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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Any tips on testing intonation of an alto? I have an electronic tuner, is there any particular sequence I should test (B, F#?) or should I just play chromatically?
 

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My teacher told me to play octaves. Play the note and get it to where you feel it is solid and then look at the tuner, otherwise you may compensate for your intonation since you're looking right at the tuner if that makes sense at all.
 

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If you are testing the intonation of the instrument, rather than your playing, I suggest you get a note in tune with the tuner, then while consciously trying to make no embouchure changes slur to play neighbouring notes, checking the tuner. do this, starting on many notes.

Then check for gradual changes in pitch as you move through scales going form most fingers on to most fingers off.

Then check that there is no sudden pitch change as you change from say middle finger c, or other most-fingers-off notes in first octave, to D, or other most-fingers-on notes in the second octave.

Of course, any testing assumes that your embouchure and breath pressure are reasonably stable, and that the last sax you play regularly did not teach you to subconsciously make subtle changes for certain notes. Which of course is unlikely.

i.e, If I get used to a sax with a sharp G, I learn to make subconscious changes every time I play G, to get it in tune. Then if I test a different sax that has an in-tune G, making the same subconscious changes, then I will declare that in-tune sax to have a flat G, which is most unkind to that in-tune sax.
 

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Make sure that the instrument is fully warmed up. I've found that the intonation may be quite wild until the horn is at full playing temp.
Then tune to the tuning note; I usually use F# and octave F# to adjust the mouthpiece. Be sure to use a full tone and volume, say mf.

Playing octaves is a good way to test whether you are compensating unconsciously and causing a note to go out of tune. Fot example I find that octave D is often sharp but when I play a low-D in tune then hit the octave key withought adjusting embouchure or throat, that the upper octave D will be in tune.
 

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Agent27 said:
That is a really good article.
Thanks Clayton! That means a lot coming from an accomplished player as yourself.

I've got the PDF saved on a few of my computers just in case the link dies one day.

I shared it with an old timer that runs a 9 piece band I play with. He thought I was "crazy" when I was trying to explain it. I printed it out for him and the next time I saw him he was telling me how well it was working across all the saxes.
 

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saxmanglen said:
Yamaha Educator series has a nice article on getting your horn into it's relative pitch. Here's the article:

http://www.yamaha.ca/advertising/downloads/wsp_articles/Wind_Tips_Duke.pdf

I feel the theory works a bit better on tenor than alto but it still works.
Great article - thanks for pointing it out. I've been trying something similar for the last four weeks after reading some advice regarding mouthpiece placement posted on this forum by Crescent. It apparently came from a teacher who had in turn been a pupil of Joe Allard. It stated something like: "Play the B flat in the middle of the staff, then play the same note (octave harmonic) using the low B flat fingering. Adjust the mouthpiece position until the two are in tune with each other. That's where it's meant to be - now go play in tune with everyone else."

I found (on tenor) that I pushed the mouthpiece in about 3 mm, and was quite pleased to find that it was easier to play in tune than I thought it would be - initially I had to concentrate on keeping some notes down to pitch, but that was less of a problem than the notes I tended to play flat before. I did spend a lot of time playing with some sort of backing track so that I had a constant pitch reference so as not to drift back into old (sharper) habits. It seems to have changed my embouchure for the better (more relaxed jaw and throat) and has improved tone and low volume control as well.

It probably reinforces the point that most saxophones, if reasonably adjusted, should be capable of being played quite well in tune - it's the people playing them that are the problem.

Stefan
 

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"I always close my eyes when i'm with a tuner and when I think I have the pitch, then I look at the note." -YES.

"Make sure that the instrument is fully warmed up.." -YES.

"My teacher told me to play octaves. Play the note and get it to where you feel it is solid and then look at the tuner, otherwise you may compensate for your intonation" -YES.

The above noted posts are to check yourself.

To improve, obviously, you'll be looking at the tuner. Long tones while watching the tuner teaches. Octaves while looking at the tuner teaches. Work these, then check yourself again.
 

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Great article - thanks for pointing it out. I've been trying something similar for the last four weeks after reading some advice regarding mouthpiece placement posted on this forum by Crescent. It apparently came from a teacher who had in turn been a pupil of Joe Allard. It stated something like: "Play the B flat in the middle of the staff, then play the same note (octave harmonic) using the low B flat fingering. Adjust the mouthpiece position until the two are in tune with each other. That's where it's meant to be - now go play in tune with everyone else."

Gotta try that one when I get home... regular low B flat is sharp on a lot of horns so I'm surpised that actually works.

My teacher told to to play a middle B and then lip it down to B flat and then up to C. If you can't make the C without hurting yourself then the mouthpiece is not pushed on far enough.
 

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I don't think the best way to test intonation is with a tuner. I agree about the overblown low note test, though I use B natural instead of Bb because low Bb is sharp on many instruments. I play B2, then B2 while fingering B1, and adjust the mouthpiece so they are in tune with each other. Then I test my pitches against a keyboard.

You can get a decent keyboard that makes some kind of piano-like noise for < $100, and I believe learning to match pitches on that will be better than using a tuner.
 
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