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highpitched saxes

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why did htey make high pitch saxes
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Because many classical orchestras tune to a higher pitch. It has something to do with string instruments sounding more brilliant in a higher pitch. You could push the mouthpiece in to tune up the sax, but if you push too far your intonation becomes wild and you have to correct it too much in the extreme registers. Same thing vice versa: you pull the mouthpiece out on a high pitch instrument to play A=440 Hz, a correct intonation all over the range will be difficult or even practically impossible.
Ritchie: True High-Pitch instruments (usually stamped "HP") are ancient and are no longer made, that I know of. They were manufactured before the international tuning standard of A=440 was established. HP usually means A=450 (or something like that - I've forgotten the actual numbers, but someone here will know it).

That's why you usually see "LP" or "Low Pitch" stamped on 1920's horns - the manufacturers needed to differentiate between the old HP horns and the more modern LP horns.

HP horns cannot be played in an ensemble today - they are too high for even adjusting by pulling out the mouthpiece. Once everyone made their instruments to LP standards, that marking disappeared. My '20's horns are marked LP, my '32 Cigar Cutter has no such designation.

I once bought an HP Albert clarinet before I understood the issues. And, I have seen HP saxophones. They will not come to today's pitch unless the player transposes keys to accomodate the very high pitch of the instrument.

Yes, there are some instruments made today that are pitched slightly above 440, but they are NOT like the HP horns of yesteryear. DAVE
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Dave, you're right, the "high pitch" saxophones with a much higher tuning than the standard 440 Hz are history. Today's "high pitch" instruments are usually designed for A=442 Hz as it is common in Japan today. According to the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic orchestras tune to 445 Hz.

Some information about historical pitches I found here: http://www.mcgee-flutes.col/eng_pitch.html

A=442 Hz means +8 cents relative to the 440 Hz, 445 Hz are +20 cents. To have to transpose a half step down, your instrument had to be tuned to A=466 Hz. Assuming you had an A=460 Hz instrument, your results will be closer to an even scale if you tune +20 cents higher and transpose one half step down than if you pulled to mouthpiece out far enough to tune down -80 cents.
Yep. A couple Hertz makes little difference. My 442 Buffet is dead on in tune at 440 as well as 442.
I read somewear that a high pitched tenor sax could be adjusted to be keyed in B therefore putiing you in better keys for rock n roll. Any truth to this?
Selmer saxes and Buffet clarinets are all A=442 and no-one seems to have any problem with that.
Selmer saxes are 442??? Is that so? I thought all major brands (except Buffet) are A=440 these days.I had a Buffet S1 tenor for a while,its supposed to be around A=443 or 442 and for me there was slightly more trouble to get it to play in tune in 440.It was OK but mailnly for that reason I sold it,I admit (another reason was that I felt it was more classical horn anyway)
"....putting you in better keys for rock & roll."

I guess this is a bit off-topic, but spiderjames, there are no "better" keys, really. It's more a matter of what you are used to playing. If you play regularly in E and A concert (commom rock & roll keys), they will become the easiest keys for you. Of course, it's best, in fact essential, to be equally fluent in all keys.
spiderjames, Bear talks about the possibility of tuning in B on a HP axe in either the Q&A section and/or when he lists HP instruments for sale at

I tried to refresh my memory regarding the frequency of HP A with a web search -- that only confuses the issue. I believe the common tuning on a HP instrument was A=457Hz. A=440 became a fairly widely agreed upon standard in the US around 1920, was adopted as an international standard in 1939 and reaffirmed in 1955. All the dates seem to come after American instrument makers had adopted A=440 for their products.

Two notes of interest for browsing the web: 1) Tuning pitches seem to have varied from place to place based on available records and tuning forks. 2) In the second third of the 19th century A=435 was advocated as the standard. However, the evidence available from the instruments themselves suggests the advocacy was ineffective.
rrex54 said:
I believe the common tuning on a HP instrument was A=457Hz.
I believe you're right.

rrex54 further said:
In the second third of the 19th century A=435 was advocated as the standard.
Conn's sales literature for their new 444N clarinet in the early 1930s suggested that many foreign-made clarinets were still pitched at 435. (Or perhaps these were second-hand horns floating around.)

The Rascher Saxophone Quartet, based in Germany and strongly oriented to orchestral music, tunes to A-442 or 443. (This per their interview in Sax Journal a few years back.)
I have played in several concert bands that tuned to A=442 or 443. They think it sounds more brilliant, but they want everyone to produce a very dark tone... I could never figure that out.

And they CREATE many of the intonation problem in their bands.

I know quite a few of the tuning issues I had went away after getting away from such bands and playing with keyboards and other instruments tuned to A=440 standard pitch.

I knew one director who insisted in tuning his bands to concert F. That is D on the alto saxophone, the worst possible note for tuning Eb saxophones.

One only wonders how we play in tune at all in such bands.
How to tell?

Ultimately, I guess it doesn't make much difference, but how do you know whether you have a high-pitch horn, or just an intonation dog? I have a feeling one of mine's the latter, doesn't seem nearly old enough to be the former. (LaMonte alto from Italy.) Yet, the body length, neck length and placement of tone holes are slightly different from other horns. It definitely doesn't tune to A=440 though I haven't yet found any pitch where it will tune throughout the range of the horn.
As to tuning a high-pitched tenor (around A=455) to B vs. A, at A=440 the B is pitched at 466.2 Hz. Consequently, the HP instrument is pretty much right in the middle. I suspect that trying to tune the "B" on the tenor to either A=440 or A=466 (or mostly equivalently, trying to tune the tenor "Bb" to A=440) will give you terrible relative intonation over the range of the horn.

Paul, I'm curious why tuning to concert F is such a bad thing? I mean, beyond a certain point, we need to develop a good relative sense of pitch and an embouchure that supports it. So if I'm used to tuning to A or Bb, and I need to play a "D" in tune, why is that any more difficult than tuning to a "D" and playing a G or F# in tune?
I don't think in terms of key signatures as much as I think in terms of finger patterns for each key.
Paul C. said:
I have played in several concert bands that tuned to A=442 or 443. They think it sounds more brilliant, but they want everyone to produce a very dark tone... I could never figure that out.

And they CREATE many of the intonation problem in their bands.
I'm going to take a wild guess here and conjecture that they are "wind ensemble" specialists educated to have an inferiority complex to orchestral musicians...and that they want to instill as "European" an ethic as possible to prove their musicality...and that if they're having real world intonation problems, well, then, the problem is with the real world. :?
Mike, the problem with using concert F (which is the alto's D) to tune Eb saxophones is this: One must either tune to low D (D1) which is flat on many altos, D2, which is notably sharp on many altos, or D3, which might be anywhere. Palm key pitches are very sensitive to mouthpiece variations and pad opening, which might or might not be correct.

Aside, I have spent many, many hours over the years charting intonation tendencies on various saxes on each note, experimenting with pad openings, optimizing intonation on instruments... yes, sometimes it IS the horn. So, I have a basis for my statement a few posts above.

If the player tunes the low D, which is usually slightly flat, all the other notes on the instrument will be sharp.

Usually the player will chose to tune his D2. Since that note is a sharp note, if he tunes that note, the rest of the notes on the alto sax will all be flat. Also, any tuning done with that long note will require excessive movement of the mouthpiece. It is an exercise infutility.

After the alto player goes through the charade of pretending to tune his D, and the band is actually playing, it will be necessary to put the mouthpiece back to where it should be to tune to concert Bb or A (G or F#).

Tuning to concert F is like teaching a pig to sing, it is a waste of time and annoys the pig.

These problems are unrelated to the skill, ear training, or embouchure of the player. These problems come from attempting to tune the alto saxophone using the worst notes on that instument.

You want to tune the alto? Tune the alto's B to concert D. You will be using a note that is good in both octaves. You are tuning a relatively short length of tubing, can set the mouthpiece on the cork precisely. The rest of the horn will fall very close, with minimal tuning problems.

For the tenor, tune it's C to conert Bb, or it's B to concert A, for the same reasons as above.

Now, instead of contending with one note that is in tune (the alto's D) and a lot of flat notes that are difficult to lip up, the player can play most of the notes centered, in good tune, and only worry about D2, which he lips down slightly, or adds the low B key, and for a sustained low D, he adds the C# key. Just two problem notes, easily brought into tune.

And band directors, TUNE TO A=440 reference! The instruments are made to tune to that pitch.
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wow, lots of wrong info here on this thread...this topic was discussed at length on the old SOTW board...CORRECTIONS:

* yes, HP/LP designated two(or more) pitch standards common up to the early 20th century. Neither was 'right' or 'wrong', just different standards. With the advent of international standardization of A=440, HP gradually fell by the wayside, along with HP & LP designations stamped on the horns. Old clarinet auctions on ebay often have LP or HP in the pics, if anyone is interested in seeing some of this.

* Selmer saxes and Buffet clarinets are NOT 'All made to A=442'. The default pitch is A440. Buffet *does* make *some* (but not all) of their horns in 442 pitch, primarily for the Euro marketplace. Be default, ALL Buffet clarinets that are available in either A440 or A442 pitch that are sent to the U.S. are sent in A440 pitch. Same with Selmer clarinets. Modern Selmer saxes are all 440 pitch.

Buffet did apparently make some of their more recent saxes in A442 pitch, and they do list their Eb & Bass clarinets on the French site as A442, but those are minor exceptions.

* A=440 may seem to be just 2 Hz diff between A=442, but the tuning differences are about 10 cents, which represents 10% of a half step. So, this is *not* a 'minor' difference. Anyone claiming 'their horn tunes just as well at 442 as 440' doesn't understand what's going on.

Most amateur groups tune sharp(especially brass instruments, PARTICULARLY trumpets), so having a 442 horn that 'tunes up' in band is not really a proper way to evaluate intonation. Plus, if one's checking clarinet pitch this way and is a saxophonist doubling on clarinet, they are invariably FLAT...

There *are* ensembles these days that play 442-445 pitch, but these are primarily some Euro orchestras, and possibly some out of Asia. This is due to 'pitch inflation', whereby orchestras(usually the conductor) are trying for more brilliance...problem, no one ever wins the war, the pitches just keep going up & up.

I was at an International Clarinet Society convention a few yrs ago, tried a bass clarinet made by the Wurlitzer firm from Germany, and altho the horn was extremely well made, it was pretty much unusable in the U.S., as the tuning standard musta been at least 445, but gawd it was SHARP.

Back in the day of LP's (that's 'Long Play' records for you youngun's), tunes were often sped up when laid down as a track, so as to fit stuff on the record. Problem is, if one checked pitch with a tuning fork or tuner while playing the record, the record was often wildly out of tune.

Back in Mozart's day, the tuning standard usually applied was around 1/2 step lower than today....
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Back in the day of LP's (that's 'Long Play' records for you youngun's), tunes were often sped up when laid down as a track, so as to fit stuff on the record. Problem is, if one checked pitch with a tuning fork or tuner while playing the record, the record was often wildly out of tune.
NOTB many 78s were either recorded out of tune, thanks to wind-up, counterweighted cutting tables, or are often played back that way, thanks to varying speed standards. Friends and I have dubbed or burnt many a 78, and it's a must to have a pitchpipe or tuner handy, plus a working knowledge of realistic key signatures (early jazz musicians seldom played in Gb or B).
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