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Discussion Starter #1
Hi people. I'm 16 years old and I've been playing the alto saxophone since I was around 9. I'm starting to think I should try to get good at this because I've always enjoyed and I thought I should start by trying to be in tune. Whenever I try to tune with my school band or with a tuner, I'm always flat and I have no idea what the problem is. I'd love to hear what you guys think what the problem is!
 

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Push the mouthpiece in on the cork until your horn is in tune.

If your mouthpiece won't easily go on any further, gently sand down the cork.
 

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I have a friend who is always flat on alto as well. He's a pretty darn good player for a casual weekend warrior. But his Meyer is almost all the way down the neck. There's maybe 1/10th of an inch showing at the end. He's got a very loud, but very dark sound.

He doesn't have the same problem on tenor.
 

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If, even with the mouthpiece pushed all the way in/on, you are still flat...then the horn needs to have its keyheights adjusted.

Also, buy yourself (or have your folks buy you) a portable tuner. They are cheap.

Welcome to the Forum.
 

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Play the mouthpiece alone and see what pitch it produces. It should be in the vicinity of A=880, but no higher. If it is not, the embouchure needs to be tighter. Another thing to check is the pitch of the mouthpiece + neck. For alto it should be Ab concert. A simple test for embouchure given in Larry Teal's "The Art of Saxophone Playing" is to play low A with a full sound and then with your free hand bump the neck octave key open. If it jumps to high A and stays for a few seconds before dropping back down, the embouchure is too tight. If it goes up to a high A that has a flat and flabby tone, the embouchure is too loose. If it goes to a nice sounding high A momentarily and then drops back down, the embouchure is correct.

I have found in my playing and teaching that a lot of saxophone intonation problems can be traced back to the "input pitch".
 

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I have a friend who is always flat on alto as well. He's a pretty darn good player for a casual weekend warrior. But his Meyer is almost all the way down the neck. There's maybe 1/10th of an inch showing at the end. He's got a very loud, but very dark sound.

He doesn't have the same problem on tenor.
Is his pitch stable and predictable? If so, it's not a "problem". FWIW, people sometimes comment that I don't have much cork showing - it's because I trim the cork shorter. Cork length is arbitrary.
 

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Is his pitch stable and predictable? If so, it's not a "problem". FWIW, people sometimes comment that I don't have much cork showing - it's because I trim the cork shorter. Cork length is arbitrary.
It is on pretty far. The cork length isn't short by any means. The only problem happens when we're playing horn lines together. When he's got solos you can't really tell at all.
 

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Play the mouthpiece alone and see what pitch it produces. It should be in the vicinity of A=880, but no higher. If it is not, the embouchure needs to be tighter. Another thing to check is the pitch of the mouthpiece + neck. For alto it should be Ab concert. A simple test for embouchure given in Larry Teal's "The Art of Saxophone Playing" is to play low A with a full sound and then with your free hand bump the neck octave key open. If it jumps to high A and stays for a few seconds before dropping back down, the embouchure is too tight. If it goes up to a high A that has a flat and flabby tone, the embouchure is too loose. If it goes to a nice sounding high A momentarily and then drops back down, the embouchure is correct.

I have found in my playing and teaching that a lot of saxophone intonation problems can be traced back to the "input pitch".
The problem with the "embouchure needs to be tighter" advice is that it only applies if a really loose embouchure is what is causing the flatness. I have had students that have really slow air speed which causes them to be really flat or they are doing something weird with their tongue and throat to voice the note lower. No amount of embouchure tightening will fix that.

If I have a student play the mouthpiece and the note sounded is way low it is almost always fixed by putting the tongue in the "EEE" position and really blowing some air to get the air speed where it needs to be. Then they get up to pitch but some of them act like they just ran a 26 mile marathon after they do it and are totally winded. The problem is usually because they are playing a really soft reed with a really closed tip. They are hardly putting any air through the horn and have been playing that way for a long time. It's hard to change but is necessary to get in tune..........I have them practice trying to get that G# or A on the mouthpiece and being able to hold it out consistently without decreasing in pitch.
 

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It is on pretty far. The cork length isn't short by any means. The only problem happens when we're playing horn lines together. When he's got solos you can't really tell at all.
What brand/model horn is it? Has he tried mouthpieces with different chamber sizes? See also Neff's comments regarding mouthpiece pitch. If he is using a relaxed tenor embouchure, it may never get there. Multi-sax players need to recognize that each size horn needs to be approached as its own.
 

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Liyan, posting a sample of your playing could be useful -hopefully, the hypotheses proposed (too loose embouchure, inadequate voicing, too soft reed with inadequate air support) could be sorted.
 

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What brand/model horn is it? Has he tried mouthpieces with different chamber sizes? See also Neff's comments regarding mouthpiece pitch. If he is using a relaxed tenor embouchure, it may never get there. Multi-sax players need to recognize that each size horn needs to be approached as its own.
He's actually an alto player first. He play's a YAS23 with a Meyer 7 and a Red Java 3.

I think he could sand his cork at the end down a little and get there. He's not super super flat. Just enough to notice. I've given him some lessons over the last few years. He came back to playing 5 or 6 years ago after a big break only having played in high school./

I sold him his first tenor a couple years ago with the mouthpiece I was using at the time. Sometimes I wish I still had that mouthpiece. He sounds great on it.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Hi guys thank you for responding and sorry for being too vague. My mouthpiece is usually pushed in all the way and I don't think it is my embouchure because even if i squeezed as tight as I could I would still be flat. I'm going to try what some of you guys recommended
 

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OP, what is your setup?

I have (once) seen a situation where the particular mouthpiece a guy was playing in combination with the horn, simply did not allow him to push the MP far enough onto the neck before it ran into an internal step. I'm not saying this is the problem, but have you tried different mouthpieces and horns?

For most of us the problem is playing too tightly and permanently working to lower our natural pitch.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Play the mouthpiece alone and see what pitch it produces. It should be in the vicinity of A=880, but no higher. If it is not, the embouchure needs to be tighter. Another thing to check is the pitch of the mouthpiece + neck. For alto it should be Ab concert. A simple test for embouchure given in Larry Teal's "The Art of Saxophone Playing" is to play low A with a full sound and then with your free hand bump the neck octave key open. If it jumps to high A and stays for a few seconds before dropping back down, the embouchure is too tight. If it goes up to a high A that has a flat and flabby tone, the embouchure is too loose. If it goes to a nice sounding high A momentarily and then drops back down, the embouchure is correct.

I have found in my playing and teaching that a lot of saxophone intonation problems can be traced back to the "input pitch".
The problem with the "embouchure needs to be tighter" advice is that it only applies if a really loose embouchure is what is causing the flatness. I have had students that have really slow air speed which causes them to be really flat or they are doing something weird with their tongue and throat to voice the note lower. No amount of embouchure tightening will fix that.

If I have a student play the mouthpiece and the note sounded is way low it is almost always fixed by putting the tongue in the "EEE" position and really blowing some air to get the air speed where it needs to be. Then they get up to pitch but some of them act like they just ran a 26 mile marathon after they do it and are totally winded. The problem is usually because they are playing a really soft reed with a really closed tip. They are hardly putting any air through the horn and have been playing that way for a long time. It's hard to change but is necessary to get in tune..........I have them practice trying to get that G# or A on the mouthpiece and being able to hold it out consistently without decreasing in pitch.
Hey I was wondering does this mean I just need to increase the volume of my sound?
 

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Discussion Starter #17
OP, what is your setup?

I have (once) seen a situation where the particular mouthpiece a guy was playing in combination with the horn, simply did not allow him to push the MP far enough onto the neck before it ran into an internal step. I'm not saying this is the problem, but have you tried different mouthpieces and horns?

For most of us the problem is playing too tightly and permanently working to lower our natural pitch.
Last year I got a new mouthpiece (Vandoren SM412 A20 V5 Series Alto Sax Mouthpiece) but that's the only thing I changed
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Play the mouthpiece alone and see what pitch it produces. It should be in the vicinity of A=880, but no higher. If it is not, the embouchure needs to be tighter. Another thing to check is the pitch of the mouthpiece + neck. For alto it should be Ab concert. A simple test for embouchure given in Larry Teal's "The Art of Saxophone Playing" is to play low A with a full sound and then with your free hand bump the neck octave key open. If it jumps to high A and stays for a few seconds before dropping back down, the embouchure is too tight. If it goes up to a high A that has a flat and flabby tone, the embouchure is too loose. If it goes to a nice sounding high A momentarily and then drops back down, the embouchure is correct.

I have found in my playing and teaching that a lot of saxophone intonation problems can be traced back to the "input pitch".
I did the mouthpiece and low A to high A tests and seemed to pass. But what about the neck piece and mouthpiece part? If I put it in front of a tuner I'd get a G#4 410hz to A4 430hz. What does this mean?
 
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