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First of all, I know this happens to others, but not all so I don't feel we need to go there in the discussion.

I just want to know why for some, but not for all Selmer saxes play sharp.

OK here are the facts:
  1. I've owned 3 Selmers in my life time, a Modele 26, a Mark VI and a Mark VII. All of them have played sharp. The mouthpiece sits at the very end of the cork, and with the Mark VI I actually had to wrap a piece of paper around the cork to keep the mouthpiece from wiggling.
  2. I've also owned a Conn (shooting stars), H. Couf Superba II, Pan American (back-up horn), Grassi Prestige, MacSax Classic, and a Yamaha YTS-52. Plus when they used to overhaul and lacquer saxes in Ft. Lauderdale Florida (Broward Band Instruments) I would get Bundy loaners while my sax was in the shop. Every one of these played with the mouthpiece either centered in the cork or pushed in further than center.
  3. I've used different mouthpieces with the same results, including a Link 6 hard rubber, Berg 100/0, Link ToneMaster brass 8 NY and a few that came with the saxes that I tried out of curiosity. Similar results in all the mouthpieces.
So the question is, why do Selmers play sharp for me (and others but not everyone) while the same player with the same mouthpiece in the same climate can play 7 different other bands of saxes and have the intonation center cork or pushed in farther???

To me this defies logic If everyone in warm climates played sharp on their Selmers I would say it's the saxes. The fact that it is only happening on the Selmers I've owned and none of the others point to the saxes. But the fact that other people don't have that problem confuses the issue to me.

I've been playing sax pro since 1964. Before that I was first tenor in the all-state band every year I was eligible, and I even got section leader away from the first alto, so I either know how to play or know how to fool people.

OK, some people are going to say it's me. No need. Been there. If it's me, tell my why it's me or don't bother. If it's me I'd like to know what I'm doing.

Why do the classic Selmers play sharp for me (and others) when no other sax does?

Thanks.

Insights and incites by Notes
 

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You know, not everyone plays a vintage Selmer and perhaps this is one of the reasons. I'd say it is you, unless you had three Selmers that just happened to be sharp, which is not likely (but not impossible). In my experience, roughly equivalent to yours, I have found that its easier to go sharp on a vintage Selmer Paris than some other saxes but that is different than having the mouthpiece falling off the neck. I play a 1971 MK VI tenor with a DG 'King Curtis' which should be a sharp set-up, and I still have to go on over halfway. My tuning is the same on my other tenor which is a Selmer USA. The only thing I have experienced similar to it is all Chinese saxes I have tried/owned play flat. At least that's preferable to playing sharp which I'm sure is why they do it. You can usually push the mouthpiece on farther but you can't pull it back but so far.
 

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Better sharp than out of tune.
I’ve never run into this issue and I play a Link 6 hard rubber. I tend to push in and place loose.
I’ve had longer shank mouthpieces like Guardala and Dukoffs where you hardly saw the cork.
 

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I think it is what you are used to and what kind of compensation you use to play in tune. I can play a Meyer perfectly in tune on my Conn 6m and my Yamaha 23 altos but the compensation is different. After playing my Conn for a while and then putting the Meyer on the Yamaha, the Yamaha plays sharp especially in the upper register until I adjust to it. I find it easier to just use different mouthpieces. So I have found that a Selmer soloist on the Yamaha has about the same tuning tendencies for me as a Meyer on the Conn. The Soloist has a smaller chamber volume than the Meyer and has some additional tuning issues for me if I try to use it on the Conn.

I think people who don’t have tuning issues on anything either don’t notice that they do or are good at compensating either consciously or subconsciously. A couple of summers ago, I went into a shop and played every alto on the wall. I think it was about 15 altos. There were variations in tuning but I felt I could adjust to most of them. The only one that was way off for me was a vintage Buffet. I had to have the mouthpiece falling off the neck and it was still sharp. Maybe I could get used to it eventually but it didn’t seem like a good fit for me.
 

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THis is pretty bizarre! It may be possible that you were unlucky in your purchases, but I guess that's hardly the likeliest possibility.

Only thing I can think of is that your key heights might have been a bit too high.
 

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2 Notes:

1). There is the mouthpiece/reed/horn fit issue. Sometimes you just get a bad combo. The style in what you like in a mouthpiece and reed could be causing resonance problems in the Selmers.

2). Try something else out. On one of your Selmers, shove your mouthpiece onto your cork as far as possible so that very little cork is showing. Play for 5 minutes and then check your tuning. (Please do not check tuning immediately). There is a conversation that sometimes because of the way we automatically compensate with our mouth and ears and the way things resonate in the horn, one needs to move the mouthpiece in the opposite direction from what one would expect. I play both a Conn Shooting Star and a Mark VII. I always have the mouthpiece further in on the Mark VII. Based on the body of knowledge I have seen in this forum, my experience is typical. Yours is opposite. If you have been a professional since ‘64, your mouth can probably compensate for just about anything.....even a Selmer set-up that is possibly a half step off.

Good Luck.
 

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I usually hear of people complaining about Selmers being flat so they have to push the mouthpiece on all the way. I suggest they don't judge the mouthpiece position by the amount of cork they can see, but by the position of the mouthpiece that is in tune.

Some people get used to vintage horns where the C# for example needs lipping up. If you put them on a Selmer or modern sax based on a Selmer, they can find the C# sharp as they are trying to tune like they do on their vintage horn.

Older Selmers do tend to have a few quirks but should be basically in tune. Some liked to open them up with high key settings so check the key openings. If they haven't been messed with then they shouldn't be sharp.
 

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A few thoughts:

1) I like the idea of shoving the MP on further first, then playing a while and adjusting to the horn. You might find that it's an issue of familiarization - except that your description implies that all these instruments got significant playing time.

2) Except for the Yamaha and maybe the Macsax, all the other horns listed are, I believe, quite different in design than Selmers (Bundys are descended from Bueschers usually). So for those, there may be some difference in the acoustical design that causes this when they interact with you. The Yamaha should be very much like a Selmer and the MacSax is probably a Taiwanese Selmer copy, so I don't know about that.

3) The physical length of the sax neck may be in play here. If I were to investigate this issue in depth, I would pick a registration point other than the tip of the neck, and use that. I wouldn't use octave vent location as I've seen a lot of variation between manufacturers, nor would I use the distance to the tenon joint as that's a purely mechanical location. Although I have no idea how one would go about measuring the length, I would probably try to use the distance from the tip of the mouthpiece to - say - the top of the A-emitting tone hole (the pad you close when you play G). See if that distance is dramatically different between a Selmer sax and one of the others. If it is, then something acoustic is happening. If it's not, then it's related to the mechanical dimensions of the horn.

4) Have you tried other Selmer saxes? I admit it seems unlikely that 3 different horn of three different models would all be mechanically off, in the same way, but it would be an easy thing to try by swapping horns with another player and seeing if the same thing happens.

5) It may well be something about you; not in the negative sense, but just that something about the way you interact with the sax responds differently to the Selmer bore design than the "classic American" bore design - although that does not explain the Yamaha being dead on for you. I mean, it's typical that Conns and Bueschers require pulling out more than average. Could you have compensated for that by playing with a lower "natural pitch"; then when faced with the different response of the Selmer, somehow unconsciously your "natural pitch" goes up? Still doesn't explain the Yamaha.

6) Another weird item is that the 3 Selmer models you mention are reputed to have different acoustical qualities.

7) You didn't have a technician set the key heights on the Selmers higher in hopes of getting more projection, or something like that, that you've forgotten about? I mean, one has to ask the question.

8) Is this confirmed with an electronic tuner? Differences in timbre can sound like differences in pitch.

It's a head scratcher.
 

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When you own your vintage Selmers, do you play them exclusively,, or switch back and forth with one or more of the other models? I remember when I got my first MarkVi I had the keep the mouthpiece very far to where it would wiggle and I was worried it might even leak some. I thought I would be sending it off to to have the intonation adjusted with keyheights. I now have another Mark Vi and haven’t gotten any of the other saxes (just playing Mark VIs) I own out for at least several weeks. It hadn’t occurred to me until I read your post that I’m not having to put the mouthpiece so far back now on the Mark VIs, most any mouth piece is comfortably in the middle of the cork or more.
 

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Very strange that you have to pull the mpc way out on the end of the neck. I've heard of this with vintage Conns when using a small chamber mpc, but not with the Selmers.

On my MKVI tenor, every mpc I have needs to be pushed well onto the neck; there is some variation depending on how long the mpc shank is, but they all go well up on the neck to be in tune. As to vintage American horns, on my Buescher 156 Aristocrat the mpc placement is very close to what it is on the VI (I haven't actually measured it, but going by eye). On the earlier series one Aristo, the mpc is a bit further out, but still halfway up the cork.
 

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First of all, I know this happens to others, but not all so I don't feel we need to go there in the discussion.

I just want to know why for some, but not for all Selmer saxes play sharp.

OK here are the facts:
  1. I've owned 3 Selmers in my life time, a Modele 26, a Mark VI and a Mark VII. All of them have played sharp. The mouthpiece sits at the very end of the cork, and with the Mark VI I actually had to wrap a piece of paper around the cork to keep the mouthpiece from wiggling.
  2. I've also owned a Conn (shooting stars), H. Couf Superba II, Pan American (back-up horn), Grassi Prestige, MacSax Classic, and a Yamaha YTS-52. Plus when they used to overhaul and lacquer saxes in Ft. Lauderdale Florida (Broward Band Instruments) I would get Bundy loaners while my sax was in the shop. Every one of these played with the mouthpiece either centered in the cork or pushed in further than center.
  3. I've used different mouthpieces with the same results, including a Link 6 hard rubber, Berg 100/0, Link ToneMaster brass 8 NY and a few that came with the saxes that I tried out of curiosity. Similar results in all the mouthpieces.
So the question is, why do Selmers play sharp for me (and others but not everyone) while the same player with the same mouthpiece in the same climate can play 7 different other bands of saxes and have the intonation center cork or pushed in farther???

To me this defies logic If everyone in warm climates played sharp on their Selmers I would say it's the saxes. The fact that it is only happening on the Selmers I've owned and none of the others point to the saxes. But the fact that other people don't have that problem confuses the issue to me.

I've been playing sax pro since 1964. Before that I was first tenor in the all-state band every year I was eligible, and I even got section leader away from the first alto, so I either know how to play or know how to fool people.

OK, some people are going to say it's me. No need. Been there. If it's me, tell my why it's me or don't bother. If it's me I'd like to know what I'm doing.

Why do the classic Selmers play sharp for me (and others) when no other sax does?

Thanks.

Insights and incites by Notes
Might not be the horns. I recently swapped 10M's with a colleague and his was so sharp his mouthpiece was hanging off the end. But when I played it it wasn't sharp at all, and I had my mpc a little more than half way down the cork. But he was playing mine the same way, with the mouthpiece almost at the end. Same thing when he played my Buescher and with one of my mouthpieces. Might be just his chops or the shape of his head, no idea.
 

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Is this just happening with altos? or does it happen with all sizes of saxophone?
 

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Might not be the horns. I recently swapped 10M's with a colleague and his was so sharp his mouthpiece was hanging off the end. But when I played it it wasn't sharp at all, and I had my mpc a little more than half way down the cork. But he was playing mine the same way, with the mouthpiece almost at the end. Same thing when he played my Buescher and with one of my mouthpieces. Might be just his chops or the shape of his head, no idea.
I think we're touching on something really interesting here (at least to me) - to what extend does each player tune differently? As a result of their unique oral cavity, embouchure etc.

I've often thought that if I have intonation problems on a horn (and a friend doesn't) it's a reflection of deficiencies on my part. Of course, no doubt this could be the case, but interesting to think it could be a reflection of some personal anatomical or technical characteristic.
 

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What is it about these horns that makes the OP want to keep them?

Why not get horns that are compatible with the way the player plays?

With this much experience and ability, it would seem like the answer would be give these horns up as a bad job, somehow unsuited. The "why would this happen?" is a good question, but a better one would be "with so many options out there, why fight it?" is the road I would be tempted to take.

These horns would sell well and fund replacements pretty nicely.

Of course, my own theory about tools and gear is that they is there to make things easier and to match my requirements. Get the comfortable tools that can do job. If I had to wrestle with a wobbly mpc on the end of a neck all of the time, I would just throw in the towel.

I am extremely curious about this anomalous result on the OP and Selmers, and with a beginner or a putz, I am sure that there would be a world of suggestions. For a guy with all this ability and experience, the only thing I can conclude is that the question is of abstract interest compared to the need to move on. Choose to be free of this since you can.

Indeed, I wonder if I have misread the OP. Perhaps he does NOT use these horns for his work, but merely keeps them around and is trying to figure them out, while he relies upon horns without these problems when he is performing. That would not make me wonder, and all I could do is wish him the best of luck in pinning down the idiosyncrasy.

In any case, best of luck figuring this out!
 

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Only thing I can think of is that your key heights might have been a bit too high.
7) You didn't have a technician set the key heights on the Selmers higher in hopes of getting more projection, or something like that, that you've forgotten about? I mean, one has to ask the question.
Yes, one does.

In horn comparisons, we always have to use a baseline where the horns are set up correctly. Not saying this is the 'answer' to your question...because others here have brought up other germane issues.

But that has to be a starting point. Apples to apples and all....

So, expanding on this theme, I would ask....have you ever brought the French horns to a tech and played it there for him/her, and asked if the keyheights could be adjusted so as to better the situation ?

Techs use their own 'default' sorta height settings based upon their experience, which is fine. But as Sax Bum illustrates...default doesn't mean cure-all...it is just a center-average-likely success sorta thing. Mileage may vary due to driver...

So in what one could characterize as a relatively 'extreme' situation like this...this step needs to be taken, IMHO. And that means playing for the tech, having tech adjust, playing the new adjustment, and if necessary having the tech adjust again. So it's a more personal process than just dropping the sax off and letting tech go at it.

The followup Q would then be: IF you have gone to a tech - and IF this was done (in this case dropping the key heights)....did the resulting keyheights then start to choke/muffle the tonality of the horn(s), or were they still able to speak nicely ?
 

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In horn comparisons, we always have to use a baseline where the horns are set up correctly.
+1!!!!!! This should be put up in lights somewhere at the start of every thread comparing/play-testing horns.

As to key heights, I kind of wonder if they can change the intonation to the extent notes norton describes. He also says it's the case for three different Selmers, so what are the odds they are all set up with the same issue? Still, it does seem like something off with those particular horns.
 

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Years ago I had this complaint with my MkVI when an old friend said that you need to push in and loosen up. In other words the mouthpiece has a certain spot on the neck (usually further up) where the two octaves will be in tune with each other. This along with a looser embouchure helped me play my MkVI in tune. Most other horns seem to tolerate a more firm embouchure without going sharp.
 

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The distance a mouthpiece needs to be put on the neck cork to play "in tune" is directly related to the mouthpiece "input pitch" of the player, the volume inside the mouthpiece, and the length of the mouthpiece. Players who play on a lower mouthpiece input pitch typically need to put the mouthpiece farther on the neck to compensate. Players who play higher on the mouthpiece pitch, generally need to pull out. To help diagnose what is happening with the pitch on these Selmer saxes, it would be helpful to know what mouthpiece pitch sounds using a "regular" embouchure, and what pitch sounds using that same embouchure playing the mouthpiece + neck combination.
 

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As to key heights, I kind of wonder if they can change the intonation to the extent notes norton describes...
they can’t.
 

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I do remember that my old MK 6 did not require the mouthpiece to be as far in as my current horn, a Yamaha Custom Z. There was quite a few years idle time between the two horns though.
 
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