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Evolution of the Saxophone

Started by MikeL, November 09, 2018, 09:12:13 PM

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This summer, we worked to "reinvent" the electric saxophone that we built and described in 1987. This project gave woodwind players the ability to connect to keyboards such as synthesizers and to play the keyboard according to what they knew on their instrument. A patent attorney suggested writing to Selmer Corporation. Their reply was that they were not interested. Nonetheless, it was known as early as 1987 that sax could control piano and synthesizer keyboards. The technology evolved, with Roland and EWI coming out with model controllers that linked to MIDI (musical instrument digital interface). We have noted that this evolution includes removing some of the keys from the original invention as well as absurdly complex fingering charts. These state-of-the-art instruments still do not give the woodwind player access to the world of chord production, which we discovered quite by serendipity in 1987. Thus, in 2018 we began anew, and thanks to a colleague, were pleasantly surprised to hear of such innovations as the one-handed saxophone. Here are two examples:

One Hand Sax

Toggle-Key Sax

The toggle-key sax player suffered from stroke, so the brain thread at HAF links to the fact that as far as attention goes, woodwind players for the most part, never have had the luxury of seeing where their fingers and hands were moving during performance as do pianists and guitarists. The woodwind player's mind operates in a somewhat different mode.

The next part of our installment includes a system for reading music that eliminates the need of four lines of the traditional musical staff.


There are basically twenty keys on a saxophone as there are basically twenty amino acids. In assigning these amino acids to the keys of a saxophone, we had to eliminate these amino acid parameters due to their not being unique:

molecular weight

eccentric connectivity index

number of hydrogen bonds

sum of atomic van der Waals volumes




hydrophobic factor

However, the isoelectric point of each amino acid is unique, and can be arranged according to number. From highest to lowest, the assignment looks like this in concert pitch, with the amino on left and musical note on right:

R    E flat

K    D

H    C sharp

P    C

A    B

L    B flat

G    A

V    A flat

I    G

W    F sharp

M    F



Y    E flat

Q    D

T    C sharp

F    C
---------------------------------------Octave Key Line
N    B

C    B flat

E    A

D    A flat

The keys continue, with I, W, M, S, Y, ect. down to the lowest D (= A flat).

After having learned the amino keys, sheet music reads from left to right one line only, the octave key line. Time signatures can be made less eye-straining than traditional sheet music, and to denote a high or low note occurring within the same octave, either capitalization or a dot is placed above the highest one, eliminating the need to dot or capitalize the lowest one.

Thus, any amino acid sequence can now be played as music. This protein music is challenging, even for those who are confident in their motor skills on sax.

An example sequence to play is the DAPK1 gene in Alzheimer's disease:


We are currently working on a composition based on the amino acid sequence of the male Sydney Funnel Web spider, Atrax robustus. The baseline, of course, will be driven by a termite-formed didjeridoo.   


Above, the E note should be placed next to the Serine (S). Adding a few more letters for aminos such as U, O, etc. renders the capability to play any word in the English language including romanization of words in other languages. This can be used as a memory/study tool. Because it adds another sense to the reading/learning process, we think that it will be adaptable to such things as dyslexia.


Fascinating stuff Mikel.  The HAF member who will actually understand is Harmonie, our resident woodwind lady. 


As a chemist and music lover, I find that interesting, but I suspect that Harmonie will have a much better understanding of your posts. I'm not really surprised that Selmer where not interested; they probably see it as a threat.
"Eventually everything connects - people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se."
― Charles Eames


One reason Selmer was likely not interested was because the MIDI controller market had already began to manufacture, such as Cherry Hill. Nevertheless, to this day, woodwind players across the world still do not have access to chord production from what they know of their own instrument. Only a few weeks before being shown the one-handed saxes on Youtube, my experimental trajectory had already split the sax fingerings into left and right hands. I chose the right hand for chord-only production, as the left hand could play melodies (simultaneously [italics]). That is to say, not only can the electric sax superimpose an actual sax sound over a chosen synthesizer sound, when we split the horn, a synth chord can accompany an actual sax melody. Pianists and guitarists have always had this luxury. Selmer might call such nonsense heretical, though it does free the prisoners to explore other worlds. For Halloween, we played a cancer amino acid sequence, adding an ominous-sounding chord precisely at the position of a mutation, which sounds differently than a normal, non-mutated sequence. We are especially interested to see how this system may work for poor readers, dyslexics, etc. because if they see a letter on the screen, they are aided in recognition by the sound of the letter. The letters can also have colors, and this encompasses the diagnostic parameter, RAN, which combines the phoneme with the color. If the player, whatever the speed, gets the sequence correct, it will show up on the screen as correct. At any rate, the one-line reading system is much easier on the eyes than traditional sheet music, which can mimic the eye-strain of Chinese characters (all four million of them).