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First I'd like to verify that the notion is even correct in my (fairly inexperienced) head: Can I assume that given all other things being equal (player skill, appropriate embrochure, skill in positioning of larynx/throat/oral space, breath support, etc)....that there are makes of tenor horns that have better or worse intonation tendencies? That is, when one note is tuned to say 440, the other notes may or may not be easily brought into tune by the (previously mentioned) player skill. If my notion is correct, then I will ask the next question: are there tenor makes with better intonation tendencies ("more forgiving" of my skill limit) than others? I currently play alto in an SATB quartet, but want to branch out (and want to arrange some ATTB pieces), and intend to spend ~$3000 or less. Thanks.
Jim
 

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You'll get TONS of diverse opinions on this one! Good luck trying to find the true answer to your request!
+1. For example, given that no saxophone plays perfectly, automatically in tune, is it better to have one with a bit more tonal flexibility, allowing you to make those necessary subtle adjustments more easily, or one that is more 'slotted' in tonally, making it more difficult to adjust, but perhaps not needing as much adjustment?

Who knows? Just don't buy into the common myth that vintage horns can't be played well in tune or that modern horns are perfectly in tune. There really are no shortcuts to using your ear and learning to play in tune on a saxophone; any saxophone. So don't worry about looking for a 'more forgiving' horn, it doesn't exist.
 

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+1. For example, given that no saxophone plays perfectly, automatically in tune, is it better to have one with a bit more tonal flexibility, allowing you to make those necessary subtle adjustments more easily, or one that is more 'slotted' in tonally, making it more difficult to adjust, but perhaps not needing as much adjustment?

Who knows? Just don't buy into the common myth that vintage horns can't be played well in tune or that modern horns are perfectly in tune. There really are no shortcuts to using your ear and learning to play in tune on a saxophone; any saxophone. So don't worry about looking for a 'more forgiving' horn, it doesn't exist.
+1

For what it's worth, Yamahas have a reputation for being "easy" to play in tune, but...

... it depends totally on the specific player and the specific horn. When you go to try out some tenors, bring a tuner, and figure out which one plays most easily in tune FOR YOU.

Good luck, have fun!
 

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Well, "it doesn't exist" seems like kind of an extreme position. For example ... I have a King Zephyr tenor from around 1935, which is supposed to be a model/year that would be plagued by intonation difficulties. A local repairman went over it and did a good job adjusting key heights, among other things, and it came out pretty fair in my opinion, but there was a note or two he couldn't bring to where he was satisfied with it. The music I play is frankly rather forgiving, and it isn't an issue for me, but I sure wouldn't suggest this model for jfuchs to play in a more legit context. It isn't a problem for me, but I am positive that there are better in tune saxophones than this one (reportedly even the same model a few years later, as the Zephyr is supposed to have been revised in the late '30s.)

But if you're getting a $3000 tenor, you wouldn't have run into that one anyway. I guess my take would be in the end not too different -- start with other properties you care about, and then when you're down to a few actual candidates, check for unusual history of intonation problems. Looking for an older US made model, or French or Italian? or maybe a Yanigasawa is more what you had in mind? Have certain tonal qualities you think you might be able to get? etc. Then be aware that whatever you get in the end, if the key heights are wrong, it will play out of tune, so you have to get that fixed by someone who knows what he or she is doing!
 

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I actually believe that there are makes of horns that are more consistently in tune - some of the Taiwanese horns for example. A specific example would be Cannonball, but here's the thing: those horns are hand finished and play tested by professional-level saxophonists on staff, so they are able to address stray intonation issues. I don't know what Selmer and Yamaha do regarding post-production, but the numerous examples I have played have had pretty poor intonation and response....
...then I realized that none of the horns of those two brands I had tried had been properly set up by a good tech.

So I think the bottom line is that most horns will play rather well in tune if they receive the right attention from someone who knows what they are doing.

Case-in-point: I play sax for the Army and my government tenor is a Yamaha Custom, which played grossly out of tune (50 cents difference sharpest to flattest) and had response issues in the low register. We sent it to the local tech (who isn't stellar, but fairly decent) and when he was finished the action was tight, quick and quiet; the response issues in the low register were gone and the intonation issues were minimal, except in the upper register, where the palm keys were so sharp (about 20 cents?) I couldn't vocalize them down. The tech fiddled with them for a bit and now they are still about 10 cents sharp, but manageable. In short, the horn plays great now.
 

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More than once I have heard technicians and pros comparing a vintage Selmer to a Yamaha of any era. The consensus is: "do you want a horn with personality that doesn't necessarily play in tune or do you want to play well in tune at the sacrifice of personality and character"? Both saxes have distinct pluses but it's the comparison of minuses that begins to confuse. May I recommend a Yamaha custom Z un-lacquered as a possible compromise bridge horn between the two extremes. At the request of a band director in California I took his "classically trained", college bound, high school senior's newly purchased markVI tenor and repadded it. Then both teacher and student came in and notated the intonation and asked that I install cork crescents (in the tone holes and bell throat) to make each note play perfectly in tune!!! Do you have any idea how difficult this request is on an old Selmer?!?! I had a few pro customers come through the shop and play and marvel at the horn during all phases of the crescent installation process. I received some of the most evil "DIE NOW" looks you can imagine! "You are destroying a perfectly good Mark VI!". I showed each pro the intonation graph that looked like a nauseating roller coaster ride. They just laughed and said that's where practice and long tones comes in to learn how to play your axe. I finished the 4 hour crescent job (including shaving back cork at player request) over 3 separate visits/attempts anyways (200$)

I don't have too many suggestions about horns without knowing more about what kind of sound you are looking for and your mouthpiece and reed set up. Little things like ligatures and resonators and pad heights and pad leaks, etc all contribute of course. If you find a horn you can't live without but certain notes play sharp relative to the majority of notes then crescents are always an option
 

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You say that you are fairly inexperienced. In that case it is even more important that you ignore horn intonation reputations and just focus on having a good horn that sounds good to your ears and that is in great playing condition.

Some of the greatest players ever learned on and recorded on horns that supposedly have bad intonation. You can put a tuner to some video tracks and even note some intonation difficulties. Who cares, they sound great!

A separate issue is the posing of this question. Consider that the responses will represent "self-reporting", certainly the least accurate and most suspect type of reporting. You will read over and over on this forum that "xx horn has a reputation for poor intonation but mine is within 5 cents.....". Everyone has the exception. Nobody has the bad horns.

Have a really good tech check over and adjust your horn and just play, play, play. Every time you start wondering about the intonation of your horn relative to other brands just go practice. You'll get a lot further with practice than trying to sort generalized intonation differences between horns as reported by strangers.
 

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I noticed my G key was more open than the rest, no wonder my A was sharp.
I brought it down and that A was controllable
 

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No woodwind or brand of woodwind has perfect intonation. There are various trade-offs between response, tone and intonation that every manufacturer has to contend with. A well designed and accurately made instrument will attempt balance these issues with respect to playability. An experienced player will learn to adjust to the instrument and bend out-lying notes closer to the pitch centre.

http://sax.mpostma.nl/EN/Meetw/Intonatie.html

http://sax.mpostma.nl/EN/Meetw/IntonatieT.html
 

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First I'd like to verify that the notion is even correct in my (fairly inexperienced) head: Can I assume that given all other things being equal (player skill, appropriate embrochure, skill in positioning of larynx/throat/oral space, breath support, etc)....that there are makes of tenor horns that have better or worse intonation tendencies? That is, when one note is tuned to say 440, the other notes may or may not be easily brought into tune by the (previously mentioned) player skill. If my notion is correct, then I will ask the next question: are there tenor makes with better intonation tendencies ("more forgiving" of my skill limit) than others? I currently play alto in an SATB quartet, but want to branch out (and want to arrange some ATTB pieces), and intend to spend ~$3000 or less. Thanks.
Jim
This simply will not work. Change the key height and you change the intonation. Also the intonation is playerspecific and also depends on what he is used to (horn, mpc, reed). Also not all necks are the same, different dimension, different intonation.
But also most of the time horns of the same model are not really the same and intonation differs from sax to sax. Sometimes it only is the keyheight again, but there could also be other reasons for this.
There is no chance to really objectively get meaningful results.
 

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I see two different aspects of tuning in a saxophone.
One is "how easy is to play in tune" rather than flexibility. Yamaha comes to mind first, but many other modern horns (a few Taiwanese) follow this path.
I personally prefer flexibility, but it is a personal opinion. My horns are definitely not out of tune, but are easier to sharpen/flatten than other Taiwanese.

The other aspect is a generic tendency in the registers. When my maker compares my playing with the one of the other endorser (classical guy) he sees that he would prefer a flatter bottom range, I would prefer a sharper one, since I tend to subtone more.
Similar thoughts could be about the high register. I am used to stay very relaxed, classical musicians tend to have a firmer embouchure.

Usually a different mouthpiece match could compensate this tendency.
 

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But also most of the time horns of the same model are not really the same and intonation differs from sax to sax. .
Sounds like a minefield ... For the OP ... Yes, some brands are going to be more in tune than other brands. Players are all different but the tendencies of brands tends to stays the same.

After gaining some experience (maybe a lot of experience, depending), and using your ear, you should be able to play almost anything acceptably in tune, if it's operating properly and set up correctly. Even big bore horns with tons of flexibility. Playing in tune is a matter for the player to learn how to do, but some horns will help more than others. If intonation is a serious consideration, get a Yamaha. If it feels too restricted, you can put a larger bore neck on it, for more flexibility (e.g., Custom V1 for the Yamaha).

I don't think it's always an either/or situation where you get flexibility and character of tone OR good intonation ... like some suggest. When you find a horn with both attributes, you're set. It's better not to judge horns until they've had a good setup.

Turtle
 
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