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Hi,

I play alto sax, returning after about 60 years. This question never bothered me before because I didn't think about it. But now I've been reading on SOTW about my sax is tuned to A=440.

My sax does not produce a frequency of 440 when playing A. It produces 440 when fingering F#. I am checking it on an oscilloscope, and against the tuning fork found on musiclessons.com.

In Larry Teal's book, Page 62 chart, he indicates the tuning note for an alto sax is F#, is this supposed to mean finger F# and tune to 440 cycles? But on the next page he talks about positioning the mouthpiece on the neck so A=440. I don't think I could ever get my mouthpiece located to produce 440 cycles with A fingering.

Could somebody please explain what the A=440 tuning on an alto sax means, and should I tune my mouthpiece location to equal 440 cycle while fingering F#? Is all this difference due to it being an Eb instrument while a piano with it's A=440 is a C instrument?

BTW, my mouthpiece alone produces about 880 cycles, which is an A5. Is that correct?

I don't want to get into advanced music theory, just want to know what all this means.

Thanks for any help.

George
 

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The saxophone is a transposing instrument. An F# on alto sounds like an A on piano. An alto A would produce a Concert C. When people say A=440, they mean A in Concert pitch, like on a piano or a flute or any other non-transposing instrument.

So when you tune to A440, you play an F#.

And yes, an alto mouthpiece by itself should produce an A with the correct embouchure.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Ok then - what an A880 saxophone?
I don't know what that is, but bear in mind the frequency of 880 is one octave above 440 so perhaps it could still be a reference to the tuning

Only one A = 440. The A an octave higher would be 880 and an octave lower would be 220
 

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indeed, many use A2 for tuning therefore it would indeed be 880 and in Germany and Bohemia wouldn’t be uncommon to indicate tuning that way.

Interesting that OP played for 60 years ( in this 10 year old post) but he must have played alone because he never noticed that A of a piano is the F# of his alto.


A5 (on the piano 88 keys) is 880 Hz.

 

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High pitch instruments tuned at 457Hz. ( HP in the rest of Europe and the US) were used until the ’70 in Dutch Marching bands.

Dolnet, Amati Lignatone and locally produced saxophones have been found by me personally.

For the Dolnet one Dutch member found evidence in the archive of his marching band that purchased HP Dolnet as late as 1976.
 

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Interesting that OP played for 60 years ( in this 10 year old post) but he must have played alone because he never noticed that A of a piano is the F# of his alto.
I think the OP said he (or she) was returning to the sax after 60 years. They might well have forgotten the sax is a transposing instrument, or maybe didn't learn that in the first place. Now of course, as you say, it's been 10 years since that OP.
 
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