I am fortunate to work together with saxophone repairman and redesigner Nico Bodewes, a former goldsmith. He also works for some major museums and collectors of musical instruments.
C sharp correction lever
Earlier series of Buffet-Crampon (the Super Dynaction) had a special lever for correction of the usually too high C sharp (upper register). I had it added to my instrument.
Position change of the low C/E flat axis
Playing trills on the low C or E flat had allways been a problem until Nico and I noticed that the position of the lower pole of the axis was wrong for physical reasons. The pole should be placed more inside the corpus of the instrument, but the current position was probably because of aesthetic reasons: the axis was outlined with all the others axes. One photo below shows the operation in an early state, with a similar instrument for comparison; the other photo shows the final state.
Facilitating Microtones between G and G sharp
(upper and lower register)
The saxophone is very suitable for producing micro-intervals. Most semitones can be filled with smaller intervals ranging from 5 cents to 25 cents (a semitone being 100 cents), simply by adding keys here and there. Between G and G sharp is the only interval that causes problems. The idea was to be able to lift the G sharp key while pressing down keys of the lower hand. Nico and I designed a strong spring, that took over the task of the lower-hand lever (that presses down the G sharp key), but it could be lifted with the new key (the ‘G sha’ key, so to speak), next to the G sharp key. This new key, designed by Nico, is a true mechanic masterpiece.
It was the first time Nico signed his creation (Nico Bodewes, 1998). Unfortunately the spring caused troubles in very speedy passages. A new tone hole (next to the G sharp hole) seemed the only option.
September 2002, Nico and I designed a new tonehole for G sharp next to the other one. This one opens with (fingers of) the right hand shut. Now finally I can play speedy quartertone passages!
An extra octave key
When I first saw the new altissimo speaker key on the Selmer Serie III, I seriously considered changing faith to Selmer. Of course, being addicted to the mellow and versatile Buffet sound, I spoke about it with Nico. The aim was to find the right place for a new (speaker) hole in the neck. Merrily, we started drilling and testing. After drilling some ten-twelve holes without result, Nico sent me home with a drill. Ten holes later, I realized that the only right hole was the one that was already there. Only, it should open with the G key closed (many altissimo fingerings use the G key). We only had to make a new lever for the octave mechanism, with no connection to the automatic octave system. And fill the holes again………..
But there was a nice surprise: beautiful overtones from the low range (B flat to G) can be produced smoothly now.
These new devices are either for improvement of the saxophone or for playing microtones. None them are necessary for playing Paganini Caprices or other virtuoso stuff.
Photo’s: Nico Bodewes
Photo: Brendon Heinst