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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I went to purchase an alto (Yamaha 82Z or Mark 7) from a very respected dealer. I am trying them out and he pulls out a tuner. I get in tune for middle A and Bb but when I go up octive I am way off. I use a Morgan EL 8 mpc, he hates it. I try out a Ponzol 85..still out of tune. He gives me a Myer 6 to use then a SR Legend. I can't play in tune. He won't sell me a horn until my teacher comes in with me. My teacher is on tour. At home I am using a Cannonball alto and the same problem: get A then higher A is 20 cents off, and so are most other notes, plus or minus a dime or two.
 

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This is a pretty common problem. Your throat is not open enough as you go higher, so the pitch raises. Long tones with a tuner helps.

Check that you are blowing a concert A on the mouthpiece alone. Using this embouchure, play each note of a scale using the tuner. It's very revealing!
 

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That's right, and it is a particularly common problem on altos.

If you go sharp in the high end, you need to relax and open your throat when you go up there, and don't pinch your embouchre. You can't learn the proper throat voicing until your embouchre is stable.

In addition, there are some interesting articles on setting the mpc in the right place on the cork. I've found that if I tune to the low notes while voicing them up slightly, then remember to voice down when I play in the high end, my intonation gets better. Through practice, it should become natural.


(I'm not an expert, but I play one on TV.)
 

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You might try checking the mouthpiece pitch you are putting into the saxophone. Play the mouthpiece alone with your regular air and embouchure and see what pitch is produced. The alto mouthpiece should be an A concert (or slightly lower for jazz). Playing higher than this pitch on the mouthpiece can result in the upper register of the sax sounding pinched and can cause the higher octave notes to be sharp relative to their lower octave counterparts.

Another way to check the alto input pitch is to play the mouthpiece and neck combination. Ab concert is the target pitch when using this test. Remember that no saxophone/mouthpiece combination is going to play perfectly in tune without some listening and adjusting by the player, but having the correct embouchure can go a long way to minimize the adjustments needed to play the upper octave in tune.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
this is all very helpful...something i am going to practice. thank you very much.
 

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I had the same problem for a long time: as was mentioned, it is very common. It was a result of my throat being to closed. The way I fixed it was w/ throat slides. I still do these every day. I will start on palm D and work up by half steps to F# (I've since expanded the technique into my altissimo work, something to keep in mind.) Without changing my embouchure (Ensuring it is correct using the concert A test mentioned before) I bend the pitch down, the goal being to bend it a P4.

Doing this every day will 1-train your throat to play more openly, 2-improve your control of your throat muscles (and probably your tongue as well) and ultimately improve your tuning. Of course be sure to use a tuner or, (and I prefer this) either a tuning CD or a drone pitch of some other kind, off of a tuner or a piano if possible. Remember, the key is to find that right embouchure, and to lock it in. Put together everything on this thread ( ;) ) and you'll be fine.

Happy practicing....
 

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There are a number of exercises that I do to help with this problem. The first one is to play from octave to octave. Play high G and then a low G with out taking a breathe and without changing your em brochure. Play long tones: 4-8 beats per note. Go up a half step and continue. Reverse the exercise and start with a low G to high G. Do it for every combination of notes from low C to high F.

The other exercise that works for me is the start on and low c. Play from low C to octave C really fast (eight notes at a fast tempo) without changing your embrochure. Master this without tonguing first. Because you are playing so fast, you will not have time to change your embrochure. The idea is to override the impulse to change your embrochure. Still consciously focus on not changing it. Put as much are through the horn as you can and don't take a breath. When you get to high C, hold it out. Then go back down. Eventually, start on low Bb and go up to high F. Keep inventing exercises like these that challenge yourself to play the entire range of the horn with the same embrochure and with good air support.
 

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I'm primarily a tenor and bari player, but I've got a rare lead alto gig this weekend. Pulled the horn out yesterday and sure enough - sharp on top, flat down low. In addition to doing the long tones, I decided to drop down a half size on my reed. Voila - right in tune. I think the natural relaxation of playing a softer reed helped immensely. I figure I'll do that again today, then work back up to my normal reed strength tomorrow and Saturday.

I've also got to work on my clarinet chops for this gig - that will probably foul everything up!
 

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Bikedog said:
I can't play in tune. He won't sell me a horn until my teacher comes in with me.
All great advice in the posts above. I can't really add anything on the intonation issue except to keep working at it. But what really caught my eye was the fact that this dealer won't sell you a horn until you can play in tune!? How does he stay in business? I do understand that maybe he doesn't want to release yet another out-of-tune sax player on the world, but come on......Besides, how are you supposed to learn to play in tune if you don't have a sax?

Anyway, you'll get it together with practice. The first step is to realize you're out of tune; only then can you correct it.
 

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I'm mostly a tenor/bari player too. I find after a layoff on alto, I bite the upper range sharp. My fix is to drop to softer reed or smaller tip opening mouthpiece. But I prefer an .085" tip sound so a MS reed usually fixes me up. If the reed is too stiff, the notes do not respond as easily as you would like. So you compensate by closing off the tip opening with your embouchure. But this drives the pitch up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
The dealer, in all fairness, wanted to make sure the horn was in-tune...and I could not play in tune, could not make up my mind and was all flustered by the discovery of Being out of tune...he said "come back with your teacher" and let's see what he says. I am going back to the store tomorrow and talk again with him. My teacher spoke to me on the phone, said it'll come with time and work.

I have been working on some of YOUR advice and what I discovered..(maybe this be the birth of yet another Bad Habit)...that when I cup my tongue around the reed..almost like a sub-tone technique, I can control the pitch better. I kind of keep the edges of the reed between a rolled tongue.

Before I have kept my tongue off the reed entirely, unless I needed control to go to low notes. My mouth was an open cavity where I pushed as much air as I could. I have been concentrating on opening the throat..and also caressing the reed with my tongue.

Also went from a 2H Rico Select to a 2S reed.

this afternoon i picked up a Yamaha 82Z in lacquer, tired a silver Z and this one won out...nowback into the shed, with the tuner and all these fine techniques.
 

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What a great thread! Thanks everyone. Does this mean if I practice thoss slides I can take the panty hose off my sax neck?;)

I'll just add that, if you want to see a truly sublime example of a relaxed alto embouchure, check out the youtube clip of Cleanhead Vinson that Dogpants just put up!

Rory
 

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I have the same problem on my tenor (I'm using a guitar tuner at 440mhz, comes out the same) I can get a few notes in tune but the rest is also out. I've noticed that there are more ways of changing the pitch is that right? One is loosening your embouchure, so it drops. But how do I raise it? It's something with your diaphragm or throat, but I don't know how to adjust this. Can you guys explain this to me with something daily that involves the same action?
 

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you change your oral cavity with your tongue, throat and neck.if you keep a constant high pressure of air flowing you can speed it up or slow it down woth the size of the air cavity. for altissimo you would bring the back of the tongue up to close down the opening and therefore speed the air up, much like closing down the nozzle on a water hose sprayer.
if your too wide the air is unstable and not focused.the pitch drops. is not clean, like a wide open water nozzle.
start with tongue position, moving up and down and around. take your top teeth off of the mouthpiece and see if you can play a note. should be flat, but very rich tonally.if you can't blow a note then your embouchure needs work.
 

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Hammertime said:
I have the same problem on my tenor (I'm using a guitar tuner at 440mhz, comes out the same) I can get a few notes in tune but the rest is also out. I've noticed that there are more ways of changing the pitch is that right? One is loosening your embouchure, so it drops. But how do I raise it? It's something with your diaphragm or throat, but I don't know how to adjust this. Can you guys explain this to me with something daily that involves the same action?
Just a couple of ideas (sorry I'm off to a rehearsal):

First of all, there's no such thing as 'perfect' intonation.

That being said, you want to establish a confidence interval (plus of minus a number of cents that you will define as being 'in tune'). As you practice intonation over the months, the goal is to shrink the confidence interval, until you are pretty much spot on in pitch.

I don't recommend trying to tune with your embouchure---you end up adjusting for each pitch, and accuracy becomes less.

The throat and airstream are the best way. Try this: play a b2, and start a bit flat. Without changing anything else, try bringing it up to pitch by increasing the speed of air from your diaphragm. Amazingly enough, with a bit of practice this way, the pitch will raise. When you get this stable, try D3. It will probably be sharp, but with the airstream you can make the pitch go down.

I'm sure others will have bits to add here. That's why I love this forum.
 

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move your airstream to the bottom of the saxophone tube. A with the register key should have the same airstream as A without the register. D with the register should be the same as D without. visualize where you are on the saxophone tube and put your air under your fingers. your pitch and tone quality will both improve dramatically, as will also your facility. interval and octave leaps are much simpler when all you have to do is put down or release fingers.
 

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hakukani said:
Just a couple of ideas (sorry I'm off to a rehearsal):

I don't recommend trying to tune with your embouchure---you end up adjusting for each pitch, and accuracy becomes less.

The throat and airstream are the best way. Try this: play a b2, and start a bit flat. Without changing anything else, try bringing it up to pitch by increasing the speed of air from your diaphragm. Amazingly enough, with a bit of practice this way, the pitch will raise. When you get this stable, try D3. It will probably be sharp, but with the airstream you can make the pitch go down.

I'm sure others will have bits to add here. That's why I love this forum.
While I agree that tuning with the embouchure isn't correct, people will have to experiment with their embouchure to find the embouchure that plays closest to in tune over the entire range of the horn. Then it will be close enough to adjust with the throat and airstream. Of course if the airstream isn't there when you're working on embouchure it'll be off.
That's why we have to play many, many long tones everyday.... working out the balancing act of embouchure, air and voicing slowly over one's lifetime.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
that's what I have been doing: playing long tones, and watching the &^%$# tuner needle. am getting better, I see some progress. think my mouthpiece is all wrong for me...Morgan EL8, and working on a classic Ponzol 85 and a SR Legend they seem to be better for me. openning up my throat and really loosening my Bite on the mouthpiece. now this Airstream idea and the averageshoe's idea of mental focus on the sax tube will give me something to practice this week...thank you all, very helpful advice.
 

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If I recall correctly, you are going in for a first rehearsal with a community band tonight, right?
If your intonation is an issue, you might want to pickup a cheap clip on mic and run it into your tuner during rehearsal to give you a visual of where your pitch might be in relation to the ensemble. The oboe player in the local orchestra does this when he is forced into playing unison with our "loud" bassoonist. It might be a help if you have never played with others before.
 

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I have the perfect exercise for you to loosen your Embouchure. Play your G with the register key. And bend the pitch down until it goes to a fuzzy sounding G an octave below, Then do it with the #F. Continue down chromatically. Do it till bE. Aswell, hold the pitch an octave down, don't just hit it and move on. This will autaomatically loosen your embouchure and help you play in tune. Good Luck :)
 
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