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Discussion Starter #1
Not sure this is the best forum for this, but I've been fighting a little bit with issues where I'm playing slightly under pitch in the lower register, and sharp in the upper register (noticably above middle A).

I tried going more "in" with the mouthpiece (see article below), but i'm not sure that's the answer in my instance as I do have the ability to bring up the pitch significantly on the lower notes. I don't think this is a setup issue, although some of the softer reeds aren't as pitch stable. Any suggestions?

http://www.steveduke.net/articles/mouthpiece.shtml

Shawn

PS I spent a few minutes with some different mouthpieces (Meyer 6M, C*) and generally see the same issue except on the less open C*. So, most likely, i need to cure my habit of pinching down on the higher tones and loosening up on the low notes.
 

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For the past year and a half I've been working hard on the same issue (pushing the mouthpiece in, playing a softer reed, relaxing the embouchure) to improve tone and intonation. If you have any tips or breakthroughs please share!

From my experience, stabalizing the pitch on a softer reed can be improved by directing the air efficiently (combination of breathing from diaphram and toungue placement - tee sylable. For example playing a high C at a ppp dynamic may at first seem really unstable... but if you play it fff, then ff, then mp, then p, on a soft reed it helps in figuring out how to direct the air. Also experiementing with more Mouthpiece... (this is what ive been working on after reading this thread):

http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?53228-Tone-Production/page2

Phil's thread has helped me a great deal. I wasn't taking in nearly enough mouthpiece.

The reed may also be to soft for your setup. IDK

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
The last two sessions I spent a good amount of time with my tuner and certain notes are quite sharp in relation to others... high E, high B, high C#, altissimo A, etc.

I'm getting a little more selective about reeds (some are a bit too soft now), and spent a little time with the tuner playing slow arpeggios, and overtones/overtone matching. But the most helpful things so far:

- Rolling out a touch more lip to allow a bit more reed cushion

- Bringing in the corners of mouth somewhat. This seemed very helpful as far as bringing the pitch down on those sharp notes.

- Thinking "up" on the lower notes...since I was getting a little flat on the low tones this further accentuated the sharpness in the upper register.

This is one of those situations where working with a teacher would be really helpful. It's probably an old habit coming back since I didn't play a lot for years prior to last spring. I probably worked through this issue in the past...to bad I don't have more notes.

This intonation issue is a very fundamental thing. The disciplined approach would be to go back to basics, as far as breaking out the tuner and spending a few weeks playing only long tones, slow octaves and arpeggios, basic scales, maybe some vibrato studies, and slow etudes using a tuner. Kind of a retraining protocol.

shawn
 

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Sounds like the same problem I had, and still do to some extent. Biting in the upper register.

Do you mark your cork so your piece starts at the same place every time? What i did with the help of my teacher and lots of reading here was:

Set the MP on the neck with the neck off the horn where I got a good, in tune F#, then mark the cork with pencil. Like me you might find that this is way sharp with what you think is your "normal" embouchure. Neck back on the horn, you should find the low B is spot on, and possibly the middle one also. The high b will probably be sharp. Now - spend 6-12 months concentrating on scales in the upper octave through the palm keys, with a tuner and thinking open throat and relaxed embouchure.

This as really helped me with this problem, you need to set the MPC so the horn is in tune, everything else at that point is you.
 

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A couple of things--

Overtone exercises and mouthpiece only exercises -- get better at voicing the instrument properly
Loose the tuner. You tune with your ears, not your eyes. Play a note on the piano and match the pitch. If you don't have a piano, any tone generator or recording of a single note will do. Play unisons, intervals, etc. with it for a while every day, get into your head how notes sound and feel when they're in tune.

Hope that helps.
 

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For low E and D I pop open the low C# key, and that helps bump up the pitch. For the high notes, overtone exercises a la Top Tones really helped with establishing my voicing abilities (tongue position). One helpful flexibility exercise is to take a palm key note and bend it down a half step, then a whole, then a m3, then a M3, then P4. This also helps to develop voicing ability-- you can't go all the way to a P4 by just dropping your jaw, you must use tongue position as well.
 

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- Thinking "up" on the lower notes...since I was getting a little flat on the low tones this further accentuated the sharpness in the upper register.
shawn
If you have to lip up anyof the notes, your mpc needs to be pushed further in. Keep pushing in until your flattest notes play comfortably in tune with a totally relaxed embouchure. Your middle and upper register are now a little higher than before, but if you keep working at bringing your overall pitch center down as a player, you'll be comfortably in tune. The upper register is very malleable and relatively easy to voice down. Trying to voice any note "up", is wrong for the following reasons:

1) it forces the player to constrict the reed from vibration, resulting in a less open tone quality.
2) The low register is much less flexible in pitch than the upper register, so you'd have to work much harder to raise those notes than needed.
3) Playing with one slack embouchure across the whole range of the horn makes it easy, because it eliminates numerous adjustments to play in tune. It also requires less energy.
4) Playing with the mpc pushed in means that the settings for playing with a good tone quality (open and relaxed) are the same as those for playing in tune (open and relaxed).

And yes, being picky about your reeds helps a lot. Some reeds (whether hard or soft), don't hold the pitch as well or make it difficult to play with a relaxed and slack embouchure. That means the pitch center creeps up and the urge to pull out the mpc becomes irresistible; now you're back where you started.

I agree with Morgan Fry's comments about the importance tuning with drones and intervals (after all that's what you're REALLY doing in a performance), but I still think visual feedback from a tuner is useful just to establish some base readings and getting to know your tendencies.
 

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I tried going more "in" with the mouthpiece (see article below), but i'm not sure that's the answer in my instance as I do have the ability to bring up the pitch significantly on the lower notes.

PS I spent a few minutes with some different mouthpieces (Meyer 6M, C*) and generally see the same issue except on the less open C*. So, most likely, i need to cure my habit of pinching down on the higher tones and loosening up on the low notes.
1) You may have the ability to bring up the pitch on the lower register, but you should let the mpc position on the cork do that work for you instead. Push in the mpc
2) The habit you should cure is that of pinching anywhere in the sax's range. Loosen up everywhere across the whole range.
3) I assume you're talking about alto? I see in your signature that you borrow a horn. Is it a modern horn, and are you confident that it's in good regulation with no leaks etc?
 

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Time to take off the mouthpiece, and play it alone. If you're playing alto, your pitch should be concert A or below. If tenor, concert g or below.

When playing in the upper register, think blowing down. You're not actually blowing down, but doing this will bring that upper register into tune.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks for the responses, helpful to get multiple perspectives. I've been playing pushed in quite a bit, generally I'm spot on in the lower register up to middle A for the most part. I could go in a bit more, and i'm certainly comfortable doing that.

Agreed on the tuner versus ear comments. I was using the tuner more as a convenient reference and initial tune up.


I'm on the YTS_62 not really playing the alto right now. You can hear a few recent examples of what I'm sounding like at my SoundClick page. Caught myself playing a little pitch under in general during Maiden Voyage clip...

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=1122869
 

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On your soundclips I definitely hear a tendency towards being flat, even in your middle register and middle D. I think you need to push in the mpc, maybe a lot more.
 

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Where you place the mouthpiece for A=440 and the relationship of the low register and the high register to that point of reference, is to a great extent determined by the volume and playing frequency of the mouthpiece, and how well those two requirements match the horn. Same old boring story, but it is the essence of what makes the saxophone play well, before every other factor, and the difference between constant frustration, and seemingly, being set free of all restraints, to make pure music. Really. It is that profound. For beginner and professional alike. Just a little grit in the oil can really ruin your engine.

In 5 minutes, the OP could easily fix forever the registers so that they were very well in tune with each other, and the small amount of embouchure adjustment needed for normal playing, came without conscious effort. Just hearing the pitch correctly (that is the prerequisite) would be enough to get it there. Magic? Nope, just the A, B, C's of saxophone.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
In 5 minutes, the OP could easily fix forever the registers so that they were very well in tune with each other, and the small amount of embouchure adjustment needed for normal playing, came without conscious effort.
I'm not understanding what you're referring to here with "OP"...
 

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Find a sax-mpc combination and position where the same embouchure is in tune through the different octaves.

OP: Opening Post or Opening Poster - It is the first post in a thread, or the person behind it. ... That would be You!
 

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Find a sax-mpc combination and position where the same embouchure is in tune through the different octaves.
Right, but that is not easy to do, optimally, via trial and error. The volume and playing frequency aspects of any mouthpiece are set in relation to one another, due to mouthpiece geometry, and how that completes the horns acoustic design. Move the mouthpiece on the cork or change your embouchure, and you change both at the same time. In order to optimally match a mouthpiece to a horn, the volume and playing frequency must be adjusted independently, i.e., adjust frequency while maintaining the constant correct volume, until both are correct at the same place on the cork.

It is this volume/frequency relationship that is so vital, because, if it is off, even a little, no amount of pushing in, pulling out, or embouchure adjustments will improve it. You are stuck with a mismatch, on every part of every note you play. There is nothing like having it right, and you can adjust it to the same fine degree that you can adjust your tuning note to A=440.
 

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If you have to lip up anyof the notes, your mpc needs to be pushed further in. Keep pushing in until your flattest notes play comfortably in tune with a totally relaxed embouchure. Your middle and upper register are now a little higher than before, but if you keep working at bringing your overall pitch center down as a player, you'll be comfortably in tune. The upper register is very malleable and relatively easy to voice down. Trying to voice any note "up", is wrong for the following reasons:

1) it forces the player to constrict the reed from vibration, resulting in a less open tone quality.
2) The low register is much less flexible in pitch than the upper register, so you'd have to work much harder to raise those notes than needed.
3) Playing with one slack embouchure across the whole range of the horn makes it easy, because it eliminates numerous adjustments to play in tune. It also requires less energy.
4) Playing with the mpc pushed in means that the settings for playing with a good tone quality (open and relaxed) are the same as those for playing in tune (open and relaxed).

And yes, being picky about your reeds helps a lot. Some reeds (whether hard or soft), don't hold the pitch as well or make it difficult to play with a relaxed and slack embouchure. That means the pitch center creeps up and the urge to pull out the mpc becomes irresistible; now you're back where you started.

I agree with Morgan Fry's comments about the importance tuning with drones and intervals (after all that's what you're REALLY doing in a performance), but I still think visual feedback from a tuner is useful just to establish some base readings and getting to know your tendencies.
Very well said. I also really like the comments about mouthpiece only exercises. I also like playing through the whole range of the horn with out using the octave key.
 

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Sounds like the same problem I had, and still do to some extent. Biting in the upper register.

Do you mark your cork so your piece starts at the same place every time? What i did with the help of my teacher and lots of reading here was:

Set the MP on the neck with the neck off the horn where I got a good, in tune F#, then mark the cork with pencil. Like me you might find that this is way sharp with what you think is your "normal" embouchure. Neck back on the horn, you should find the low B is spot on, and possibly the middle one also. The high b will probably be sharp. Now - spend 6-12 months concentrating on scales in the upper octave through the palm keys, with a tuner and thinking open throat and relaxed embouchure.

This as really helped me with this problem, you need to set the MPC so the horn is in tune, everything else at that point is you.
Okay I want to work on this method too. I'm trying it right now and I can only get an E and an F by pushing the mouthpiece in. Did you mean a concert E which would transpose to F# on tenor?
 

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Okay I want to work on this method too. I'm trying it right now and I can only get an E and an F by pushing the mouthpiece in. Did you mean a concert E which would transpose to F# on tenor?
Sorry yes I was talking in tenor concert e, f# on tenor. The op had a tenor in his avatar.

Cheers
 

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Time to take off the mouthpiece, and play it alone. If you're playing alto, your pitch should be concert A or below. If tenor, concert g or below.

When playing in the upper register, think blowing down. You're not actually blowing down, but doing this will bring that upper register into tune.
This is exactly what must be done. Guys instinctively pull the mouthpiece out to lower the pitch of the upper register but then the mid and low notes play flat. I find that if I overblow low B or C (the harmonic) and tune the regular B or C to the harmonic the horn will play in tune with itself and at A-440.
 

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Sorry yes I was talking in tenor concert e, f# on tenor. The op had a tenor in his avatar.

Cheers
Hmm. Any tips on how to get an F# on Tenor with just the mouthpiece and the neck then? The highest I can get to is an F with the mouthpiece pushed all the way in. I don't want to clench up cause that's what I'm trying to avoid.
 
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