UWEE Tech Report Series

Reverse engineering the sound of the jazz saxophone


UWEETR-2006-0011

Author(s):
Luca Cazzanti, Vanessa Sielert, and Maya R. Gupta

Keywords:
Itakura-Saito distance, nearest-neighbor, saxophone, jazz

Abstract

Differences between jazz sounds and symphonic sounds are investigated via the saxophone long tone spectra. A hypothesis is presented that relates these different styles of sound to the pitch of the saxophone mouthpiece when played in isolation. Specifically, playing a low pitch on the mouthpiece is hypothesized to create a sound more typical of jazz, while playing a high pitch on the mouthpiece is hypothesized to create a sound more typical of symphonic music. Experimental data and the nearest-neighbor method using the Itakura-Saito distortion provide statistically significant evidence for the proposed hypothesis. The interaction between different mouthpieces and the mouthpiece pitch is also studied. This work has implications for scientists, musicians, and engineers.

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