Tone holes are arguably the single most
critical element in saxophone design. Their size & placement are the
major determinant of pitch, and they are highly influential on tonal characteristics.
The lip or edge of the tone hole, of
course, makes contact with the pad to
form a seal. Thus the tone hole lip design influences a saxophone's potential
to leak and, indirectly,
it's pad life. Two basic techniques have developed for producing tone holes
saxophone, each with its distinct advantages & disadvantages:
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| Perhaps the most recognizable
soldered tone holes are found on the Martin saxes, where a beveled design
with a slightly flattened lip allows for excellent sealing characteristics.
Notice the wide indention where the pad seats onto this Martin tone hole.
The beveled design doubtless influences the Martins' distinctive tone.
||The Holton Rudy Wiedoeft model from the 1930's
was among the most intricately engineered saxophones of its time. Features
included soldered straight tone holes. Note the rims are quite tall and
have a thicker wall than the straight, extruded tone hole of the Reynolds
sax just below. The thicker Holton rims offer a wider seating surface for
the pads to aid the seal & increase pad life.
||The typical *straight, extruded tone holes as
found on this French built Reynolds sax have a thinner rim, the same or
a little less in thickness as the metal from which the sax body is made.
This thin pad seating area may initially seal well, but will eventually
wear a deeper groove into the pad than a wider seat design. Sticking is
more likely and slight mis-alignment will cause the pad to no longer match
the tone hole. Pads which normally remain closed under spring pressure
may eventually wear through from constant contact with the sharper seating
surface. This design is predominant today because of the low production
views: Left, Definite rim is visible on inside of Martin soldered tone
holes; Right, Reynolds extruded tone holes make smooth turn from body into
developed an alternative to the sharp-edged, extruded tone hole, by rolling
the edge of the drawn tone hole opening over toward the outside into a
rounded shape. This rolled tone hole design presents a wider surface for
the pad to seat against, yet the rolled, top-most portion of the tone hole
surface (though narrow enough to form a seal) makes a gentle imprint into
the soft, thin pad leather. The rounded imprint does not severely cut into
the pad, promoting pad life. The rolled tone hole was produced beginning
about 1920, and the process was abandoned to reduce cost in 1947.
Instruments with rolled tone holes are widely regarded as Conn's best playing
saxophones, and, arguably, some of the finest saxophones ever produced.
|It is worth mentioning that the
German firm, Keilwerth, has developed a hybrid method where tone holes
are extruded from the sax body material, then a rolled lip is soldered
onto the straight-cut top. Labor cost is higher than when leaving the tone
hole rim straight, but less than that of jigging & soldering the complete
tone hole assembly into place. This Keilwerth solution also addresses the
issue of damage repair in that a new rolled ring can be soldered onto the
tone hole should the original be damaged. This process preserves
the favorable sealing & pad life properties of the rolled lip design
at a cost savings over other rolled tone hole production methods. Keilwerth
still produces all its pro saxes with rolled tone holes.