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Discussion Starter #1
I know these notes always sound a little different, but is it also basically true (or not true at all) that the two fingerings will always be out of tune with each other?

As my horn is set up, the 1+1 Bb3 plays really well in tune with the rest of the horn, but the bis fingering for Bb3 wants to go sharp. I can play the bis Bb in tune, but I have to consciously voice it down.

I'm assuming this is a key heights issue, but what's the best approach? I mean, do you try to average out the tuning between them or set it for the player's fingering preference. I use the bis fingering mostly, but I also use the two fingered one quite a bit.

Or, is it just the way this particular horn plays?

thanks,
R

ps. my side Bb notes play really well in tune, but I am very poorly trained and almost never use them.
 

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The reason long Bb and bis Bb are only slightly different is because long Bb closes two toneholes lower down the instrument, but not enough to make it considerably flat compared to bis Bb - not enough for anyone to stand up and shout out 'that note's out of tune!'. Adjusting the venting won't make any difference and is a pontless exercise to try to cure one note that is only slightly under or over being bang smack in tune by adjusting the main action ventings as that can throw other things out or end up having double action everywhere to 'cure' certain notes.

How many notes are really perfectly in tune anyway? You just have to get used to it and make the necessary embouchure adjustments anyway. Also check the tuning on C played as oxo|ooo or with the side key fingering, Bb played three or four ways and also F# played two or three different ways - they'll all be slightly different but not so different they can't ever be used on a good instrument (although on some instrments they might prove to be unusable and only major surgery can cure them).
 

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Good advice from Chris. I would just add; side Bb should be one of your main notes. Get used to using it in scales and it will pay dividends later. As you say, it is the best sounding Bb on most horns.

Also, 1+1 is not usually as good as 1+2 (xoo-xoo not as good as xoo-oxo).
 

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In theory, bis Bb and side Bb should be exactly the same in terms of pitch and tone quality.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks fellas

My Bb3 is crazy flexible! I have no problem playing an solid A using the bis Bb fingering (i.e. a full semitone flat), and doing this for a minute or two really helps to tame it for me for a short time. However, if I just sort of blow it, it usually goes between 20 and 30 cents sharp--enough to hear that it's off. The Bb2 is no problem though.

I wonder if it's a bit of a tic I've developed rather than something with the horn?

This is pretty much the only quirk on the Martin I haven't got under control.
 

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Up the top there you have to consider octave mech, embouchure and mouthpiece position on cork, and checking your sling is fitted properly.
After that there is the regulation to the little C key (not the one you press - the little one above the B that clases with B, A, C keys. ) And check the key heights of notes below - for example the G raises too much if the cork is thin which results in tuning issues.
If there is a difference between long Bb and Bis then the connection at G# may be off. There shouldn't be a difference in pitch. Maybe a slight difference in tone.
The side Bb can be different. If the side Bb is sharp it's just a matter of fitting a bit of cork.
 

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In theory, bis Bb and side Bb should be exactly the same in terms of pitch and tone quality.
That would be true were the stack tone hole and the side tone hole opened by the side Bb key both of the same diameter and at the same distance down the stack.

The hooded denizens of the dark recesses where saxophones are designed have chosen, for their own dark reasons, to ensure that this is not always so.... Based upon a quickly conducted survey of horns on the stand as I type: the Conn 6m has the side tone hole slightly farther down the stack than the front tone hole, the Martin Martin tenor the same, the Buffet S-1 tenor alone has identically sized and placed side and front tone holes. The cup sizes are similar front/ side for the other two but that's no guarantee the actual toneholes are also identical (and I wasn't inclined to pull the front stack cups to measure for this post!). I'd think other sax's also vary.

In all cases all three Bb's work for me, with the side and Bis being so close as not to matter- at least to me- and the one plus one slightly different when played alternating between it and the other two- but still "just fine". Any difference in the bis vice side Bb is probably due to the side cup opening slightly farther ( as set on my horns- and I may well adjust that "just to see") and also opening widest at the "up" portion of the tone hole vice the "side" portion as the normal stack cups do.
 

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If by Bb3 you mean the upper register Bb, then these notes aren't particularly solid on the best of altos, so a lot has to be done with your chops to prevent the upper part of the upper register from going sharp as this area of the register is very flexible. Don't tighten up as you go up as that only makes things worse.

A part timer (mainly a flute player but also plays some clarinet and sax on the side) in a band was complaining of her alto (a King Cleveland) going sharp in the upper register and wondered if there was anything wrong with the mechanism that caused it. She could play in tune if she transposed and played the upper register notes down a semitone from what was written! The tuning is very flexible on these altos (and also King Super 20s) that any tensing up will throw the upper register way out, so the trick is to keep a stable embouchure and not play it like a clarinet as some doublers often tend to do (and some sax players play clarinet like a sax and that has the opposite effect on the clarinet).

So we swapped saxes and I didn't find it a problem playing her King Cleveland once I knew what it did (only I found the keywork a bit awkward compared to my YAS-875EX). It wasn't disastrously out of tune provided you knew what to do, so that's where her problem was - she just wasn't fully accustomed to playing it and it was far more obvious when with other players around that she was blowing it sharp.

Saxes will want to blow sharp in the upper register so we as players have to be sure they don't so we remain in tune with anyone else - so it's up to us as the player to tame the beast and blow down to pitch instead of lipping things up (but there are some players who still play flat and there's not much you can do with them except go right back and start from the very beginning). The lower register is far more stable than the upper register and I prefer to tune to a low G or F# (depending if a Bb or A tuning note is given) instead of tuning to upper G or F# as they're not as stable (I also tune soprano or tenor playing a G or F# and tune by intervals instead of in unison with the actual given tuning note).
 

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In theory, bis Bb and side Bb should be exactly the same in terms of pitch and tone quality.
That's been my experience on the 3 tenors I own. Not to start another bis vs side key thread, but I find the bis Bb to be far more useful in far more applications than the side Bb. There are some situations where the side fingering is essential, so I qualify this by saying you need both. I rarely use 1 + 1. It definitely doesn't sound as good. I think it's as in tune though.
 

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Also, 1+1 is not usually as good as 1+2 (xoo-xoo not as good as xoo-oxo).
And provided you have a tech that believes in regulating D-F# correctly, play it xoo-oox, for even better venting, unless they decided that that linkage is a waste of time
 

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"...unless they decided that that linkage is a waste of time "

Quite! It seems from a discussion elsewhere that many technicians just don't bother adjusting it, believing that it will compromise the F-F# adjustment, which I have found never to be true, providing the adjustments are done well.
 

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Quite! It seems from a discussion elsewhere that many technicians just don't bother adjusting it, believing that it will compromise the F-F# adjustment, which I have found never to be true, providing the adjustments are done well.
I'm not surprised - because it compromises the D.

I have on the bench right this moment a relatively new Yamaha YTS475. It's in good mechanical order, not a hint of free play in the stacks and the pads are seating fine.
If I set up the F/Aux.F keys so that both keys close with equal force (using a cigarette paper) and try to duplicate that force using the low D key to close the Aux.F, it's very clear to see that the Aux.F bar flexes.
With the horn set up like this the D key will be held off, and will leak...as indeed it does.

Backing off the adjuster screw on the low D eases the pressure on the Aux.F - it will still work as an F#, more or less, but the low D will seal properly.

Regards,
 

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I wrote ".... providing the adjustments are done well. "

It is not quite so important for the last pad in an air column to close forcefully, partly because it is an area of very low air pressure oscillation, so an appropriate adjustment for the D-F# link is not equal closing force as you are suggesting, but more like simultaneous contact with the tone hole (done with leak light). That is quite sufficient for an as-good-as-you-can-get F# played with the D key, and does not compromise the D key closure for D and below.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks again for all the comments folks. I'm hosting some guests right now, but i'll definitely check these suggestions out in a few days!
 

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I wrote ".... providing the adjustments are done well. "

It is not quite so important for the last pad in an air column to close forcefully, partly because it is an area of very low air pressure oscillation, so an appropriate adjustment for the D-F# link is not equal closing force as you are suggesting, but more like simultaneous contact with the tone hole (done with leak light). That is quite sufficient for an as-good-as-you-can-get F# played with the D key, and does not compromise the D key closure for D and below.
Forcefully has nothing to do with it. A standard playing closing force applied to the D key should translate to much the same on the Aux F key and should give the same seal more or less...as it would with the F and E keys.
If there's any difference then it's because there's lost motion due to flex.

If there are going to be compromises (and there always have to be) with the action, as a player I'd sooner they were focussed on a little-used alternate fingering rather that something as important as a main fingering.

It may boil down to semantics though. I wouldn't consider simultaneous closing to constitute a definite seal - more like "That's as good as the mechanism will permit, and it will generally do" - so we might both be barking up the same tree.
My setup allow for a reasonable false-fingered F#, and lets the D key close with a reassuring pop - but there's no way I'd consider it to be in regulation compared with the other keys on the stack.

Regards,
 

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...and of course the actual discussion of the thread is focused on Bb- meaning that the adjustment is for the D to close the F# to close the Bis through another flexy bit of linkage...
 

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...and of course the actual discussion of the thread is focused on Bb- meaning that the adjustment is for the D to close the F# to close the Bis through another flexy bit of linkage...
Absolutely...and something's, quite literally, got to give.

Regards,
 

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With all the flexing in the mechanism, I've found it best to set up the RH main action so RH 1, 2 and 3 are lighter than the G vent pad (the one at the top of the RH main action) to be sure the G# pad remains closed when low C#, B and Bb are played. You have to factor in the amount of flex or torsion in the keywork when regulating any instrument.

Larger instruments with longer key rods, barrels or bridges will need the length and torsion taken into account. If you regulate the RH main action so the closing pressure is the same on all the pads, as soon as any bell notes are played, the spring tension of the G# pad can force open the G vent pad just enough so you won't get any low notes.

When closed with very light finger pressure I usually set the keywork up so the RH 1, 2 and 3 pads will appear to remain open by around 0.2-0.3mm (on tenors), but with normal playing finger pressure (but not gripping firmly to force things closed) the main action pads will close as the metal in the mechanism flexes. Similarly with the bell keys, it's best to set the low Bb so it's lighter than the low B to ensure they both close and to make sure the low C# pad closes with the low Bb - but this isn't always possible on Selmers due to the extremely heavy gauge flat spring they use on the low C#, so a lighter gauge flat spring should be used here wherever possible.

I set up the long Bb so the bis key pad closes along with the G# pad and the G vent pad when either RH 1, 2 or 3 are closed. I know it's not vitally important long Bb or F# can be played with RH3 only (and it's not an option on some saxes), but I do like to be sure all the main action keys are regulated where they're linked.
 

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Forcefully has nothing to do with it...
Perhaps I chose the word poorly. What I meant was with the same force as the D key, i.e. aiming for equal closing force/pressure (as checked with a feeler) rather than simultaneous contact with the tone hole (as checked with leak light).

A standard playing closing force applied to the D key should translate to much the same on the Aux F key and should give the same seal more or less...as it would with the F and E keys.
What I am disagreeing with is your word "should". In the real situation, as I have explained, the F# key, and incidentally the Bb key also (when relying on being closed by the D key) are at the end of an air column where there is almost no pressure fluctuation, hence almost no inclination for the key to be vibrated spasmodically far open during play, as would happen in the centre of an air column. So an absolute seal is nowhere near as critical. Therefore the F# does not need to close with the same force as the D key.

If there's any difference then it's because there's lost motion due to flex.
agreed.

[/QUOTE]
If there are going to be compromises (and there always have to be) with the action, as a player I'd sooner they were focused on a little-used alternate fingering rather that something as important as a main fingering.[/QUOTE]

But what I am describing could hardly be described as a compromise. It has all fingerings sounding well, and with no particular finger exertion for any particular note. Nothing is compromised other than some mechanical engineering ideal which becomes irrelevant to the player. Rather than being a compromise, it is an ideal adjustment that allows full function.

It may boil down to semantics though..."That's as good as the mechanism will permit, and it will generally do" - so we might both be barking up the same tree.
Yes, possibly semantics. But I disagree with the "generally". It works! (possibly not for a very flimsy bari or a bass sax) In a recent technician discussion elsewhere, technicians admitted that they purposely dis-adjusted the linkage to a state where the D fingering for F# didn't even work. I (and I guess you) am advocating adjusting so that when F# is played with the D key, and in the middle of the note the F# key itself is pressed, it makes no difference to the sounding F# (without affecting D with normal D fingering).

I wouldn't consider simultaneous closing to constitute a definite seal
Nor would I, but as I have explained, a seal is not necessary in order to get a good F# sound, and still I get "D key close with a reassuring pop"

Another issue is that even for playing F, the F# key is still reasonably close to the end the air column, so a really secure seal is not necessary. However by the time we get down to the low notes where the seal of F# is vital, the F# key is being securely closed by the efforts of not only F, but also E and D.


What I regard a really important is that there is minimum difference between simultaneous tone hole contact of two pads, and equal closing pressure of those pads. This is achieved by:
  • No light leaking from a leak light, when keys are closed with very low finger pressure - just enough to overcome the springs. To me this implies an accuracy of the order of 0.01 mm (with the help of a very small impression that irons out irregularities. This impression has to be small and stable enough that it does not revert after a few days playing.)
  • The F# pad must not be softer than the pad in a key operating it.
  • The linkage materials must be firm, not springy (and incidentally that rules out microfiber, natural cork, and low grade felt)
  • There is minimal play in the hinges of the keys and inside posts.
Not arguing with you. I think we are on the same wavelength. Just providing more analysis for the few who may be intrigued by this (side) topic.
 

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...and of course the actual discussion of the thread is focused on Bb- meaning that the adjustment is for the D to close the F# to close the Bis through another flexy bit of linkage...
Whatever is written about the D to F# applies equally to the F/E/D to Bb via the F#, so it is all relevant.
 
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