Echo Tremolo

What is a varitone ;explain?

The Varitone "Electric Saxophone"
In the history of saxophone manufacturing, there have been many radical concepts which have either captured the hearts of performers, or dropped into obscurity. Many such ideas that do disappear from the menu are actually stunning improvements that just never seem to catch on; the Grafton acrylic saxophone comes quickly to mind.

In 1965, H & A Selmer, Inc. began to develop one of the most radical concepts ever envisioned: an 'electric' saxophone. The company called on Electro-Voice (EV) to assist them in the electronic portions of the product. Initially, the saxophone was meant to have a built-in means of amplification so acoustic feedback was not such an issue. What developed was considerably more complex than a simple amplifier. Through conversations with players, and heavy development on the part of both companies, the resulting product was a radical shift in the tonal concept of the saxophone. With this unit installed, a musician had complete control over their output volume and tone quality, and even more amazing was the ability to add echo, tremolo and a concurrent sub-octave synthesized tone.

When Selmer began developing the instrument, they set several important guidelines that made the addition more player-friendly. First and foremost, the modifications were not in any way to impede the saxophonist's normal playing technique or timbre. The goal was to keep the saxophone as an acoustic instrument and not an electronic one. Also, the ability to "turn off" the addition and play in a non-amplified manner was paramount. The unit had to be rugged enough to withstand travel and rigorous playing conditions. Controls were to be easy to adjust on the fly, uncomplicated, and if possible, physically mounted on the saxophone.

The initial concept of sound pickup and microphone placement had been developed in France by Jean Selmer, an engineer at Henri Selmer et Cie., Paris. He found that a sampling of sound from inside the horn was necessary to reproduce tone patterns generated by the instrument without interference from external acoustics. The placement of the pickup microphone became the first technical problem. A series of standing waves inside the body of the saxophone during playing creates many nodal points of increased or reduced sound pressure. These pressure points vary with playing technique and the note being blown. Contrary to what seem obvious, the bell is not the best place for pickup placement. The best possible method would be to place microphones at every tone hole, but this was obviously implausible and expensive.

Since all of the standing waves in the saxophone emanate from the mouthpiece and neck of the saxophone, that became the optimum location for the microphone. However, a thorough understanding of acoustic theory and mathematics along with years of experimentation had been necessary before the exact spot was determined. It was obvious that this was no "do-it-yourself" undertaking, since the placement of the pickup could not vary even a fraction of an inch. When the pickup is in the wrong location, some notes will sound louder than others and there will be a definite loss of tone quality.

The microphone itself was the second important development in the invention of the Veritone system. Under license from Selmer Paris, EV refined the original pickup using a ceramic pressure-sensitive element. The stiffness of this device was high enough to compare to the instrument itself. Velocity microphones, having resonant frequencies within the range of the saxophone caused wide variances in volume. Also to be considered were the extremely high sound pressure levels generated in the instrument and the acidic moisture produced by the player's breath. The resulting microphone was about .75" in diameter and .5" thick. It was constructed and placed so normal playing technique would not be affected.

Once the basic pickup design and application were settled, the engineers turned their attention to the control functions and the addition of the various "effects" so easily available to other instruments using electronic technology available at the time. The control unit of the Veritone was mounted on the saxophone in close proximity to the players right hand on top of the sculptured key guard. In theory, the dials could be adjusted while playing with the left hand. Controls included three knobs and four tab switches similar in function to organ stop tabs. Rotating knobs adjusted volume, echo and loudness of the sub-octave. One of the switches turned tremolo on and off, while the other three controlled tone quality with a primitive equalizer. The preamp, power amplifier, power supply and speaker for the saxophone were built into a separate cabinet. The preamp contained the circuitry necessary for the tremolo, echo and sub-octave effects. Although the Veritone did have some performers as advocates

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HOHNER diatonic tremolo harmonica Echo 2509 2509 48
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