3 NECKSfor aBARITONE


Truncation length plays a role in instrument behaviour. The German acoustician and instrument maker Otto Steinkopf makes quite clear assertions on the subject. I used my baritone as a laboratory and made three different necks with different lengths.

The second one, to start with, is a standard modern baritone neck. This neck remained unchanged and for comparison purposes only. The first neck is longer and the third one is shorter; the bore profiles of all three necks in principle are the same.

The first neck serves two purposes: one is to reduce truncation, and the other is to provide a place for a third register hole, which facilitates the third register.

The third neck serves quite another purpose. I found that baritones in general have a smaller relative truncation than the other saxophones. According to Steinkopf, a smaller truncation reduces the openness of the cone and favours the higher range. And the other way around: a larger truncation makes your instrument more open and thus favours a bigger tone and the lower range.

third neck




second neck




first neck

first neck

First purpose: the profile of the first neck is the same as that of the standard neck, except that it is longer and extends conicity for some two centimeters. I did not change the profile, because I did't have to (yet intonation stabilized in the higher ranges) and I only wanted to compare a difference in (truncated) length. It confirmed Steinkopf's claims: the centre of gravity of the tone, so to speak, moves upward and the higher partials are enhanced. (You can easily check this by adding a simple piece of plastic tubing onto the existing neck inside the mouthpiece's shank. Take care that its inner dimensions are correct. Most probably, you will find that any sharpness of the higher range is reduced agreeably, but you will also find a shift in sonority.)

Second purpose: the added register vent makes the baritone to easily play a minor sixth higher on the same fingerings that are normally used for your written A2 up to F3 and obtain F3 up to Db4. An extra mechanism is needed to operate the key. A picture of my baritone shows the way in which it is done. It is of course the instrument makers solution to a problem. Most people will have to rely on the musicians solution and practice and practice...

third neck

As stated, the aim of this neck is to obtain as open an entrance to the instrument as possible. The limits are posed by intonation and stabilty. The standard neck has an opening (in my case) of 13.1 millimeter and is a 13% wider than the longest neck. This already makes an appreciable difference. Equipped with the standard neck the instrument produces with the same ease a bigger tone and feels more open and more dynamic than with the first neck. The lower range is somewhat more 'airy' and slightly less briljant. This again conforms Steinkopf's assertions. Wouldn't it be possible to open up the entrance once more with a similar step? The neck would have to get a couple of centimeters shorter still and then have an entrance width of around 15 millimeter. Probably the mouthpiece would have to be adapted to that size, too...

profiles, states

The third neck was not an immediate succes. I had to work toward a correct bore profile in at least three succesive steps. At one stage I did indeed build a wider mouthpiece, which proved not to be a succes and was dismissed later on.

  • First state. At first a profile was chosen that was simply a shorter version of the second neck, neither wider nor narrower. Truncation was almost 40% bigger in volume than with the standard neck. The entrance was 15,2 millimeter and a 35% wider than the standard neck. In this state the neck needed the special mouthpiece. The tone proved to be like a cello with gut strings and lacked power. Then there were other problems: intonation was chaotic and tended to rise and rise in the upper end of the second register and higher than Eb3 the instrument was unstable.
  • Second state. Several experimental changes were made to this neck. The result of these experiments was made permanent in a second state: the neck was lengthend with 2 centimeters and the profile was narrowed to an entrance diameter of 13,8 millimeter. The entrance in this way is still an 11% wider than with the second neck, which is still a difference of the same magnitude as between the first and the second neck. This second state was playable with an ordinary baritone mouthpiece. Unfortunately, although stable enough, sonority now was almost the same as with the second neck. The difference in entrance width now proved to be too small to impress.
  • Third state. The entrance of the neck was made wider in a similar fashion that is used in many altos and tenors. The neck now got an entrance width of 14,5 millimeter and so is 23% wider than the second neck. As some instability remained in F3, the final version of this neck was lengthened once more with half a centimeter.
    Now, there is an appreciable difference with the second neck: there is more 'air' to the tone and a certain preference for the lower range. Also the instrument seems to be more dynamic. Instability in F3 has gone. It all confirms Otto Steinkopf's assertions that a greater truncation favours the lower range and is helpful in greater dynamics. Don't expect too much though. Within the limits of what is musically viable, the difference is a nuance, but quite an interesting one.