• More York Madness: Hey, Buddy. Do ya have 11 fingers?

    by  • July 17, 2010 • JW York

    The good folks at www.doctorsax.biz sent me an e-mail saying that they had seen my progressing York research and that I might be interested in a horn they had.

    The horn (if you click the pics to make them bigger, they’re not as fuzzy).

    This is definitely a York-made instrument because it has the rather unique “toneholes on a plate” construction, which York patented. That’s not really the most interesting thing. If you look at this, you’ll see that the horn has 5 pearl keys on the lower stack.

    I’ve started the conversation at http://www.woodwindforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3305. Allow me to start copying and pasting from the e-mails we’ve sent each other and a bit of further info on doctorsax’s website:



    Comments from doctorsax: A long-time client replied to my suppositions about the “forked Eb”. He said:

    On this one I figure you shift the ring finger to activate it and use the middle finger one down as well (note the arm to depress the E cup from the D touch). If you’re going to use your pinky you’d use the conventional Eb touch. The whole point (I figure) is to allow the fast C (or bell key notes) to Eb and back trill without taxing the RH pinky unduly. For the conventional (IE Conn/ Buescher et al) system you lift the middle finger to activate it. The Conn system requires a lot less fingering gymnastics. I note that is also has the arm so that the D touch also depresses the E cup. The difference is in the clever but frequently out of whack dual purpose E touch with its ‘close the E cup AND close the back Eb cup’ synching issues.

    Of course I could be, and frequently am, completely wrong….

    My Comments: I have had several saxophones with the fork Eb fingering. I generally have fingered it 123 | 1 and ring finger on the Eb. The middle finger or pinky finger is much too awkward for me. Then again, I do have large hands that span over an octave (each) on a piano.

    There are several different fork Eb mechanisms and you can modify your fingering to accommodate them. Take, for instance, the mechanism that’s found on the Evette-Schaeffer System, Evette-Schaeffer Apogee, Selmer Modele 28 and a few other horns (here’s a good pic). The distance your ring finger would have to travel is considerably farther on these horns, so using that pinky might be an alternative if you have very small hands. However, if you had a horn with the alternate low C#, B and Bb keys, like this example, you immediately see that the ring finger makes a lot more sense. (By the way, while this keywork on that soprano is patented by Evette-Schaeffer, I’ve seen several other manufacturers use it, most notably Rampone.)

    For what it’s worth, I never needed to use the fork Eb fingering or the G# trill. On some vintage horns, I’ve seen repairmen disable the fork Eb vent (via reversing the spring, corking the key down or even soldering a plate over the tone hole) and even go so far as to remove the G# trill key. I think that kind of surgery to your sax is unnecessary. If you don’t use those keys, just leave them alone. Same goes for the folks that have altissimo D# trill keys.


    —> I really didn’t get the point that doctorsax was asking, which really was, “Why 5 keys and how do you finger the fork Eb on THIS beast?” I really need to do more reading comprehension :D. Anyhow, doctorsax wrote back and did tell me I missed the point. Thus corrected, I continued:


    My Comments: I think we might be confusing terms — or, at least, keywork. Let me demonstrate from pictures, instead:

    If you look at this pic, you have FIVE pearls, and I’m numbering them from top to bottom as 12345. So, an F would be 1, a G# trill is (just) 2, an E should be 13. A D should be 135. The forked Eb should be 14. I think. Hopefully :).

    I’ve seen other Yorks with this setup (see this) and I’ve seen them without (see, for instance, this). I don’t know why they changed.

    If you look at the lower stack of a random Conn, say this one, you’ve got four pearls: 1 is an F, a G# trill is (just) 2, an E is 13. A D is 134. The forked Eb is 14.

    The Eb vent on the York is the key right above the bow on the right side in this pic, which is approximately the same place as on the Conn.

    While I understand your “long time client’s” comment at http://www.doctorsax.biz/York_Tenor_63495.htm, C to D# isn’t a trill and it’s easy enough to roll your pinky from the C key to the Eb key if you needed to. However, he might be right.

    Now, the questions on the York are:

    * Does 135 produce a D or is it 134?

    * Does 14 produce an Eb or is it 15?

    It’s one of those, “I wish I could play the horn” moments. If you can give it a bit of a toot and check, that’d be great!

    In any event, on a Conn, for instance, I’ve always played a fork Eb with the index finger on 1 and the ring finger on 4.

    Comments from doctorsax: On that selfsame picture and numbering the righthand keys from 1 thru 5 starting at the top, like you also did:

    * 1 = F

    *13 (skipping the G# trill) = E

    and here is where we are at variance: 134 = D, but 14 also gives a D (you can lift your middle finger and still get a D)

    * 1345 = Eb

    * 135 also = Eb. Even 15 gives an Eb; it is key #5 that opens the little Eb, so the 135 combo you say should play a D, does not. The 135 closes all the stack keys and opens the little Eb on the other side of the horn. If my index finger is on the 1, the only other finger that ergonomically can reach the 5 is my pinkie. I CAN stretch my ring finger down there, but it would not be an easily playable thing.

    Frankly, if someone were to send the above to me I would have trouble following it. It is only by having the horn here on my lap that I can do this.

    This should answer your questions:

    * 134 = D
    * 15 = Eb

    Comments from Me: Your fingering info is interesting.

    How about shifting everything down one: in other words, don’t finger 12, but 34 or 345. Do those fingerings come up with some tones? How about just 3 or just 4 or just 5?

    I’ll ask the folks on my forum. It’s possible that a couple of them have come across horns like this.