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Thread: Saxophone keywork: reference for technical terms

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    Distinguished SOTW member, musician, technician & columnist clarnibass's Avatar
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    Default Saxophone keywork: reference for technical terms

    There is sometimes confusion about terms of saxophone key parts, especially from players who try to post technical questions here. Since this is not my first langauge, I especially noticed all English terms trying to find what I thought were the most logical to use. A few people recommended the terms I suggested as clearest so I am posting explanations and definitions. A moderator will make this a sticky thread soon.

    Key: This is a part with a pad. In photo 1, A, B and D together make the key. This is the right side C key.

    Lever: This is a part without a pad, that is operating a key from a distance. The part that is operating the C key is called the C key lever (not in the photo).

    Post or (less common) pillar: The part soldered to the saxophone, marked E in photo 1, on which keys and levers are mounted.

    Pad cup or key cup: This is the part marked D in photo 1. The pad is glued to the key cup.

    Key arm: This is the part marked A in photo 1. It is the part that the key cup is soldered to.

    Linkage: This is a connection, usually between a key and a lever. The connection between C and A in photo 1 is a linkage. In this case it is the side C lever to key fork and pin type linkage.

    Linkage arm: This is marked C in photo 1. This is similar to a key arm but instead of ending with a key cup it ends with a linkage. In photo 1, C is a linkage arm from the side C lever that is operating the side C key using the linkage. In photo 1 A is both a key arm and a linakge arm. In this case the part is usually referred to just as key arm.

    Hinge: This is the part marked B in photo 1. This is the part of the key that is used for mounting it on the instrument.

    Photo 1:



    Hinges and screws: There are two types of hinges and (generally) two types of screws. This is where most of the confusion comes from many different terms. Some people confuse by not keeping a consistent term for the same type of part. For example using a term like pivot rod, which I have seen used, is very unclear since it could mean both a hinge or a screw (I've seen it used to mean both).

    The most simple definition is: If a part has outer threads on it and a slot on one end, like a screw, and you screw it to the instrument, using a screwdriver, then it's always called... a screw! If it is the long round part of a key or a lever, same as the part marked B in photo 1, it is called a hinge.

    The two types of hinges are hinge rod and hinge tube. Part B in photo 1 is an example of a hinge tube. This is a tube where you can see all the way to the other end, as shown in photo 2. Other examples of hinge tubes are for stack keys, palm keys, etc. They are mounted using rod screws (shown and explained later). A hinge rod generally looks similar from the outside but is not hollow all the way to the end, and is a solid rod. It has two holes, one on each end and is mounted using pivot screws (shown and explained later). An example of one end of a hinge rod is in photo 3.

    Left side, photo 2: hinge tube
    Right side, photo 3: hinge rod



    Screws: There are generally two types of screws. Rod screws and pivot screws. Usually, rod screws are used to mount short keys or levers, or several keys on the same rod screw (like stack keys). Pivot screws are usually used to mount long keys and levers.

    Rod screws are used for mounting keys and levers that have hinge tubes. This is a screw by the definition explained above, and is shaped like a rod i.e. a long steel rod with threads on one end and a slot on the other end. It passes through one post, goes through the entire length of the key, sometimes several keys and other posts (e.g. stacks) and threads into a post at the other end. Photos 4, 5 and 6 show rod screws.

    Left side, photo 4: a rod screw
    Middle, photo 5: slot end of a rod screw inside a post
    Right side, photo 6: threaded end of a rod screw inside a post



    Pivot screws are used to mount keys which have a hinge rod. The posts on both sides are threaded, each to accept a pivot screw, which enters a hole at each end of the hinge rod. Usually long keys and levers use these screws. For example high E and F# keys. There are several types of pivot screws. Photos 7 and 8 show pivot screws.

    Left side, photo 7, three types of pivot screws, from left to right: Headless pivot screw, pilot pivot screw, point pivot screw.
    Right side, photo 8: Pivot screw inside a post.



    There is another type of pivot screw, the pseudo-point pivot screw. This screw has a pointy end, but remains straight almost to the end, unlike the real point pivot screw. This makes this type work the same as a pilot pivot screw.

    You can usually recognize pivot screws by having a slot end on both sides of a key or lever, as opposed to the rod screw. Photo 8 (above, right side) shows a pivot screw inside a post. There is an exception to that, this is when a rod screw has the threaded end shaped like a pivot screw. This happens sometimes for stack keys. All keys are mounted on the rod screw except the last, which is mounted on the pointy end from one side and an actual pivot screw on the other, making it similar to a key mounted on pivot screws. In this case you will see a slot end on both sides eventhough one is a rod screw.

    Touch-piece: This is the part you actually press with your finger when you play, regardless of whether it is a key or a lever. In photo 9 you can see the low C touch-piece marked with X. Next to it is the low Eb touch-piece. You can see both are connected to their hinges with arms. These would be called touch-piece arms. The name of an arm is decided by the part it connects to the hinge.

    Photo 9:

    Last edited by SAXISMYAXE; 01-24-2011 at 03:31 PM.

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    Distinguished SOTW Coffee Guru milandro's Avatar
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    Default Re: Saxophone keywork: reference for technical terms

    this should be a sticky or an article, very well done

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    Default Re: Saxophone keywork: reference for technical terms

    I agree, and suggested such to Harri.
    Contentment is not the fulfilment of what you want, but the realisation of how much you already have.

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    Distinguished SOTW member, musician, technician & columnist clarnibass's Avatar
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    Default Re: Saxophone keywork: reference for technical terms

    As I wrote in the beginning of the post, I already spoke with a moderator before and he said it would be a sticky thread.

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    Distinguished SOTW Technician griff136's Avatar
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    Default Re: Saxophone keywork: reference for technical terms

    Nice work Nitai.

    I hope to be going to Frankfurt this year but am still not 100% sure that I will be able to attend. If I am I will let you know and we can hook up again.

    Griff

    www.dg-music.co.uk

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    Default Re: Saxophone keywork: reference for technical terms

    All I have to say, is that I am *always* impressed with those that speak English as a second language. (Especially in this forum.)

    English isn't easy to master, especially with all the idioms, quirks, misuse and such. I wish I was more fluent in other languages as much as you all are.
    Laughing at our mistakes can lengthen our own life. Laughing at someone else’s can shorten it.
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    Distinguished SOTW Technician Stephen Howard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Saxophone keywork: reference for technical terms

    Good stuff, Nitai! This should prove very helpful to readers.

    Regards,
    Stephen Howard
    www.shwoodwind.co.uk
    - Woodwind instrument repairs & period restorations
    Author, Haynes Saxophone Manual, Haynes Clarinet Manual

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    SOTW Administrator SAXISMYAXE's Avatar
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    Default Re: Saxophone keywork: reference for technical terms

    Nitai and I were in contact with one another about making this a sticky, we were simply waiting for the completion and submission of the thread to do so. I've also promoted it to an article on the front page. It can be found under the sub menu "RECENT ARTICLES".

    Superb work Nitai, and this is much appreciated and immensely helpful.

    Cheers.
    Mike S.
    SOTW Administrator/Staff

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    SOTW Administrator kcp's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Re: Saxophone keywork: reference for technical terms

    Yes, thanks for submitting this excellent post, Nitai.
    Kim
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    Distinguished SOTW Technician Chris Peryagh's Avatar
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    Default Re: Saxophone keywork: reference for technical terms

    Where it can start to get messy is with naming the main action (open standing) keys themselves - some people call the small vent key at the top of the LH main action the C key (I call it the C# vent), LH1 key the B key as it's closed to give B, some call it the C key as C issues from the tonehole when it's open, some call LH2 the A key or C key, some call LH3 the G key or A key. Then there's the RH keys - the uppermost one some people call the F# key or the G key, LH1 the F key, LH2 the E or F# key, LH3 the E or D key.

    With the main action fingerplates, I tend to name them after which fingers control them - so LH1, LH2, LH3 - RH1, RH2, RH3. Add to that the Bis Bb key.

    But at least there's no confusion with closed keys as they're opened for specific notes - LH (palm) high D, Eb and F keys, front F key, RH side Bb, C and high E keys, high F# and cross/chromatic/key/side F# or F# key, then G# key, low Eb and low C# keys. And the upper (neck or crook) and lower (body) 8ve keys/vents. Low C, B and Bb keys are pretty obvious as to which ones they are, though there still might be those who call the low C key the low D key, the low B the low C key and the low Bb the low B key as they're naming them after the notes that speak from the toneholes when they're open.

    Naming the actual toneholes isn't a problem as they're named after the notes that issue from them - so when you've got a sax body with no keys you can easily see which note issues from whichever tonehole. So on altos and tenors the bell has the low B, C, C#, D and Eb toneholes and the body has the E, F, F# (x2), G, G#, A, Bb (x2), B, C (#2), C#, D, Eb, E, F, F# (G). Slight exceptions being straight sopranos and sopraninos that have no bell as such (in that it's not a seperate section), so all toneholes are on the body and low A baris will have the low Bb tonehole on the bell (as low A issues from the bell flare itself - the same way low Bb issues from the bell mouth on all others). Those with the RH forked Eb mechanism fitted can have that tonehole named as the forked Eb vent or tonehole.
    F*** the notes, go for the tone!

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    SOTW Contributor 2011 jbtsax's Avatar
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    Default Re: Saxophone keywork: reference for technical terms

    I have been on a "sabbatical" and didn't have a chance to compliment Nitai for this excellent addition to SOTW.

    There is one area that he didn't cover that Chris touched on that is confusing to most people even those familiar with the saxophone. That is what to call the things we touch and push to make the keys close.

    Take G# for example. If someone says the G# key, does it mean the key cup and pad that opens and closes, or does it mean the piece one touches to play G#. If you call the part you touch the G# lever, then what do you call the arm that is attached to the part you push that actually closes the G# key cup?

    My thinking is that the "thingy" we push, bump, hit, or roll to with out finger or any part of our hand to change notes should be called the note's "touchpiece".

    The round thing that holds a pad that opens and closes a tonehole should be called the "keycup". The name of the note produced by either closing or opening this key cup can be added to the name. For example the F key cup, the low C key cup, the side Bb key cup. The tricky ones of course are the C key cup (the small one above the B), and the F# key cup (the one above the F).

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    Default Re: Saxophone keywork: reference for technical terms

    jbtsax

    couldn't you just add a number? for example C 1 key cup for low C.........C 2 for middle C, etc., etc.
    "there are two means of refuge from the misery of life-music and cats," Dr. Albert Schweitzer

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    Distinguished SOTW member, musician, technician & columnist clarnibass's Avatar
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    Default Re: Saxophone keywork: reference for technical terms

    Quote Originally Posted by jbtsax View Post
    There is one area that he didn't cover that Chris touched on that is confusing to most people even those familiar with the saxophone. That is what to call the things we touch and push to make the keys close.
    John, the last paragraph of the original post explains that exactly. I wrote touch-piece instead of touchpiece though. Not being my first language, I didn't know if that can be one word or not.

    Quote Originally Posted by clarnibass View Post
    Touch-piece: This is the part you actually press with your finger when you play, regardless of whether it is a key or a lever. In photo 9 you can see the low C touch-piece marked with X. Next to it is the low Eb touch-piece. You can see both are connected to their hinges with arms. These would be called touch-piece arms. The name of an arm is decided by the part it connects to the hinge.
    So...

    Quote Originally Posted by jbtsax View Post
    Take G# for example. If someone says the G# key, does it mean the key cup and pad that opens and closes, or does it mean the piece one touches to play G#. If you call the part you touch the G# lever, then what do you call the arm that is attached to the part you push that actually closes the G# key cup?
    That is exactly what the first post clarifies. Someone might say G# key and mean whatever they mean. But if going by the definitions in the first post... there is the G# key, which has the pad on it, and the G# lever, the part you press. The G# lever has the touchpiece, touchpiece arm, hinge, linkage arm. The G# has the key cup (or pad cup), key cup arm, hinge and linkage arm.

    To me it seems that the last paragraph explains exactly all that. If something isn't clear maybe you can tell me what so I can clarify?

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    Distinguished SOTW Technician Stephen Howard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Saxophone keywork: reference for technical terms

    Quote Originally Posted by clarnibass View Post
    John, the last paragraph of the original post explains that exactly. I wrote touch-piece instead of touchpiece though. Not being my first language, I didn't know if that can be one word or not.
    Touchpiece is what I used in my book. It got past the copy editor, so it's 'official'.

    Regards,
    Stephen Howard
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    Author, Haynes Saxophone Manual, Haynes Clarinet Manual

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    SOTW Contributor 2011 jbtsax's Avatar
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    Default Re: Saxophone keywork: reference for technical terms

    Sorry Nitai,

    I somehow read too fast and overlooked that last paragraph.

    Your piece is perfectly clear. All I can say is that great minds think alike, and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

    What graphics program did you use for the pictures? They look great!

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    Distinguished SOTW member, musician, technician & columnist clarnibass's Avatar
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    Default Re: Saxophone keywork: reference for technical terms

    Quote Originally Posted by jbtsax View Post
    What graphics program did you use for the pictures? They look great!
    Do you mean adding the the arrows and letters? That's just with Paint (the basic program that comes with Windows). For reducing the size and cutting parts of the photos, I used PhotoScape (a free program I found online).

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    SOTW Contributor 2011 jbtsax's Avatar
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    Default Re: Saxophone keywork: reference for technical terms

    Those are photos? Amazing. They looked to me like mechanical drawings---especially with that finish on the keys. Again, great job. I wish all my customers had a copy. It is always fun trying to interpret what they mean when they say things---especially over the phone when they can't point to something. Learning the vocabulary is the challenge in any field of study or skill.

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    Distinguished SOTW member, musician, technician & columnist clarnibass's Avatar
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    Default Re: Saxophone keywork: reference for technical terms

    Quote Originally Posted by jbtsax View Post
    Those are photos?
    Just a regular (inexpensive) camera and a lousy photographer (me). I chose a matte finish sax since I think it's much clearer in photos.

    But thanks for "bumping" the thread. I re-read the first post and found a couple of mistakes I need to fix.

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    Distinguished SOTW Member/Technician hornfixer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Saxophone keywork: reference for technical terms

    I number the keys with pads from top to bottom (1-22).
    ** NEW ** Saxophone Instructional DVD How To Tear Down And Polish A Saxophone ** NEW **

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    Default Re: Saxophone keywork: reference for technical terms

    Really nice, clarnibass! Especially for us a bit new to the repair game. I've played them for 25 years, but never had to name anything!

    "Uh, the thing isn't working right... No, not that thing, the other thing... You know, the THING!!!"

    I'm gonna sound super smart now.

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