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Warning to self: there will be a long stream of conflicting advice :)

When I first started play scales, all of six months ago, I kept my eye on the tuner. I got that from a Nigel McGill video, by the way. When I got a teacher, he suggested I stop staring at the tuner while practicing scales as it distracts from tone production. I see what he meant, too. Now I am trying to get the upper D in tune. With the MPC set so that the most lower notes are naturally in tune, the lower notes are a little flat and the high C# (all key open, is that C#2?) and the D is way sharp. I'm trying to get the D to sound at the right pitch along with the others. I use the tuner for this, but I am trying something new as well. I created an audio file with some sine waves of D, C#, B and A. When I play with these notes, I can hear whether there's a beat note without looking at a tuner.

When I first began, I discovered (and have since read here) that notes can be different in tuning and require some adjustment to get them in perfect tune. Now that I am seeing this clearly, I am better able to make the upper D sound in tune.

What are your (probably conflicting) opinions on the ideas of tuners and/or matching pure waves of the tempered frequencies?

Mine is, it's all good if it does no harm.
 

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@lesack I agree, I'm trying everything. I was matching the tones to sine waves, as I said, which makes it very obvious by beat notes when you're off even slightly, but it's more satisfying to improvise over the drones.
 

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@lesack I agree, I'm trying everything. I was matching the tones to sine waves, as I said, which makes it very obvious by beat notes when you're off even slightly, but it's more satisfying to improvise over the drones.
Another fun thing I do - for many reasons, but this also - is play along with demo (as well as backing) tracks on etudes etc. I use over ear headphones and it's quite obvious when the tuning is out (let alone, tempo, feel etc).

(Another amusement is to note how technique posts get fewer responses than shopping ones)
 

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My answer would be

"Both!"

I have a Yamaha keyboard that allows you to set a beat pattern (as in, 4-beat jazz, 2-beat jazz, samba, etc.) and a chord. I have practiced scales and interval exercises over this for some years. Gets both rhythm and intonation all at once. I don't make a big distinction between minor and major in practicing, so for instance I might choose (everything in concert key for the moment) to practice C major scales over B half diminished chord, or C harmonic minor patterns over Eb major chord, or even F#7 patterns over C7 chord, just to get that relationship more firmly in my ear.

Practicing your scales and patterns with some kind of timekeeper is very important for even technique; so if you add a tonal/chordal quality to it, you get an intonation benefit too.

But I also practice long tones and slow interval studies with a plain electronic tuner, sometimes, except when I don't.
 

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I use a tuner to initially get in tune and to learn where each note sits whether sharp or flat but once that is learned and you are in tune there is no reason to sit and look at it for the whole practice session. Put it away and use your ears to hear or confirm what the tuner told you and try to fix it by ear. The problem with using it to adjust you tuning is that you are relying on it and the truth is that when you play with a group or other people there is no tuner there and you have to rely on your ears 100%.
 

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I use a tuner to initially get in tune and to learn where each note sits whether sharp or flat but once that is learned and you are in tune there is no reason to sit and look at it for the whole practice session. Put it away and use your ears to hear or confirm what the tuner told you and try to fix it by ear. The problem with using it to adjust you tuning is that you are relying on it and the truth is that when you play with a group or other people there is no tuner there and you have to rely on your ears 100%.
This is the best advice! If you ever solo with the local high school band or jazz ensemble, it's HIGHLY unlikely they're going to be sitting right at A440. Like Nefertiti says, you MUST use your ears.
 

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Listen.
 

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Tuning and playing in tune is an aural skill, not a visual one. The only benefit from looking at a meter or gauge is to get a number representing the degree the pitch is off in hundredths of a semi-tone or cents. This number is helpful when: 1) discussing intonation, 2) diagnosing the inherent pitch tendencies of an instrument, and 3) calculating the mechanical alterations required to bring a note closer to an acceptable pitch such as crescents in toneholes, and using alternate fingerings.
 

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+1 for Neff comments.

But to expound just a little, the basic tuner is only good for the temperament octave - (A 220 range to which we normally tune). Musical sounds naturally get sharper in higher 8vas and flatter in lower. Tuning the intervals in modern music is a compromise. If you check the tuner against a well tuned piano or digital piano, you'll note the effect. For more info, Google 'stretch tuning'.

I think it best to match your intonation to a piano and have been recommending the demo version of Pianoteq if you don't have a good instrument to compare with. I think this is why we are seeing so many threads about sharp palm keys.
 

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+1 for Neff comments.

But to expound just a little, the basic tuner is only good for the temperament octave - (A 220 range to which we normally tune). Musical sounds naturally get sharper in higher 8vas and flatter in lower. Tuning the intervals in modern music is a compromise. If you check the tuner against a well tuned piano or digital piano, you'll note the effect. For more info, Google 'stretch tuning'.
Not only that, but you can easily foind yourself in a situation where just intonation is being used. I believe in just intonation, a major 3rd would be about 13 cents flatter. If using a "normal" tuner that would would appaer quite a lot out of tune, and yet (arguably) actually be more in tune.
 

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A cute story I heard from Emilio Lyons and Arnie Krakowksy, many years ago:
Stan Getz came in the shop to pick up a horn that Emilio had overhauled. Stan starts playing it and says to Emilio, "Its perfectly in tune".

Emilio chuckled. Stan asked Emilio if he had a tuner in the shop and Emilio got it out.
Stan played a note and asked Emilio if it was in tune. Emilio looked at the tuner and it was right on the note.
Stan then played a series of other notes and Emilio looked at the tuner and banged it a few times, and told Stan to wait a minute, the tuner must be broken--- the needles not moving.
Stan looked at him, and said, "Theres nothing wrong with the tuner"...
 

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+1 for Neff comments.

But to expound just a little, the basic tuner is only good for the temperament octave - (A 220 range to which we normally tune). Musical sounds naturally get sharper in higher 8vas and flatter in lower. Tuning the intervals in modern music is a compromise. If you check the tuner against a well tuned piano or digital piano, you'll note the effect. For more info, Google 'stretch tuning'.

I think it best to match your intonation to a piano and have been recommending the demo version of Pianoteq if you don't have a good instrument to compare with. I think this is why we are seeing so many threads about sharp palm keys.
I am trying to understand how this comment about "stretch tuning" applies to the saxophone. I have a good friend who tunes pianos and she and I have discussed tuning and inharmonicity of strings, etc. So I have a beginner's knowledge of "stretch tuning". I looked it up and the "Railsback Curve" shows the significant stretch occurs happens above C6 and below C3 on the piano. The 3 octaves in the middle are pretty much "tempered tuning".

The range of an alto saxophone in concert pitch is Db3 up to Ab5---2 1/2 octaves which fits inside the 3 octave range of the piano that is in between the "stretched notes" and is for the most part tempered tuning.
 

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Stretch tuning is a natural occurrence in strings and (perhaps) other instruments. I am referring to the temperament octave (the one in which A220 occurs) in the center of the piano not to the range of an alto sax. Correct me if I am wrong, that is F#1 on alto. By the time we get to the palm keys, it can be a good bit sharper.

It has nothing to do with saxophones except that instruments need to tune well in ensemble playing. Whether designers/manufactures take this into account or not, I don't know. I do know that my saxophones play in tune with my pianos and the simple tuning meters say all those palm key notes are sharp.

Anyway, if one wants to use a tuning aid, the strobe tuner provides info on the overtone series.
 

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If I understand it correctly, the upper octaves in the piano are tuned slightly above tempered tuning so as to match the harmonics generated by the longer strings which get sharper as they go higher (inharmonicity). No such relationship exists on the saxophone. In fact, the palm keys notes are separate short tube notes all to themselves. They do not need to match the still reverberating harmonics of the lowest notes, because a saxophone sounds only one note at a time except when playing multiphonics. Proof of this can be had by playing a palm key D, Eb, or F without the octave key and listening to the pitch. It is nowhere near an octave below the note with the octave key added. If the tuning meters say the palm key notes are sharp, that means they are sharp which is a common problem on the saxophone. It is primarily caused by players who "bite" more with the embouchure as they go higher. What exacerbates the problem even more is those players get used to the sharpness of those notes and they begin to sound normal to them. Been there, done that. My private teacher tells me to play the high notes so they sound flat to my ear and they will be in tune. He is only partially kidding. :mrgreen:
 

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There's in tune, and then there's "in TUNE, man..."

Randulo, I have some advice for you - put the tuner away. It's great to use when buying a horn or mouthpiece, to make an initial judgement on whether the instrument is going to work for you. Otherwise, it's just a bother. Playing in tune is something done with your ear and your spirit - and your experience and skill.

I often recommend making sure your horn is in tune with itself. The way to tune your horn with itself is this:

1) Play B2 (LH index finger, no octave)
2) Play B2 while fingering B1 (that is, low B). You can do this easily by "slurring" between the two fingerings.
3) Adjust your mouthpiece so the two pitches are in tune.

Given your description of the notes which are flat and sharp, I'd bet you have to push in your mouthpiece to get the two notes in tune. Note that moving your mouthpiece will affect the B2 much more than the overblown B1 - as the tube is much shorter for B2.

Once you've done that, learn to play in tune with others (like the drones mentioned above, or other people) with your mouthpiece in this position. If I won my bet above, you will need to relax your embouchure a bit...

If you can get a recording of a piano (even a MIDI performance will do with a VST piano) playing scales slowly, play with that. Learn to hear when you are in tune and when you are not. Play with other folks or records. Use the drones mentioned above. Forget about hearing beats with sine waves or looking at a tuner - use the ears your mama gave you!

If you ever have the experience of playing in a big band, or even just a 2, 3 or 4 piece horn section, you have to learn to play in tune with the other horns. This is very different than playing with a tuner, and playing with a tuner will not help you.
 

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Afik, a stretched string can't vibrate in exact integers. While I am not debating the Railsback curve, there is an observably higher frequency in the overtone series. There's a good line on page 6 of the linked paper about equal temperament creating complications.

http://www.simonhendry.co.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/inharmonicity.pdf

The last time I had the tube model Conn Strobo out to check a sax or 2, i recall the overtones did read sharp. I would have to check again before relying on my memory, however.
Checking the freqs on my Kawai digital piano, the notes C - F corresponding to the palm keys on a tenor read +10 in general.
So, if a sax is a little sharp in the palm keys and one uses a simple tuner, it's going to appear to be wildly sharp.

edit: randulo, I agree with skeller's advice.
 

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I am trying to understand how this comment about "stretch tuning" applies to the saxophone. I have a good friend who tunes pianos and she and I have discussed tuning and inharmonicity of strings, etc. So I have a beginner's knowledge of "stretch tuning". I looked it up and the "Railsback Curve" shows the significant stretch occurs happens above C6 and below C3 on the piano. The 3 octaves in the middle are pretty much "tempered tuning".

The range of an alto saxophone in concert pitch is Db3 up to Ab5---2 1/2 octaves which fits inside the 3 octave range of the piano that is in between the "stretched notes" and is for the most part tempered tuning.
Maybe it only applies to Lenny Pickett.......
 
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