com/ Eric never made a claim as to what they would do for one’s sound….everyone else has.
They were the subject of heavy debate by Steve Goodson, with much approval by him and others in his posse. In fact, Steve bought them and put them on his own web site. Many others have taken a liking to them and have them installed as well, and so do I, even on my Silver Sonic.
Keep up the good work….we all appreciate these reviews of sax stuff that you do.
Thanks Ted. I have seen these screws around for years but have been too skeptical to try them up until now. Trying this one has changed my mind on them that is for sure! Steve
Just to clarify because a few people on Facebook asked. The lyre screw on a Selmer SBA tenor is right next to the neck screw on the same socket. Some people were thinking the lyre screw was further down the sax body like on a Yamaha YAS23. I did do this review with the Buzz in the lyre screw space when I noticed these difference. I will try the neck screw area tomorrow to see if it is the same as the lyre screw or different and post my findings. Steve
Alex Jackson says
I don’t think that Eric Satterlee actually invented this concept. Jeff Peterson, the head of R&D for Yamaha in Buena Park, CA has been making these for years and giving them to those of us lucky enough to offered an “artist deal” with Yamaha and have the opportunity to visit the atelier and hand pick our horns. I believe that LA based sax player Jeff Ellwood was among the first, if not the first sax player to have one of these from Yamaha and he and Jeff P used to experiment with these quite a lot. I saw one for the first time in 2013 when I was rehearsing in LA for an upcoming tour and the other sax player , Scott Mayo, had one. I made a joke about the size of the screw and he told me how Jeff P had come with this concept at Yamaha. Scott actually told me how he had been on tour in Japan with Sergio Mendez and Yamaha had given him a new Alto for the tour. he found that the upper octave played a little sharp on the new horn so when he back to LA he called Jeff P and went in to Yamaha with the new horn. Jeff agreed that it seemed to play sharp in the upper octave and handed Scott a high mass neck screw, which Scott said he thought was ridiculous but Jeff persuaded him to try it. Sure enough, the upper octave suddenly played perfectly in tune! Scott is not a “gear head” by any means, (you can catch him in the Dancing With The Stars band, the Voice etc…) and is a monster player and he said that had he not experienced this for himself he would have completely dismissed it! I have these screws in both my Yamaha Alto and Tenor (82Z Custom II) and notice a substantial difference in terms of “sonority”, everything seems to speak more freely and and have more depth to the sound. The local repair tech at Sam Ash (Las Vegas) was very skeptical when I told him about these until he experienced them himself and then started making them for his customers. He made me one for my MKVI Alto (79***) and I had similar results. At the end of the day if this makes the horn more conformable for me to play or gets me closer to the sound concept that I want, this is worth having. I play and record full time for a living and am absolutely open to anything that makes my job just a little bit easier or more pleasurable!
William Scavotto says
So do you have to get 1 neck screw for the neck and 1 neck screw for the lyre to balance the sound ?
Steve Guy says
It is amazing how little changes can make a difference in sound….on my 1962 Kielworth Bundy Special my tech took of the little piece of brass that was supposed to hold the sheet music holder in that is close to the neck insert and the sax came alive even more than it already is….
John Laughter says
I wonder how many styles/models are out there? Just saw this review about the “Buzz” screws so it appears that there are a few different models on the market. I just started using the “ergonomic heavy mass” ones (2 on each sax) about 4 gigs ago. They work well. Have no idea why or what is going on. Both the tenor and alto have a little more volume and the upper register speaks much better. I am sure that the results will differ from player to player and sax to sax.
Steve Estes says
Perhaps a bit unrelated, but I once had to replace a neck strap with a metal hook and the first one I grabbed next had a plastic hook. I didn’t even consider the possibility that this change would affect anything. When I first started playing with the plastic hook neck strap I had some issues that I first blamed on my reed. I got out another reed and I still felt this extra resistance/stuffiness. For nearly a half hour I was looking at everything but the neck strap as the source of the problem–was a pad leaking? was the mouthpiece damaged? Then it occurred to me–could this strap have altered the resistance in my horn? I switched back to a metal hook and the problem was resolved. All of the reeds I nearly tossed played fine. I know guys who use plastic hooks and sound great. I don’t get it and I wouldn’t have believed it before this experience. I just use metal now and go with it.
John Talcott says
The latest acoustic science has proven that the wall vibrations of a woodwind instrument do not “couple” with the sound waves unless the walls are extremely thin (.2mm) and slightly oval. The sound wave downstream from the mouthpiece therefore is influenced entirely by the internal geometry of the instrument. Adding weight or mass to the outside of the body tube at any location may very well change the wall vibration in that area which is then perceived by the player, but there is no known mechanism whereby that change in wall vibration could affect the sound emitted from the instrument.
A double blind study in which neither the player(s) nor the listeners know which set-up is being played through several randomly selected trials would show conclusively whether the perceived difference in tone and/or response is physically present or a product of the player’s psychological expectations.
Ted Macaig says
So guys, here’s Eric’s accounting of it:
I think Steve should do a write up on Eric’s Heavy Mass Neck screw. Just to balance the “Buzz”.
Eric Satterlee says
Hello, as I previously stated in a long discourse on Meridian Winds Facebook Pages, I first saw Round neck screws (1000’s of them) in buckets at Ferree’s Tools while I was working there as a technician in 1999. These screws were blanks that Ferree’s milled on both ends to make the traditional neck screws that they have sold for over 50 years. This indisputable fact could easily be substantiated by anyone who cared to call Ferrees and ask Steve how long they have had buckets of round end neck screws. At that time I proposed To Cliff Ferree that they should market an Ergonomic neck screw which he did not think was a good idea at the time but he gave me some bags of them and told me to “have at it” which I knurled and gave away to clients for several years before ever promoting them for the first time at NASA 2014 after they had become very popular with Meridian Winds clients. I have stated many times that I have never stated myself that there is any benefit to a larger mass round screw besides being Ergonomic. I am certain that there are many players who could not and would not discern any accoustical difference with one neck screw or another. However, I do not question that there are some very talented, sensitive and influential players who absolutely can discern a difference. It is unfortunate that there will be players who obtain a heavy screw after being influenced to do so who will not be able to discern a difference. Again, it never entered my mind that a heavier screw would affect any acoustics . Buy an ergonomic screw to save your wrist, if you notice an accoustical benefit, more power to you. So no, I did not invent the round end neck screw, however I do believe I was the first to conceive the use of an ergonomic screw.
Jeff Taylor says
It’s great that whatever we do guides to the best experience at the end of the day. But you’re experiencing a phenomenon in the human brain that has an unconscious predisposition to prefer the neck screw “sound” because of the power of its suggestion. I agree, it’s a trip!
The same thing happens in a wine tasting. When you’re told that wine A is a superior wine to wine B ( and especially if it’s more expensive and you really love the cheaper wine B), you’re mind will ensure a congruency and you actually will think wine A tastes better. This is how powerful suggestion is and what marketing experts rely on.
But as I said, if it makes you inspired, it is money well spent (until the next suggestion!).
Norbert Wild says
I still find it hard to imagne that this would make a difference. What is the weight of the buzz screw as compared to the original lyre screw? As you perceive a difference how might it square up to the lefreque device or the even heavier Klangbogen? If weight makes a difference the Klangbogen should have a more noticeable effect since it is a little metal bar to be mounted on the lyre holder. I have not tried any of those accessories but wonder if you had a chance to test those.
I haven’t tried the Klangbogen or Lefreque as of yet so I don’t know how those compare to the Buzz screw. Maybe in the future. Steve
Rob Payne says
This seems like a variation of the disagreement over different materials used to make saxophones. A topic that you’ll never get people to agree on. You know, bronze makes the horn darker, solid silver necks that make the horn brighter and darker at the same time, and on and on. It’s even carried over to flutes, that is, thick wall versus thin wall, gold risers and all that. Sometimes I think people worry too much about equipment, at least that’s the impression I have gotten from visiting sax forums. I saw one post where these guys were arguing about the weight between two different models of the same make (Yanis), and several people were actually weighing their horns. Another post was about which model had the larger bore, and sure enough the calipers came out. I mean life is too short! I played for years without worrying about this kind of thing, I just needed a horn in good playing shape, a decent mouthpiece, and I concentrated on the music rather than equipment like I see on forums. All I really cared about was the music. With the internet came all the stuff about five digit Selmer Mark Sixes, and all the rest. I played in a band where one of the other sax players would put Band-Aids on his horn because he thought it would fix his intonation problems, he also had a suitcase full of mouthpieces which he was always changing, he never could settle on one. I’ve had a lot of different horns over the years and I sounded almost exactly the same on all of them. The only things that really did change my sound was mouthpieces and reeds, not different materials or horns. But this post was a fun read, and who knows? If some people can make out a difference and others cannot, then perhaps the difference, if there is one, is minimal, or so it seems to me. And fifty bucks for a thumb screw seems a little steep to me. Also I don’t know why a thumb screw needs to be ergonomic. I’ve never had a problem with stock screws causing me any pain or strain. I enjoyed the bit about changing the atoms of your horn with some wires, that had me laughing. Apparently I could make my saxophone sound like a flute if I hooked it up to some Pierre Rampal albums, then I could hook my flute up to some Phil Woods albums and make it sound like an alto saxophone! Or, I could hook up my soprano to a Ferrari and make it sound like a sports car. Time to practice, cheers!
Eric Satterlee says
I guess we just all never knew all of the advantages of having a lyre on our instruments while we in marching band? 😉
Pierre Vendette says
Ha ha … I took a very heavy old brass door knob and fit it with a brass rod and put scew it in the lyre hole ….I did that with different smaller door knob also. And I could hear and feel a huge difference the way the sax play and vibrate…. I’m not going to pay $50 for a screw , that is insane… I rather spend my money on one of your book instead like the approaching the note book…
Clarissa Vincent says
I fitted a piece of stainless steel onto the lyre screw, it only just clamped firmly. I noticed a responsiveness and focus in the sound, I could better play chromatic runs and every note seemef defined.
I did not believe it until repeatedly removing and replacing the 2″ metal plate until it was 100% certain there is improvement.
I’m very interested in the comment furthet up about those marching bands with lyres fitted not realising the distinct effect on the playing.
I will not be spending 60$ on a Klangbogen or Lefreque but I have spent 10$ on a solid brass coat hook which I shall cut and file to fit into the lyre holder. It is about having sufficient mass added near the neck joint. I suggest that stabilises the vibrations and enables the upper harmonics to resonate.
I purchased a set (Neck and lyre) from Meridian Winds about 2 years ago for my MVI Tenor. Does it enhance and enrich the sound or is it just bling? Honestly, I’m not picking up an improvement in sound. There could be so many variables: what mpc/reed I use, my playing on any given day, etc, etc……… but I like the bling. No regrets on the purchase. Will I buy sets for my other horns? Probably.
Ben Schild says
I’ve discussed the topic of increasing nodal mass with Goodson over the phone while working for one of his contract manufacturers. Consistent with adding nodal weights to his “evolution” model neck, certain increases in mass along the instruments cone will affix desired standing waves based on their position corresponding to a neutral wave amplitude. This is what I understood from our conversation but I imagine there is more to it. One half to one ounce in mass at the neck tenon is about right… The desired effects happen through cancellation of non-harmonic frequencies allowing energy that would otherwise be dissipated in undesired frequencies to be used more efficiently. Most players tend to overblow and do not notice a change in effiency or response. Materials do matter in saxophone construction and beyond chamber and baffle shapes the acoustic impedance of the mouthpiece will affect the pressure necessary to induce a transverse wave. Other nodal points include the thumbrests and the strap hook. Horns have been designed by trial and error since their invention and are also mass produced. The extent to which original configurations are exalted is irrational and unscientific.
Holy Cow Ben. You really know your stuff. I had trouble even following that. Sounds good though………Steve
Dave Bass says
So let me get this straight; if you have difficultly following what someone says they must surely know their stuff?
May I interest you in a bridge?
As for me, I’ll take the aforementioned acoustic analysis with a POUND of salt for two reasons. First, I’ve done a bit of research over the years on saxophone acoustics. Second, the primary source for the above poster’s information is from a guy who instructs people to reface their mouthpieces by pushing and pulling them against the sandpaper on the SHORT side of the table. Need I explain how this would create a convexity or why no one did it this way, from Brilhart to Wells and so on?
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not doubting that added mass makes a difference. Hell, saxman Brian Lopes once made me stand in place and hand me neck straps with my eyes closed and play the same thing. I swore the horn was more vibrant with a metal neckstrap hook. So I switched to one. And I’ll try this ridiculous looking oversized screw too.
As to the acoustic REASONS for these differences, let’s just say my skepticism is at an all time high with the aforementioned “explanation.”
Dave, No, It’s more like common courtesy when you are communicating with someone else. When someone offers an opinion or comment in such a way that it is obvious they have done much more research and has more knowledge on the subject than I do, I defer to their apparent expertise. It’s respectful. If the person is full of it and has no idea what they are talking about then another commenter with more knowledge on the subject matter such as yourself can challenge their statements and hash it out with them. In retrospect, I should have written “You “seem” to know your stuff”. I appreciate your comment and willingness to add to the discussion. Thanks, Steve
Dave Bass says
Thanks for the kind reply. Hope I didn’t offend; you’ll just have to forgive me as I’m a bit over “experts” these days. We must recognize that “experts” often dupe people with “specialty” language and complicated explanations. I have a friend who is a nanoparticle scientist; he makes molecules for a living yet he can explain the process in a clear way that is understandable to even a layman.
The musical and audio business is full of B.S. I always have one eyebrow raised about its claims until I induct a LOT of information, and often run my own tests as well. However, when the Source of some information is someone I have caught in a lie before, not to mention a lie they doubled-down on in the face of good evidence to the contrary, my BS meter starts to run full tilt.
Hello. 13 years ago I originally conceived our screw for its ergonomic value. Those who there after placed acoustic value to it were free to do so. We made no claims of such. Thanks. Eric
Dave Bass says
Every time I get involved in one of these blogs I kick myself in the ass for doing so. Reading comprehension is a bitch.
For the record: I never said the screws didn’t work (ie have an effect) one way or the other. Quite the contrary, I’ve had enough experiences with small things that had effect. If you saw the Plano boxes of ligatures I have you’d laugh. Ever try to “hear” the difference the rubber bands on a shockmount on a Neumann mic may or may not contribute to the sound? lol.
However, what I DID raise an eyebrow at were the acoustic “explanations” passed down from someone who has previously claimed expertise at something they had NO CLUE about.
Dave, I reviewed the Just Joe’s neckstrap years ago and I swore I heard a pronounced differenced when using the strap with the metal hook and the strap with the plastic hook. Of course I got raked over the coals by some people on social media but to this day I still believe there is a difference every time I use that strap with the metal hook……..
Dave, you seem triggered beyond all reason by Ben’s association with Steve Goodson. I found his posts constructive and his physical explanations for node-fixing external mass enhancing harmonic focus are consistent with my understanding.
Your comment about Goodson recommending side-to-side sanding of mouthpiece tables is not consistent with my understanding of what he recommended. He recommended sanding in random directions so as to avoid the longitudinal convexity that may result from sanding only along the long axis. I have successfully used that tip to get mouthpiece tables so flat that wet reeds have to be rotated in order to pry them off the table. Goodson, along with Matt Stohrer, are repairmen who have shared information that they were under no obligation to, that I have found useful in doing repair work. I can’t say the same for his detractors, least of all someone attempting a cheap shot by distorting what he recommended.
Dave Bass says
Triggered? Nah, I just don’t like BS. I didn’t “distort what he recommended” – HE put out a video with wrong information. Not my distortion, his.
Also you shouldn’t mention Stohrer with quacks; one is a guy who actually knows his stuff.
As for sanding in random directions and longitudinal convexity? Again, laughing.
You need to do some studying with some real mouthpiece refacers. I don’t have time to go into it, but there is a LONG history of many, many people doing experiments on many, many different things. Link, Wells, Humber, Morgan, Johnson, Lawson, Grizzle and many others.
Tell me, who have you studied mouthpiece refacing with?
Benjamin Schild says
I’d say Santy Runyon is a decent authority on mouthpiece design and hand finishing…
Ad hominem is of course an invalid form of argumentation. If you haven’t played Goodson’s horns or tried his products then dismissing them outright seems a bit foolish. Goodson advised me on and provided refacing tools. 45 degree movements were discussed for table tilt correction, opening and closing tips etc.
Naturalistic, causal explanations are important and without contradicting evidence or an alternative narrative that better fits and predicts observed phenomena then we are left with the proposed story.
It’s kind of sad that nearly a decade since most of this R&D was done that the industry and players haven’t caught on. I wrote my original comment in the break room of a FedEx facility where I was working at a particularly difficult time in my life. That this discussion lives on and contributes to informative discourse is rather redemptive. Thanks to Mr Neff for his conscientiousness and dedication to our craft.
Dave Bass says
I started studying with Wil Grizzle probably around the mid 80s, first over the phone b/c we were in different states. Will studied with Opperman, Wells, Glen Johnson and a lot of other people, has done refacing for Mallach and Mintzer and Berg and many others, made his own line of pieces (which I play on a couple of horns) and is a damn fine sax repair and overhaul man (tight as a drum).
I read the things Wil asked me to read, researched the people he told me about and learned their contributions to the understanding of mps. This starts with Bril (Arnie Brilhart) who practically DEVELOPED the system of numbering we use for refacing today as well as the feeler gauge sizes we use, did massive experimentation (along with “ol man Link” and many others) on facing CURVES and their effect on response throughout the registers, facing LENGTHS and their effect on response (particularly low end), how thin RAILS AND TIPS can be for optimal response, the difference between a true TIP measurement and a BAFFLE TIP measurement, the necessary CLEARANCE between the two (responsible for chirping or squeaking), various theories of how to cut that TIP CURVE (whether to leave it “flat” or “rounded over”) and its effect on altissimo and a myriad of BAFFLE SIDEWALL AND INNER CHAMBER DESIGNS, not to mention MATERIALS. Plus, how to FILE, how to get rid of FILE MARKS and much more.
I purchased the tools Wil led me to – and as a bonus he made me a true tip indicator out of dial caliper gauge, decades ago when you could not buy them readily (remember Erick Brand??)
And then I PRACTICED LIKE HELL. First on dozens of cheap student throwaways with chipped tips etc, just to get my “pull” right, even, correct pressure, right selection of paper for material, etc. Then I refaced some of my own professional pieces starting in my teens – and did a damn good job of it. I even made a stainless steel Bril Level Air tenor play great (as good as that design can play). I stopped refacing b/c I was too busy playing 260+ gigs a year to keep my refacing “chops” up, but it taught me a ton. I also studied reedmaking from the Opperman guide and CUT MY OWN REEDS in my teens (like a nut!). Stopped that too for same reason, but I learned a lot.
I think this claim of “longitudinal convexity” is utter nonsense. If you hold a mouthpiece correctly, thumb on one side, fingers on the other (some point their index finger straight down the middle for pressure and balance) and draw a mouthpiece LONG WAYS across sandpaper (400, 220, etc.) on a MACHINE FLAT SURFACE (metal, glass etc) and you draw it straight… there is not a prayer’s chance in hell of creating a “longtitudinal convexity.”
I have NEVER made a “longitudinal convexity” in all my years doing this. I had a small piece of tempered glass made for me years ago just to test tables. It’s small enough to hold in my hands, I lick the baffle, slap it on the glass, turn it over, look through the glass. YOU CAN SEE WHERE A TABLE IS AND IS NOT FLAT clearly doing this. You can see any and all inconsistencies because of the visible moisture barrier. On flat tables, I can even remove my hand off the mp and it will stay STUCK to the glass (don’t try this at home unless you know what you’re doing).
Point is, I’m experienced, I’m knowledgeable and I’ve been trained by one of the best in the lineage. These claims of “longitudinal convexity” and swiping tables in every direction is simply ridiculous, and I would HIGHLY doubt he learned this from Santy (whom I would ALSO call for advice as a teen). Even common physics will tell you pulling a long rectangular object SHORT WAYS against sandpaper would give you LESS CONTROL than going long ways.
Argue it out among yourselves. I’m going to buy one of these dumb screw thingies and see what it does. lol!
I’ve seen Goodson demonstrate his table-flattening technique on video and he clearly does not recommend favoring side-to-side motion over other directions. Side motion is used initially to identify high spots, then only in conjunction with other directions for the most even result. You distorted what he recommended. I realize that talking shit about Goodson is the way to get invited to sit with the cool kids in some circles but it’s frankly an endeavor that lacks honesty, as your distortion shows.
I’m not interested in your perceived connection with mouthpiece gods. Your invoking them without specific reference on a particular issue of design or technique is empty posturing without substance.
I don’t care if the source of helpful information is Matt Stohrer, Curt Altarac, Barry “Bear” Wilson (RIP), or Steve Goodson. We have different priorities. Mine are about results. Yours are about playing politics and as such warrant no further expenditure of my time.
Dave Bass says
1) I don’t care what you have seen. The video I am referencing is from probably 10 years ago. Might have been the same one, might not. Either way, it is NEVER acceptable to cut a mp sideways. You can determine the flatness of a table – AS I EXPLAINED EARLIER – in ways that does NOT remove material from the mp. I personally would NEVER hand a mp to a guy who wants to take off ANY more material than necessary, cause you can’t put it back. And some mps are as open as they can get already!
2) I don’t give a damn about being accepted in a clique; I’ve lived most of my life outside of them and I’m doing just fine.
3) You are calling me a liar. You are wrong.
4) Your standalone sentence is gibberish. My previous post wasn’t meant to be specific about any other topic but the one I initially mentioned (which a few ignorant people got their panties in a wad over). I merely listed an overview mp refacing to show knowledge and experience.
5a) You are accusing me of politics. You are full of it. Your politics is hiding behind anonymity. State your full name if you want to be this caustic to me.
5b) You don’t have the experience to even KNOW what is “helpful” and what is not. That’s obvious.
In short, go blow.
Jeff Taylor says
So re: “…increases in mass along the instruments cone will affix desired standing waves based on their position corresponding to a neutral wave amplitude”
Is affixing desired standing waves desirable? Or would we want them set free (via the light mass being introduced along the nodes?), because later you mention “allowing energy to be used more efficiently”.
Please clarify this important point.
John Talcott says
“Consistent with adding nodal weights to his “evolution” model neck, certain increases in mass along the instruments cone will affix desired standing waves based on their position corresponding to a neutral wave amplitude.”
This is absolute nonsense from an acoustic science standpoint.
“One half to one ounce in mass at the neck tenon is about right… The desired effects happen through cancellation of non-harmonic frequencies allowing energy that would otherwise be dissipated in undesired frequencies to be used more efficiently.”
More nonsense. I can spot a saxophone charlatan from a mile away. They always use the words “nodes”, “nodal”, and “resonance. It is really very simple. Can adding weight or mass to the outside of a brass tube change how it vibrates and feels to the player? Certainly. Does the change in the vibrations of the body have any effect upon the sound waves inside the tube? ONLY IF THE TUBE IS .2 MM THICK AND SLIGHTLY OVAL. This is not my opinion. It is what acoustic science has proven. What players are responding to when they add a heavy mass screw is the difference in the “bioacoustic feedback” from the instrument AND make a false assumption that this means that the sound of the instrument has changed. A well controlled double blind study would show that there is no difference in the sound waves emitted into the room with or without the added mass to the outside of the body.
Jeff Taylor says
@Ben can you answer my query?
Ben Schild says
The sound does change and the effect goes beyond placebo. A tone produced through a horn has multiple frequency components each having a relative amplitude giving rise to a dynamic range or timbre. Acoustic measurement of tones and analysis of their frequency components via Fourier analysis to parse the component frequencies has been done in the case of the heavy brass neck strap clasp. David Carlos Valdez had this done to test his impression of the Just Joe’s strap. Frequency analysis is the relevant test.
Desireable frequencies are multiples of the fundamental, the wave length of which corresponds to four times the distance to the first open tone hole.
Acoustic feedback plays a role in tone production but my impression of the perceived problems in intonation for a straight soprano result from reflected sound from the floor as opposed to a saxello or curved soprano.
The “Evolution” model neck repositions the players neck accounting for the playing angle of the mouthpiece and a comfortable holding position for the horn. The improved air column allows for easier and more powerful tone production (look at Branford Marsalis’s playing position for reference). The improved ergonomics alone made it worth my purchase.
As for the issue of efficiency, pressure at the mouthpiece (standing wave oscillator) is converted to a standing wave by the frequency of the opening and closing of the reed on the mouthpiece window between the break and the tip rail. This pressure energy is converted to the sound of the horn. If a player has poor oral shape or overblows these can lead to inefficient tone production and may result in embouchure fatigue or neck injury. This is one form of inefficiency but using good oral shape, adequate breath support and tall air column can still produce tones that do not have as broad of a dynamic range due to horn design.
I am working with my local repairman to produce a prototype replacement tenon receiver that would help the efficiency of vintage or damaged horns. He agrees with me as far as the roll of receiver mass helping an old horn “come alive” as he has witnessed. A well lapped and sealed tenon is an intuitive way to illustrate efficiency to a skeptic.
Ronald Bercaw says
Were these frequency analyses done with a mechanical embouchure, vacuum “player”, and reproduced? Were the results different or statistically different? Were the results even different? You just said the tests were done, not what the tests said. What journal were these results printed in? DOI number? If it’s a well designed study, it’s paper worthy, so where is it? If it’s not a well designed study, you might as well have said “I can totally hear the difference, it’s not placebo.”
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and vague tellings of a study you can’t possibly find with the given information is definitely not extraordinary evidence.
Jacobs Jean-Marie says
Forget what you think you know. Just try it,do record yourself, listen with eyes closed and trust your ears and intuition. A simple experiment with a screwdriver fixed in the lyre holder convinced me. I now have the toko klankbogen. No regrets,well spent money.
james sullivan says
I just tried my alto with an Allen key inserted in the hole for the music frame. Tightened the screw. Could just detect an improvement playing low B flat. Have yet to try other notes..
Mike Wilkens says
Are you still a skeptic regarding the explanations given by Jack & Matt as to the mechanism allowing heavy mass screws to affect saxophone sound?
There is a way to test your hypothesis from the article: that the position of the added weight changes the balance of the horn & thus, how you play it.
Use a rubber band or tape to hang the heavy mass screw to your original screw being careful not to allow any metal on metal contact.
I would love to hear where you are at now with this, & if this experiment changes your opinion.
Warren Keller says
I just had the pleasure of meeting Ian Hendrickson-Smith. He was kind enough to let me try quite a few pieces of his gear. We both agreed that the Meridian Winds neck screw made a noticeable difference in my already great tenor! We both agreed that we’re not the type to drink the Kool-Aid, and I’ve been laughing at this concept for a couple of years now. I was wrong!
Maybe it works a bit like the stone put on the chiver of the Cannonball saxophones, that the House says to make the sax sound better, or more toned?
I have one of both of these screws, both the Meridian Winds and the West Coast screws. There’s a slight sonic difference, but not much. That being said, I still like both of them, especially the West Coast Buzz screw, because it slightly changes the look of my Buescher Aristocrat.
John Talcott says
A slight difference in the player’s perception and a meaurable change in the soundwaves emitted into the room are two entirely different aspects to this conversation. I don’t disagree with the first which is a highly personal and subjective observation. As to the second, to date there has been no scientific study that measures or confirms this alleged effect. My appeal to all of the saxophone players who believe they “sense” a “sonic difference” when more mass is added to the area of the body of the saxophone that has the thickest wall to begin with is to PLEASE DON’T CONFLATE THE TWO. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME.
I was going to lay out, but it seems that some of the think-they-know-the-science-but-don’t crowd from SOTW have shown up to boost their egos by putting down people who see a benefit to the high mass neck screws. I’ve heard some sound demos and they show enough difference to intrigue me, but I’ve got several priorities in front of a nicer but frankly expensive neck screw. I have experience with the more general external mass issue, with weighted necks and large brass strap hooks. Yes, those things do make a difference, and it is understandable in a general way according to the science of wind instrument acoustics. Those citing scientific authority to contend otherwise are scientific dilettantes who do not know how to evaluate the scope, limitations, and range of applicability of the literature they cite. They also seem unaware of the physical science that would allow them to understand the energy budget of a saxophone, which has an estimated 90% of the energy of the air column going into the body of the saxophone. At least some understanding of thermodynamics is required to understand the significance of “thermal loss,” which is the entropy increase as a result of the work performed on the body by the air column. And no, the entropy is not within the air column because if it was, the result would be white noise rather than organized sound waves. Being the recipient of most of the air column’s energy, a resilient saxophone body is a dynamic element in tone production and its dynamic characteristics are significant in how it feeds back into the audible harmonic content of the air column. Those who contend that external mass influencing the sound of saxophone is an “extraordinary claim” requiring “extraordinary evidence” are merely showing the limitations of their own understanding. It is not extraordinary if you look at what is written with an understanding grounded in basic physics.
Moving beyond that fundamental lack of understanding on the part of dilettante “experts,” there is constant misapplication of irrelevant literature. The notion that literature on flutes or clarinets is applicable to saxophones because they are all called woodwinds is howlingly ignorant. Saxophones emit two orders of magnitude more acoustic energy (measured in Watts, not decibels) than do other woodwinds, and even that is only a fraction of the energy within the instrument. Their internal energy is more comparable to brass instruments. Studies of cylindrical bore instruments and experimental devices are irrelevant to saxophones because cylindrical bores have resonant response at very few frequencies while flared bores have resonant response at a very wide range of frequencies. If anyone is curious about how a flared bore responds to a vibrating air column, and vice-versa, I have linked to a very interesting study of the role of brass instrument bell vibration in tone production. It is also worth considering that the flared portion of many brass instruments is relatively short, while the entire saxophone body is flared.
Now we can consider the quality of harmonics and the role of external mass at selected points in enhancing it. As has been explained above, it is desirable to have harmonics line up as even multiples of the fundamental to generate a timbre with a strong tonal center, which is referred to as “focus” and may be perceived as “resonance.” The misalignment of harmonics weakens the tonal center, leading to a more “spread” sound. I think of focus as something akin to a signal-to-noise ratio. A spread sound also tends to have less carrying power because of the destructive interference that occurs with sound waves out of harmonic series with each other. Joints are problem areas for maintaining harmonic alignment because the adjacent sections of the tube respond differently to the pounding they get from the air column, thus feeding off-series frequencies back into the air column. That is also an issue at the mouthpiece/neck connection, which adds its own harmonic fuzz when it is not stable. In these situations extra mass is used to line up nodes where they can minimize off-series frequencies. Ben put it very well and succinctly several posts above:
“The desired effects happen through cancellation of non-harmonic frequencies allowing energy that would otherwise be dissipated in undesired frequencies to be used more efficiently.”
Now to address the “It’s all in your mind” arguments. To be fair, there is a lot of rubbish about how certain premium finishes affect sound. There is no doubt a willingness to transfer a human response to visual aesthetics to aural aesthetics, particularly among less experienced players. But what visual aesthetics do external mass devices contribute to a saxophone? The klangbogen is a clunky and awkward looking device. I doubt that a blobby-headed neck screw contributes much to the overall look of a saxophone. Mass firmly attached to a strut-type neck brace (Conn and others) can affect tone for the better – or much, much worse. Hang a small pair of vise-grip pliers off of it to revel in the sheer ugliness that can occur as a result of too much mass. It’s still good proof-of-concept. The change in sound is definitely a real physical thing and not created by any desire of the player. Further credence is lent by players who find that a particular device works on one but not another of their saxophones. They are capable of determining whether it is effective or not, regardless of whatever desire they may have to find a benefit on all of their instruments.
Those claiming that a clinical trial or an academic article is required to make any statement about sonic differences are blowing smoke and making excuses to discount what they can’t grasp because of their limited understanding of the basic science. Much of the scientific data on which policy decisions, and even some engineering decisions, are based are gathered opportunistically and a wide confidence interval is accommodated with risk assessment. Evaluating engineering tweaks to saxophones is not the same as evaluating, say, medicines with multiple millions of dollars and health consequences for millions of people at stake. If sound-enhancing mass works, its effects provide immediate feedback in a specific realm. With medicine, the effects are not necessarily so immediate or constrained,
Is there a risk that a high mass neck screw or klangbogen would provide no benefit if used with my particular saxophone? Yes. Would that situation negate the fact that others find them beneficial and worth the expenditure? No. What is the real risk? $80 for the klangbogen and a white elephant if it doesn’t work. $40 for a high mass neck screw and still a nice functional thing if it’s a sonic null factor. Do I want one? Sort of, but not a priority. Maybe some day and with curiosity as part of my motive…..
David Carlos Valdez enlisted some good scientific help in his evaluation of the sonic effects of large brass strap hooks. The limitations of that test are fully disclosed and some further tests are suggested. But my experience is aligned with David’s and the results of the pilot test.
Clay Pufahl says
Well, after trying the heavy mass screw I have once again I actually feel the added weight/is not preferable at least for me. I have tried a few different neck screws and they all change the way the horn feels while playing. Again, not the sound at all I’m sure but for whatever reason there is a difference for me for sure. I’m more curious about the difference in materials and how that changes the resonance or vibrations. Anyone have any thoughts on solid silver screws?
Never tried a solid silver screw. This one is stainless steel.
In terms of node fixing, mass is mass and it doesn’t matter if it’s steel, brass, silver, or stone as long as the mass is the same. It’s not the same situation as the bore, where differences in resilience, affected by metallurgy and work hardening, affect how the tube responds to acoustic input and feeds back into the harmonics of the air column.
Got an update to my post of 5/25/2019. Partly from dissatisfaction with the undersized grip on my neck screw and partly out of curiosity over sonic effects, I fastened an automotive nut to the grip using epoxy putty. Yes, there is a benefit to responsiveness and focus. Not a fancy look, but it’s just one of several funky looking mods on my brown-as-a-log instrument that has drawn the comment that it looks “steampunk.”