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#423673 - 07/29/17 08:02 PM [Off-Topic] Yamaha Venova - a "branched pipe" woodwind
Registered: 09/27/10
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dcuny Offline
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Registered: 09/27/10
Posts: 2590
Loc: Sacramento, California
I recently ran across the Yamaha's Venova, which seems to be another competitor for the "pocket saxophone" market. That makes it different from instruments such as the Xaphoon is that it's got a "branch" in the pipe, which causes it to behave more like a conical bore instrument (such as a saxophone) than a cylindrical bore instrument (such as a clarinet or Xaphoon).



The branch means that the instrument is actually open at both ends. Like a saxophone - it overblows at the octave instead of at the 12th.

This branched pipe is - as best I can tell - something truly innovative. The design apparently first came out of a method for synthesizing conical bores, and later was applied to physical instruments.

The Venova uses a soprano saxophone mouthpiece as a resonator, and is about the same size as a tenor recorder. To make it fit in the hand better, the tube has multiple small bends instead of being straight, and there are keys for low C, C#, D and D# to make it easier to play.

The fingering is essentially the same as a C recorder.

Unfortunately, the advertising campaign seems to be aimed at young hipsters:



Yamaha's slogan is Venova - Casual Wind Instrument. Making music is fun!

Also unfortunate is the sound of the instrument - in most videos it is rather disappointing. I think the jSax sounds much better "out of the box" than the Venova.

This isn't to say that the Venova can't be played well - here's an example where it sounds quite good, if you ignore some of the rather squirrely notes:



It's pretty clear that this instrument isn't a saxophone, and it's certainly not a recorder. Rather, it needs to be approached on its own terms.

The first person I'd heard who actually sounded good on the instrument was Linsey Pollak:

https://soundcloud.com/linseypollak/balestrand-at-balestrand

On YouTube, Linsey's claim to fame is the ability to construct instruments out of household materials. For example, he's got a video where he created a clarinet out of a carrot.

After playing with the Venova, Linsey created a Dr. Seuss-ish instrument which he's dubbed the Cylisax on account of it having a cylindrical bore and a sax-like sound. Linsey can make anything sound good:



Clearly, the Venova could be a good instrument. But like a soprano saxophone, it seems to require more than just a "casual" player to sound decent.

I wonder if Yamaha has further plans for this past the "casual instrument" stage.
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#423675 - 07/29/17 08:28 PM [Off-Topic] Re: Yamaha Venova - a "branched pipe" woodwind [Re: dcuny]
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Matt Finley Offline
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Registered: 07/12/00
Posts: 18275
Loc: Hudson Valley & Lake George NY
Hey, thanks David. I had not heard of this. Fun.

I like the idea of shortening the basic woodwind tube by those short curves. But I don't understand the function of the extra short tube on top.

Funny he would use a Kenny G tune to demo.

He never hit a D (for the horn) squarely; they were all over the place (squirrely, as you said).

The small soprano sax mouthpiece does require more control than a tenor sax mouthpiece as used on the competitor. People ask me what it's like when I play soprano, and I tell them it's like herding cats.

As to the tone, I think I much prefer a wooden tenor recorder to this. Perhaps they are aiming for the fourth-grade flutaphone market, in which case I think it would be great.

Perhaps if they made one out of some denser metal (if possible with those bends) then the sound could have some character.

Thanks for sharing.
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#423679 - 07/29/17 09:46 PM [Off-Topic] Re: Yamaha Venova - a "branched pipe" woodwind [Re: Matt Finley]
Registered: 09/27/10
Posts: 2590
Loc: Sacramento, California
dcuny Offline
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Registered: 09/27/10
Posts: 2590
Loc: Sacramento, California
Originally Posted By: Matt Finley
But I don't understand the function of the extra short tube on top.

The tube on the Venova has a cylindrical bore. That means that it should behave like a clarinet, which also has a cylindrical bore.

However, the additional pipe gives the instrument two open ends, with the reed in between. As a result, the instrument behaves similar to a conical bore instrument.

One result of this a timbre which sounds more like a saxophone than a clarinet. You can hear this in Linsey's Cylisax.

Also, instruments with a cylindrical bore and are closed at one end aren't able to support the second harmonic. The reason for this is too complicated for me to grasp.

Since the Venova is open at both ends, another result of the second tube is that it overblows (much more conveniently) at the octave.
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