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Discussion Starter #1
Hi, I'm new to the forum. Been lurking for some years. Lots of great information.

I have a '63 Buffet SDA tenor, no dents, excellent physical condition. I use an OttoLink 7* from mid '80s. The horn plays in tune from low D to middle D and almost to high D. However, it progressively sharpens (~25c) below AND above that range. That strikes me as odd. Another oddity is that just to get low Bb in tune, I have to pull the mpc out suspiciously too far. Any ideas on what can cause such a condition? Thanks.
 

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I immediately thought of it being a high pitch horn, but since it is a buffet sda I'm not sure about that.

Have you had it checked by a tech? Maybe there is a leak below low D and key heights on palm keys need to be checked above high D
 

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a mouthpiece that is pushed too far and has too small a volume of the internal chamber combined to a tight embouchure. Pull back relax the embouchure , if this won’t work try a mouthpiece with a larger chamber
 

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Discussion Starter #4
That is my understanding as well. I tried this with some different mpcs, but no success in affecting the relative pitch between the high/lows and the mids. That may be because none appear to have a bigger volume than the OttoLink. Anyway, it seems weird that the original Buffet mpc doesn't play any better in tune. The 25c sharpness is already the best case with embouchure adjustment.

Based on my limited understanding of acoustics, if it is correct that mpc volume affects the low notes somewhat proportionately more than the high notes, and that mpc length affects the high notes somewhat proportionately more than the low notes, then a longer mpc with a larger chamber should lower the highs and the lows proportionately more than the mids, bringing all into closer tune?

Whether the mpc is the fundamental issue seems yet to be determined. I suppose that if a very unusual mpc is required, one should rightly wonder whether the real issue is something else.
 

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Being a mouthpiece addict I find that certain mouthpiece/reed combinations will affect my intonation on specific horns. Perhaps then rather than a "very unusual mpc [being] required" you could try to have the sax being setup to you and your mouthpiece.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
As a further introduction: After 30+ years of unsatisfactory professional tech work and playing a poorly functioning horn (what a pathetic waste), I have become my own tech. For a year I studied the various parameters of doing a complete overhaul. Then I bought various tools, made some others, and started first on my Bundy (practice) and then on the Buffet. The Buffet overhaul is not complete; I am making repairs in phases, reassembling the horn in between to test so I can experience the changes from each adjustment phase. So far, I have leveled the toneholes (needed very little), flattened key cups, straightened rods and key hinges, aligned posts, and repadded. Swedging, post/hinge facing, permanent corking, pad heights, and tuning are in the works.

As to possible leaks, when doing a suction test (latex glove covering the bell), the suction holds for 30+ seconds.

On the other hand, although pad heights appear normal (medium), I see potential for improvement with further adjustments. I’ll try MusicMedic’s ‘Balanced Venting Method’.
 

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A mouthpiece pushed too far would affect the whole tuning (with more effect in the highest notes). Biting would also affect the whole tuning (and the low notes would want to jump an octave).

A "longer mouthpiece with a larger chamber" would result in more mouthpiece volume and the whole horn would play (very) flat.

A large and short chamber mouthpiece may cure the problem with your lower notes. For the palm keys, you can cork their key foot (within reason: if the key height is too low they will sound muffled). Also, the intonation of the palm keys is rather flexible and if you play them with the proper voicing and without biting you can hopefully bring them to tune.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Well, I'm not a mouthpiece addict; I'm perhaps more a reed addict. For decades I tried different reeds, manipulating them to try to get a smooth and comfortable playing instrument. But it seems I was unwittingly trying to manipulate the reed to overcome maladjustment in the horn. After just part of an overhaul, I suddenly became a vastly improved player and the horn sounded great. Most reeds now play fairly well out-of-the-box. A revelation.
 

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Hi, I'm new to the forum. Been lurking for some years. Lots of great information.

I have a '63 Buffet SDA tenor, no dents, excellent physical condition. I use an OttoLink 7* from mid '80s. The horn plays in tune from low D to middle D and almost to high D. However, it progressively sharpens (~25c) below AND above that range. That strikes me as odd. Another oddity is that just to get low Bb in tune, I have to pull the mpc out suspiciously too far. Any ideas on what can cause such a condition? Thanks.
I think the challenge is embouchure, not mouthpiece. Outside of the core range, I normally have to both breathe and hold my mouth differently. Some thoughts:

1). Perhaps consider taking a bit more of the mouthpiece into your mouth.
2). Don’t just lower your jaw, but change your embouchure. It has to do with how you wrap your top lip around the mpc and move your jaw. Also, how my bottom lip touches the reed, significantly impacts my tuning. (Do I touch the outside part of my lip to the reed, do I touch the fat part of my lip to the reed, do I try to wrap my lip around my teeth so tight that the skin above my chin touches the reed)
3). You may have two problems.
4) To fix the sharpness of the high notes, try pushing air through with more velocity in the high range, rather than just squeezing the reed.
5). To fix the sharpness in the lower notes, try directing the air lower in your mouthpiece while loosening up your lips. I find that when i do this my lower lip (chin area) puffs out more and my lip becomes more supple.

Bb is a problem for me too, but mine plays flat. My g-plays sharp. I find that when I get my lips in the right position, these tuning issues mostly go away.

Good luck...you will only know which one of us is correct after you fix the problem.....but I suspect that the problem is neither your horn or your mouthpiece.
 

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A couple of thoughts:

In the writings of Benade, the "equivalent volume" of the mouthpiece plus the neck must closely match the calculated volume of the "missing cone" in order for the saxophone to play properly (meaning the overtones line up the best they can given the quality of your saxophone). This is the "low frequency" requirement. This "equivalent volume" of the mouthpiece is determined both by where it sits on the neck and the stiffness of the reed and the player's embouchure. When this equivalent volume is met, the "sounding length" of the saxophone down to low Bb (or low B) is where it should be according to the wave length of the soundwaves for that frequency.

I like to tune my alto to A concert (written F#) and my tenor to E concert (written F#). I adjust the mouthpiece on the cork and my embouchure to tune the low octave first and then overblow to the octave without using the octave key. If I get good pitch alignment on this octave, I then finger low B natural and overblow it to its 2nd partial which sounds the same pitch as F#2. When these 3 pitches match up, it means the overall length of the saxophone is set correctly with that "equivalent volume" and input pitch.

The second part of my process uses only the mouthpiece and neck apart from the saxophone to check my embouchure (voicing?) setting. On the alto the natural resonant frequency of the mouthpiece plus neck with the proper "equivalent volume" of the mouthpiece is Ab concert. On the tenor it is E Concert. In Benade's language when the played frequency of the mouthpiece and neck (which represents the missing cone beyond that area of "truncation" ie. tenon socket) matches the "natural resonant frequency" of a "missing cone" of that length, the saxophone will "see" an object at its upper end whose acoustical behavior is quite similar to that of the missing cone (and be Happy). ok I added that last part. :)

These two tuning processes are not "mutually exclusive". When I started out checking pitches and tuning this way I went back and forth a lot. Obviously your embouchure setting will have an effect upon where the mouthpiece sits on the cork, affecting the sounding length, etc. I don't put a lot of stock in the mouthpiece pitch alone when tuning because if that pitch is lower, the player pushes in and if that pitch is higher the player pulls out. In either case the mouthpiece + neck pitch will be the same when things are properly set.

On the sax in question, I would try to set the mouthpiece placement so that the low B, B2 and F#2 are in good alignment. If the "bell notes" are still wanting to be sharp, you might try opening the bell keys a bit to lower the pitch. In any event, sharp low notes are preferable to flat low note because it is difficult if not impossible to lip them up. If sharp palm key notes are still an issue you can always lower the key heights a bit and/or insert crescents in the toneholes. Or you can push the mouthpiece in and play lower on the input pitch when you tune. Good luck. Let us know what you figure out.
 

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or... you may simply have a horn with poor intonation. Crescents can help a lot with palm keys that are sharp. Curt at music medic has some good blog posts about this.
 

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By the way, I’m convinced some horn manufacturers make the palm keys sharp on purpose.
 

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By the way, I’m convinced some horn manufacturers make the palm keys sharp on purpose.
Any thoughts on why they do this? :) Maybe God makes people who "bite" in the upper register too. ;)

Have you ever played the palm key fingerings without the octave key to see where the pitch is? It is crazy! When you get that high in the body tube all the rules go out the window as far as octaves are concerned. I am surprised makers get them as close to in tune as they do with the variety of embouchures and mouthpiece chambers that are out there.
 

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If manufacturers are intentionally making the notes sharper, perhaps they are designing the instrument to conform to the way music sounds. We've been through this before. The temperament octave is the only one which lines up with A440. Simple tuners can't compensate.

The tuner is, I presume, giving carolus the exact frequency read out not just a needle or led indicating where the pitch is in relation to the tuner's standard. If not, get something like PnoTuner for iPhone or android. But, I think it is best to match your pitches to a digital piano or software program and tune by ear. The demo version of Pianoteq will give you a perfectly tuned piano for comparison although a few notes don't sound in the demo.
 

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My guess is that you have two or three issues simultaneously:

1) Too tight an embouchure, so you pull out to get the middle notes in tune, which makes the lowest notes relatively sharp;
2) Palm key heights set way too high (this is very common), which overrides the flattening effect of pulling out too far;
3) - Maybe - a horn that's naturally sharp on low Bb. I have two like this; dead on over the whole range except low Bb is significantly sharp.

I would set the tuner aside for a bit and determine the MP placement where the short tube-long tube octaves are best in tune (low B, C, C#, and D with the upper D played with plam key only and no octave key. That is where that MP needs to be for the scale of your instrument to be properly proportioned. Once you figure that out, turn the tuner back on and see where you are. I bet you will find it's pushed in quite a bit further than you usually play, and it's sharper. That means you need to work on lowering the pitch at which you naturally play.

Finally, it is possible that one or more of the palm key tone holes needs a crescent in it to play in tune if lowering the key heights doesn't get you there. My Conn 12M has one like that. But a 1963 Buffet is a modern professional grade instrument largely marketed to the classical market, so it seems unlikely that it has an inherent design defect.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
This is a long overdue followup on resolving the sharp highs and sharp lows. I completely resolved the problem and now the horn plays in tune throughout the range. Unfortunately, the fix came unexpectedly and I lost track of the changes I made (bad boy), and so I'm not entirely sure which adjustment fixed the problem (maybe they all did). However I made two main adjustments: 1) the neck octave key has always opened suspiciously little (<2.0mm); I was finally able to smooth, tighten, and quiet the linkage, extracting all the extra motion there is to achieve 2.5mm opening; and 2) I had previously tightened the linkage between RH F and Palm F, causing Palm F to not close with its full weight; I thinned the new cork slightly to fix it.

Later, I tested the horn to see what effect, if any, was made on to it (I expected a minor improvement at best, not specific to tuning). Surprise! the horn played well and all sharp. I pulled the mouthpiece out a full cm to get it in tune. What d'ya know...tuning issue gone! Interestingly, the new mouthpiece position seems to be the sames as the older last position (before overhaul).

One thing I learned is that the suction test is not infallible; there can still be leaks in the context of dynamic play.
 

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Hi, I'm new to the forum. Been lurking for some years. Lots of great information.

I have a '63 Buffet SDA tenor, no dents, excellent physical condition. I use an OttoLink 7* from mid '80s. The horn plays in tune from low D to middle D and almost to high D. However, it progressively sharpens (~25c) below AND above that range. That strikes me as odd. Another oddity is that just to get low Bb in tune, I have to pull the mpc out suspiciously too far. Any ideas on what can cause such a condition? Thanks.
That sounds really strange. Is the neck original? Have you had a tech look at it? If not, I would do that right away. I hope its just an adjustment thing (either you or the horn), but every once in a while you just get a bad one. I once bought a mid 60's Martin Imperial that was just a bad horn. I learned how to play it in tune, but it took so much effort that it wasn't good. I ended up giving it away. If by chance you can't get it to play in tune, a last resort would be to call Oleg's music in LA. I once bought a low A selmer alto sax that was horribly out of tune. Oleg was able to dial in the intonation perfectly by working on the neck.
 

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That sounds really strange. Is the neck original? Have you had a tech look at it? If not, I would do that right away. I hope its just an adjustment thing (either you or the horn), but every once in a while you just get a bad one. I once bought a mid 60's Martin Imperial that was just a bad horn. I learned how to play it in tune, but it took so much effort that it wasn't good. I ended up giving it away. If by chance you can't get it to play in tune, a last resort would be to call Oleg's music in LA. I once bought a low A selmer alto sax that was horribly out of tune. Oleg was able to dial in the intonation perfectly by working on the neck.
If you look at the post immediately above yours you will see that the problem has been resolved, although since more than one thing was changed at the same time the exact nature of what was previously wrong isn't clear. But it doesn't matter if OP is now able to play well in tune.
 
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