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Not sure if this is the right place for a kind of daft question, but here goes... We did an open air gig tonight for Santa Claus and his reindeer coming into town. Great atmosphere and the kids loved it. However both myself on tenor and colleague on alto and soprano could not get up to pitch properly. The soprano was particularly flat, so we played on without it. My tenor was close to pitch but my pal's alto crook had recently been re-corked and couldn't get the mouthpiece far enough in.

The temperature was just below freezing at -3˚C, about 26˚F, not really that cold, but cold enough to affect the pitch of the horns. So, can anything be done to avoid this (apart from staying indoors)? There must be a way to deal with it, after all brass and military bands play outdoors in all weathers.
 

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Yes, but it's not a problem as every instrument plays flat. ie. below 440 but still relatively in tune with one another.
 

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Try to set the pitch at A=437/438 Hz (on keyboard and stringed instruments).

An electric heater on the back helps (it happened I played with -11° C).

I'm experienced many military player drink a lot of schnapps before start playing: I tried it too... and it helps a lot... not to play in tune but it helps.
 

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The temperature was just below freezing at -3˚C, about 26˚F, not really that cold, but cold enough to affect the pitch of the horns. .
Not that cold?! To me that's freezing cold; in fact, it's below freezing! I don't see how you can stand to play in weather that cold. Then again, living on the Calif coast I never have to be out in such cold weather, let alone play my sax in it.

Anyway, my way of dealing with it would be to play in a warm bar and refuse outdoor gigs during the winter in such weather. But if you HAVE to do it, push that mpc way up on the cork and hope for the best.

Hey hammish, yeah all the wind instruments will go flat, but not equally. And string instruments will go sharp. So if you have a guitarist in the band, you're really in trouble.
 

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JL as you say That's Freezing, so whose going to care, especially after a schnapps, which I think is the sensible idea.
 

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No tips here but an old HS friend and I talked last night "about that time..." in hs, smaller group (pep band?) played at a ground-breaking ceremony for a new Dept. of Transportation garage. If I remember right, it was -10* to -15* F! Intonation was beyond awful, trombone slides and trumpet valves froze in place...no amount of warm air blowing through the horns could warm them up.
 

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When I was in high school in central Utah during a church Christmas carol outing I brought my tenor along for accompaniment. I don't know how cold it was, but it was well below freezing. So much so, that my reed and mouthpiece stopped responding. I was only able to play a couple of songs before my horn froze up all together and no sound came out. I was scared that I had permanently damaged it. Luckily, when we got back to the youth leader's house he had a wood burning stove. I held my horn (then a student model Yamaha YTS 23 with a Dukoff 7) above the stove as the frozen, condensed steam melted from the horn and it came back to life. I was so relieved! Since then, I have only brought my horn Christmas caroling in warmer temps and it was worked great!
 

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Playing at any temp below 65F can be tough on saxes. Below 40F is nearly impossible. Non-metal mouthpieces help a lttle - not much. Its best to avoid these conditions if possible. If not, make sure beforehand that you can get at least another 1/4" in from your normal tuning. One thing I hate most about it is the freezing left hand from the condensate coming out of the palm keys.
 

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Playing at any temp below 65F can be tough on saxes. Below 40F is nearly impossible. Non-metal mouthpieces help a lttle - not much. Its best to avoid these conditions if possible. If not, make sure beforehand that you can get at least another 1/4" in from your normal tuning. One thing I hate most about it is the freezing left hand from the condensate coming out of the palm keys.
+1. I would simply refuse to do any gig in weather below 50F, and there'd have to be a damn good reason (like $$$$) to play outside much below 60F. It's a miserable situation.
 

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I just looked it up. 60 is roughly room temperature (15C)..
"Room temp" where I live is closer to 65F, and most bars are closer to 70 or 75 (which I find a bit on the warm side, but far preferable to playing in the cold).

I did say "much BELOW 60", so I'm ok playing outside at 60F and have done it on quite a few occasions (I play outside gigs on the coast here in Summer, where the temp rarely exceeds 65-70 on a good day!). But drop it down in the low 50s toward 40F, especially with a wind chill effect, and that's just an unacceptable situation for playing the sax, imo. Each to their own, but I prefer to play in tune, in relative comfort.
 

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It is all relative, of course. Some would say playing the blues in the corner of a dive bar with inebriated dancers lurching about isn't a comfortable situation, but it doesn't bother me at all. I enjoy it....usually.
 

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You guys must never have played in high school marching bands during football season as you deal with this stuff constantly as well as rain, snow, and wind. I remember wearing thermal underwear under my band uniform numerous times. I marched in the hostage day ticker-tape parade in NYC at the end of January 1981. Can't even begin to tell you how cold it was standing in Battery Park with the wind blowing in off the river. The temps where well below 0 with the wind chill. The flute players had about 2 inch icicles hanging off the end of their instruments when we got done - brutal. Playing in a band that includes mallet instruments (bells - Xylophones) is double the fun since they tend to go sharp in the cold while all the wind instruments are going flat.

The major issue I find with temps between 40 -60 fahrenheit is that the notes near the upper end of the horn tend to play closer to in-tune than the lower ones - so the notes from about G2 up may play close to in tune since the length of the horn down to around this point gets close to up to a reasonable temperature but you can forget about everything from around E1 or D1 down. Likewise, the instrument cools down very quickly so every time you stop blowing on it for more than a minute or so - you are out of tune again. In this case it doesn't matter where you put your mouthpiece because 1/2 your horn will always be out of tune.
 

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Thanks guys. Good advice about retuning electric piano and bass, but we'd already started so retuning in front of a bunch of people with their chidren/grandchildren wasn't really an option unfortunately. There were also time constraints. We both pushed the mouthpieces as far up the crooks as it was possible to go - I was just very slightly flat on tenor, but my colleague's alto was well down. After a bad start, we got through reasonably unscathed. One of the things about having the mouthpiece so far up the crook was that while I was still very slightly flat in the first two registers, the high F, F# and G were all too sharp so I had to compensate by going slack. Looking back, it was all quite funny.

Maybe next time I'll use an ebonite mouthpiece rather than metal, at least that would stand a chance of warming up.

As it happens, Santa Claus had been hauled into town on on his sledge (with craftily hidden wheels) by real reindeer who were later penned up beside where we were playing. One of them, over the fence just beyond my right elbow, started glaring at me and snorting while I took two choruses. Obviously a music lover.....
 

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Imo playing outside in winter doing christmas is enjoyable, but better to just have brasswinds and woodwinds.
 
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