On January 5th 2021, Duke University (Duke) of Durham, North Carolina spoke of physics professor Matthew Busch’s so-called “Bass Connections” project, where CT scanning was used to make a digital archive of 3D printable replicas of vintage saxophone mouthpieces. Duke proclaimed that vintage saxophone mouthpieces are becoming increasingly rare and that even the best modern reproductions can’t properly replicate their sound. For another part of the project, fellow Duke physicist Josh Socolar wrote a computer program to enable him to analyse how individual parts of a saxophone mouthpiece’s geometry contribute to the sound it makes. (Socolar’s main field of research is in condensed matter physics and dynamical systems, although he does teach a course on the physics of music.)
A student in Socolar’s physics of music course, other team member Gia Jadick recorded musicians experimenting with the vintage originals and their 3D printed replicas, investigating potential correlations between their shape and sound. She also asked some musician friends to rate each mouthpiece on qualities like tonal brightness and ease of tuning. However, the team discovered that properly identifying the geometric variables that make saxophone mouthpieces sound the way they do was far from straightforward; Busch argues that specific dimensional changes in a mouthpiece give different results for different players. In addition, Socolar contends that the way a player adjusts their vocal tract, positions their tongue, and/or holds their lips all contribute to a mouthpiece’s sound in ways that can’t be accurately analysed from a purely physical perspective.
For further work, Busch intends to scan, 3D print and test more mouthpieces, as well as turn the project into a start-up company with a collector friend.
3D printing is an amazing tool. It can grow your small business or start a mini revolution in an industry. Explore what it can do for you when you contact us today.
Disclaimer: Featured image of “I.Jones (with saxophone) LCCN2014714372” is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or fewer. It is also in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1926. It is nonetheless attributed to the George Grantham Bain collection at the Library of Congress. As far as the Library of Congress is concerned, there are no known copyright restrictions on the use of the image.