Sax on the Web Forum banner
1 - 20 of 22 Posts

· Registered
Joined
·
52 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi to All,
Still being new to my cheap Soprano sax, I find when practising a scale my pitch varies +/- 10 cents.

I assume better embouchure ( mouth/ throat ) control ( will / my ) correct this even further.


After the sax is warmed up, I tune to low G. Continued playing between low C up to mid reg G, I find some notes are sharp and others flat while low G is still constantly in tune.
Is this a function of a cheap sax and can it be corrected by becoming more familiar with the sax and compensating with the embouchure.


When practising the embouchure I am also trying to become more familiar with the different scales. In time I assume all scales must be learnt, but preferring a classical music style what scales are better to concentrate on initially.


Now the big one :
Am I better advised to learn Concert C rather than Sax notation, ie. if the piece of music is indicating a Concert C ‘G’ note, I know to play an A on my Soprano. Would this pose problems in the long term.

Many thanks ( still annoying the neighbours )
Regards
John
 

· Out of Office
Grafton + TH & C alto || Naked Lady 10M || TT soprano || Martin Comm III
Joined
·
30,061 Posts
Plus or minus 10 cents is quite normal and often to be expected. Generally we may adjust to what our ears are telling us. A lot of music can sound better IMO if not using exact equal temperament any way.

I would advise learning the saxophone transposed pitches and learn to transpose from concert pitch when necessary.

Initially I would say major and minor scales but don’t just concentrate on up and down scales, all kinds of exercises such as thirds are good (C E D F E G...) and of course arpeggios
 

· Registered
Buffet Clarinet, Conn Soprano Sax, Buescher Alto Sax, 2 Bundy One Tenor Saxes, Conn C Melody Sax,
Joined
·
3,117 Posts
+1 to what Pete said.
I have a suggestion re. playing scales, 3rds, arpeggios etc: why not use the cycle of 5ths to decide where you're going next? Eg. V of C=G to C, (V of F) to F, etc. I've been doing this a lot lately and my ear is learning. Others, of course, like up, (or down) via chromatic and whole-tones. ie. from C (+ or -) to C#, or C to D. I hope I've got this right:)
 

· Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
9,428 Posts
Its good to practice with a tuner but when you start obsessing over every note, you can get discouraged. You use the tuner to get the horn basically in tune and also look for tendencies to go out of tune in areas of the horn, like high or low. It can also show you certain notes that need physical adjustment with opening heights. Finally, it can point out where you need work on your playing (embouchure, jaw biting). I never owned an electronic tuner until a year ago when i got a free one for my phone. This has been one of the major revelations in my playing. I had an old 'A' chime that I used to check out horns, mouthpieces, etc. at home but always just tuned by ear on gigs or sometimes not at all because of electronic keyboards with standard tuning. Once I started using the tuner, I noticed I was tuning up a little flatter than before (going by mouthpiece position on cork) but the results during the show were better. Then the trumpet player got interested and got himself an app too - now we both just use our tuners during sound check and sometimes during the show (on the fly) and our intonation is most always very good. Unison notes have much more power and harmonies sound better.
Anyway, its like looking at things under a microscope - you have to keep things in perspective. For example, I know my baritone jumps around on pitch so i try to strike a 'happy medium', knowing some notes are a little 'out'. However, listening to a recording of the show, it sounds perfect. If you have a good ear, you are constantly adjusting to the 'constant' pitch of the group, most of the time without realizing it. Finding that 'happy medium' just makes it easier to adjust as you go.
 

· Out of Office
Grafton + TH & C alto || Naked Lady 10M || TT soprano || Martin Comm III
Joined
·
30,061 Posts
Anyway, its like looking at things under a microscope - you have to keep things in perspective. For example, I know my baritone jumps around on pitch so i try to strike a 'happy medium', knowing some notes are a little 'out'. However, listening to a recording of the show, it sounds perfect. If you have a good ear, you are constantly adjusting to the 'constant' pitch of the group, most of the time without realizing it. Finding that 'happy medium' just makes it easier to adjust as you go.
Out is often better.

I've done recordings that sound fine, but I have still analysed pitches using a tuner and have sometimes found that corrcting the pict digitally to the tuners can make it sound worse. Sometimes sharp sounds better, sometimes flat.

When I first tried this I was convinced something was wrong with the tuner or my ears, but other people confirmed. The "out of tune" notes in question sounded better. If this w as due to just intonation, I find that odd because a lot of other instruments (including the main chord instruments organ and bass) were in equal temperament.

So in the end it has to be down to your ears, but it can take a while to get the stage where you really do trust them.
 

· Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015-
Joined
·
38,839 Posts
Hi to All,
Still being new to my cheap Soprano sax, I find when practising a scale my pitch varies +/- 10 cents.

I assume better embouchure ( mouth/ throat ) control ( will / my ) correct this even further.
You're on the right path, John. Awareness is the first step, and you care.

Listen, listen, listen. Listen to others to form your concept of what you want to achieve, and listen to yourself while you play - is your pitch good, and do you get the sound you are going for?

Make every note musical.

Enjoy the path.

Regards,

George
 

· Premium Member
Joined
·
4,362 Posts
Something that was important when I was learning to play, but that isn't talked about much these days is "matching pitch". "Humoring" the pitch which means moving the pitch up or down to match another pitch is done in different ways on different instruments. On the saxophone it is done by small changes in the upward pressure against the reed through the lower lip---often called "lipping". "Voicing" or making changes inside the oral cavity can also be used, but is only effective on notes A2 and higher for reasons of acoustics.

A "fixed pitch" source is needed in order to practice matching pitch. Because of the flexibility of the saxophone to alter the pitch (more down than up) it doesn't even require the instrument to be tuned correctly to accomplish (within reason). The "perfect intervals" unisons, octaves, fourths and fifths create "beats" when out of tune with a fixed source. The beats go faster when the pitch is more out of tune, and slower as the pitches come closer together. The notes are matched perfectly when the beats stop. The other intervals seconds, thirds, sixths, and sevenths are "in tune" when they sound the best. In "just" tuning major thirds are tuned slightly sharp, minor thirds and minor sevenths are tuned slightly flat.

After practicing matching pitch with a tuner set to each note, the next step is to set the tuner at one pitch to act as a "drone" and to tune the intervals by ear to that fixed pitch. It is a bit easier starting out to make the fixed pitch "do" of a major scale and tune the scale tones as you go up the scale. Next you can do the same but with a minor scale, and last tune all of the chromatic notes. The importance of listening, adjusting and matching pitch was driven home to me when I watched a demonstration by an award winning high school band where the director had the students purposefully adjust their instruments to be out of tune with A=440 then play a major scale with perfect intonation, followed by a chorale that was perfectly in tune.

Even on the best of saxophones there are notes that are not perfectly in tune, and which require listening and adjusting---especially when playing with an accompaniment, backing track, or in an ensemble. Of course intonation flaws are less noticeable when playing shorter note values or at faster tempos. It is in slower passages and on sustained notes that accurate pitch becomes essential.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
52 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Hi to All,
Many thanks for the replies.
I am nowhere near as advanced as some of the replies may imply.

Sangster, I am aware of the terms, circle of five and arpeggios etc but have yet to get there. Your reference to V of C = G, is meaningless to me, although I thank you for the input.

I really am starting off from scratch. I use the chromatic meter to check for pitch, hoping that throat/ jaw ‘ muscle memory’ may develop as my hearing appears unreliable, to date. I can make a sound but it can be way off.

I have noticed some small improvement. My partial mid register is now much better than previous, AB are still troublesome.

This old bugger really appreciates you feed back.

Regards
John
 

· Registered
Buffet Clarinet, Conn Soprano Sax, Buescher Alto Sax, 2 Bundy One Tenor Saxes, Conn C Melody Sax,
Joined
·
3,117 Posts
From one old bugger to another: V of C = G means to me, G is the 5th of C, therefore, Roman Numeral V of Roman Numeral I or G to C.
In any key, the Roman Numerals indicate the degree of the scale which a chord, or triad, is built. A common chord progression is mII-V7-I, in C: DFA-GBDF-CEG, or D minor-G7th-C. Does this help?
 

· Registered
Joined
·
1,229 Posts
John. There are many techniques. One I've found useful is, rather than just using a meter in a phone app to check for pitch; some apps can play back a tone to you which is the closest note based on what you are playing. I use that (I use TE tuner, there are others; with headphones) to try to match the pitch to what I'm hearing, rather than watching the flickering dial. I use this with long tones practice. I think it's improving my ears and playing.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
52 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Hi to All,
Sorry Sandster but no. I have not ventured that far as yet.

Lesacks, yes I use TE tuner both for tuning and watching my pitch. I find I can hit the correct note pitch, but have to adjust my embouchure for most notes to achieve this, no real embouchure consistency. Sometimes I get on a roll with the low register and there is consistency +/- 10 cents, but various notes ( eg E, G, D, B I loose that +/- 10 cents.

I guess it is just all good fun, unfortunately running out of time (age).

Regards
John
 

· Registered
Joined
·
1,229 Posts
Cool. So I'm suggesting you use the tone playback. It's a little icon of a microphone and single bar note. It'll play back the closest note to the one you are playing (only works properly with headphones, though).
 

· Registered
Joined
·
9,976 Posts
For a complete beginner I'd recommend using the tuner only to get started, then turn it off and use only your ears. Practice next to the piano (or equivalent) and if you question intonation, use that to check.

In fact once you establish a stable embouchure, you can just shove the mouthpiece on to a line you mark on the cork and unless the temperature is real hot or cold, or the whole band's tuning to an out of tune piano, you'll be good to go 90+ % of the time.

Electronic tuners only came in to common use about 30 years ago. I don't think people played more out-of-tune before that than they do now.

I fear that overreliance on visually matching with a tuner could also lead to a pinched timid sound, as the focus will be on getting the needle to stand up vertically, not on getting the big "warm" air stream that makes everything line up and play naturally in tune. Way back when the only electronic tuner was the giant expensive Stroboconn, I played sax in a concert band next to a player who had arranged for the use of such a tuner - she had a little piece of paper with how many cents sharp or flat every single note on the horn was. It seemed then, and seems now, like a big waste of time to constantly try to make micro adjustments to every note based on a visual reference, rather than just blowing the thing and using one's ears.

Electronic tuners have their place, and I use them a lot:

- getting a guitar or mandolin in tune, right now
- various investigations - does my horn run sharp in the upper octave?
- testing the effect on a single note of a change like key height adjustment

but going note by note all the time is not their best and highest use.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
1,229 Posts
...
I fear that overreliance on visually matching with a tuner could also lead to a pinched timid sound, as the focus will be on getting the needle to stand up vertically, ....
Which is why I suggested, and prefer, the tone playback and not looking at the numbers. It's about the same as using a piano without needing to press the keys and without stretch tuning
 

· Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015-
Joined
·
38,839 Posts
Hi to All,
Sorry Sandster but no. I have not ventured that far as yet.

Lesacks, yes I use TE tuner both for tuning and watching my pitch. I find I can hit the correct note pitch, but have to adjust my embouchure for most notes to achieve this, no real embouchure consistency. Sometimes I get on a roll with the low register and there is consistency +/- 10 cents, but various notes ( eg E, G, D, B I loose that +/- 10 cents.

I guess it is just all good fun, unfortunately running out of time (age).

Regards
John
John,

I get it - the age thing.

We, as a community, often offer more help than is asked. Many of us, including myself, have been playing for decades, and want to encourage people to get to that next level of musicianship.

I also recognize that, as well-intended it may be, it is not the answer for every player.

So take away that information that enhances your playing experience, and run with it. For me (today), the bottom lines are "Do you enjoy what you are doing?" and "Can you achieve what you want?", in no particular order.

Let us know how we can help you on your path.

Be well,

George
 

· Registered
Joined
·
151 Posts
You have a lot of good advice, here.

The tuner will get you in the neighborhood. Using your ears is the real answer. It's hard to beat playing with other musicians who can hear, respond, and guide you toward being in tune.
In these (insert cliché here) times, playing with others isn't the easiest thing to do. But, you can play with recordings, backing tracks, or a drone.

To play with a drone, one of the best tools is the Tonal Energy app. (Unsolicited endorsement - it's a well-thought out app, and worth the price.) This is an all-around good tool for practice, with a tuner, metronome, and a tone generator. Set the pitch you want to tune to, or the root, and play against the pitch. Listen for the "beats" that form between your pitch and the drone, and adjust until they disappear.

Regarding B♭ parts or concert pitch: Learn both! At some point, someone will hand you a vocal part or a flute or oboe part, and knowing the transposition is a huge help. But, you wouldn't want to not know the B♭ parts. (FWIW, I can transpose from concert to B♭ easily. Transposing from concert to E♭ is still rough for me.)
 

· SOTW Columnist, Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
25,295 Posts
+1 to matching tones or a drone to train your ear. The tuner is useful as a quick check to make sure you're in the ballpark and to find the best place for your mpc on the cork (keep in mind that the horn tends to go sharp on a hot day and flat in cold weather, so you may have to adjust the mpc a bit in those situations).

As to which scales to learn, you'll definitely want to learn scales in all 12 keys. I'd strongly suggest working toward learning the 12 major scales first (not all at once, but eventually). Once you have those 12 scales thoroughly memorized and under your fingers, they are point of reference for all that comes next. Don't worry if that doesn't make sense right now; it will eventually.

When learning those major scales, work on memorizing the 'scale degrees'. For ex in C major:

C=1, D=2, E=3, F=4, G=5, A=6, B=7.

In the key of D: D=1, E=2, F#=3, G=4, etc. Learn these scale degrees for all 12 keys and down the road you'll find it very useful.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
71 Posts
Hi to All,
Still being new to my cheap Soprano sax, I find when practising a scale my pitch varies +/- 10 cents.

I assume better embouchure ( mouth/ throat ) control ( will / my ) correct this even further.

After the sax is warmed up, I tune to low G. Continued playing between low C up to mid reg G, I find some notes are sharp and others flat while low G is still constantly in tune.
Is this a function of a cheap sax and can it be corrected by becoming more familiar with the sax and compensating with the embouchure.

When practising the embouchure I am also trying to become more familiar with the different scales. In time I assume all scales must be learnt, but preferring a classical music style what scales are better to concentrate on initially.

Now the big one :
Am I better advised to learn Concert C rather than Sax notation, ie. if the piece of music is indicating a Concert C 'G' note, I know to play an A on my Soprano. Would this pose problems in the long term.

Many thanks ( still annoying the neighbours )
Regards
John
Regarding the big one, it sounds like you are using scores written for Concert C instruments. Yes, when you read G on the staff you can play A, and when you read A you can play B, etc. Depending on how you look at it, you are either assigning new names to positions on the staff (G is now A) or you are assigning new fingerings for the notes on the staff (you would think of fingering for A on the sax as being G). Either of these approaches works except that you are now out of phase with everyone else on how you define positions on the staff or on how you finger a note on the horn and you will have to unlearn your new system if you start playing scores written for the soprano.

I would suggest that you try and get scores specifically for the soprano, or look for scores for other Bb instruments (I grab clarinet scores for my soprano sometimes). Another option is to get some software like Musescore and do your own transpositions. Musescore will suck in some PDFs. Failing that you can hand jam the score in. Yes, I know it's tedious, but it does allow you to make minor modifications to simplify or embellish if you want. Once it's in, the software can transpose the score for you.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
230 Posts
Hi to All,
Still being new to my cheap Soprano sax, I find when practising a scale my pitch varies +/- 10 cents.

I assume better embouchure ( mouth/ throat ) control ( will / my ) correct this even further.

After the sax is warmed up, I tune to low G. Continued playing between low C up to mid reg G, I find some notes are sharp and others flat while low G is still constantly in tune.
Is this a function of a cheap sax and can it be corrected by becoming more familiar with the sax and compensating with the embouchure.

When practising the embouchure I am also trying to become more familiar with the different scales. In time I assume all scales must be learnt, but preferring a classical music style what scales are better to concentrate on initially.

Now the big one :
Am I better advised to learn Concert C rather than Sax notation, ie. if the piece of music is indicating a Concert C 'G' note, I know to play an A on my Soprano. Would this pose problems in the long term.

Many thanks ( still annoying the neighbours )
Regards
John
Welcome to the wonderful world of soprano sax! When old Adolph Saxe originally designed the saxophone, he worked very hard to ensure it was within the correct acoustical parameters. The soprano was considered "pushing the limits" of that acoustical limit, thus even the finest ones must be lipped up and down a bit to keep them in tune.
An old bass player friend of mine had a great line. I was unpacking and setting up for a gig he was on, and when I broke out the soprano, he looked at it and said "Oh, you play the agony stick!"
 

· Registered
Joined
·
50 Posts
Welcome to the wonderful world of soprano sax! When old Adolph Saxe originally designed the saxophone, he worked very hard to ensure it was within the correct acoustical parameters. The soprano was considered "pushing the limits" of that acoustical limit, thus even the finest ones must be lipped up and down a bit to keep them in tune.
An old bass player friend of mine had a great line. I was unpacking and setting up for a gig he was on, and when I broke out the soprano, he looked at it and said "Oh, you play the agony stick!"
My thoughts exactly. It's pretty rare for a sax (or any wind instrument) to play perfectly in tune, on every note. Many players (myself included) struggle at time to keep the C# in tune, along with some of the notes above a high A. Of the saxophones, most folks agree that "the agony stick" seems to be the hardest horn to play in tune. That fact that goldenskyhook's brass buddy knew of its reputation is quite telling. Indeed, it can be hard to find a sax player who has mastered the challenge of getting a soprano sax to not sound like it's a dying squirrel. Granted, those who put in the effort probably sound better when they switch back to an alto, tenor, or bari. Many players give up before they get that far. Every instrument is different, and even every horn is different. I just tune to one note (usually a concert Bb or F), and keep in mind which notes are going to be out of tune, so I can adjust. The lead Tenor in our big band likes to demonstrate how one can change a pitch and entire half step up or down, simply my adjusting the embouchure, while keeping the flingers in one place. It's therefore possible (though not easy) to play every singled note perfectly in tune, simply by adjusting the pressure on the reed.

Speaking of reeds, it's a good idea to try a lot of different strengths and brands. Since the embouchure is vital to tuning, it's important to get a reed that works well with the player's style. It's also not a bad idea to to try out different mouthpieces. Albeit, the latter is a pain in the rear, since there are so few music stores out there that will do this for you. That's a topic for anther thread, though.

Also try adjusting how much wind you are putting though the sax. IF you are used to playing an also or tenor sax, you could be overblowing. I recently switched to a tenor sax after playing alto for over 30 years. It took some time for me to rain my diaphragm to push more air through the horn. My intonation improved greatly once I got the hang of this elementary task.

I also second the idea to training your ear, and relying less on an electronic tuner. I am pretty tone deaf, so I struggle with this myself. Remember, you can only rely on you "organic" tuner to help when you are trying to match a pitch to other players. Very few people are born with the gift of perfect pitch, but many professionals can develop this trait (at least to a few common pitches) with lots of practice.
 
1 - 20 of 22 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top