View Full Version : Do Saxes mature over time?

Metro Gnome
08-28-2003, 09:35 PM
Okay, forget the debate on which vintage sax is better than another. Forget the ‘issues’ and question marks over new Vs old. Even try to put out of your mind rhyme & reason…Stuff about intonation etc...

08-28-2003, 11:08 PM
Great question! I've been wondering about this. Logic dictates that the horn shouldn't change (unless it gets an overhaul, of course), but that the PLAYER will. I just don't know, but I have noticed that my Buescher tenor seems to have gotten better after playing it for several months. Since it was totally overhauled (set up perfectly by Gayle at vintagesax), perhaps the keywork has broken in to an extent, but I also seem to notice more depth to the tone. Don't know if the horn has changed or I have adjusted.

08-28-2003, 11:55 PM
It depends, my teacher said that his yamaha 62 plays EXACTLY the same as a brand new 62, but his VI plays very different than what it was like when he got it. A few other people I have talked to seem to think that Selmers are probably one of the very few that get better, so my answer is, it depends who made it.

08-29-2003, 01:56 AM
"...like a vintage wine?"

Maybe like a vintage whine... :D

M Exner
08-29-2003, 03:30 AM
That's a good question but may be hard to answer since the player of said saxophone will undoubtedly mature and get better through time as well. So... was it the saxophone or the player of saxophone?

I wonder if new saxophones have a break in period like let's say cars do?

We all know that cars run better after a couple of thousand miles are put on them. The new engine has more friction being tighter with critical machining and tolerances. More friction requires more energy to overcome. After these friction areas have been worn smoother, the friction is lessened therefore running now more efficiently.

I think new saxes have a break in period where probable uneven alignments and settings (minute as they may be) wear more intensely in those high friction spots. After a while these also become smoother and easier to operate and play.

The same goes for corks, pads, and springs as they compress, seat and equalize in tensions through time.

Then on the molecular level the tensions of the stressed metal molecules caused in the manufacturing processes tend to equal out as they age. This is said to create a better resonating metal for the saxophone. At least this is the arguement for the "big bucks" kryogenic treatment guys.

So what do you think? Mike

08-29-2003, 07:37 AM
It may be the player that matures and sound better on a horn that never changes.

08-29-2003, 08:32 AM
If they were all like mine they'd just fall to bits.

08-29-2003, 08:34 AM
I also think a player gets familiar with the peculiarities of a particular horn and adjusts his embouchure to get the sound he has in mind.

08-29-2003, 11:22 PM
I think new saxes have a break in period where probable uneven alignments and settings (minute as they may be) wear more intensely in those high friction spots. After a while these also become smoother and easier to operate and play.

How long do you think that would be?

M Exner
08-30-2003, 05:25 AM
Who knows? :roll: Too many variables. Sax brand, construction integrity, atmospheric conditions, frequency of sax playing, style of music played and lubrication. For arguement sake, let's say about six months to a year with daily practice and or performances. There's always going to be friction. It's just a matter of knowing when is it going to drop off from that initial high friction time. :D Mike

Metro Gnome
08-30-2003, 08:47 AM
If we ‘feel’ (I know this isn’t very scientific) that they do sound better over time. Then all things being equal, some Saxes should sound worse. Subtle changes and analysis of metallurgy & mechanics may equally have a detrimental effect as well as a beneficial one…Wouldn’t it??? :twisted:

We can also easily take ‘player development’ out of the loop by giving the wee beastie to our buddy to play and see if it still has a ‘matured’ sound as opposed to a ‘different’ sound from another player…

08-31-2003, 04:49 AM
Do Saxophones sound better or mature over time, like a vintage wine?

I voted no.

They don't mature, they get old. Aging does cause a change in the horn. Springs soften up, pads dry out, lacquer wears off, etc. These things will effect the performance and appearance of the instrument, which may in turn effect the sound or it's playability. The word mature implies improvement. I doubt if anyone would consider these things an improvement. This is why we take our horns to repair techs. So they can be returned to their "like-new" condition.

As for sound, colibri has it right:

It may be the player that matures and sound better ...

Perfect Pitch
08-31-2003, 10:30 AM
Shoot me! I voted yes. My oldest horn seems to have developed a resonance beyond her siblings. Many assertions are made by cryogenics experts as to the process relieving internal stresses thereby allowing the horn to resonate more freely (sympathetically?). I think aging may have a similar effect. Anyway the bottom line to your question reads - do you prefer old or new saxes? and for me I will take a good vintage sax for tone alone, though I concede intonation/ergonomics etc are improved on better new horns. :borg:

08-31-2003, 03:52 PM
The only change for the better is that the new key work and pads will break in and form to your playing.
After that period, deterioration will take its toll.

09-01-2003, 05:17 AM
voted no..

Only thing i guess that matures is chops and embouchure.. i think.
But i have heard it before.. i think it´s a myth.

09-10-2003, 11:29 PM
Yes! My tenor had to broken in actionwise, and now it responds to my every desire, unless I've got a funky reed.

09-14-2003, 12:02 AM
Cryogenic Experts perhaps salesmen would be a better word choice.
Has there been any scientific data on this myth/treatment?
I think the player just learns to control the horn better. Also change is good when you get to play another pro-quality horn one notices slight differences in tone/resistance/tone color et cetera. It's like picking a new mouthpiece after playing it for 20 minutes. Don't we all have a box full of mouthpieces? I can't believe I actually bought 2 dukoffs back in the late 80s for my YAS-62 (shudder).

09-15-2003, 03:48 AM
My 1931 Buescher get better after the second bottle of wine. By the third bottle, I could put Charlie Parker to shame (RIP).

All things being equal, some sax players mature over time. As for saxes themselves, the metal alloys used in their fabrication are fairly stable. Maybe after a couple thousand years, there could be a slight change in intonation, but we won't be around to make that comparison.

09-15-2003, 12:05 PM
I think what matures overtime may be the key work. I think it conforms to the user. If the sound matures overtime, it probably is the player getting better at playing the horn.

09-15-2003, 05:25 PM
Anyway the bottom line to your question reads - do you prefer old or new saxes? and for me I will take a good vintage sax for tone alone, though I concede intonation/ergonomics etc are improved on better new horns. :borg:

I would submit that the good vintage sax had a better tone (than some new ones) right from the start.

09-16-2003, 03:11 PM
Anyway the bottom line to your question reads - do you prefer old or new saxes? and for me I will take a good vintage sax for tone alone, though I concede intonation/ergonomics etc are improved on better new horns. :borg:

I would submit that the good vintage sax had a better tone (than some new ones) right from the start.

I agree. This is due in large by the fact that the old vintage horns were "hand made" with often higher quality materials than many of todays mass produced horns. There is no comparison of a true craftsmans work as opposed to some automated machine stamping out horns non stop.

09-16-2003, 05:08 PM
If the "internal stresses" situation is assumed to be true, wouldn't it actually cause the instrument to play worse through introduction of things like non-level tone holes and warping over time?

09-16-2003, 11:12 PM
Theoretically the internal stresses make some parts of the brass harder than others. Harder materials vibrate at higher frequencies than softer materials ( of the same thickness and alloy ). Thus a newer non-stress-relieved horn should have a more dissonant sound. A horn with a perfectly stress relieved body should thus resonate perfectly evenly along its entire length producing a very full tone. Brass can be stress relieved by time, playing or cryogenic treatment. There is no scientific proof that these theories are correct because nobody has done the research. I believe that cryogenic treating does stress relieve the metal and improve the tone based purely on my own experience. I had my tenor cryogenically stress relieved and noticed an improvement in tone. It was a very good instrument before the treatment and is slightly better now.

M Exner
09-17-2003, 12:43 AM
JfW, it would seem that those internal stresses you mentioned might cause some warpage or unleveling of tone holes. I think however that the cohesive forces keeping the shape of the horn are stronger than the stressed molecular forces caused by it's forming.

Having said that, I am still not convinced of cryogenic treatment helping to improve the tone of saxes or any horn. Since I have no first hand experience then I can't really speak on its merits or not. I do however find it hard to believe that no research has been done on this.

It seems that you could set up a sound test with let's say an oscilliscope and microphone and use controls with tones generated through identically formed (horned shaped) bells. I'm no expert on accoustics, but I think a sound test could be engineered and calibrated to verify the claims of cryogenics.

Lowell, I don't doubt your experience of improvement to be real but I also know how a person's psyche works too. I just need the science. Mike

09-17-2003, 12:58 AM
It's amazing noone can provide any data on horns maturing.....I know there are some materials science guys in the forum, please chime in about the stress relieving nonsense!! My sax has been looking sort of tense, I better take it on vacation....but not someplace too cold.
Maybe heating a sax would be better to relieve stress ... sort of loosen it up?

09-18-2003, 04:15 AM
Heating a sax enough to stress relieve it would cause all the soldered parts to fall off. Resoldering the parts individually would produce new internal stresses because not all parts of the horn were heated simultaneously. M Exner is correct that the stresses are insufficient to warp the horn in any way. Bending a sheet of thin brass into a cone-shaped body tube tries to stretch the outer surface and compress the inner surface of the sheet. That minute amount of stretching and compressing is the internal stress we are talking about. The molecules of brass on the outer surface are slightly farther apart than normal and the molecules on the inner surface are slightly closer together. Forming the tone holes adds 18 more localised stress points. When you tighten a guitar string, you are increasing its stress and the pitch rises accordingly. Similarly, the sections of brass under the greatest internal stress resonate to a slightly higher pitch than the sections with the least stress. Brass is soft and these stresses slowly dissipate over time. Slowly cooling the same brass tube to absolute zero (-460 Deg F) with liquid hydrogen would shrink the space between all the molecules to the absolute minimum thus eliminating the stretched and crushed spots. It is theoretically impossible to achieve absolute zero, and liquid hydrogen is extremely dangerous so liquid nitrogen is used achieve -238 degrees F in the cryo-chamber. Liquid nitrogen never touches the metal so that there is no thermal shock damage.
It is difficult to justify scientific analysis of this phenomenon because the effect is small and nobody is interested in footing the bill. Research into cryogenic treatment of steel alloys has been heavily financed by industry because there are huge profits at stake. Cryo-treated drill bits stay sharp 3-4 times longer than regular bits. On a mass produced item, this reduces production costs. When it comes to saxes, buyers are influenced by tone, price, finish and ergonomics. The slight improvement in tone offered by stress relieving would not make or break the deal so no manufacturer is interested. All the evidence is purely anecdotal. "Try it. You'll like it."

M Exner
09-18-2003, 03:38 PM
Lowell, thanks for the detailed explanation. I understand better what you're talking about.

I believe however, if it was proven scientifically with cold hard facts (excuse the pun) to improve tone then I'm sure there would be significant numbers of musicians chosing this as an option. Enough to make it worthwhile anyway. You ask the members of this forum and most will say "tone is #1" when it comes to the attributes of a saxophone.

The illustration you gave with the tension on guitar strings is changing the shape of the string thus changing its pitch. This increased tension buy turning the keys on the guitar is not the same as the molecular tension or stresses of cryogenics.

This cryogenic treatment would not or should not change the original shape of the sax once it is brought back to normal room temperature correct? Then why should it change the tone. I know a cold saxophone or other instrument will change the pitch. But will the cryoed sax change the tone?

And if it does change the tone, is it changing it to a better tone? Maybe it is the stresses in the metals that give "that special complex tone" we like so much to hear. More questions than answers! :( Mike

09-18-2003, 05:23 PM
So when a horn is crygenically treated it gets a repad and adjustment right, since the extreme cold would crack the leather and cork etc...? Then a state of the art rope leak light is scientifically lowered into the treated sax not disturbing the now unstressed sax and the keys are adjusted...and regulated...

M Exner
09-18-2003, 07:40 PM
Surely they would remove all the keys and pads. Those temperatures would certainly cause trouble to leather and corks. Mike

09-18-2003, 07:56 PM
My point was that the horn is repadded and adjusted so this could account for the change/improvement in sound as opposed to imaginary stress release :!:

09-19-2003, 09:05 PM
After cryogenic treatment, my sax needed no pads or corks replaced although the shellac holding them in place may crack under the extreme cold. It did not need an alignment. None of the soldered joints cracked. I had removed the rubber palm key risers and plastic thumbhook. The only damage was a split in a sleeve of plastic tubing that cushions part of the octave mechanism. There are several similar pieces of tubing on my sax that did not split. My regular technician replaced it in about 60 seconds with a scrap of shrink fit tubing for free. Cryogenic treatment does not change the shape of the sax; it merely relieves some of the internal stresses. Stress relieving is said to give the greatest improvement on saxes that have had extensive dent repair. Dent repair involves reforming the deformed sections of brass which yields several more localised internal stress points. I have never heard anyone who has actually done the cryo-treatment say anything bad about it. Steve Goodson offers this service at his shop. You can read about it on his website. Steve's integrity and saxophone knowledge is respected worldwide. I know it is difficult to hand over your favorite instrument to a stranger who you feel may be putting it in peril. It does work, and the only way to prove it is to do it yourself. It cost me a little more than $100 cdn. How many hundreds of dollars have you spent on mouthpieces and reeds looking for a richer tone? It won't change a clunky old Vito into a Mark VI so don't expect miracles.
Imagine 1000 perfectly tuned flutes played by master flautists all hitting the same note. The note would be full, rich and beautiful. Now take 20 of those flutes and detune them by 20 cents either flat or sharp. When they all try the same note as before, there will be a slight dissonant quality to the note. Variations in the internal stresses of the brass sax body give the same dissonant effect.

09-19-2003, 09:23 PM
After all that, I realised that I had not answered the original question. I like my modern B&S tenor but I would replace it with a Buffet-Crampon S-1 or Superdynaction if I found one that was better. I tried a Superdynaction that had lived a hard life and found it lacking in that its tone was not superior to my B&S. I have tried several Mark VIs but I don't like the ergonomics. My Buffet-Crampon S-1 alto is 28 years old and the demands of my talent will never exceed its abilities. The keywork is fast, light and precise. The tone is full and rich with superb response. I guess I prefer the oldies but play a modern out of necessity.

09-30-2003, 05:03 AM
I can easily imagine that lacquer loss on a dent-free horn ("maturing") from wear can change the sound of a horn. I have played new, identical unfinished and lacquered horns and noted a really obvious difference...whether or not you like it is taste. In that case, the unlacquered horn had more overtones and developed more of an edge when pushed. I even had my son listen from outside the room and he could easily tell which was which (A or B).
I have also stripped remaining lacquer off horns and, more subjectively, noticed a difference, but unfortunately these were simultaneously overhauled, so who knows.

11-03-2003, 08:13 PM
It has long been contended that wood instruments (guitars, violins, viola's,cello's-etc.) break in over time because of the vibrations though the stucture while being played and of course, stress from string tensioning vibrations from the bridge of said instruments and usually end up sounding much better over time if taken care of and not hideously abused.
I read somewhere (I can't recall just where) that the same thing effect brass instruments-vibrations from playing over time, enzymes from saliva and bacteria on interior of the horn supposedly "cure" the brass over time...
My Super 20 sounds much better now than it did 26 years ago when new, but I'm also a much better player...so I don't really know if the horn has gotten better or not.
I would imagine that the above factors have at least a subtle effect on the resonance of a horn over time, but I doubt there is any scientific research to back it up.

Fun Bun
03-12-2004, 12:49 AM
Let's take Yo Yo Ma's cello. That thing was built centuries ago. The the glue has probably become more brittle perhaps making it more resonant. The wood has aged and the like.

Saxophone, on the otherhand, are like cars. They wear down as they get older. Metal against metal. The bore, agruable changes because of the wet/dry nature of the horn.

I think what yuou may be talking about is becomming more familiiar with the horn over time. On the Discovery Channel about 10-2 years back, someone developed a cello made from composite materials. They had Yo Yo Ma play it and in the interview Yo Yo Ma said that every year he learns something new about his cello. Wow, a cello that is centureis old and he still leanr new stuff about it. I think it's this way with our horns. The more we play them the more we learn about them.

04-19-2005, 01:06 PM
Nothing saxophone-related ever matures . . . :D

04-19-2005, 01:41 PM
Nothing saxophone-related ever matures . . . :D

:D and besides, maturity is highly over-rated!!

Steve J.
04-19-2005, 02:27 PM
Steve's integrity and saxophone knowledge is respected worldwide.

I think there are many who would not agree with atleast 1/2 of this statement. I would suggest plenty of research before entrusting your instrument(s) to anyone.

04-19-2005, 02:35 PM
Saxes don't get better with age, they just get older.

04-19-2005, 09:43 PM
Little Johnny to Teacher: "When I grow up, I wanna be a musician!"

Teacher to Little Johnny: "Now, now, Little Johnny, you know you can't do both."

Says it all . . . :D

John Holifield
04-20-2005, 07:37 AM
I think there are many who would not agree with atleast 1/2 of this statement. I would suggest plenty of research before entrusting your instrument(s) to anyone.

Can you Elaborate? You opened the door and I'm steppin in :twisted:

04-20-2005, 10:08 AM
Can you Elaborate? You opened the door and I'm steppin in :twisted:It's best if you search for yourself.