Sax on the Web Forum banner

1 - 20 of 27 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
817 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Hi all
I've been a professional player for many years and have noticed recently that I often sound a little flat on live videos/recordings of my gigs (usually recorded on smartphones), but I'm usually pretty certain that I'm in tune i.e. on stage, I sound in tune compared to other players I'm with and my tuner indicates that I'm generally in tune across phrases (i.e. not just static tuning notes). I'm usually happy with my intonation during a gig but when I hear/see a recording, I think "Why on earth do I sound a little flat?" This is driving me nuts and I've never had this issue previously in my career. I've also recently heard/seen live recordings of other sax players where they sound a little flat to me - actually, their flat pitch often sounds about the same degree as mine. Part of me is wondering if my 46 y.o. ears are starting to act up, or if there's some sort of issue with smartphone recordings of saxophones, or something else. I have to admit that I've been doing a lot of DJ/sax work (yes, I've given in to the dark side in my need to earn a living :faceinpalm:) for the past 18 months and am wondering if this has something to do with my sense of pitch going haywire? The reason I mention this is because a lot of DJ material uses layered samples/remixes and I've found that these layers are often not perfectly in tune with each other; as a result, I may be in tune with one "layer" but slightly out with the other layer/s and can't centre my pitch. This latter situation is what I think the problem might be in terms of my ears/sense of pitch. As an experiment, I tuned to A442 at a duo gig (with a guitarist/vocalist) last night and felt much better whilst playing with my colleague but unfortunately, I wasn't able to record the audio so that I could hear the results from a punter perspective. However, the current situation has me wondering if my ears are "out of calibration" and "in tune" now sounds a little flat to me.

I was talking to someone about this earlier today and they mentioned some opera singers often sing a little sharp because they tend to sound a little flat in recordings and I have to admit this sounds like my situation...but I haven't been able to verify if this is true or not.

Does anyone have some thoughts/advice?

Regards
Gary
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
158 Posts
Hi all
I've been a professional player for many years and have noticed recently that I often sound a little flat on live videos/recordings of my gigs (usually recorded on smartphones), but I'm usually pretty certain that I'm in tune i.e. on stage, I sound in tune compared to other players I'm with and my tuner indicates that I'm generally in tune across phrases (i.e. not just static tuning notes). I'm usually happy with my intonation during a gig but when I hear/see a recording, I think "Why on earth do I sound a little flat?" This is driving me nuts and I've never had this issue previously in my career. I've also recently heard/seen live recordings of other sax players where they sound a little flat to me - actually, their flat pitch often sounds about the same degree as mine. Part of me is wondering if my 46 y.o. ears are starting to act up, or if there's some sort of issue with smartphone recordings of saxophones, or something else. I have to admit that I've been doing a lot of DJ/sax work (yes, I've given in to the dark side in my need to earn a living :faceinpalm:) for the past 18 months and am wondering if this has something to do with my sense of pitch going haywire? The reason I mention this is because a lot of DJ material uses layered samples/remixes and I've found that these layers are often not perfectly in tune with each other; as a result, I may be in tune with one "layer" but slightly out with the other layer/s and can't centre my pitch. This latter situation is what I think the problem might be in terms of my ears/sense of pitch. As an experiment, I tuned to A442 at a duo gig (with a guitarist/vocalist) last night and felt much better whilst playing with my colleague but unfortunately, I wasn't able to record the audio so that I could hear the results from a punter perspective. However, the current situation has me wondering if my ears are "out of calibration" and "in tune" now sounds a little flat to me.

I was talking to someone about this earlier today and they mentioned some opera singers often sing a little sharp because they tend to sound a little flat in recordings and I have to admit this sounds like my situation...but I haven't been able to verify if this is true or not.

Does anyone have some thoughts/advice?

Regards
Gary
Gary, if you sound intune with the other players may just be an issue with the recording. Not all smart phone recording is equal. The recording on a cheap $20 android phone you get free for signing up with a new plan isn't going to give you the quality you'll hear in a recording from a newer model iPhone or a nice Samsung/google phone. So consider the source is basically what I'm saying. That aside if you're worried about recordings try doing some recordings with your phone if you have one in your free time and see if you notice the same things. Also, I think it's just human nature to be more critical of recordings. You have the ability to go back and pinpoint and analyze every micro second, sometimes to the point of being counterproductive. If you felt confident and felt like you sounded good and intonation was good when you were actually in the moment and on the gig, that's what is important and I wouldn't sweat it too much. Especially with all the experience you've listed.

Thanks!
Kristy
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
817 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Hmmm, you might be right Kristy i.e. consider the source. I'm going to do some recordings with my iPhone X at gigs later this week and see what the results are. Thanks for replying!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,436 Posts
Many groups play on the low side by a little, especially with vibrato where the pitch goes from in tune to lower and back again.
Most singers that I listen to do that also, hence studio magic.
I've listened to recordings of myself and sometimes I suffer from it also.
I play alto in a jam most every Tuesday and the other sax plays tenor.
He pushes the pitch up so I have to match him.
When he is not playing I feel that my general pitch is lower.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
158 Posts
Hmmm, you might be right Kristy i.e. consider the source. I'm going to do some recordings with my iPhone X at gigs later this week and see what the results are. Thanks for replying!
No problem Gary, hopefully this will help out!

Thanks,
Kristy
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,325 Posts
Perceived pitch is a real problem in relation to mechanical pitch. I know a lot of players, particularly strings who are solely orchestral or chamber musicians, who find it impossible to play with synths because the intonation is so counter-intuitive.
I understand your pain though, often in a studio setting I will feel in tune with the section around me but flat when I listen back. Almost all upper register players (Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Violin etc etc) play sharp in relation to a mechanical tuner. But, on a solo session with a synthetic backing track you have to play smack in mechanical tune.

This is the age we live in.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2014
Joined
·
5,160 Posts
I went through a similar situation a couple years ago but for me everything was sharp. I spent a year playing intervals against drone tones. I became obsessive. Ultimately, I moved up a 1/2 a reed strength and just really focused on listening to my relationship with the other players and it seems to have settled down. It was no fun.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,336 Posts
Recording.....UGH!!!! I hear you, Gary! It can drive you nuts! I went to the trouble of setting up a small studio in my den, and I hate the resultant recordings so much that I've stopped using it, altogether.
Of course, I'm just starting my third year of playing, so I suppose that has something to do with it.
It sounds like, to me, your theory about the multi-tracks makes sense, though. Wish I had something positive to toss your way, but 'fraid I don't know what's causing your grief any more than you do. Hang in there, and trust your ears in the live settings is the best I can think to say.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,017 Posts
This is an interesting topic. I am familiar with getting used to playing sharp in the upper register so that it sounds in tune until played against a fixed pitch instrument---been there, done that. On reed blown woodwinds the pitch tends to drop as we play louder. Have you considered that the dynamics of the music being played might have something to do with the effect you are describing. Maxime Carron who is part of SYOS is a member here and is a specialist in cognitive perception of sound. Perhaps he could shed some light on this issue.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,815 Posts
Lotta old timers joke "It's better to be sharp than in tune!" Go listen to a Cannonball recording - sharp, sharp, sharp. So maybe it's not so much of a joke :)

I think that psychologically/physiologically we equate a slight amount of sharpness with excitement. And from a soloist-being-heard point of view, a little sharp is probably enough to make you stand out more. By "a little" I mean a few cents sharp, not like a 1/4 step or something.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,735 Posts
I'm usually happy with my intonation during a gig but when I hear/see a recording, I think "Why on earth do I sound a little flat?"
A couple things to consider. I've had instruments that responded more comfortably, and louder at pitches that weren't right on. They seem to respond more lively at pitches slightly off. Not a great feeling to discover and not a condition you want to accept. Second, are you playing in a different unit, with fixed pitch instruments like keys or piano? These will showcase imperfect intonation that otherwise might blend, or allow the unit to blend - with a fixed pitch instrument, everyone has to blend with it. Are you playing live with much less/more volume than typical? Is it possible a recent change has disrupted your normal support and embouchure? And lastly, are you practicing extensively, but without the aid of a drone or tuner or other stable pitch device at concert pitch? These are some things that were giving me issues, or so I thought as I worked thru them.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
517 Posts
Here's an option for tuning.
Many times when tuning players play the note on the tuning device first and then match the note while playing relaxed and listening to the tuning note. What I do is to passionately play a lick or series of notes at full velocity and expression and hold a left handed note that can be played with one hand (G A Bb B C D) and then play the tuning note on the tuner or piano with the free right hand while holding the note on the instrument. I listen to see if the note is pitched correctly. If it is sharp or flat I make the adjustment, and repeat the process. After developing that method the ear begins to hear proper tuning independent of devices. When playing the dynamics of a song we tend to do physical things that aren't always as relaxed as they are when we are just tuning up. So I tune with full playing expression and velocity.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
573 Posts
I think the best advise would be to visit an audiologist to test your hearing.
The perception of pitch is subjective and can be affected by various factors including physiological and psychological.
It can be affected by the intensity, frequency, duration, spectrum of sound. Your general health and in particular the hearing mechanism.
It is possible you have used headphones for too long or you have been exposed to very loud sounds. I hope it is nothing permanent.
In general the basilar membrane and the neural firing of the hair cells, and the organ of Corti that generates the timing for the neural firing are responsible for the pitch perception.
Take some rest, check your meds if you use any, stay away from headphones and loud sounds and visit your audiologist.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
392 Posts
Other considerations. Try the following experiment.

1). Go outside in an open space (no echoes) on a quiet afternoon and bring a recording device. Warm up your horn and get in tune with your tuning device. Play something and record it with the microphone 10 feet away.

2). Go inside with the same set up. Warm up your horn and get in tune with your tuning device. Play the same thing and record it with the microphone 10 feet away.

I bet that recording number 2 will be flat compared to recording number 1.

Lower frequencies reverberate around a room better than higher frequencies. Therefore, the mere fact that your sound is able to bounce around a room may make your tone sound a bit flat.....just a theory.

Other theories are that your recording and playback devices are not up to snuff. Very few microphones and speakers have equal reproduction across the spectrum of sound frequencies.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
817 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
Hi all. Thanks so much for the responses and great suggestions...I'll be trying a number of these out over my next few gigs.

Have a fantastic week!

Cheers
Gary
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
158 Posts
Hi all. Thanks so much for the responses and great suggestions...I'll be trying a number of these out over my next few gigs.

Have a fantastic week!

Cheers
Gary
Did you have a chance to try any recording with your iphone Gary? Just curious if this happened to make a difference for you.

Thanks!
Kristy
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
26 Posts
I have found intonation to be one of the most perishable skills. I, personally, must be vigilant and calibrate my ear every time I play. Here is another thing to consider, though. I use piano sample libraries a lot. My favorites right now are The Grandeur on my PC and iGrand when I’m on the iPad. The Grandeur lets you set the pitch reference at various levels, 440, 442, etc., and choose stretched or equal temperament. When set to 440, equal temperament, the A that should be 440 reads at least 10 cents sharp on my tuner. IGrand also reads sharp. The sharpness is for the attack of the note. Then, the body of the note settles flatter, but not all the way to 0. I haven’t tested many keyboards, but I’m betting they’re similar.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,310 Posts
I think it is pretty common what you experience and like you, I thought I had it dead on a few times until somebody posted a video clip on Facebook or wherever and I was cringing listening to myself. There is no real solution since there are so many contributing factors like the overall ambient volume of the band, the acoustics of the room etc. but the biggest thing is really the difference like you said between the perceived and the real pitch. I started recording myself playing multiple tracks (I'm using CUBASE but anything else including phones will work) and just listening to the playback helped dialing in my pitch much better. I can't claim I am perfect but the embarrassment factor has decreased quite dramatically since I specifically started paying attention to - and I don't even know how to describe them - some small clues that tell me if I am in tune or not. Also, playing with good musicians really helps :)

Actually, while all of the above is probably true, there is another compelling reason to play slightly out of tune. All the guitar players have their amps on stage along with their monitors and, the louder they are, the more difficult it is to actually hear your own horn.The P.A. projects into the audience but not at you and often enough, I have found myself just within the blast radius of a semi deaf guitar player who needs to crank up the volume as much as the venue allows him to hear what he is doing. If you are perfectly in tune it is sometimes almost impossible to identify yourself in that melee and sometimes I have found myself to deliberately play something completely off key just to identify my sound. The easy cheat is to play slightly flat or sharp, and it is not something you do consciously, more like a last resort because you are just enough off main harmonics to be able to find your own sound. And then your brain compensates for the tune and you think you are doing well until you hear a recording. I have resorted to bringing a small amp myself that I run my wireless mic into and avoiding the blast of the worst offenders. And there's been enough footage since I've been doing that where I can hear that I am dead on.

I Just never thought about all of this in one context ...
 
1 - 20 of 27 Posts
Top