Straight Talk on Bent Necks

Sound waves behave differently in a straight conic environment than they do in a conic environment that also has a bend or curve in it. That is an acoustical fact.

But, what does that mean to a player? Does it affect “playing” at all? The answer is yes.

And the reason is easy to understand. The player’s oral cavity, the mouthpiece chamber and the horn’s internal chamber make up an acoustical environment. Change one part and all changes, to one degree or another. Change horns and you will notice the difference, one from the next. Change mouthpieces and the same is true. Change players and, again, different.

But the subtle change that is introduced by the bend or curve is insidious, perhaps, because it is subtle. If you play enough soprano saxes and enough good soprano mouthpieces, you will start to get the point because you will begin to notice the changes. I first encountered this when my very first soprano saxophone, a curved vintage Conn, took a tumble. The neck was bent down slightly, kinking just a bit underneath. I took it to a great repairman and he made it look like new.

But, it never played the same, and I knew it. I actually bought another horn and traded that Conn to a pawnshop for a marimba and $200 in cash in 1974.

I know now that the neck was just “different”, not damaged. But back then, I thought my world had come to an end, really.

All these years later, I’ve come to understand that bent or curved necks on soprano very often require modifications to the mouthpiece to play evenly and fully. I make those mods all the time and I make new mouthpieces with chamber aspects specifically for players that prefer bend or curved necks.

Know also that the precise amount of “bend” or “curve” counts for a lot. A very small change in angle can and does have a dramatic effect on the way a sound wave propagates.

Check out the post about MISSING LINK IN ACTION. There is a very telling aspect to that player’s experience.