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I got this idea from Steve Neff.

For those that haven't checked out his lessons, I can't recommend them highly enough.

Steve has a great lesson on intonation. He talks about playing in tune, what that means and how to know when you're playing in tune and when you aren't.
Steve also talks about how to check the intonation on a prospective horn purchase and why this is the most important thing to look for on any horn you might be considering. The lesson covers various ways to learn to adjust for intonation quirks on your horn from voicing the note to changing the direction of your air stream and more. Steve demonstrates all these concepts and really does a fantastic job of guiding you through the process of becoming aware of your intonation and then fixing any problems you might have.

One of Steve's suggestions, was to map out the intonation tendencies of your horn. You can't fix it if you don't know it's broke right?

So, having recently added a "The Martin" alto to my collection, I decided this was a really good idea. I wasn't happy with the intonation on too many notes. I love the sound of this horn but it's gonna take some work to learn to play it in tune.

I plotted the results in a spreadsheet and came up with the chart below. I used two mouthpieces for comparison.

The first, a Meyer 6M that had been opened up a little to around a 7. The second, a Jody Jazz Classic 6 (the old blue one) that has also been opened up to around a 7. Rico Royal 3 reeds on both.

I wanted to get an idea of what the horn's natural tendencies were. Rather than play each note whilst watching the tuner, I played a short lick or scale as I targeted each note on the horn, from bottom Bb (Bb1) up to palm key F (F3). I played the lick, landed on the target note tried to centre the note and held it. I played at about 90% volume and aimed for a big full sound on each note. Then I looked at the tuner and jotted down the result.

The chart is below. I'd encourage everyone to give this a go. It's a real eye opener. For more info on Steve Neff's great lesson on intonation, visit his website http://www.neffmusic.com/cms/index....er_id=0&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=88888928



(edit) The data table at the bottom of the chart isn't quite right. Must've gone astray when I resized it. The values in the chart itself are the correct ones.
 

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I agree that knowing the intonation tendencies of your instrument is a good idea. The system that I was taught was to tune the instrument to the tuning note and then play a slow chromatic scale up from that note and then down keeping the embouchure the same and trying not to lip (humor) notes that are out of tune. The key to this system is that someone else watches the tuner and charts the notes. This is done at least 3 times to verify the pattern of the instrument's intonation.

Of course if poor playing habits are involved like loosening the embouchure for the low notes and/or biting for the high notes, the chart measures the player's intonation tendencies and not those of the saxophone.

BTW your chart looks very nice. What program did you use to create it?

John
 

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I just used Excel and then copied the chart into MS Paint. Saved the image and uploaded it.

I didn't have anyone there to help with the test and whilst I agree that your method is a good one, I wanted to chart how the horn and mouthpiece respond as I play. I tried to play just as I would when it's time to take a solo. I wanted a picture of how the intonation is when I play, rather than when I carefully test intonation. This brings all my ingrained playing habits into the equation, buts that's also a part of the whole picture.
 

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I agree that knowing the intonation tendencies of your instrument is a good idea. The system that I was taught was to tune the instrument to the tuning note and then play a slow chromatic scale up from that note and then down keeping the embouchure the same and trying not to lip (humor) notes that are out of tune. The key to this system is that someone else watches the tuner and charts the notes. This is done at least 3 times to verify the pattern of the instrument's intonation.

Of course if poor playing habits are involved like loosening the embouchure for the low notes and/or biting for the high notes, the chart measures the player's intonation tendencies and not those of the saxophone.

BTW your chart looks very nice. What program did you use to create it?

John
Sharp notes are easy to voice down to pitch. Flat notes are very difficult to fix without altering fingerings. I tune the flatest note on the horn and it all seems to fall in place using my ear and some help with a tuner. On my altos, middle C# is the flattest note. That's the note I tune, sometimes leaving it slightly flat.
mm
 

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On your chart, does negative = flat and postive = sharp?

I did something like this years ago trying to improve the intonation of a Buescher C sop sax. It can be difficult to get good (consitent) results. I took mutiple readings in random order. Playing a lick before the target note on some sets and just the target note on others. Sometimes playing a lick gives your ear a reference point on what the target pitch should be and you lip it so it sounds good at the end of the lick. But that is also how you normally play your sax so having that as part of your "system" may not be so bad.

This also may be a better topic under "Acoustics".
 

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Discussion Starter #6
On your chart, does negative = flat and postive = sharp?

I did something like this years ago trying to improve the intonation of a Buescher C sop sax. It can be difficult to get good (consitent) results. I took mutiple readings in random order. Playing a lick before the target note on some sets and just the target note on others. Sometimes playing a lick gives your ear a reference point on what the target pitch should be and you lip it so it sounds good at the end of the lick. But that is also how you normally play your sax so having that as part of your "system" may not be so bad.

This also may be a better topic under "Acoustics".
Mojo,

Yes. Below the 0 line is flat and above is sharp. As I said above, I wanted a real situation picture of the intonation. The weird thing is, I can get all but the worst of these notes to play in the green when I just play the note in isolation.
 

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The general trend of the low notes flat and the high notes sharp can be helped by using a smaler chambered mouthpiece and pulling out some. You can try some putty in your mouthpiece and test for yourself. It will not take the note-to-note zig-zag out of your plot, but it will tilt each octave to be more level.

There are things that can be done with pad heights to some extend and tone hole size. Also bore reduction to flatten the relatively sharp low Bb...
 

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I have my students fill out a similar chart if they're having issues--to get to know both their horns and their own tendencies. Most surprising in yours is the flatness of D2-Eb2-E2, which are typically sharp notes. Just points out how different every horn/player is. One question--the graph suggests some pitches are -10, -20, and -30 cents, but the numbers below indicate only -1, -2, and -3. I assume that you're talking about the larger increments, correct?
 

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One question--the graph suggests some pitches are -10, -20, and -30 cents, but the numbers below indicate only -1, -2, and -3. I assume that you're talking about the larger increments, correct?
Yeah. The numbers got messed up when I resized the image. The charts is correct but some of the numbers below the chart aren't fully displayed.
 

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On your chart, does negative = flat and postive = sharp?

I did something like this years ago trying to improve the intonation of a Buescher C sop sax. It can be difficult to get good (consitent) results. I took mutiple readings in random order. Playing a lick before the target note on some sets and just the target note on others. Sometimes playing a lick gives your ear a reference point on what the target pitch should be and you lip it so it sounds good at the end of the lick. But that is also how you normally play your sax so having that as part of your "system" may not be so bad.

This also may be a better topic under "Acoustics".
If you are charting a horn that is new to you, wouldn't you automatically play the scale with the adjustments you were automatically making on the horn you were used to. How do you know you are not adjusting based on the
horn you are used to playing. Can we be certain we are obtaining true intonation tendencies or just intonation tendencies in comparison with our regular horn. Does this make sense?
mm
 

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The general trend of the low notes flat and the high notes sharp can be helped by using a smaler chambered mouthpiece and pulling out some. You can try some putty in your mouthpiece and test for yourself. It will not take the note-to-note zig-zag out of your plot, but it will tilt each octave to be more level.

There are things that can be done with pad heights to some extend and tone hole size. Also bore reduction to flatten the relatively sharp low Bb...
Mojo, this is interesting. I've always been led to believe that the Martins liked large chambered pieces. I still have my old Soloist and was considering giving it a try on the Martin. The Meyer sounds good on the horn. The JJ sounds better, but can get a little loud and bright for big band playing, considering I'm not the lead alto.

The horn could do with a good going over by a knowledgeable tech. It's not leaking but I'd like to get the pad heights checked.
 

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Hey DP,

Who needs a graph: my intonation patterns are burned into my brain! First thing I think about when I wake up, last thing before I go to sleep:(.

I'm surprised that you play relatively flat A2 through B2 and then sharp in the palm keys, E3-F3. That's the exact opposite of my Martin: A2-B2 sharp, then E3-F#3 are flat.

In general, however, the pattern of the lower half being flatter than the upper half holds.

BTW: I was going to say the same thing about Mojo's comment: on my Martin a smaller chamber piece exacerbates the intonation quirks. Even changing from a USA STM to a NY model makes a real difference.

Rory
 

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Great thread, Dog Pants. I picked up the soprano this year, (after 10 years away from it), and have rediscovered the "joys of intonation".....Man!! Kudos to you for the work and graphing it out; I'm lazy and I haven't done that yet. And as usual Neff has got some great ideas on the subject.
I have been using a different method lately with some success. I've been working with my computer, using a software tuner to play notes as pedals, (typically the root or fifth; other notes are great to improvise over but are less useful for tuning purposes), then playing over the pedals, listening carefully. The idea is to engage the ears, to hear the tuning problems and correct them on the fly. I've noticed with students, (and me, too), that sometimes we get good at tuning well with the tuner and then go right back to playing out of tune away from the tuner. Working with your ears and your habits of playing is the key.
This is by no means to take the place of using the tuner to check your intonation, but a way to compliment it......and it's fun.........Daryl
 

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Sounds like a good idea. I'm lucky; my buescher would be within 5-10 cents over the entire range :D.
 

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Starting on middle c and tuning to that note going down on my Steve Goodson Model alto.....C -0, B -0, SIDE Bb -6, BIS Bb-0, A -0, G# -5, G -5, F# -0, F -0, E -5, Eb -5, D -5, C# -0, C -0, B -0, Bb +10

Starting on middle C going up .... C -0, C# -10, D + 10, D# +10, E + 5, F -0, F# -0, G -0, G# -0, A -0 , SIDE Bb -10, BIS Bb -0, B -0, C -0, C# -0, PALM D -5, D# -5, PALM E -5, FORK E-0, PALM F -0, FORK F + 10, F# KEY - 5, FORK F + SIDE Bb +5.

I have only had this horn for less than 2 weeks so some of it may be due to playing my yamaha altos for 10 years. I am trying not to favor any notes but it does get ingrained in your head without realizing it.

Sorry this doesn't look as cool as dogpants's graph.

I will check my tenor tomorrow.
 

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What a wonderful (and for myself, frightening) idea. I'm going to try to get the time to do this on my alto and soprano over the next few weeks.
 

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DP,
What a great idea for a thread. It will be interesting to see the result and if there are consistent tendencies with certain horns or not. My first thought when I looked at your chart was to wonder if you low C, B and Bb pads are low. If they are set low this will bring the intonation down on the D's, low C and low B. Just wondering. Many saxes have adjustment screws to bring those pads up or down although I don't know your Martin. Steve
 

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Also, just to ask......are you sure the graph didn't plot the results backwards. It says your middle B is sharp and your middle E is quite flat. I think that is pretty rare. I've never played a sax that had that. Almost all the ones I have played have had a right on or flat B and a sharp E. I wonderede if it plotted the results backwards. Steve
 

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I have some intonation tests on my Cheap Instruments site in my signature: "Hawk" Tenor Sax, Conn 20M Mexi-conn, DC Pro Sopranino, Winston Baritone, Heimer Soprano, Victory Alto, and a couple of clarinets.

As a rank amateur I believe that someone with a better embouchure, even without trying to play in tune, would get better results than I did. I have a tendency to be sharp in the upper register and flat in the lower register on ALL saxes.

Regardless, if you want to see the results, they're there on the site.
 

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So you tune to Bb, or concert A to do this?
I'm going to do this when I get a new tuner. Mine had a terrible accident involving a two story deck and concrete ground...:cry:
 
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