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Influence of mouthpiece geometry on saxophone playing

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The hypothesis to be tested in this paper is whether there is a measurable difference in radiated sound (in terms of spectral centroid and sound pressure level) and in playa-bility, when playing mouthpieces with different internal geometries. In-vivo radiated sound and blowing pressure measurements were carried out on a panel of five different mouthpieces while playing the same note sequence. The results revealed a scarce influence of the mouthpiece geometry on the radiated sound in terms of pressure root mean square amplitude and spectral cen-troid. Larger differences were found in the measured mouth pressure for several mouthpiece pairs. Playability (also called ease of playing) was quantified through an effort ratio, corresponding to the ratio of blowing pressure over radiated sound rms. This showed non-negligible difference among some of the models in good agreement with the perception of the player. In particular differences between the original reference mouthpiece (commercial mouthpiece) and the modified (3D printed) mouthpieces were observed at the attack and end of the note for several notes. Only for specific notes, differences were detected for a longer time interval. In general the reference mouthpiece showed a lower effort ratio (higher ease of playing) with respect to the modified mouthpieces. The effort ratio seems to be a valid quantitative parameter for the characterization of a mouthpiece.
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Proceedings of the Third Vienna Talk on Music Acoustics, 16–19 Sept. 2015, University of Music and Performing Arts
Vienna
INFLUENCE OF MOUTHPIECE GEOMETRY ON SAXOPHONE PLAYING
Sandra Carrala, Valerio Lorenzoniband Jouke Verlindenc
aInstitute of Music Acoustics
University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Austria
s.carral.rl@gmail.com
bDelft University of Technology
The Netherlands
valeriolorenzoni@gmail.com
cDelft University of Technology
The Netherlands
J.C.Verlinden@tudelft.nl
ABSTRACT
The hypothesis to be tested in this paper is whether there
is a measurable difference in radiated sound (in terms of
spectral centroid and sound pressure level) and in playa-
bility, when playing mouthpieces with different internal
geometries. In-vivo radiated sound and blowing pres-
sure measurements were carried out on a panel of five
different mouthpieces while playing the same note se-
quence. The results revealed a scarce influence of the
mouthpiece geometry on the radiated sound in terms of
pressure root mean square amplitude and spectral cen-
troid. Larger differences were found in the measured
mouth pressure for several mouthpiece pairs. Playability
(also called ease of playing) was quantified through an ef-
fort ratio, corresponding to the ratio of blowing pressure
over radiated sound rms. This showed non-negligible dif-
ference among some of the models in good agreement
with the perception of the player. In particular differences
between the original reference mouthpiece (commercial
mouthpiece) and the modified (3D printed) mouthpieces
were observed at the attack and end of the note for sev-
eral notes. Only for specific notes, differences were de-
tected for a longer time interval. In general the reference
mouthpiece showed a lower effort ratio (higher ease of
playing) with respect to the modified mouthpieces. The
effort ratio seems to be a valid quantitative parameter for
the characterization of a mouthpiece.
1. INTRODUCTION
It is generally agreed upon among saxophone players and
instrument makers that the mouthpiece of the saxophone
strongly influences the sound quality and the experience
of the player, in terms ease of playing and the ability to
modify the sound characteristics
Several researchers have attempted to identify the con-
nection between the internal geometry of the mouthpieces
and the sound quality of the coupled mouthpiece-instrument
system. Among these, Benade [1] presented the effect
of cavity dimensions on the brightness of the produced
sound. Wynman [2] performed acoustic measurements
on five different geometrical-types of alto saxophone mouth-
piece models and found connections between baffle shape
and tone color. An interesting overview of mouthpiece
investigations can be found in the PhD thesis of Scavone
[3], which describes the modeling of single-reed wind in-
struments in waveguides domain.
Recently, a team of researchers at Delft University of
Technology has started using 3D printing techniques for
the manufacturing of saxophone mouthpieces [4]. These
techniques offer advantages compared to standard manu-
facturing techniques in terms of reducing production costs
and achievable geometrical complexity [5].
The first application focused on modifications of the
mouthpiece baffle according to aerodynamic findings [6]
and musician considerations. The aim was to improve
the acoustic properties of a mouthpiece according to spe-
cific sound requirements by exploiting the capabilities of
3D printing. This paper presents an analysis of sound and
pressure measurements, carried out at the Institute of Mu-
sical Acoustics of the University of Music and perform-
ing Arts, Vienna on a panel of mouthpieces produced at
TU Delft. Modifications in this case were made to both
the baffle geometry and the size of the cavity. The aim of
the tests is to identify the differences in radiated sound
and mouth pressure among mouthpieces with different
baffle and cavity geometries.
2. METHODOLOGY
Measurements were performed on a panel of five mouth-
pieces: one original commercial mouthpiece and five 3D
printed copies of it, with modified baffle and chamber ge-
ometries. In particular: One original Vandoren v16, aper-
ture 6, small chamber, modified by hand by Lebayle (the
length of the table under the mouthpiece was decreased,
Proceedings of the Third Vienna Talk on Music Acoustics, 16–19 Sept. 2015, University of Music and Performing Arts
Vienna
Figure 1: Different parts of a saxophone mouthpiece
increasing the projection of the mouthpiece) used as ref-
erence mouthpiece, a 3D printed copy of the latter one
(description of the production are described in subsection
2.1), one with a narrower cylindrical chamber, one with
a conical chamber, and one with a baffle ramp. Figure 2
shows the internal profile of the latter four mouthpieces.
2.1. Mouthpiece production
The Vandoren v16 was chosen as reference mouthpiece
for the geometrical modifications and a 3D scan of it was
made at TU Delft using a Phoenix Nanotom S CT scan-
ner (http://www.ge-mcs.com /en /radiography-x-ray /ct-
computed-tomography /nanotom-s.html). The scanned
model was reconstructed in SolidWorks and modifica-
tions have then been made to the baffle and chamber of
the original mouthpiece shape as shown in Figure 2. For
producing these mouthpieces an Objet Eden 260 machine
was used. The machine is able to produce objects up
to the size of 600 x 252 x 200 mm at a resolution of
600dpi and layer thickness of 16 micrometer. The ma-
terial used was a biocompatible resin marketed by Objet
as MED610. It is a rigid transparent material developed
and approved for prolonged contact with human tissue
(http://objet.com /3d-printing-materials /bio-compatible).
The printed mouthpieces were polished using fine
sand paper to remove support material without altering
the geometry of the mouthpiece. The final surface rough-
ness of the printed models is slightly higher than the orig-
inal mouthpiece. This factor is considered to have minor
influence on the radiated sound. The geometry of the re-
constructed mouthpiece differed in the order of a frac-
tion of a millimeter with respect to the scanned original
mouthpiece by visual inspection in CAD environment.
No geometrical measurements have been made after the
printing.
2.2. Measurement setup
The tests consisted of in-vivo (with a player) far-field
acoustic measurements and blowing pressure measure-
ments. A professional player played his saxophone (Yamaha
Custom YAS-855) with these mouthpieces, using a L´
eg`
ere
plastic reed, StudioCut, strength 2.5. He played a written
C major scale from C4to C6(on alto saxophone key, i.e.
F#first octave corresponds to concert A4(440 Hz) note
) with a metronome set at 120 bpm. Figure 3 shows how
the scale was played. The scale was played five consec-
Figure 2: Internal profiles of the four mouthpieces that
were 3D printed. From top to bottom: ramp baffle , coni-
cal chamber, cylindrical chamber, copy.
utive times on each mouthpiece, each time is called trial.
It was noticed that the strength of the plastic reed was not
affected by consecutive playing. The player carefully po-
sitioned the reed in the same position with respect to the
mouthpiece for all the different tested mouthpieces.
The following signals were recorded:
the radiated sound was recorded with a ROGA mi-
crophone model RG-50 placed in the far field at
an angle of 45and a distance of 1.5 m above the
player.
the mouth pressure was measured with an ENDE-
VCO pressure transducer model 8507C-2. This
was placed inside the mouth of the player beside
the mouthpiece (details of the set-up are described
in Ref. [7]).
the metronome signal.
Proceedings of the Third Vienna Talk on Music Acoustics, 16–19 Sept. 2015, University of Music and Performing Arts
Vienna
Figure 3: Order and duration of notes of the C major scale played during the recordings (alto saxophone key, i.e. F#
first octave corresponds to concert A4(440 Hz) note)
The signals from the microphone and metronome were
connected to a Phantom preamplifier model MPA 2017.
The level of the microphone signal from the preamplifier
was adjusted to be as high as possible without saturat-
ing (when playing forte). This adjustment was done once
at the beginning of the measurement. The signals from
the ENDEVCO sensor were connected to an ENDEVCO
DC differential voltage amplifier model 136. The outputs
from the preamplifiers were then connected to an ADAT
HD24 digital recorder, which converted the signals from
analog to digital, and into an optical interface, before be-
ing connected to an RME computer sound card model
DIGI96/8 PST. The computer to which all signals were
fed was running a LabView script which recorded all sig-
nals in a multitrack wave file with a sampling frequency
fs=48 kHz.
The recordings were separated into five trials, where
each trial was one played instance of the full scale, and
was approximately 32 seconds long.
2.3. Signal Analysis
The segments recorded from the microphone placed on
the far field were analyses using the MQ analysis method
[8] [9] coded in Matlab. This analysis delivers an analy-
sis file with information about the amplitudes Ak[n]and
frequencies fk[n]of the kpeaks that are present at every
time frame n. In this case, the time difference between
two frames was approximately 5.3 ms, giving a total of
just under 6000 frames per segment.
With the information delivered by the analysis file,
the following parameters were calculated for each time
frame:
Prad radiated pressure root-mean-square:
Prad[n] = 20 ·log10
v
u
u
t
K
k=1
A2
k[n]
[dB]
(1)
Normalized spectral centroid:
NSC [n] =
K
k=1
k·Ak[n]
K
k=1
Ak[n]
(2)
Calculations of Prad amplitude and normalized spec-
tral centroid vs time for all segments were saved in a file.
The rms of the mouth pressure measured by the ENDE-
VCO sensor was also calculated as described above.
Depending on the amplitude of Prad, each frame was
labeled as belonging to the transient (amplitude increas-
ing at the beginning of the note), the steady state (re-
maining more or less steady oscillating around a constant
value) or the end of the note (decreasing at the end of the
note), respectively [10].
3. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The calculations were divided into five groups, according
to which mouthpiece (1. conical, 2. copy, 3. cylindrical,
4. ramp and 5. original), which of the fifteen notes, and
which of the five trials was played. All the frames of
the steady state of same note for all the trials were taken
and a one way ANOVA test was performed along the five
mouthpieces.
3.1. Radiated sound
The p-value from the statistical analysis was used to indi-
cate when statistical differences were found with respect
to the original mouthpiece. A value p > 0.05 indicates
that there is no significant difference between the actual
measurement and the reference measurement. The com-
parison of the five trials, for all the mouthpieces, gave a
p-value >0.05 which confirmed that there was no sta-
tistical difference between the trials played for the same
mouthpiece.
Figure 4 and Figure 5 show the plots of the NSC over time
for the mouthpiece pairs: conical mouthpiece (in blue) vs
original mouthpiece (in red) (Figure 4) and cylindrical (in
blue) vs original mouthpiece is (in red) (Figure 5).
The x-axis of the following figures corresponds to the
time in seconds in which the note sequence, shown in
Figure 3, was played. Whenever the values are different
from zero there is a note playing; the zero intervals are
pauses between one note and the next.
The black bars are the confidence interval of the differ-
ence within the mouthpiece pair, when p < 0.05. The
error bars are shown only in the steady state of the notes.
Proceedings of the Third Vienna Talk on Music Acoustics, 16–19 Sept. 2015, University of Music and Performing Arts
Vienna
0 5 10 15 20 25 30
−0.5
0
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
3.5
4
Time (s)
Normalised Spectral Centroid
Figure 4: Normalized spectral centroid for mouthpieces
conical (in blue) and original (in red)
0 5 10 15 20 25 30
−0.5
0
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
3.5
4
Time (s)
Normalised Spectral Centroid
Figure 5: Normalized spectral centroid for mouthpieces
cylindrical (in blue) and original (in red)
Differences in NSC were limited to notes: E4, for
the pair cylindrical-original and note E5, for pair conical-
original.
Other mouthpiece pairs gave no statistical differences
in NSC and are therefore not presented.
These plots give an indication that while the ease
of playing experienced by the player was different for
the different mouthpieces, Prad and spectral centroid re-
mained mostly constant independently of the mouthpiece.
3.2. Mouth pressure
An ANOVA analysis was made also on the mouth pres-
sure measured by the transducer in the mouth of the player.
The results are shown for the pairs: copy-original, copy-
cylindrical and copy-ramp. These pairs are the ones pro-
ducing the highest differences in the analysis. No mouth
pressure data are available for the conical mouthpiece due
to a problem during acquisition.
0 5 10 15 20 25 30
0
0.002
0.004
0.006
0.008
0.01
Time (s)
Mouth Pressure RMS
Figure 6: Mouth pressure rms for the copy mouthpiece
(blue) and original (red)
Proceedings of the Third Vienna Talk on Music Acoustics, 16–19 Sept. 2015, University of Music and Performing Arts
Vienna
Differences in the mouth pressure for the pair copy-
original extend over most of notes A4,E4,D4and C4.
The copy mouthpiece requires higher blowing pressure,
especially in the first part of the sequence (lower pitch
notes).
Since the copy mouthpiece is meant to be an exact copy
of the original mouthpiece and no noticeable differences
were observed between the reconstructed and scanned
mouthpieces, it is hypothesized that the differences are
caused by slight geometrical distortion during the print-
ing process or surface refining.
0 5 10 15 20 25 30
0
0.002
0.004
0.006
0.008
0.01
Time (s)
Mouth Pressure RMS
Figure 7: Mouth pressure rms for the copy mouthpiece
(blue) and cylindrical (red)
0 5 10 15 20 25 30
0
0.002
0.004
0.006
0.008
0.01
Time (s)
Mouth Pressure RMS
Figure 8: Mouth pressure rms for the copy mouthpiece
(blue) and ramp (red)
The largest differences for the ramp-copy pair are
found in the notes E4,D4and C4, in particular towards
the end of the note.
3.3. Ease of playing
In order to investigate the playability of the mouthpieces
an “effort” ratio was calculated:
E=Pm
Prad
(3)
where Eis the effort ratio, Pmis the rms of the mouth
pressure or blowing pressure, and Prad is the rms of the
radiated sound measured by the ROGA microphone in the
far field. A smaller ratio (less effort) would mean that less
blowing pressure is needed to obtain the same Prad out-
put. Conversely, a smaller effort ratio would be obtained
if, using the same blowing pressure, one mouthpiece gave
a higher Prad value than the other.
The effort ratio Ewas calculated for the whole dura-
tion of each note and an ANOVA test was performed in
the steady state for the various mouthpieces with respect
to the reference mouthpiece and across the trials for the
same mouthpiece.
Plots of the effort ratio, for only the mouthpieces giv-
ing a p-value <0.05 with respect to the reference mouth-
piece, are shown in Figure 9 and Figure 10. As already
mentioned, no pressure data are available for the conical
mouthpiece, therefore this mouthpiece is excluded by the
following analysis. The showed data are averages of the
five played instances (trials).
0 5 10 15 20 25 30
0
0.05
0.1
0.15
0.2
Time (s)
Effort ratio
Figure 9: Effort ratio for the pair: copy (blue) vs original
(red)
In Figure 9 the effort ratio (thick line) plus minus
standard deviation (dashed line) are shown for the mouth-
piece original (red) and the copy mouthpiece (blue).
Looking at the error bars the main differences are
found for notes: A4 (during most of the note), G4 (at
the beginning), F4 , D4 and C4 (at the end), G5 (in the
middle). The highest values of the effort ratio are found
at the beginning of the note, during the attack, when the
mouth pressure value is relatively high compared to the
radiated sound.
From the comparison between the effort ratio in Fig-
ure 9 and the mouth pressure in Figure 6 for the copy-
original pair, it can be noticed that the effort ratio futures
smaller differences than the mouth pressure. This might
be due to a different response of the two mouthpieces.
The copy mouhtpiece requires higher blowing pressure
Proceedings of the Third Vienna Talk on Music Acoustics, 16–19 Sept. 2015, University of Music and Performing Arts
Vienna
0 5 10 15 20 25 30
0
0.05
0.1
0.15
0.2
Time (s)
Effort ratio
Figure 10: Effort ratio for the pair: ramp (blue) vs origi-
nal (red)
for some notes but this also produces a higher radiated
sound rms. Measurement of the air flux entering the
mouthpiece might help explaining the differences.
Figure 10 shows the differences in effort ratio be-
tween the baffle ramp mouthpiece and the original. In
this case differences are found for notes A4 (during the
first half), G4 (during most of the note), and F4 (at the
end).
No relevant statistical differences in effort ratio were
found for the other mouthpiece pairs.
The player experienced that the copy mouthpiece was
the hardest to play. This can be explained by the fact
that the overall level of the differences with respect to the
original mouthpiece is higher and more extended for the
copy mouthpiece compared to the other mouthpieces.
4. CONCLUSIONS
It is hypothesized that different mouthpiece internal shapes
determine differences in radiated sound and ease of play-
ing.
A panel of five mouthpieces with modified baffle and
chamber geometries was measured through in-vivo mea-
surements with one player. Radiated sound (Prad) and
mouth pressure (Pm) were acquired while the player was
playing on a fixed note sequence and compared with an
ANOVA test.
The radiated sound and normalized spectral centroid
remained almost the same for all mouthpieces, despite
their obvious geometrical differences.
However non-negligible differences were observed
for the mouth pressure in particular at the lower register.
Since the player reported a significant difference in
the playability of the mouthpieces, especially between
mouthpieces “Original” and “Copy”, an effort ratio E
was defined, as the ratio of blowing pressure over radi-
ated sound rms, and compared with the aid of an ANOVA
test.
A higher difference in the effort between these two
mouthpieces was found compared to the other pairs, while
the difference among trials on the same mouthpiece was
not significant. We found that the effort ratio is there-
fore correlated with the playability of the mouthpiece and
seems to be a useful parameter in classifying different
mouthpieces.
In order to generalize these results, further investiga-
tions are required with more players in order to assess the
response of different players to the different mouthpiece
geometries.
Also geometric measurements on the printed mouthpieces
will be made and compared with the scanned mouthpiece
to check the effect of printing on the final shape.
Furthermore a more thorough analysis is required lo link
the differences in effort ratio of specific notes to geomet-
ric differences of the mouthpieces from an acoustic and
aerodynamic point of view.
Acknowledgments
The authors would like to thank Alex Hofmann for play-
ing the saxophone during the recordings and the valuable
feedbacks and Vasileios Chatziioannou for all the fruitful
discussions about the project. Zjenja Doubrovski is also
gratefully acknowledged for the design and manufactur-
ing of the 3D printed mouthpieces.
5. REFERENCES
[1] Arthur H. Benade, Fundamentals of musical acous-
tics, Oxford Univesity Press, 1976.
[2] Frederick S. Wynman, An acoustical study of alto
saxophone mouthpiece chamber design, Ph.D. thesis,
Eastman School of Music, 1972.
[3] Gary P. Scavone, An acoustic analysis of single reed
woodwind instruments with an emphasis on design
and performance issues and digital waveguide mod-
eling techniques, Ph.D. thesis, Stanford University,
1997.
[4] Zjenja Doubrovski, Jouke C. Verlinden, and Jo M. P.
Geraedts, “Optimal design for additive manufactur-
ing: Opportunities and challenges, in ASME 2011
International Design Engineering Technical Confer-
ences and Computers and Information in Engineer-
ing Conference, Washington D.C, USA, 2001, The
American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
[5] Valerio Lorenzoni, Zjenja Doubrovski, and Jouke C.
Verinden, “Embracing the digital in instrument mak-
ing: Towards a musician-tailored mouthpiece by 3D
printing,” in Proceedings of the Stockholm Musi-
cal Acoustics Conference 2013, Stockholm, Swee-
den, 2013, KTH Speech, Music and Hearing.
[6] Valerio Lorenzoni and Daniele Ragni, “Experimental
investigation of the flow inside a saxophone mouth-
piece by particle image velocimetry,” Journal of the
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Acoustical Society of America, vol. 131, no. 1, pp.
715–721, 2012.
[7] Vasileios Chatziioannou and Alex Hofmann,
“Physics-Based Analysis of Articulatory Player
Actions in Single-Reed Woodwind Instruments,” in
Acta Acustica, Vol. 101, 2015, pp. 292 – 299.
[8] Robert J. McAulay and Thomas F. Quatieri, “Speech
analysis/synthesis based on a sinusoidal representa-
tion,” IEEE Transactions on Acoustics, Speech, and
Signal Processing, vol. ASSP-34, no. 4, pp. 744–
754, 1986.
[9] James W. Beauchamp, “Analysis and synthesis of
musical instrument sounds,” in Analysis, synthesis
and perception of musical sounds: The sound of mu-
sic, James W. Beauchamp, Ed., pp. 1–89. Springer,
2007.
[10] John M. Hajda, “The effect of dynamic acous-
tical features on musical timbre,” in Analy-
sis, synthesis, and perception of musical sounds,
James W. Beauchamp, Ed., pp. 250–268. Springer
Science+Business Media, LLC, 2007.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
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