What Does an Arabic or Persian Bamboo Saxophone Sound Like?

I like to experiment. I’m always interested in how to achieve a more charming, more exotic sound. In the previous blog post, you can read how I tried different types of mouthpieces to bring the sound of my pocket saxophones even closer to a real saxophone. In this post, I want to show you an exotic experiment.

I’ve always wondered how a bamboo saxophone would sound if I didn’t tune it to the usual major scale, but chose an exotic scale for my instrument. What difficulties would I encounter during the crafting process? How would it feel to play? Would it really charm you when playing it?

I have several scales on my list that I would like to try one day, but my first choice was the double harmonic scale. It gives the instrument a very distinctive, oriental sound and is also known as Mayamalavagowla, Bhairav Raga, Byzantine scale, Arabic, and Gypsy major scale.

Notes of the Scale

First, let’s see the notes of an octave of the original major scale:

Degrees: 1 — 2 — 3 — 4 — 5 — 6 — 7 — 1
Notes: C — D — E — F — G — A — B — C

And now let’s see the double harmonic scale:

Degrees: 1 — ♭2 — 3 — 4 — 5 — ♭6 — 7 — 1
Notes: C — Db — E — F — G — Ab — B — C

You can see that the second and sixth notes of the scale are a semitone lower here. Yes, this slight change gives the scale its charming and exotic sound.

Difficulties During Crafting

The most important difference in this regard is that the maximum distance between two notes on the major scale is only 2 semitones, i.e. a whole tone. On this scale, however, sometimes there is a distance of 3 semitones. This is important because, if the notes are further apart on the scale, the holes will be further apart on the instrument, too. The human hand, however, cannot open any two fingers at any arbitrary distance apart. The solution was simple: instead of using holes of the same size, I sometimes used quite small holes on the Arabic bamboo saxophone, this way compensating for the strange positioning of the holes, which is unnatural to the hand.
Arab bambusz szaxofon

The Finished Instrument

The instrument was then easy to make and tune according to the scale described above. I think the look alone is special with the different hole sizes and it has a fantastic sound indeed. It is a little bit strange to play at first, but with practice, you’ll easily learn to use this exotic scale to conjure up the sounds of the Orient, the world of Aladdin or the atmosphere of ancient Persian cities.

Arabian Bamboo Sax

Listen to the Arabic Bamboo Sax!

I have made a short video of the instrument, where you can hear how it sounds. Decide for yourself, does it really create an exotic, oriental atmosphere? Let me know in the comments!

Of course, I look forward to your ideas and individual requests! I will be very happy to make an instrument with any scale you like!

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