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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm a middle level player, I did my honours degree in jazz performance on tenor several years ago, and I've always been insecure about my intonation.

I've just changed from a contemporary horn to an early MkVI, 66***, and I've decided to focus on cleaning up my tuning as much as possible while I get to know the horn.

I'm hoping everyone on here can throw me as many different tuning/intonation exercises as possible to really help me out- I want to spend the next 6 months or so really getting it down, and I want to approach it from as many sides as possible.

Anyone?
 

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Do you have a tuner? If you don't, buy one. And then it's down to long tones with the tuner to get your intonation stable and correct.

You might want to play a little with the position of the mouthpiece : I noticed that I can play "in tune" with different mpc-positions, but there is one that is more comfortable over the whole range of the horn.
 

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If you really want to focus on intonation, play long tones with a tuner, or a keyboard where you can sustain the notes.

Intonation issues on different saxes is always a matter of compensation.

Hearing the note beforehand is also important IMO.
 

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Hey Jolle, you beat me to it. As I was typing there were no replies yet!
It Seems that our answers are alike.

Are you also on a lunch break?
 

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StuEarl said:
I'm a middle level player, I did my honours degree in jazz performance on tenor several years ago, and I've always been insecure about my intonation.

I've just changed from a contemporary horn to an early MkVI, 66***, and I've decided to focus on cleaning up my tuning as much as possible while I get to know the horn.

I'm hoping everyone on here can throw me as many different tuning/intonation exercises as possible to really help me out- I want to spend the next 6 months or so really getting it down, and I want to approach it from as many sides as possible.

Anyone?
I have found practicing overtone matching has helped me tremendously with intonation amongst other things. The process is well described in Sigurd Rascher's Top Tones book. Basically you alternate each overtone in a series with the fingered note on the horn. Try to get them in tune (with each other and some reliable reference) first, then try to match the timbre as much as possible. For the Bb series, most horns I have played tend to be a little sharp on the first few overtones, but these can be brought in tune. Eventually you will be able to "imagine" the sound in your head (with the right tuning), know the feeling needed to produce it, and then play the overtone in pitch and all. The relationship between the overtones vary from one horn to another. I use this exercise as a way to help become acquainted with an unfamiliar horn and its tuning discrepanc... er, I mean characteristics.
 

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Concerning tuner I often use this one on my PC to work on intonation.

http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~tuner/tuner_e.html
=> Browse to tuner_e.sit

Very convenient. It "recognizes" the note you play and shows the tuning with in nice Hz indicator (including +/- % sharp/flat). Also: you can finely tune the basis A-440Hz, set % tolerance. There is also an instrument fingering frame with SAT saxophone available - a bit of a gadget though.

Now the bad side is that you have to work in front of your computer. Not a problem for me.
Guess you have to make sure your soundcard is correct - I must admit I did not make enhance testing
 

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"The Tuning CD" is a wonderful product. Helps one HEAR correct intonation and learn how to adjust the throat/embouchure to achieve it. I highly recommend it.
 

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As matty points out, it is important to hear how your tone matches up with others. The tuner is important and essential, but it's not the whole story. Matching tones with a keyboard, the "tuning cd" and especially, other players in a band is also very important.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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A markVI can be quite difficult for intonation, especially after a modern horn. It's good to know where the mouthpiece works best for the horn, and adjust your embouchure. It can be worth trying out different things, e.g. tune just a little bit sharper than usual, then use your embouchure to bring the note down to pitch (using a tuner or keyboard). If this helps at all it's very useful as this new more relaxed embouchure can mean that when you use vibrato, it won't necessarily flatten the pitch as you have some leeway to vib up and down round the core pitch.

I found that the best way to get good intonation is ear training, specifically learning to sing. Don't matter if you are a bad singer, just practising the scales and sight singing will help.
 

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backer said:
I have found practicing overtone matching has helped me tremendously with intonation amongst other things. The process is well described in Sigurd Rascher's Top Tones book. Basically you alternate each overtone in a series with the fingered note on the horn. Try to get them in tune (with each other and some reliable reference) first, then try to match the timbre as much as possible. For the Bb series, most horns I have played tend to be a little sharp on the first few overtones, but these can be brought in tune. Eventually you will be able to "imagine" the sound in your head (with the right tuning), know the feeling needed to produce it, and then play the overtone in pitch and all. The relationship between the overtones vary from one horn to another. I use this exercise as a way to help become acquainted with an unfamiliar horn and its tuning discrepanc... er, I mean characteristics.
Good advice, I would add that by getting harmonic and natural pitches to match you will need to find the correct mouthpiece placement on the neck. You could play in tune with the mouthpiece too far out and embrouchure too tight or too far in and too loose, but the low and high registers of the horn will require constant micromanagement.

If the horn is miscalibrated due the mouthpiece placement being unreasonably far from the design ideal you will find it very hard to match the pitches. Getting the combination of correct mouthpiece placement and correct embrouchure pressure will get you correctly calibrated so the horn can function as it was designed. Tinkering with placement and pressure and pitch matching between the overtones and natural tone is going to help more than you might expect.

If you try this and cannot get it close, then rule out having an impossible or difficult horn as a factor. If your horn has bad tone hole placement it will be very difficult. If you have a lot of trouble with the matching get a better player to try out your horn to see if it works for them. But it sounds like you have a great horn to work with so it's probably not a problem. A tuner is a good tool to use with all this.

Natural fingering = Harmonic fingering
--------------------------------------------
middle Bb = low Bb fingering sounding middle Bb
middle B = low B fingering sounding middle B
middle C = low C fingering sounding middle C

middle F = low Bb fingering sounding middle F
middle F# = low B fingering sounding middle F#
middle G = low C fingering sounding middle G
middle G# = low C# fingering sounding middle G#
middle A = low D fingering sounding middle A
 

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I find playing exercises involving different intervals with a tuner helps. Playing long tones with a tuner is good, but I need to move around the horn to work on keeping my embouchere stable. Most good technique books have scale or chord studies in various intervals.
 

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Pgraves said:
Good advice, I would add that by getting harmonic and natural pitches to match you will need to find the correct mouthpiece placement on the neck. You could play in tune with the mouthpiece too far out and embrouchure too tight or too far in and too loose, but the low and high registers of the horn will require constant micromanagement.
This is a really good point. I like the way this is explained in the following article. This really helped me out when I was getting back into playing alto and struggling with intonation. Now, the mouthpiece is all the way on the cork, the tuning has panned out wonderfully (Yana A992, HR Link 7) and guess what? The low C gurgle I had been experiencing is now completely gone.

http://www.yamaha.ca/advertising/downloads/wsp_articles/Wind_Tips_Duke.pdf
 

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backer said:
and guess what? The low C gurgle I had been experiencing is now completely gone.

That's a great point! I've also noticed that the extreme registers get easier to play when the mpc is in the right spot. Sometimes all it takes is one millimeter in or out, for instance, and the altissimo suddenly locks in.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I've heard of the tuning CD, but haven't picked it up yet. Anyone got some more exotic exercises? I've done the usual interval with tuner, pitch matching, playing high without the octave key, playing low register with the octave key, overtones for years, slow scales with the tonic chord held on a piano with the sustain pedal, I'm looking for REALLY pedantic people's exercises... anyone? I'm looking at Shoosie's mouthpiece exercise (from saxFAQ) at the moment, any opinions on it would be interesting.

Pete, it's interesting you mention tuning sharp and lipping down, I've been experimenting with that for the last few months and am really happy with the change in tone, and increase in breath support it's brought about, although for the louder gigs, I find it less effective in projecting over electric instruments. Any other things you'd suggest messing with?

Backer, that piece on mpc placement by Duke is really cool, I've played around with some of that stuff before, but it's good to hear someone talk with authority on it, cheers.
 

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When I was in college our studio used a tuning CD (I don't know if it's www.thetuningcd.com) and would play simple melodies against it to practice just intonation. This can be done with just the mouthpiece using voicing too. I prefer this over playing unisons against a tuner pitch, the method recommended in high school, which teaches even temperament and isn't as useful in ensemble playing.
 

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It it always like this with alto sax: the intonation of the lower tones are too low ..? I must put my mouthpiece in the bottom of the neckcork and still they are just a little bit low..
 
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