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Discussion Starter #1
another thread on intonation indicated that there are always variations and some are adjustable by the key height. here is my question copied from there. it might help you to read the thread.

Do repair techs attempt to adjust key heights to get uniform intonation? If the tech plays a particular horn regularly and is adjusting others, wouldnt that cause them to try to adjust to be like the horn they are accustomed to?

" Re: Intonation issues on Selmer tenor
Originally Posted by Fader
Agreed. Each sax has its own special intonation thing going on. You've got to find a spot in the middle. Working with a tuner for a while will let you identify what embouchure changes you need to make by note. As your ear gets better, it becomes automatic. This is not to say a tech can't make some adjustments that will bring the whole thing closer in line, but in my limited experience, all saxes have at least one or two quirky spots. For example, I opened up the low c pad a bit on my SA 80II to fix a stuffy D. This fixed it, but caused the note to play a bit sharp. After a few days of conscious compensation, it became natural to "lip down" that note a bit. it's not even something I notice anymore..."

I really found this interesting. it kind of leads to a repair tech question. Do repair techs attempt to adjust key heights to get uniform intonation? If the tech plays a particular horn regularly and is adjusting others, wouldnt that cause them to try to adjust to be like the horn they are accustomed to?
 

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Forum Contributor 2007-2012, Distinguished SOTW Te
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Each horn is different, and the tuner doesn't lie.

I have expectations from experience that cause my initial setup to be within a certain ballpark, but my final setup is based on the reality of the tuner (playtesting) and the wishes of the player, and is adjusted playerwards as necessary as each player is different as well.
 

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I personally do not use a tuner when setting instruments up, unless they are a string instrument.

I test play the instrument after repair and if I feel the note is flat or sharp compared to other notes around it, I will carry out key height adjustments to attempt to rectify, beyond this point, I leave the decision to be made by the customer regarding fitting of crescents etc. For info I have not had a single customer thats wanted crescents.

I personally feel against the use of crescents, as IMO the instrument is the instrument, if it plays a note flat or sharp after all adjustments then learn to lip it up or down, for me this is where the colour (tone) of the instrument comes from.
 

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sometime ago i let my horn to give an adjust on the key's high, in a tech near me. After that i heard many of my friend talking very bad about what i did. When i received the horn i think i understood why. The tech doesn't play horn, and doesn't understand a lot of the vintage horns. For what i understood i just changed the key's high in some pre-defined way.

Should he have done better?
it was my first adjustment with this horn after i bought, and my question before i play it was - what do you think about the horns intonation problems? He answered he didn't know, he wasn't a sax player, but it was a good horn.

Very stranger answer. I think some intonation issues should have been resolved at least partially....
 

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I generally leave key heights alone on customers instruments unless:

a. the customer specifically asks for them to be adjusted

b. a particular note is so way off tune that it needs it.

I totally agree with this comment from Matt:
each player is different .
What may be slightly out of tune for me with the mouthpiece lig and reed I use for testing instruments may not be when the customer uses his/her set up

Whilst the setting up of an instrument can be a factor in how an instument plays in tune other factors are involved including embouchure, breath support and mouthpiece choice and mouthpiece position.

This statement by Fader hits the nail on the head for me:
Each sax has its own special intonation thing going on. You've got to find a spot in the middle. Working with a tuner for a while will let you identify what embouchure changes you need to make by note. As your ear gets better, it becomes automatic. This is not to say a tech can't make some adjustments that will bring the whole thing closer in line, but in my limited experience, all saxes have at least one or two quirky spots. For example, I opened up the low c pad a bit on my SA 80II to fix a stuffy D. This fixed it, but caused the note to play a bit sharp. After a few days of conscious compensation, it became natural to "lip down" that note a bit. it's not even something I notice anymore
I always prefer that my customers thoroughly test play their instruments in the workshop or practice room with a tuner to make sure that they are happy with the way the instument plays, feels and how in tune it is. It also gives me an opportunity to hear the player and do any adjustments that the customer deems necessary or make suggestions on my observations of them playing.
 

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Distinguished Technician & SOTW Columnist. RIP, Yo
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I agree with Simso & Grif.

Remember that a player can become fussier and fussier, and less versatile, until he is satisfied with nothing. Or he can become more and more versatile and quite easily get the best out of anything.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
It sounds like there inst an easy answer. I was thinking about a new player that doesn't really have any habits. It doesn't seem like you want them to struggle with an instrument that isn't pretty close. Since each play tester would have some standard they are accustomed with, there will always be variations.
 

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After years of tuning and toning instruments, including a few years of doing nothing but tuning and toning, I think it's just fine to tune instruments. Further, I think it's right thing to do for a player at any level.

I've set up instruments for pro and novice players and they always benefit from improved intonation. The variations needed in a chord to play with proper intonation are plenty wide that the instrument need not be out of tune to play well. Even if it's very well in tune (even tempered) the player will still get the joys of adjusting!

No player has ever-ever asked me to un-tune an instrument. Tuning is mostly just doing what technicians do anyway with a more thoughtful mindset and higher standards. When approached as a whole it can most certainly be done very well.

To answer your question, yes it is an issue that the technician plays a different instrument and mouthpiece and then sets up your instrument. This is something that I, as a tech, quickly got over but am very mindful of. However, it's not nearly as big an issue as many people believe.

For instance, I can take an old Conn large chambered mouthpiece and tune a Selmer S80II with it (not that is what I do). If there are intonation problems that I note, such as a sharp second octave D or a sharp palm keys, when the player comes to the shop he will notice the same thing. This is true even if the player comes in with his Lakey Mouthpiece and plastic reed. Baring any gross embouchure or technical issues, Intonation tendencies are inherent in the instrument and much less so in the player and the mouthpiece. I see it nearly every day when people pick up horns that I have tuned. They have the same intonation tendencies, the same resistance issues, and the same response issues I have when I played it/worked on it.

It's all just a matter of how much work the tech is willing to, and knows how to, do. Just like no tech would lower a key height to make a note more uncharacteristically stuffy, no tech would change key heights to make a horn less in tune. Of course these things happen unknowingly all the time.
 

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After years of tuning and toning instruments, including a few years of doing nothing but tuning and toning, I think it's just fine to tune instruments. Further, I think it's right thing to do for a player at any level.

I've set up instruments for pro and novice players and they always benefit from improved intonation. The variations needed in a chord to play with proper intonation are plenty wide that the instrument need not be out of tune to play well. Even if it's very well in tune (even tempered) the player will still get the joys of adjusting!

No player has ever-ever asked me to un-tune an instrument. Tuning is mostly just doing what technicians do anyway with a more thoughtful mindset and higher standards. When approached as a whole it can most certainly be done very well.

To answer your question, yes it is an issue that the technician plays a different instrument and mouthpiece and then sets up your instrument. This is something that I, as a tech, quickly got over but am very mindful of. However, it's not nearly as big an issue as many people believe.

For instance, I can take an old Conn large chambered mouthpiece and tune a Selmer S80II with it (not that is what I do). If there are intonation problems that I note, such as a sharp second octave D or a sharp palm keys, when the player comes to the shop he will notice the same thing. This is true even if the player comes in with his Lakey Mouthpiece and plastic reed. Baring any gross embouchure or technical issues, Intonation tendencies are inherent in the instrument and much less so in the player and the mouthpiece. I see it nearly every day when people pick up horns that I have tuned. They have the same intonation tendencies, the same resistance issues, and the same response issues I have when I played it/worked on it.

It's all just a matter of how much work the tech is willing to, and knows how to, do. Just like no tech would lower a key height to make a note more uncharacteristically stuffy, no tech would change key heights to make a horn less in tune. Of course these things happen unknowingly all the time.

that is the thing, i really don't believe my tech as played the horn at all... e feel for instance my middle F and E very sharp (notice the very) and that note just as a different tone. That notes just stick out when playing a scale slowly. They are very loud and project in relation to the others. I fully think he hasn't done the job as he should. Then again, i'm from a very small country, and there are not very techs with your experience...
 

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Try to arrange a play test when you pick up your instrument. If something's wrong - hand it back for a quick adjustment. My tech is a clarinetist. I do the playing and instruct her on what adjustments need to be made. It works for us to work together on the finer points.
 

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Try to arrange a play test when you pick up your instrument. If something's wrong - hand it back for a quick adjustment. My tech is a clarinetist. I do the playing and instruct her on what adjustments need to be made. It works for us to work together on the finer points.
he is a trumpet player, so it is way different. I think is lack of ability playing reed instruments is the cause.
Anyway of course next time i will be more careful.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Am I the only person to have found that key height has very little to do with tuning. I know it does on the palm keys (for me), but apart from that I don't get it. I can close the left and right stack together and there is absolutely no change of pitch until way after the tone has become so dead as to be useless.

Or a more specific example: If for example my A is sharp, I can flatten it by closing the G key. But by the time it's flattened the tone is crap.
 

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that is the thing, i really don't believe my tech as played the horn at all... e feel for instance my middle F and E very sharp (notice the very) and that note just as a different tone. That notes just stick out when playing a scale slowly. They are very loud and project in relation to the others. I fully think he hasn't done the job as he should. Then again, i'm from a very small country, and there are not very techs with your experience...
I find it hard to talk about this type of work because the work is so variable. Like when your grandmother says, 'jr. Plays all the instruments...' her idea. Of playing is not the same as yours. Even Jr. Might not think he 'plays' all those instruments.

Your techs job is to fix the horn of you want something more than that, like a tech that fixes problems you never noticed or extensive play testing you have to pay someone that does that kind of work. And, even if your tech thinks he can do it, he might not have enough of an understanding to do this work well. The same may be true for any of us techs...
 

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Am I the only person to have found that key height has very little to do with tuning. I know it does on the palm keys (for me), but apart from that I don't get it. I can close the left and right stack together and there is absolutely no change of pitch until way after the tone has become so dead as to be useless.

Or a more specific example: If for example my A is sharp, I can flatten it by closing the G key. But by the time it's flattened the tone is crap.
Pete, I find key heights to make a big in intonation. Here's my explanation of it:
http://www.musicmedic.com/info/articles/num_48.html
 
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