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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello, I just received a nice vintage Selmer NY "C" soprano. It is definitely a Conn stencil but no rolled tone holes (Pan American?)

The left hand intonation is poor. Going up the scale, low C up to G are sharp relative to A and above. It is very distinct - G and below are sharp relative to A thru C (LH middle finger closed). I conclude that A and above are flat (not the rest of the horn is sharp) because I set my mouthpiece to open C# (one thing I already looked at was the octave bleed key for open octave C#. I think C# is good now, at least relative to G and below).

I use Yamaha 4Cs on all my "C" sopranos with great success, but not this one. I've tried a genuine Conn "C" soprano mouthpiece and a Buescher "C" soprano mouthpiece. Same results (except the old mouthpieces are almost unplayable of course).

The G key is at the same height as the rest of the left hand stack - but if I raised it, only A would be affected correct? So am I looking for something other than key heights? What would make A thru C (middle fingered) on the left hand stack flat?


Moderator - I posted this in the repair forum as well. Not sure where I would get the best views, hope both is ok........ :)
 

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I have found that to be a Conn issue. The only cure is to tune to C2 and lip the other notes down. These Conns are so "off" that I will not buy them at all. The Martins and Holtons are far better. Even a dedicated C mouthpiece does not help. The 4C is still my choice for a C soprano.
You can always put cork rings in the upper edge of the lower tone holes but even that along with lowering RH key openings is just a partial fix.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
That is surprising - I have a Conn NW "C" soprano and it is darn good. Better than my Buescher TT. I guess there's a lot of variability from horn to horn.

I guess I need to get started on my Martin!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I have found that to be a Conn issue. The only cure is to tune to C2 and lip the other notes down. These Conns are so "off" that I will not buy them at all. The Martins and Holtons are far better. Even a dedicated C mouthpiece does not help. The 4C is still my choice for a C soprano.
You can always put cork rings in the upper edge of the lower tone holes but even that along with lowering RH key openings is just a partial fix.
There may be another solution, at least to this horn. I've found with sopranos, especially "C" sopranos, that the left hand stack needs pads thinner than the standard .165". My Buescher C sop HAD to have thinner pads, no way around it, and .135" did it for me. I also had to use these on my True Tone Bb soprano. My Martin Bb soprano barely worked with standard thickness.

So if this Conn has replacement pads in it that are too thick, and it looks like it might, some thinner pads might help - like raising the key height on the LH stack. What do you think?
 

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I think raising the key height of the C, B, A, G keys on the upper stack is the way to go. Since the travel of the Bis pad is limited by the link to the RH, you may create some lost motion between the A touch and the Bis keycup. The only other "mechanical" solution I know of would be to shorten the chimneys of the C, B, and A toneholes, although I don't advise that. How is the pitch of these notes in the second octave? Are they still flat?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Yep, flat both octaves.

I tried pulling the G key up while playing A and the pitch does come up. I think I'll try some thinner pads in the LH stack.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Sorry, can you explain "the 1 + 1 Bb" comment?

By the way, I'm planning on using thinner pads to help "unblock" the tone hole exits. Hopefully not so much as to require bending the keys.
 

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When you play Bb using the B key + the F key, there is a lever that closes the Bb pad. If you open up the left hand, that lever will limit the opening of the Bb pad. I feel it is best to keep pad openings balanced.
 

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Sorry, can you explain "the 1 + 1 Bb" comment?

By the way, I'm planning on using thinner pads to help "unblock" the tone hole exits. Hopefully not so much as to require bending the keys.
Thinner pads will increase the venting and raise the pitch in the same way increasing the key openings will. Depending how much cork is on the feet of the keys on the left hand stack, you can sometimes get away with sanding the cork to open the keys as well. As Bruce Bailey indicated the RH mechanism that closes the bis will limit its opening even though the other keys on the upper stack are opened farther. There is a "workaround" that my mentor taught me which is to put more (or less) curvature in the lever that extends from the hinge tube of the Bis to change the degree that the key is allowed to open when the F key is not pressed.
 

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The original Conn C soprano mp I tried is a large chamber - no?
I am still going to bet that this problem will get a lot better if you push in further (like almost as far as the thing will go) and lower your "input pitch". I didn't say "the problem will be cured"; but I bet it would be a lot better. Why don't you set a tuner at A=445, and tune to that, and then see how the relative intonation of the left hand notes is?

A lot of people who first try out vintage sopranos are surprised by how far on the MP needs to go, compared to modern altos and tenors. In fact I have had to cut off the shanks of my two most-used soprano MPs because they interfere with the post for the upper octave key.

That is how I got my first Holton Bb soprano for cheap - the seller was convinced it was "out of tune". I took a moderate desgin MP and shoved it all the way on there and voila! intonation!

Now, I know C sopranos are a slightly dodgy beast at the best of times, but I still urge you to try out what I'm talking about, before adjusting key heights. For one thing, C sopranos are pretty wild anyway and wide open left hand key heights will probably make them even wilder.

That said, you may well, in the end, have to tweak some key heights; it's all a compromise; be prepared to accept some "lost motion" - most technicians have been indoctrinated that all lost motion must be obliterated at all costs, but sometimes you have to have a bit of it. As long as you're not filing on metal, it's all reversible. The only thing thinner pads will do is to allow you to get a higher pad height without having to modify the key foot; all the issues about adjusting key interactions will still be the same.

But going back to my point (there was one in there somewhere, wasn't there?) I would suggest pushing in and getting real familiar with the intonation tendencies of the instrument before starting to change key heights. I think it's not a good idea to start changing setup based on a few minutes' playing. We need some hours of practice on an instrument before the intonation locks in and we are able to really identify which notes tend which way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I am still going to bet that this problem will get a lot better if you push in further (like almost as far as the thing will go) and lower your "input pitch". I didn't say "the problem will be cured"; but I bet it would be a lot better. Why don't you set a tuner at A=445, and tune to that, and then see how the relative intonation of the left hand notes is?

A lot of people who first try out vintage sopranos are surprised by how far on the MP needs to go, compared to modern altos and tenors. In fact I have had to cut off the shanks of my two most-used soprano MPs because they interfere with the post for the upper octave key.

That is how I got my first Holton Bb soprano for cheap - the seller was convinced it was "out of tune". I took a moderate desgin MP and shoved it all the way on there and voila! intonation!

Now, I know C sopranos are a slightly dodgy beast at the best of times, but I still urge you to try out what I'm talking about, before adjusting key heights. For one thing, C sopranos are pretty wild anyway and wide open left hand key heights will probably make them even wilder.

That said, you may well, in the end, have to tweak some key heights; it's all a compromise; be prepared to accept some "lost motion" - most technicians have been indoctrinated that all lost motion must be obliterated at all costs, but sometimes you have to have a bit of it. As long as you're not filing on metal, it's all reversible. The only thing thinner pads will do is to allow you to get a higher pad height without having to modify the key foot; all the issues about adjusting key interactions will still be the same.

But going back to my point (there was one in there somewhere, wasn't there?) I would suggest pushing in and getting real familiar with the intonation tendencies of the instrument before starting to change key heights. I think it's not a good idea to start changing setup based on a few minutes' playing. We need some hours of practice on an instrument before the intonation locks in and we are able to really identify which notes tend which way.
Good advice, and yes I've done all of what you suggest. I have several C sopranos that I noodle on regularly, and you're right all the mouthpieces go almost the octave pip. I've turned the shanks off a couple mouthpieces for this reason.

The tuning break is about a 50 cent change, at best; With the mouthpiece playing G ~20 cents sharp, the A, B, and C are ~30 cents flat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Well, I am SO still learning! I think I fixed 90% of the problem. I should have noticed this earlier.

On this Conn Pan American C sop stencil for Selmer, the lever for the body octave key dictates the G key height - I think kind of like my old Martin Handcraft soprano. Which, in turn, dictates the height of the A key, which in turn dictates the height of the B key. So, I put in a new, sanded-thin body octave key pad and bent the body octave lever up a bit. I'm amazed at how easily it bent. The key heights came up, the intonation is now MUCH better (Yamaha 5C) and it didn't seem to screw up the action any. I haven't put the thinner LH stack pads in yet but I think they would get me the other 10%.

GUINNESS moment! :)
 
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