Adaptive Wind Instruments

Over the past few years I have written a few articles on one-handed saxophones (see tags), but the two people who did the customizations on the horns were both in USA. Then this morning I happened across a fellow from Amsterdam, who has been making adaptive wind instruments for years.

Maartin Visser is a trained woodwind instrument maker who owns Flutelab, which is located in Amsterdam, Holland. Flutelab will work with players, from beginner to pro level, to customize their instruments around their particular physical limitations. This is how Visser describes the work that Flutelab does:

Adaptive wind instruments

Instruments are mass produced. People are all different. That is why so many players turn to Flutelab to have their musical instrument adapted to their needs. Often, when musicians experience discomfort while playing hey will blame themselves or see a therapist.

To Flutelab, the instrument is the interface between a human and a resonating column of air. It should function right at both sides: the acoustic side and the ergonomical side.

Flutelab has worked on flute, bass flute, , saxophone, clarinet, oboe, recorder, cornet, basset horn, tin whistle, trumpet and folk instruments as the tenora (Cataluna) and Scottisch highland bagpine chanter.

Source: Adaptive wind instruments page on flutelab.com

In this following video, Visser demonstrates how his one-handed saxophone works. It is rather different than the others we have seen.

Here are a few images the customizations that Visser does to the saxophones to make them truly adaptive wind instruments.

adaptive wind instruments, tenor sax, saxophone, custom saxophone,

Tenor with right hand customized to be playable with only 2 fingers. Source: flutelab.com

Note too that Flutelab’s saxophones are available in both left and right hand-only versions, and that they will work with you to specially adapt your horn to your needs—whatever they might be. For example, the saxophone pictured on the left was customized for a player who lost some fingers in an accident. Now he can play his horn with only two fingers on the right hand.

I don’t know how many other companies in Europe do this kind of work, but I think having access to these type of adaptations would greatly increase a player’s ability to return to his/her pre-injury/illness activities. Having been through something similar nearly eight years ago now, I know how difficult it is to lose one’s ability to play.

As I think I’ve stated before, I’m fortunate that I gained enough of my fine motor skills back that I didn’t need any adaptive mechanisms on my horns. That said, none of us knows what the future holds. We should all be grateful that there are craftsmen out there making these types of custom saxophones should we ever need them.

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is www.bassic-sax.info. If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!

An Eugen Schuster Majestic Aristocrat

There is a rare, vintage German saxophone currently for sale on the UK eBay site. It is a silver plated, Eugen Schuster Majestic Aristocrat tenor that was made in Markneukirchen.

saxophone, tenor sax, Eugen Schuster Majestic Aristocrat, vintage East German sax

Source: sentimood on eBay.co.uk

I have been fascinated with these horns ever since I saw alto 1316 that SaxQuest was selling a few years ago. Since then I have seen a couple of tenors for sale—including tenor #1725 that’s on the UK eBay ATM—which have been of interest to me. I might have been tempted to buy one of the tenors, but sadly I don’t have time to play all the horns I already have, so adding yet another one really makes no sense.

As noted above, this tenor is #1725, and has appeared on eBay once before. The last time was in February 2013, when the seller then stated that the owner he bought it from had the horn completely restored—which included a total mechanical overhaul and new silver plate.  Whoever did the plating job, seems to have done very lovely work. It is difficult to see that this is a replate, and not a minty original.

saxophone, silver sax, Eugen Schuster Majestic Aristocrat, vintage East German tenor saxophone

Source: sentimood on eBay.co.uk

Serial No. 1725, saxophone, silver sax, Eugen Schuster Majestic Aristocrat, vintage East German tenor saxophone

Source: sentimood on eBay.co.uk

This is how the current owner is describing the tenor today, in its current eBay ad:

Vintage Majestic ARISTOCRAT Eugen S. Markneukirchen Silver tenor saxophone
I believe this is made in Germany
Has silver plating (not nickle)
rolled tone holes
new pads and new setup
it is ready to play
beautiful engravings.
comes in hard case…
Welcome to try it out..

And here are the rest of the pictures of this lovely, vintage horn…

I’ve not yet written a Eugen Schuster page for my website, since I’m still trying to find more info about the company, but from what I have found, I can tell you that saxophones are the only instruments that the company made. (They had everything else stencilled for them.) Even so, not many Eugen Schuster Majestic Aristocrat saxophones were produced, so this is indeed a bit of a rare bird.

If this vintage saxophone from Markneukirchen floats your boat, you have until August 22 to buy this vintage beauty. The Buy It Now price for this Eugen Schuster Majestic Aristocrat tenor sax is £845.00. At the time of writing, xe.com estimates that be $1,435.79 US.

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is www.bassic-sax.info. If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!

History Of The Saxophone

The history of the saxophone – at least the way one newspaper told it

It was only a few weeks ago, on June 5, that I wrote a story about a 1939 newspaper article in which the reporter noted that the saxophone was a difficult instrument to play well. If you’ve seen any of the previous historical saxophone articles that I’ve written about, you know that that article from the Ottawa Citizen was rather unusual in its support of our instrument.

Then this morning I just so happened to come across another article in which the author also recognized the saxophone’s level of difficulty. And just like the Ottawa Citizen article, the author didn’t want to burn sax players at the stake either. Progress!

By the late 1930s/early 1940s the saxophone’s rep was being rehabilitated and it was on its way back to social acceptability. Check out the following article titled, History of the Saxophone, from a 1940 edition of the Hearld-Journal.

Harold-Journal-May-5,-1940, History of the saxophone, archival newspaper article, John Glominski

Source: The Hearold-Journal Young Folk’s Page, May 5, 1940

OK, so the author got a few of the facts wrong. I don’t remember reading anywhere before that the design of the saxophone was “by accident”. All the sources that I have seen in my 30+ years reading about saxophones, indicate that our horn was invented when Adolphe Sax went about deliberately looking for ways to improve on the bass clarinet.

Yes, the ophieleide was likely a source of inspiration for Adolphe Sax, but to say the saxophone was an accidental discovery really sells the Belgian musical instrument inventor short. He was a genius when it came to instrument design, sadly however, that did not translate into a financial windfall for him. Multiple lawsuits were contributing factors to the man dying with very little money to his name.

As far as the rest of the history of the saxophone presented in the 1940 article by John Glominski, the second column is more accurate.

The city of Dinant (Adolphe Sax’s Belgian hometown), states on their website:

In his book “The Saxophone” in 1955, Marcel Perrin, professor at the Algiers Conservatory, and the founder of a quartet, took the view that “the literature on the saxophone can in fact be divided into three stages:

  • “the stagnant period: 1845 to 1918: timid, staid compositions, ‘rococo’ style, with theme and variations, salon and competition music.

  • the period of explosion: 1918-1930: the age of jazz! … America! … a triumphal breach in the grey veil of gradual obliteration that was all but fatal for the sax.

  • the period of reason: 1930 to date: the saxophone was at last understood, and started to have ‘its music’. It became more mellow, more ‘serious’ and, having found its own true atmosphere, ended up being an essential ingredient of the greatest concerts”

A slightly more current view of the history of our instrument

If you are interested in learning more about the history of the saxophone, there is a relatively new book that you might like to check out. In 2012, the Yale University Press published The Saxophone, by Stephen Cottrell.

The Saxophone byStephen Cottrell, the history of the saxophone, book jacket

Source: Yale University Press

I picked up the book a few months ago through Amazon, but haven’t found time to read it in its entirety yet. Once I have, I’ll write a detailed review about it.

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is www.bassic-sax.info. If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!