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I am going to be doing a sax solo at my church’s Christmas concert in the middle of a bunch of other performances, including several where I will be singing with the choir. Any tips on how to make sure my sax is in tune when I go on? I feel like my sax is pretty temperature sensitive and is never quite in tune until I have played for five minutes.
 

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then play for five minutes, before your solo. Blowing warm air in the sax is more than enough to keep it (or rather the air inside) warm

Tuning is as much a feature of the temperature of the air inside the saxophone ( many think it is the instrument itself but that’s not the case its the air temperature ) as of the player adjusting his embouchure to compensate . We compensate all the time for all manner of things which affect intonation.

No, cold=>flatter, warm=>sharper
Its the temperature of the air column that matters.
The frequency (pitch) of an air wave can be approximated by the velocity of air divided by the wavelength of the vibration. The wavelength is controlled by the fingering (in a general sense) but the speed of air is determined by the temperature of the air column (speed is greater at higher temperatures); so... with the same fingerings a cold air column would sound flatter than a warm air column
https://cnx.org/contents/[email protected]/Standing-Waves-and-Wind-Instruments#s1 The physics link explains the phenomenon. It's the temperature of the air, not the horn itself. When you blow into your horn, the air inside is warmed. That's what causes the pitch change.




Of course there is a sweet spot on your cork, but I am quite confident you have found that already, that can be varied to compensate for temperature induced pitch shifts.

On tuning we have many threads ( a search of the word tuning returns 24600 hits). I will point out a few to you


Read them, there will be more information within past threads than there will be in this new one before, it too, will disappear in the archives (if nobody resumes ans I always would like people to do) making the whole business of keeping threads for posterity, meaningful as opposed to opening new threads on old matters that makes it meaningless

https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?17870-How-to-tune-a-sax
https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?96605-best-note-to-tune-alto-to
https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?10106-how-to-stay-in-tune
https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?28696-I-can-t-tune-my-alto-sax-correctly
https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?37060-Tuning-my-Soprano-Sax
https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?15305-Tuning-a-saxophone
 

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Get a free phone app tuner and use it while warming up. These days you can assume the other musicians are in standard tune in a case like this where you may not have a chance to check in on the church organ or other keyboard that may be on the gig. If you don't have a smart phone, just pick up an inexpensive tuner that will fit in your pocket. I started using the phone app 'Corset' just last year, never having had a tuner before and it has made a huge difference in my playing and effectiveness. Plus it will show you where you are going out of tune on the top and bottom after you tune to concert A. What I do is play various octaves all over the horn while watching the tuner, picking a position for the mouthpiece that hits most of the marks. Getting the horn mechanically in tune is the beginning - playing it in tune is the objective.
 

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The simple solution is to keep the saxophone from going cold as you sing with the choir. This is a common problem for woodwind players in pit orchestras who need to switch instruments quickly. Perhaps you could put it on a stand close to a heat vent or radiator. Another possibility would be to have a friend hold it close to their body or under a coat. Where I grew up in Wyoming the winters were so cold that you needed to plug in a "heated dipstick" overnight so your car had a chance of starting in the morning. Perhaps something like this would work to keep woodwinds from getting cold and going flat.
 

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Maybe it's worth doing a live rehearsal in the church a few days before. It is worth doing to find out if and when the instrument warms up sufficiently to be in tune and to what extent it needs to be corrected (by embouchure / lips or on a cork).
A practice session in place of a performance also offers many other benefits, such as mental freedom and the right feeling of space and the room's acoustic capabilities.
I wish you beautiful playing and singing.
 

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Hey, everyone, thanks for all the tips! I did get a chance to practice in the church, which helped steady my nerves if nothing else. I realized once I started playing that it really was no different than playing in my bedroom. I also tried blowing warm air through the sax to get it in tune after it had been pre-tuned but left sitting -- that does seem to help.

I have seen so many pros playing one sax (maybe an alto) and then putting that down and picking up a soprano and start playing with no additional tuning. I've always been curious how they do that.
 

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Good to hear.

The saxophone is of course an instrument with flexible intonation and a very good player can rather easily adjust by changing his embouchure, Yet, sometimes, you see players quickly re tune by pushing or pulling the mouthpiece.
 

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I have seen so many pros playing one sax (maybe an alto) and then putting that down and picking up a soprano and start playing with no additional tuning. I've always been curious how they do that.
Because once you have a good control of your embouchure and breath support, tiny nuances of mouthpiece position on cork become irrelevant.

I may or may not adjust the mouthpiece as I go alomg on a gog or a seesion.

You also need to take into account, the ideal mouthpiece position on cork can change depending on what key you are playing in, so the best thing is to listen and adjust.
 

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From "The Saxophone is My Voice" by Ernest Ferron.

How temperature affects pitch

Pitch rises approximately:

- 25 cents for a difference of 6° C or 10° F
- 33 cents for a difference of 20° C or 36° F
- 50 cents for a difference of 30° C or 54° F

At least theoretically saxophones are designed to play best when tuned to A=440 at a room temperature of about 72° - 76° F. Benade writes that 347 m/sec is a good value for the speed of sound in the warm, damp air at the upper end of a woodwind which puts the temperature inside the warmed up woodwind at about 80°.
 

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I’d think there is more then just the sax temperature at play here. It seems it takes you 5 minutes to also warm up your embouchure as well, re-acquire control of it. Best suggestion is to find a back room and warm up a bit before getting on stage. When you play if you’re a bit off don’t panic, try to compensate with your embouchure on the fly till you have a second to adjust the mouthpiece.
 

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I keep a tuner going in front of me especally if its a loud setting where hearing myself is an issue. since guitars go sharp with colder outdoor gigs I have to tune sharp if they move that direction. I can't just be "in tune" with the tuner, I have to match whatever im playing with. K
 

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before recording, i take a look at the pitch meter plug, and make adjustments. after recording, i might engage the pitch correction plug a little. more often on flute than sax. i ain't proud.
 

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before recording, i take a look at the pitch meter plug, and make adjustments. after recording, i might engage the pitch correction plug a little. more often on flute than sax. i ain't proud.
I have tried that but more often than of pitch correction can make it sound worse.
 

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I have tried that but more often than of pitch correction can make it sound worse.
horrible, actually. when i've experimented with sax, i keep it at the slightest touch. but usually not at all. alto flute, on the other hand seems fairly transparent, while removing a bit of shrillness i put into the 3rd octave.
 

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What I do, is I’ll play a low C and use the overtone series to get middle C.
Then I will finger a middle C the regular way, and match it to the pitch of the overtone C.
I do this with low B and B-flat also.
I’ve done it this way forever and it’s worked very well.


That’s the answer for what I use for tuning in general, but as for the temperature part of the question, I don’t think there’s a great answer as to what will keep your saxophone warm and in tune in the cold. Maybe you can put a heavy winter jacket around it if it’s out of the case or something like that, before you play.
Its a good question, and I’m not sure there is a good answer.
 

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What I do, is I’ll play a low C and use the overtone series to get middle C.
Then I will finger a middle C the regular way, and match it to the pitch of the overtone C.
I do this with low B and B-flat also.
I’ve done it this way forever and it’s worked very well.
Here is the original post:

I am going to be doing a sax solo at my church’s Christmas concert in the middle of a bunch of other performances, including several where I will be singing with the choir. Any tips on how to make sure my sax is in tune when I go on? I feel like my sax is pretty temperature sensitive and is never quite in tune until I have played for five minutes.
Any tips for this instance? It seems more an instance of blowing hot air to keep the horn warm.
 
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