How the sax sounds

How the Saxophone sounds


I have made this visual system for trying to clarify just how a saxophone sounds. To simplyfy things I have chosen to describe: Center tone, Over tones, and Dynamic Range.

With his system you can now compare different makers and their sound caracteristics, witch I will do extensively. This system can be used to describe any sound, so you can use it for Reeds, mouthpieces and necks alike. 1 is very focused - 10 is very wide.

CENTER: describes how focused the tone is. Normally in the range of 1 very focused -3 open.

OVERTONES: This is what best describes "the ring of the sound" Just how vibrante and alive it feels. In the range from 4 is very dead - 8 is Celestrial.

DYNAMIC RANGE: is just that. The range from highest to lowest frequency. 6 is very low and 10 is full spectrum.

This system is copyrighted by me so dont use it without my written permission. © SaxWorks.

Tone Quality explained

The saxophone is an oscilating instrument. Tones are produced by a vibrating reed. Each tone of the saxophone which is not 1 vibration - but a group or cluster of vibrations. Each tone has a center which defines the pitch or repetitions/second for the sound wave/impulse. In the sience part of this you can not seperate the player and instrument because they both contribute to the final timbre or tone color and they both vibrate - or at least response vibrate. We percieve the tones through our ears. The human ear is the finest detection system available to distinguish even very fine nuances in the vibrational paterns. We hear not just the tonal center but each response vibration from the instrument, player and surroundings.

For the sake of simplification I limit my interpretation of Overtones to the response vibrations from the instrument alone.

Dynamic range is the more sientific way of describing the range we hear associated with a single tone. You might describe it as the color saturation. A low dynamic range is a black and white picture - a high dynamic range is very colorful and vibrante.


To describe how well a saxophone plays in tune over the whole register  I designed a simple chart for egality. "Egale" is the french word for Equal. This is how you read the chart. The example at the right is a theoretica graph of a perfect horn. Every single note is in perfect tune and perferctly in balance over the register. NO sax is this egal!

Do not take this chart as sience but as a visual illustration of different saxophone makers ability to produce a horn that plays in equal over the register. Yamahas are know to play extremely well in tune - but also considdered "boring" in terms of sound, so If you visually compair the two charts: The sound dynamics and the Egality chart you will get a pretty good idea of how a particullar brand sounds.

So again - example shown to the right is the ideal sax - that doesnt excist!

The saxophone is a cone shaped instrument. OR more correctly put: its a series of different bore diameter cones linked together to form the body of the sax. Bore design plays a key role in the final timbre of a sound as does choice of materials both keywork, cups, pads and bore baterial.

Egality is however the consept of the sax having an equal voice throughout the whole register. It is in terms of accoustics impossible due to the cone shape - but in terms of harmonics it makes sense to speak of egality.

Selmer is know to have a thin top and wide bottom. Have that in mind when you try to make sense of this diagram.

It is meant as a help - not as a judgement of sertain saxophone brands. Its designed to quickly understand the different sound characteristic of different saxophones. Its just a guide - so use it if it helps you understand.

Top: high notes

Middle: midtones

Low: low notes

Rampone & Cazzani

To discribe the Rampone & Cazzani sound in words: It has a very nicely focused center tone. The Over Tones have perhaps the widest range of any sax mark on the marked. This give the sound a huge depth and kind of spacyness. the sound just fills every single corner of the room. Perhaps the greatest forte of the R&C. The Dynamic Range is also very wide giving the musician a wider palet to work with.


You can finde much more information about different sax makers and how their saxophones sound here: Vintage or modern.

To discribe the Conn sound in words: The center is quite wide, and perhaps the widest found. This gives the instrument a softness to the sound. The Over Tones are limited and does warm the tone but limit the punch and sustain of the tone. The Dynamic Range however is very big, giving the instrument a strong voice and ritchness in the darker tonal spectrum.