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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a soprano that is, with a certain mouthpiece, slightly flat (A=442 vs. A=440). "Shoving in" alone doesn't solve the problem, so I sand the neck cork a bit, et voilà, there's the desired pitch.

HOWEVER - some notes are now utterly unresponsive, eg 2nd line G :line2:. I can play legato up and down fine, but playing said G alone results in a red face and not much else. The other neck (got two, a curvy and a straight one) is unsanded and behaves fine, if (expectedly) a bit flat. The mouthpiece is a Bundy Signature.

What could be the reason for this behaviour? Is it because the neck's mouthpiece end is too deep into the mouthpiece? (I have excluded leaks, the neck is airtight.) What would be the proper thing to do? I haven't run into this kind of problem with alto and tenors (and clarinets), but I know that the smaller the instrument, the bigger the issues.

:scratch:
 

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If only one neck does this, I suspect the octave mechanism is doing something it shouldn't. I'd sit sown in good light and work the mechanisms and watch closely what is happening as the upper octave opens and closes. You may have inadvertently bent something OR even possibly clogged up the vent(s) while sanding. DAVE
 

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Maybe check if you get this problem with the other neck too if you put the mouthpiece further in (sand it too?). Have you tried any other mouthpieces? BTW unless the flat but playable position is just very little on the neck, it should usually be possible to play in this position with the sanded cork that would also allow the other position.
 

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""Shoving in" alone doesn't solve the problem, so I sand the neck cork a bit, et voilà, there's the desired pitch."

Presumably "shoving in" means putting the mouthpiece further onto the neck. Do you mean you sanded the cork, and had success without shoving the mouthpiece on any further????

Where are you sanding? If you sand it so that the open end of the cork is a loose fit inside the mouthpiece, you are asking for trouble.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Nitai, no, I'm not gonna sand the other neck just to determine if I have the same problems then. ;-)

Gordon, I did mean putting the mouthpiece further onto the neck. Apparently the current 'piece has a slightly more narrow shank, so I had to sand the cork a wee bit to allow the neck to be put further in.
I will check if the mouthpiece can be wiggled up and down while on the neck, this would indicate I was a bit over-enthusiastic and sanded too much near the neck tip, right?

Dave, I checked the octave mechanism, and it's tight, and it's not touching anything it shouldn't, and the troublesome G is operated w/o the octave key anyway, so it probably has nothing to do yet with a clogged pip. I won't rule it out completely, I'm sure to check it again, and I'll plug the octave vent just to make sure it's not blown open or something like that.

Next thing on my list is some tape around the sanded neck to make it behave unsanded, and see if it's as it was before sanding, or if I inadvertently summoned the Demons Of Foul Repair.

Thank you all!
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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I have a soprano that is, with a certain mouthpiece, slightly flat (A=442 vs. A=440).
I don't follow this. 442 is sharper than 440. However 2 cents is such a tiny amount, imperceptible to most people, I would not worry. I don't think anyone is ever going to get a saxophone (especially soprano) that is in tune (with equal temperament) on every note to within 2 cents.

And I me very impressed if your embouchure is so consistent that it is always A = 442 each time you play an A

But I am also confused as to why shoving in doesn't make it sharper.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
442 vs 440 is two Hertz, but 8 cents.

And no, my embouchure isn't that consistent. :)

Shoving in did make it sharper (as was desired), but it made some notes unresponsive, that's the puzzling part.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Sorry, a temporary brainfart re: 2 herz not 2 cents. But I don't understand why you you would shove it in if it's already sharp by 8 cents, so that your A = 440

I follow what Gordon says, you seem to imply that sanding without moving the mouthpiece gets the desired pitch. This I find very strange.
 

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I think tictactux is clear, he wants to play sharper and putting the mouthpiece further in on the cork gets the result, but with the side effect of some notes not playing. Though you still haven't mentioned if you tried other mouthpieces. I sort of doubt the 440 vs. 442 thing... I guess it just feels/sounds too flat regardless and you want it sharper, that's fine :)

What I don't understand is why you can't put the mouthpiece in the same place (less in) if you sand the cork i.e. why not simply sand the other neck? I assume you then have a problem of the mouthpiece wobbling? If not, what is the problem? But it shouldn't wobble. Sanding the cork can allow the mouthpiece to be inserted more if the area past where it was before is too thick to allow it. It shouldn't affect anything else i.e. cause wobble if it's not inserted more, same as before. You shouldn't need to sand the area the mouthpiece already covered.

A wild and unlikely guess is that sanding caused the cork glue to loosen and possibly leak under the cork. Or maybe it now leaks between mouthpiece and cork (if it's uneven). I guess you ruled out those possibilities. Otherwise the sanding itself can't cause a problem like this.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Okay, I restate:
- I could play in tune for A=440 with the stock mouthpiece.
- Locally we tune to A=442.
- I did not like the stock mouthpiece so I bought a new one.
- The new mouthpiece has a slightly narrower shank than the stock one.
- I cannot push the mouthpiece on far enough because the cork is too thick.
- So I sand it down a bit.
- Now I can push the mouthpiece far enough, and no, it does not wobble.
- But now e.g. the G :line2: does not play except when I slur up or down.
- The neck with the mouthpiece on is tight, no leaks.

Tonight when I am back from work I will try to put some tape around the cork to restore its original thickness and see if everything is back to normal (and A=440), and if I have the same effect with the other mouthpiece as well.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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- I could play in tune for A=440 with the stock mouthpiece.
- Locally we tune to A=442.
Aha, now I understand. I was confused by "slightly flat (A=442 vs. A=440)." I think "slightly flat (A=440 vs. A=442) "would have been clearer!

presumably you tried cork grease before sanding?

Either way this would not help with the dead note. It seems to me like a basic mouthpiece/horn mismatch (not in general but for this pitch of 442). I would imagine most instruments are designed for 440, though I'm aware that some places/orchestras like 442. I think you are just unlucky in living in such a place.

The dead G may be a similar thing to the typical motorboating G which is often caused by mouthpiece position and if the problem was the other way round (ie deadness being caused by mouthpiece being pulled out a bit) it would be easy to prescribe the remedy of tuning sharp but relaxing down. Not so easy in this case.
 

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- The new mouthpiece has a slightly narrower shank than the stock one.
- I cannot push the mouthpiece on far enough because the cork is too thick.
- So I sand it down a bit.
- Now I can push the mouthpiece far enough, and no, it does not wobble.
- But now e.g. the G :line2: does not play except when I slur up or down.
So I guess the reason you don't want to sand your other neck is so you can use the original mouthpiece without wobble?
What you haven't mentioned though is what happens if you put the new (narrower shank) mouthpiece now on the sanded cork at the same place as before i.e. to play ~440. Do you still have the problematic notes? I assume it's fine, same as before, you should be able to try this (i.e. if it didn't wobble before it shouldn't now, at the same further out position). I hope this is clear (not sure)?
If it doesn't play the same as before, something obviously changed from sanding, which is very unlikely I guess especially since you say there is no leak anywhere there.
If it does (most likely) then I guess a mouthpiece and instrument matching issue. It can still have something to do with player since I've seen specific combiantion work for some players but awful for others e.g. someone else might not have a problem, so worth asking someone else to try it too (your teacher if you have one?).
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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(i.e. if it didn't wobble before it shouldn't now, at the same further out position). I hope this is clear (not sure)?
If it doesn't play the same as before, something obviously changed from sanding, which is very unlikely I guess especially since you say there is no leak anywhere there.
Unless this has happened:

If you sand it so that the open end of the cork is a loose fit inside the mouthpiece, you are asking for trouble.
In that case there may be a gap between end of neck and mouthpiece shank which, even if there is no leak, could cause issues. However if this was the case, you'd expect the mouthpiece to wobble.

I agree with clarnibass, get some other people to try this, and see if they need to tune to the same position on the neck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Yeah, I shall just try forth and back and see what gives.
What's relieving (or disturbing) is that it's not a "this is a know problem caused by XYZ" case.

Per the motorboating - you mean, the G happens to live in an acoustical black hole (eg opposite pressure waves cancelling each oher) when the mouthpiece is in a certain position?

Oh, and that "(...) gap between end of neck and mouthpiece shank which, even if there is no leak, could cause issues." sounds intriguing. What would the issues be?
(Maybe there's indeed a small gap at the neck end, I'll have to check with a good flashlight.)
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Per the motorboating - you mean, the G happens to live in an acoustical black hole (eg opposite pressure waves cancelling each oher) when the mouthpiece is in a certain position?
Acoustic black hole is possibly a good way of putting it. I've come across the motorboating with several students, and it tends to be cured by either mouthpiece position, cork in the bell or it just goes away (e.g. the player subconciously adapts their embouchure)


Oh, and that "(...) gap between end of neck and mouthpiece shank which, even if there is no leak, could cause issues." sounds intriguing. What would the issues be?
This is pure speculation, maybe backed up by what Gordon said unless he was referring only to the possibility of a leak, but I was theorising that a gap between mouthpiece and cork would cause turbulence, more than you would normally get at the point where the neck ends.
 

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Though it has nothing to do with the neck cork or mouthpiece fitment on the cork you need to check that the body pip closure mechanism is not cracking open when you press the touch to sound a G. The upper end of the G touch has a hold down arm that- through various means depending on model- allows the body pip to open in the second octave when the octave touch is pressed and the G or below is played. It closes that pip for A and above in the second octave-and lets the neck pip open.

When the octave key is not depressed, pressing the G touch should have no effect on the body pip cup opening. But if something's amiss then when the G in the lower octave is played and the "normally no effect G touch hold down" lifts, the body pip may be cracking open just a hair. The cup ought to still be held down by the octave mechanism when the octave key is not pressed but sometimes this goes out of whack.

Stare at the body octave pip while fingering the G without the octave touch pressed. There should be no movement at all at the pip. Test the hold down from the octave mechanism itself on the body pip with your finger tip to ensure that the spring pressure from the octave mechanism alone is exerting force to hold it closed when the G is pressed.

No effect on any of this from the neck cork but if you've somehow squeezed something while sanding or tinkering this may have gone out of whack. There is an interaction between the neck octave key and the body mechanism.
 

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  1. A sax bore is supposed to be a gradual taper, but where the mouthpiece meets the neck there is a sudden step-change in diameter, especially on soprano.

    This has to create acoustic anomalies. And I would think that its precise location along the bore would determine what those anomalies were.

    For example when we pull a mouthpiece out, that step-change is located relatively further down the air column.

    On many sopranos (and some modern models of Selmer’s larger saxes) this creates the familiar “burbling” on the low notes. (My Yanagisawa sop, though, is rather immune to this problem)

  2. I suspect that any air pockets located at this step in the bore, caused by an ill-fitted cork, would only compound the anomalies.

  3. Second octave G has its own anomaly, in that the one-size/location-fits-all-notes compromise for the body octave vent is pushed to the limit for G.

Play-testing many sopranos has taught me that many of them are very fussy. It could well be that some models, designed for A440, simply don’t cope well when forced to do A442.

I suspect another factor may be the volume/shape of the player’s mouth cavity, which can be adjusted with the tongue.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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I suspect another factor may be the volume/shape of the player’s mouth cavity, which can be adjusted with the tongue.
A good exercise to help with this is just play the mouthpiece, play scales and tunes on the mouthpiece alone, it will get you into the idea of shaping your oral cavity.

Apart from trying that, I agree with everything Gordon said, I think it's similar to what I was saying above, only more articulate.
 
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