One Handed Saxophone

From the age of nine (1981) to my motorcycle accident in 1991, although not particularly adept, I enjoyed playing keyboards and woodwind instruments, namely clarinet, flute, and saxophone.

The nerve injury sustained in that accident put an abrupt end to pretty much all playing of woodwind. While using the left hand side keys on the sax made it possible to play (almost) two full octaves, a clear sounding E, F, and F# were absent from this range, which made it difficult to play many tunes correctly.

I transferred to playing trumpet in February 1992, which I didn't really enjoy, then later, with the restoration of motor function to my bicep, I took up the trombone, which, in my opinion, has a much nicer mellow sound to it.

My two saxes have remained set-up since the accident, and I'd have a play on them from time to time; usually playing Pink Panther and Summertime, but I really wanted to be able to play the lower notes again.

Around November, 2016, I began looking into the possibility of an adaptation, and came across an instrument developed by Stelling Brass and Winds and frequently demonstrated by Dr David Nabb.

Their adaptation looks pretty neat, but after contacting David, I decided the cost was not justifiable given my standard of playing.

My philosophy has always been, "If you can't get what you need, try and make something that will do the job.".... so I set myself the task of developing my own One-Handed Sax.

My solution, while limited and in need of further refinements, makes use of five small solenoids that are powered by a solenoid driver circuit. The adaptation is completely usable and has restored the range of notes I can play back to where I was in 1991..... although I found hitting lower D down to bottom Bb quite difficult until I corrected some misaligned keys and replaced damaged or missing cork between linkages that had disintegrated over the 27 years I have not been using these keys.

The notes in the altissimo range are also playable using this adaptation. However, the number of alternative fingerings for such notes are somewhat limited. Although I struggle with the top G, I can comfortably play up to C# in the first altissimo range using only the available adapted keys.

Using this adaptation, the musician is free to move around while playing so long as they use the traditional support strap. A full harness support strap is recommended as the standard neck strap can become quite painful if playing for any length of time due to it taking the full weight of the instrument. Personally, I have found placing a traditional neck strap over one shoulder and under the other arm to be very comfortable.

Presented on this page are the resources I have used, a report of my development progress, schematics and Gerber files for my PCB design, and some video footage to accompany my documentation.

For other instrument adaptations, please check out the One Handed Musical Instruments trust website.

I welcome any comments or questions about this adaptation, and openly share my work in the hope someone can take it further.


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