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Discussion Starter #1
I have an alto sax that I've had since it was new. I recently had it overhauled, with new pads, springs, cork and felt. I'm now having issues with both middle staff C# and above the staff C# playing very flat. Low C# is fine and I am able to play all the other notes on the horn in tune without a problem. I can bring middle C# up to tune with the octave key and G key and C# above the staff by using the octave key and the E and D keys. I know I never had this problem when the sax was new.

I'm trying to understand if this could be a regulation issue or some other mechanical problem that can be fixed. What can I look for (if there is anything) to try and isolate the problem before I take it back to the tech?

Any help is appreciated.
 

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could it be that after your overhaul you are positioning the mouthpice in a place that you believe to be the same as it was before but because the cork is now slightly shorter or longer you are no longer in tune?

 

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The most likely problem is key height issues for the open C# - one or more keys in the upper stack not opened enough. I'll say the most likely key to suspect is the bis key because of poor regulation in the critical area in the center of the sax where the upper and lower stacks interact along with the table keys and the articulated G#. Just look at it without touching any keys and see if the bis key is set with a lower opening than the others in the upper stack. Look at all the keys that are normally open above the G# to see if they have uniform openings or some are higher or lower.
One thing has to be determined before taking any action - are most of the keys about right with one exception being low, or are most of the keys too open with one being about right (lower than the others).
 

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I second the idea that lower key heights after the overhaul could be part of the problem. There is something else to consider. Moving the mouthpiece on or off the cork has a greater effect on the "short tube" notes like C#. Playing too high on the input pitch can cause a player to have to pull the mouthpiece out to bring the pitch down to A=440. This brings most of the notes down to the correct pitch but can exacerbate the middle C#'s tendency to be flat on most saxophones. A good way to check the input pitch is to play the mouthpiece and neck alone. The pitch should be a close match to Ab concert.

Also check that there is a bit of "lost motion" before the front F contacts the B key. On some makes of saxophone where the front F key is on the upper stack if the cork on the foot of the front F key is not the correct thickness it can restrict the full opening of the B key which would create the problem you describe. As a tech I know that is something that is easy to overlook because the saxophone plays just fine on almost all the other notes.
 

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I have an alto sax that I've had since it was new. I recently had it overhauled, with new pads, springs, cork and felt. I'm now having issues with both middle staff C# and above the staff C# playing very flat. Low C# is fine and I am able to play all the other notes on the horn in tune without a problem. I can bring middle C# up to tune with the octave key and G key and C# above the staff by using the octave key and the E and D keys. I know I never had this problem when the sax was new.
Hmmmm...very interesting 'solutions' there.

An obvious question would be: how is the tuning on upper-stack notes ? C, B, Bb, A ? Are those also flat ?

(did the tech really replace the springs ? By his/her own recourse, or by your suggestion ? Springs aren't something which typically get an all-out replacing, yes even on an overhaul...so that is an odd bit of scope of work there....)

As saxman and saxoclese state, flat C#'s typically could mean one or more of the upper stack keys are set too low. If that were the case, however, then often the C or B will also be flat.....




 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for all the replies.

To answer the questions: to my eye, the bis key is at the same height as all the other keys above G#. All of those keys appear to be at the same height uniformly. I can tune the mouthpiece and neck to concert Ab without having to lip up or down; the mouthpiece ends up slightly more than halfway down the cork when the neck and mouthpiece are in tune. There is no lost motion between the front F and B keys; I can slightly lift the front F key however and when I do the B key does not move. Tuning the upper stack notes presents no issues: They all are in tune in both octaves according to my digital tuner. Not all of the springs were replaced during the overhaul and were done by the tech without input from me.
 

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Just to clarify, having the key opening heights uniform is not necessarily good - sometimes you may set them where they need to be to make voicing/intonation corrections. Like I said, theoretically they could all be uniformly too high or too low. However, the saxophone is pretty much self-correcting in this sense as it was designed for a certain key opening height with a certain pad thickness. Unless you forcefully bend a key, its going to go back at the approximate correct heights after the corks are replaced. When you add the bis/G# adjustments into the mix, that's where it can and usually does start to go haywire.
In any event I can't make any sense out of what you're saying so good luck with it.
 

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Are the pads thiscker than they used to be? That could mess up the venting that has already been discussed.
Are you less in practice that you used to be? We learn to compensate for an instrument's idiosyncrasies (eg above-stave C# is typically sharper than mid-stave C# unless say on most sopranos, something is done to counter this.) And after a while don't know we do it. If our playing gets rusty the subconscious adjustment gets rusty too.

How about photos of the area, particularly showing the pad openings.
 

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Drawing a long bow... check that nothing is jammed in the neck or upper body.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I changed reeds and the ligature and all the problems have sort of gone away. I occasionally have a problem still with middle C# being flat and I can lip it up into tune most of the time. I also got a leak light and still have some leaks so I will be taking it back to the tech to get it sorted out. Thanks for all the replies.
 

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Middle C# playing a bit flat is common on most saxophones. What I do when the C# is held for any length of time is to add the middle side key to raise the pitch. Another option is to play the middle C# using the "long C#" fingering with the octave key, but this changes the timbre of the note considerably. Sometimes that is desirable such as when trying to make the D and C# a closer match of "color".
 

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Sopranos even have a C#2 'correcting' mechanism that causes more trouble than its worth so it is true that C#2 can be a problem.
 

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There are several different correcting methods on sopranos.
They are more to do with flattening the above-stave C# rather than adjusting the mid-stave C#. A mechanism is also on a recent Selmer Paris.
The reality is that C#3 is sharp relative to C#2, a phenomenon that is part of sax acoustic design compromise, and the smaller the sax, the bigger the difference. Hence the compensation on sopranos.

I don't have a problem with these mechanisms on sopranos.
(But the Selmer alto has a dodgy design with an extraordinary amount of rubbing motion in the linkage, which can cause problems unless Teflon is added to a surface.)
 
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