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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi!

I did several years of formal music education when I was a kid, with ear training exercises in almost every class (transcribe what you hear played in the piano). That was about 30 years ago.

Due to that training I developed something similar to perfect pitch. It is not really perfect pitch because I recognize notes without accidentals easier, and only works for some instruments. Particularly I do not hear the notes when a singer sings, for example.

Anyway, point is, when I hear a saxophone, I hear it in concert pitch. Teacher plays A, I hear C. And that is interfering with my study because I cannot transcribe without help of the instrument, cannot follow by ear someone else playing, cannot anticipate what I am going to play, etc.

Of course, I could transpose, but that would be cheating, it would involve a little computation on the fly etc. I'd like an alto to play A and hear A.

It's been almost two years studying the saxophone. There has been some improvement through practice in the sense that when I am in a tune I kind of reconfigure a little bit myself to work with relative pitch, but it is really clunky, it doesn't work, there's lot of room for improvement.

Is there anything I can do to improve this other than transcribe, practice, and patience? Is it doable at all?

Do professional altoists hear a piano in E flat? Or are they able to hear each instrument in their own transposition?
 

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Do professional altoists hear a piano in E flat? Or are they able to hear each instrument in their own pitches?
We just get used to transposing (eventually) both in terms of what you hear and being able to think in one pitch while communicating verbally to other p-layers in another pitch.

However it sounds like your ears and pitch memory may be quite a bit more developed than mine, so I can see why you would have quite an issue.

I learned the alto as a non transposing instrument so often think of A as a C. My big problem is when I'm playing tenor and the saem thing happens, ie I think of the tenor A fingering as C (when of course it is G concert)

Worst case that happened to me at the end of playing All the Things You Are on tenor the gutarist ended on a Ab concert chord, I decided to play a nice #11 which on alto would be D concert, ie B on alto. I forgot i was playing tenor and came in with a really nice but very very wrong B on the tenor (a b9 over a major 7 )
 

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A friend of my who has natural absolute pitch played Tenor and Alto. He doesn't play anymore but I don't remember him having any problem, I will ask him how he did it if I remember. Another friend that had perfect pitch could only play trombone and piano. He could not play transposing instruments, so it may be a personal thing you have to overcome.
 

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I have very good relative pitch, but i'm glad i don't have perfect pitch. I don't think i'd be able to stand playing the saxophone if so.
I don't know how you guys do it. In other countries (for example in TAiwan) they tune A to 442 rather than 440. That would drive me nuts if I had perfect pitch!
 

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Why not just think of a for example, a G as an A? I don't see how perfect pitch would be any problem except for trying to play a sax in tune.
If someone had perferf pitch listening to a alto play a Bb concert pitch they wouldn't say they are playing a G.
The argument doesn't seem like it's a perfect pitch problem, but the concept of transposing instruments.
 

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I don't believe the OP's problem has anything to do with perfect pitch. In any event, he's saying that he doesn't have perfect pitch, but close to it. In early training, great relative pitch was developed, not perfect pitch, which is very rare.

The issue is a familiarity with concert pitch names. You're used to calling the note an "A" .... When you're playing the sax, it's still the same note but called something slightly different, depending on the sax.

You transpose when you're playing a non-concert pitched instrument. That's the way it works. Get used to it, or pick up a vintage sax in the key of C.


Turtle
 

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I don't believe the OP's problem has anything to do with perfect pitch. In any event, he's saying that he doesn't have perfect pitch, but close to it. In early training, great relative pitch was developed, not perfect pitch, which is very rare.

The issue is a familiarity with concert pitch names. You're used to calling the note an "A" .... When you're playing the sax, it's still the same note but called something slightly different, depending on the sax.

You transpose when you're playing a non-concert pitched instrument. That's the way it works. Get used to it, or pick up a vintage sax in the key of C.
This is what I think about it too. Those of us who (attempt to) play clarinet need to deal with the fact that the fingering (e.g.) three fingers can mean G or C on the same instrument. These are things up with which we need to put.
 

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It would be interesting to try a high quality c-melody saxophone. Just to see.
 

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You could turn your Bb tenor, for example, into a C instrument, by re-naming all the notes. Then, you could successfully read anything written for C instruments, and all the notes would sound like what you're used to them being called.

The drawback is, you're going against convention, you won't be able to read anything written specifically for Bb or Eb instruments (without transposing), and if you play both tenor and alto, your fingerings won't be the same any more. It's a convention of convenience, for those who play different keyed instruments. It's not so convenient for those of use who only play one of the saxes.


Turtle
 

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Hi I had similar problem too. Maybe is best to to accept the fact that you are tune to Concert C, there is nothing wrong is that, as you might one day pick up a tenor :D

Some background of myself, I start classical piano training when I was 5 and go all the way till grade 7, then play guitar for 13 years, so my ears are kinna deeply tune into Concert C too.
Pick up a alto sax 9 month and taught myself how to play. I remember my brain is playing game with me for a big time, and I end up remember the fingering correspond to concert C. At that stage I was playing most of the music by ear. I join a big band 4 months ago and I was forced to read Eb sheet. My reading speed gradually improve and can simple sheet. So I am in a state that
1. I still hear and recognize everything in Concert C but can play what ever I hear in Alto
2. Can read Eb sheet and play the right note

But if you ask me to write down whatever I just play immediately on Eb.......................................... hell no, is just not possible :D
 

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In early training, great relative pitch was developed...
In which case I'd suggest the OP 'think' in numerical terms, once the key center is established. So once you know you're in concert C (or whatever key), then try to hear the tones as 1, 2, 3, b3, 5, etc. That should solve it....maybe.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I don't believe the OP's problem has anything to do with perfect pitch. In any event, he's saying that he doesn't have perfect pitch, but close to it. In early training, great relative pitch was developed, not perfect pitch, which is very rare.
No, no, I have what you'd call perfect pitch. If something vibrates at 440 I hear an A so to speak, regardless of the instrument.

I mean "close" because my understanding is that people with perfect pitch can tell absolutely any note, and produced by anything.

For me relative pitch means that when playing the horn you can associate the correct transposed note names instantly, the sam way I can say you're playing a middle G in the piano without looking at it. And the same way my teacher plays something in his alto and I name it in concert pitch because that's what my brain identifies instinctively.

With time and patience I am developing some sort of relative pitch in the alto, but very very rudimentary, that's what I want to address.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Hi I had similar problem too. Maybe is best to to accept the fact that you are tune to Concert C, there is nothing wrong is that, as you might one day pick up a tenor :D

Some background of myself, I start classical piano training when I was 5 and go all the way till grade 7, then play guitar for 13 years, so my ears are kinna deeply tune into Concert C too.
Pick up a alto sax 9 month and taught myself how to play. I remember my brain is playing game with me for a big time, and I end up remember the fingering correspond to concert C. At that stage I was playing most of the music by ear. I join a big band 4 months ago and I was forced to read Eb sheet. My reading speed gradually improve and can simple sheet. So I am in a state that
1. I still hear and recognize everything in Concert C but can play what ever I hear in Alto
2. Can read Eb sheet and play the right note

But if you ask me to write down whatever I just play immediately on Eb.......................................... hell no, is just not possible :D
Exactly! That's my situation!

And for example, if you want to improvise call and response with someone... no idea. Even if the other person is on an alto. If you had time you could transpose, but it's too quick.

Also, I do not want to transpose, my ideal would be to be able to hear an A in the alto and have my brain produce the label and fingering "A", without loosing the same ability for non-transposing instruments.

I don't know if people manage to do that, that's part of my question.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
In which case I'd suggest the OP 'think' in numerical terms, once the key center is established. So once you know you're in concert C (or whatever key), then try to hear the tones as 1, 2, 3, b3, 5, etc. That should solve it....maybe.
No way. You press a middle G in the piano and my brain says "G" instantly. There is no computation or anything, I guess there's pattern recognition developed by so much ear training that it just works that way. I imagine that leokc and I have developed neuronal patterns that just resonate with the frequency/timbre and the recognition is automatic.

You can then play games, like transposing or thinking in intervals. But that is a posteriori, they are computations, too slow.

My question is whether people develop the same automatic recognition for different transposing instruments. How does a professional play call and response with a guitar? And how are they able to do it in tenor and alto? Maybe they have strong relative pitch, reconfigure themselves for that transposition, and then hear everything in that transposition?
 

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Why do you need to know what the note names are when you play call and response?
Just play the notes back.

Surely the idea should be for any player to get to the stage where you are accessing the musical sounds on your instrument as easily and as quickly as possible.
you have no vital need to know what notes you are playing, just how to get to them on your horn automatically.

Can you remove the step where you listen to the guitarist and know what concert pitch notes he is playing...you don't have to care about that, you just have to go straight to those pitches on your horn...as if you were singing the phrase back.
In my opinion that is really the main point of call and response exercises.

remember music doesn't have to be written down or formalised before it can exist.
the written form of music was only invented by monks as a way of ensuring specific melodies (and eventually harmony) could be passed down and accessed by more people over a greater area than if they had to study and learn aurally.
The same as written language.
 

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No, no, I have what you'd call perfect pitch. If something vibrates at 440 I hear an A so to speak, regardless of the instrument.
.
Well, splitting hairs ...... If you really do have perfect pitch, I don't envy you as a musician. Perfect pitch is absolutely the LAST thing I'd ever want to have, when playing any musical instrument. If I had perfect pitch, and if there was a way to get rid of it, I would pursue that.

Relative pitch is the thing to have. Relative pitch puts you on key, as a singer, and allows you to bend and flow with the musicians around you. What if the rest of the band is a little flat? Relative pitch allows you to tune down a bit and still hear everything sounding nicely in tune.

Perfect pitch can make you crazy, around so many other musicians who don't have it (everyone else).

Turtle
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Why do you need to know what the note names are when you play call and response?
Just play the notes back.

Surely the idea should be for any player to get to the stage where you are accessing the musical sounds on your instrument as easily and as quickly as possible.
you have no vital need to know what notes you are playing, just how to get to them on your horn automatically.

Can you remove the step where you listen to the guitarist and know what concert pitch notes he is playing...you don't have to care about that, you just have to go straight to those pitches on your horn...as if you were singing the phrase back.
In my opinion that is really the main point of call and response exercises.
It is not that I need it, the problem is that I don't need it but need to learn how to unlearn that. That, or develop the ability of being able to mentally get a "D" that depends on the instrument.

You do not match fingering to frequencies on the saxophone, but to notes. You know that A on the alto is such fingering. You know a C major scale is playing this way, etc.

If I do call and response on a guitar, I know the *notes* I have to repeat, not the frequencies or fingering. By "I know" I mean that's what my brain produces when I hear the other guy. When I am in a bar and hear an easy piano piece, there is a stream of note names going through my head, I cannot *just* hear the melody. You see?

So, when I hear a D in a piano, my brain says "D" automatically, it is intuitive "D" is just in your head right away. And that doesn't match the frequency/fingering on the alto, and that interferes.
 

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In which case I'd suggest the OP 'think' in numerical terms, once the key center is established. So once you know you're in concert C (or whatever key), then try to hear the tones as 1, 2, 3, b3, 5, etc. That should solve it....maybe.
That's what I would do ... Well, actually, that is what I am doing, working out of the Jazz Theory Book. My teacher is constantly talking in flatted 3rds, flatted 7ths, and other numerical terminology for relationships between notes. The same type of numerical stuff is used for chord progressions. Numbers are the way to go!

Turtle
 

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Fxnoria, I though your problem is about you need to have the instrument with you before you can write what you play down. When you do call and response, you should be responding to the sound of the music not just the note. Let's say if I sing you "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" in a random key, you should be able to response the next phrase on your saxophone without thinking.

Maybe you can train your brain to associate a sound the corresponding fingering, rather than worrying what is the correct note. Maybe because I don't have a sax teacher, when I first learn saxophone, I write down a table to what Eb note corresponding to Concert C.

At the moment, my brain lcan associate a note (sound) with the corresponding fingering; Reading (Alto sheet) to a fingering but not note(Name in Eb) to a finger.

I am not too sure if that make any sense to you.
 
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