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Hi all,

I picked up alto sax again a few weeks ago, having dropped it about five years ago. After realising that the instrument I was playing all that time ago was really awful (read unbranded chinese knockoff), I tried to make amends by replacing the deformed mouthpiece with a Yamaha 4C and picking up some better reeds. However I'm still having some serious issues.

Some of the notes both high and low are painfully out of tune. Worst example is the high A sounds a concert C# rather than a C. No matter how much I try and relax my embouchure the note still sounds sharp. It's only a select few notes that are out of tune, but they seem randomly spread out and I'm mostly unable to bend the notes to being in tune. I'm having major issues with bottom D(flat), middle Bb(sharp), middle Eb(semitone sharp), high A(semitone sharp) and high E(semitone flat).

Also to note is that the middle C and D sound strange and are more difficult to play than other notes around them. They almost sound muffled or muted, with less treble in the sound. I don't even know how to approach correcting that.

Does anyone have any advice on what I can do to the sax or tips on playing to try and correct stuff like this.

Cheers,

Woody
 

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A good mouthpiece and new reeds aren't going to make up for a bad horn. Do you know someone else that plays that can check out the horn intonation to make sure it is the sax, and not your embouchure?
 

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You said that you have been away from the Alto for 5 years. Does this mean you haven’t been playing anything for the last 5 years?
 

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A good mouthpiece won't overcome an "awful" horn. You might need to replace your horn with a better one but have a good player check your horn first, just to make sure. I got a great Yamaha 23 at a pawn shop (looked terrible) for four hundred bucks. Great horn. Take someone who is a decent player with you.

Beyond the horn, if you weren't that great a player to begin with you're not going to get better overnight. You need time and patience.

Regarding playing, itself, you need to stabilize your embouchure. Everything is related and compared to that.

Next, regarding the exercises, playing intervals, not just stand-alone chords, is invaluable. Although I think you should use a developed ear, for a while I think you would benefit from interval playing with a tuner. Long tone playing will help stabilize your tone and its quality. Some people have also gotten good results playing exercises with a drone. https://www.amazon.com/Tuning-C-D-4...UTF8&qid=1529427911&sr=8-1&keywords=tuning+cd
 

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Agree with Gary - especially the second half of his note, which is why I asked if you have been playing nothing for 5 years. If your embouchure is out of shape, you won’t be able to get into tune across the scale. (Maybe a few notes - but a few will still be wretched). Work on your embouchure. The exercises Gary mentioned are the correct ones. I have three tenors, each has its own personality and idiosyncrasies, and two of them are Paul Maslin set-ups so they are in great shape. Each has slight fingering variations to get into tune also.

I was told once that I should play the sax for a year before I tried to play in tune. I think that that was pretty accurate advice. Without a well developed embouchure, you can’t adjust your embouchure subtly enough to play in tune.

Last time I increased my reed strength a quarter step, it took me a month before I could play everything in tune again.

Your fix might just be free.
 

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Just checking: you're remembering to transpose for the tuner, right? I assume you probably know that, since you're saying only some notes are out of tune, but … it's actually a fairly common mistake for people to not realize that the tuner is showing the concert pitch.
 

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Unfortunately, some notes tend to be out of tune on even a well-regulated saxophone. It's inherent in the design. With experience, players learn to compensate, but it's important to understand that there's more to playing with good intonation than simply pressing down the correct keys and blowing.

Definitely have your gear checked out first to rule out any possible issues, then practice frequently with a tuner and also with a drone so you learn which notes need to be adjusted and it becomes ingrained in your muscle memory.

I found this video very helpful:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1RQi6YG1Xg
 

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One of the first things I do is take a new player over to the piano and have them play the Bb note repeatably while sounding/singing " oooooh" to the Bb note. The sax is an extension of the voice/vocal chords. Once they lock in and produce a relaxed in tune Bb vocally the note is better produced on their instrument. That allows the note to come from inside the player and then extend it out thru the instrument. Selecting more notes in a good comfortable range can be added later. But getting that Bb tonality memorized goes a long way in developing tuning. Consciously getting the vocal chords involved in the sound production is key in my approach to wind instrument playing. Other methods are good also if you get good results.
 

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Hi all,

I picked up alto sax again a few weeks ago, having dropped it about five years ago. After realising that the instrument I was playing all that time ago was really awful (read unbranded chinese knockoff), I tried to make amends by replacing the deformed mouthpiece with a Yamaha 4C and picking up some better reeds. However I'm still having some serious issues.

Some of the notes both high and low are painfully out of tune. Worst example is the high A sounds a concert C# rather than a C. No matter how much I try and relax my embouchure the note still sounds sharp. It's only a select few notes that are out of tune, but they seem randomly spread out and I'm mostly unable to bend the notes to being in tune. I'm having major issues with bottom D(flat), middle Bb(sharp), middle Eb(semitone sharp), high A(semitone sharp) and high E(semitone flat).

Also to note is that the middle C and D sound strange and are more difficult to play than other notes around them. They almost sound muffled or muted, with less treble in the sound. I don't even know how to approach correcting that.

Does anyone have any advice on what I can do to the sax or tips on playing to try and correct stuff like this.

Cheers,

Woody
First thing you need to do is to have an experience saxophone player try the instrument. This will tell you whether it's the horn or you.

If it's the instrument I think what you are describing sounds a lot like missing corks, gross misadjustment, or loose pads.

If it's you, then the cure will be practice.
 

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Play the long middle D using 6 fingers with the octave key, then play a D using only palm keys D or Eb no octave key see how the horn sounds. Move between C C# and D. Do that movement using both fingerings alternating and check how your horn sounds comparatively. The long D should be better in tune and that test will allow you to hear the difference. I'm sure help is on the way and the SOTW techs will help you out soon enough.
 

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After realising that the instrument I was playing all that time ago was really awful...
You got a different mpc, but if the instrument truly was really awful, it probably still is really awful. I would second the suggestion to first make an assessment on the horn. Have an experienced player try it, and/or have a good tech check it out, and go from there.
 
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