Blog

For F# sake
17 Jan 18

For F# sake

Posted by: Tom Gorst // Tags:

One topic which seems to be widely disputed is the pros and cons of having a high f# key on your sax. Old school purists say it ruins the tuning, others say it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference. I’d say the majority of players I know use alternative F# fingering anyway, so what difference does it make?

 

Unfortunately the only way to do a fair test would be to use two saxophones exactly the same apart from one having the F#key installed, then mic them up to some science machine and make some graphs and stuff. The best I can do is two MkVI tenors built a couple of years apart one with a high F#, unfortunately one of them has no lacquer and the other has most of it’s lacquer in tact. Now it might sound like I’m just free pouring in a chemistry lab but having done a little research on both topics I would argue that the presence of a high F# key has a much higher impact on the resulting tone than how much lacquer a horn does or doesn’t have.

 

To operate the F# mechanism you need some extra keywork, not just any keywork but the longest piece on your horn. “Keywork Shmeework, it’s a negligible contribution to the over all weight of a sax...”  well maybe, but it still weighs in at about 150g which is about the weight of a cricket ball! Have you ever weighed a sax before and after de-lacquering? No, me neither that’s borderline psychopathic but put it this way, I bet the entire Headwind stock* it’s less than 20 grams. Have you ever taken a cricket ball to the face?

 

So what does this extra mass mean in sound terms? Well in theory a heavier horn will be darker, and this is exactly the case with these two MkVIs. Furthermore, connecting more keywork to a horn leads to more pillars which, when soldered to the body or rib, should dampen the resonance somewhat. So as expected the lighter, more resonant MkVI has a much more focused tone which embodies more of what epitomises the much revered MkVI. Personally, I don’t struggle with the weight and I love a thick beef & gravy sounding horn so stick some more keys on I say, give me all the keys.

 

So the down side to the F# key is apparently tuning. Now I’m no Kenny G so my pedestrian playing might not appreciate the finer tuning qualities of a horn when playing high up in the cosmos, but I’m pretty sure my tuning is at least average to good and I can’t tell the difference, at all, whatsoever. I mean every sax is a BIT out of tune right? And, we all tune differently with different horns and adjust our embouchures accordingly. Maybe I was having to adjust in some ways, but if I did it was all dealt with subconsciously. I think what I’m getting at is if you’re finding that you have tuning issues on a specific horn and you're trying to blame it on the high F# key, address your tuning issues…..not the horn!

 

If you still think I’m talking nonsense and you want to lop off your F# you can contact Steve Crowe who can perform the operation, he offers a permanent but also a reversible solution in case you meet someone special one day and you want to fire off some regulation F#s again.

 

Like I said, the only way to test this more accurately would be to get two completely identical new horns one with F# one without and then do the science bit, (I think Yanagisawa make an off-the-menu TWO20 with no F#) but I’ve got to do my tax return, sooooo.

 

 

 

*recorder and fife B-stock only

Blog Feed

Link Slant: War of the clones
25 May 18
Link Slant: War of the clones

Florida links cots a fortune, so what's the 'next best thing'?

Read More
Sax and Sausages in Frankfurt
24 Apr 18
Sax and Sausages in Frankfurt

Some highlights from Musikmesse 2018

Read More
Chad Lefkowitz-Brown LIVE at Headwind
6 Feb 18
Chad Lefkowitz-Brown LIVE at Headwind

Performing at Headwind Music Bristol March 8th 2018

Read More
Trouble in Japan?
24 Nov 17
Trouble in Japan?

One guy's opinions on the differences between pro Yamaha altos.

Read More
Signature Custom RAW Tenor
23 Nov 17
Signature Custom RAW Tenor

Hear this horn in action!

Read More

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies. You can find out how we use cookies here.