Sam Duffy: Augmented Saxophone

Thursday 03/11/2011

Sam Duffy is a saxophone player with audio engineering experience, currently undertaking research on the Media and Arts Technology PhD programme at Queen Mary University.

She has just finished a project with British Telecom and Aldeburgh Music examining the interactions which take place within instrumental music lessons and how these interactions change when lessons take place via video conferencing. She has been considering the conflict between electronically amplified acoustic instruments and controllers for some time, started by interest in an amplified saxophone called the Varitone, made by Selmer in 1967. The natural progression of these thoughts is to make the Varitone for the new millennium. It is a project which Sam has been mulling over for some time, and the MAT programme has provided insight into ‘the how’ through Arduino and MaxMSP, but the kind gift by a friend of an old soprano saxophone to destroy means that now the dream has to be translated into reality………

Meeting summary

Presentation slides (pdf)

Sam has a background in singing and playing saxophone in bands and small ensembles. An inspiration for her work has been to find out about the Varitone, a augmented saxophone released by Selmer in 1967 that did not quite match the success of the Wah Wah pedal.

Varitone Saxophone

Schematics of the Varitone are available online Beware, there is also a Gibson guitar six way tone control called a varitone, to be fair they got to the name first in 1959!

Sam looks at user experiences to inform the design of her Augmented Saxophone. She’s interested in making the most of the sound of keys, breath, small movements, as well as the normal pitch sound from the instrument.

Sam Duffy on the 3rd November 2011

She is looking at ways to integrate sensors in a soprano sax to see how she could capture a maximum of information. She’s open to collaboration, if interested you can write to her: sam (at)

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