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Discussion Starter #1
On both of my alto saxes I have this problem: using a tuner, if I tune the middle G, then the low notes are flat up to 50 cents and the high notes are sharp up to 50 cents.

Also, the mouthpiece+neck sound are flat (concert A - 50 cents) so maybe I'm doomed from the start.

I've pushed the mouthpiece onto the neck as far as I can; any more would require modifying one or the other.

Weird thing is, this happens with two different saxes and two different mouthpieces.

Equipment: Conn 20M student alto, Titan (Chinese) alto, stock Conn mouthpiece "Precision", Rico A5 mouthpiece, Rico 2 reeds (yeah, I know, NOT high-end equipment)

The only variation that happens is, when I use the Conn mpc with the Conn sax, SOME of the high notes are better in tune--high E, F, F#.

On soprano, the low and middle notes are fine, but the high notes are way sharp. If I use double-lip and hold the instrument up higher, it gets a LITTLE better.

On tenor and bari, I can play much more in tune (and the tenor is another Chinese special). On clarinet, I can play in tune.

First, any tips on my embouchure? Given what's happening on soprano and alto I guess I'm pinching too hard maybe?

Second, can this be adjusted out of the horns or is it a side effect of (poor) construction?

Third, how much variation is considered "allowable" in instrument tuning?

Thanks for your help!
 

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Horns can be out of tune... but be sure you aren't dropping your jaw to make the lower register speak easier. Keep your embouchure firm when you play low. It is a common mistake to loosen down low. And be sure to relax when playing high. Opposite of the lower register, many players pinch too hard in the upper registers.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Makes sense. I've been trying to keep the same embouchure in the entire range of the horn, BUT, after years of being told "you need to drop your jaw for the low notes" I'm probably still doing that without noticing. (at least now some low notes ARE coming out--thanks to some previous advice on this forum)
 

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oops, I was saying about mouthpiece adjustment and didnt reallyy pay attention you did that already...

Hmmm...maybe you have to bring your horn to your tech?
 

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tuning can be done to some extent by playing with the height of the keys (by a tech!) It might be useful.

Other than that, I believe it's more of an embouchure thing anyway. How far is "far" on the neck? How much of the cork is left then? (it might be that your cork is just too thick and you can only push it halfway).
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Regarding my alto neck: Is it common to shave down the cork? Seems like I can't even get the mpc/neck combination in tune without doing something like that.

Through experimentation I've found that on soprano I can get a little better in tune by holding the instrument out rather than holding it close like a clarinet.

My high notes are sharp on ALL my saxes so yeah it's probably my embouchure. I'll keep searching and reading about that.
 

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monzamess said:
Regarding my alto neck: Is it common to shave down the cork? Seems like I can't even get the mpc/neck combination in tune without doing something like that.
It's common to sand the cork if the cork is too thick to fit the mouthpiece.

Through experimentation I've found that on soprano I can get a little better in tune by holding the instrument out rather than holding it close like a clarinet.
That's the way a soprano should be held. It will also help you play the low notes.
 

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playing a "Rico 2" hardness reed on the alto is pretty soft.

I am a much better alto player than soprano player - perhaps this is analogous to your situation where your intonation on tenor is better than on your alto. On the soprano (because I am still a novice there), I need to be playing a harder reed to be in tune, particularly near the top. I play a Rico Royal 2.5 on soprano, but even playing a softer 2.5 will drive my shaky intonation on soprano from mediocre to terrible (as compared to playing a relatively harder 2.5).

So if you can build up your chops to go up to the next hardness rating of reeds, it may help you on both the alto and soprano. And of course, the long tones practice needed to build up your chops to do this, will also help your intonation. Eventually, you may find that you might need a different mouthpiece at some point, but I would start with the long tones practice and trying to get to the next level of reed hardness as the first step - particularly on the alto.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I'll try a couple of 3 reeds on my alto. I was playing 3 for a long time, but had problems with the low notes. I recently switched to 2 to see if that would help, and didn't think too hard about going back--I should have already tried it. On the soprano I've always used 3. I'm trying not to change too many things at once but I do plan to look for brighter jazz/rock mouthpieces, where the dark Rico "A" chamber mouthpieces don't do what I want.
 

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retread said:
It's common to sand the cork if the cork is too thick to fit the mouthpiece.

I have a similar problem and need to reduce the cork a bit. Is there any particular method/type of sandpaper you'd recommend for sanding the cork down?

thanks!

Jim
 

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monzamess said:
O
Also, the mouthpiece+neck sound are flat (concert A - 50 cents) so maybe I'm doomed from the start.
Mouthpiece alone on alto should be A=880, not mouthpiece and neck.

T. Kynaston advocates tuning the to the first overtone of a low b with the regular fingering middle b., and adjusting from there.
 

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hakukani said:
Mouthpiece alone on alto should be A=880, not mouthpiece and neck.

T. Kynaston advocates tuning the to the first overtone of a low b with the regular fingering middle b., and adjusting from there.
Yes. You can also play low C, add the octave key or over blow up an octave to middle C and compare the pitch to the regular middle C fingering. If the mouthpiece is pushed in the correct amount the overblown middle C should be in tune with the regular fingering. (I think I got that from the Larry Teal method.) It works for me.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
This thread was resurrected at a convenient time, as I've been asked to play alto sax in the community band, having been "relieved of my duties" in (maybe "kicked out of") the clarinet section. They've never heard me on sax so I might be back on the stick soon.

This piece is fairly representative of my current state of alto playing (you can pan left to silence the clarinet part). I'm still working on my embouchure. Trying different mouthpieces and reeds has helped some. Still some painful intonation there. I'm hoping some more work with long tones and a tuner will have me better prepared for the new year.
 

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Start saving your money so you can buy horns that will be more in tune, such as Yamaha yas-23. (There's a ton of those on eBay right now.) Just to make sure it's your sax that's the culprit, try out some horns and you should notice better intonation.

Intonation problems are more apparent the higher the sax you're playing. You may have the same issues on tenor or bari, but they're just not as noticeable.

As you work with your electronic tuner, make a list of which notes are sharp and flat. At first, just remember the most out-of-tune note on your horn. Then practice your scales with the idea that every time you hit that note, you are going to 'lip' it up or down to the correct place. After a while, these moves become automatic as you learn to compensate. Any sax can be played in tune with enough effort. You just don't want to be compensating so much that it impedes your music. That is why i recommend getting the best sax you can.
 
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