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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I mostly play on vintage (SBA) saxophones, which are sometimes described as having "spread" intonation, meaning that it is relatively easy to lip notes up or down.

I recently bought a modern soprano (Yanigasawa) which is described as having "tight" intonation, meaning that the notes are more fixed in place and not so easy to lip up or down.

Therefore, my understanding is that the modern improvements are of two kinds:

1.) "Better" intonation (hole placement and size is improved such that notes tend to play better in tune, when you first hit the note).

2.) "Tighter" intonation (not so easy to lip note up or down).

I think I understand the physical changes to the horn to create "better" intonation, by improving hole placement and hole size.

However, I cannot imagine what changes have been made to the horns to create "tighter" intonation.

I would appreciate any information on this subject.

Thank you,

Mark Lanus
 

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I am not aware of those terms, I have heard of “ locked in”.

However, I think that by its own nature the saxophone has flexible intonation and that is the player whom is more or less consciously “ in charge” of it/

Hoe sizes and holes placement and spacement have certainly been explored and exploited a lot in the attempt of creating a better intonation this is as true of the saxophone as it is of other woodwinds but the saxophone is probably the one which has seen more work done.

Don’t forget that a fundamental change was in altering the way toneholes were alined (or not) in order to provide better playing comfort.

https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?11935-In-line-tone-holes

https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?217165-Tone-holes

https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?239979-Sba-tuning
 

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All I'll say is that I can truly make ANY saxophone play out of tune. Both intentionally and not intentionally!
In all seriousness........I'm serious. Some of the best and most influential jazz saxophonists of all-time played out of tune......at least in spots. I honestly wouldn't get too worked up about it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the replies.

I was just wondering if the older horns did indeed play with a more "spread intonation" whereby it was easier o move notes around as compared to the modern horns, or if, perhaps, it is just the case that they are a bit more out of tune to begin with, so I am always moving notes around a wee bit to ut them in tune.

Also, if there is a physical difference between horns with "spread" intonation and those with more "locked in" intonation, what is the physical difference that causes this.

m
 

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You've got some good questions. Does flexible mean "out of tune"? I don't know.

My old Conn seems pretty flexible but not out of tune. Maybe I've just become more flexible?

When I hear "spread" I think more of the sound, not the pitch. I think of a spread sound as having more or different overtones in it compared to a sound that is focused, which may have mostly fundimetals. I have no idea what I am talking about by the way. Plus I can't spell.

All I know is that the horns that I've played that were very focused and narrow in their voice seemed way more slotted to me as I played them.
 

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…perhaps, it is just the case that they are a bit more out of tune to begin with, so I am always moving notes around a wee bit to put them in tune.…
There is a lot of truth to this.

…I cannot imagine what changes have been made to the horns to create "tighter" intonation.
I agree with you and I don't think there is anything that would do this.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I do understand what you are saying about the difference between "spread" and "focused" tone. For example, my 1952 SBA tenor had a rather spread tone as did a 1949 Conn tenor that I need to sell, but my 1959 Mark VI tenor had a much more focused tone.

The concept I am trying to describe as "Spread intonation" is the ability to move the pitch around very easily. The prime example of this is the great Ben Webster.

In order to not confuse intonation with tone, perhaps it would be better to say "spread" vs "focused" tone and "free" versus "locked in" intonation.

Anyway, it seems to me that the older horns (pre 1950 Conn, Buesher, Selmer)) had both a more spread tone and a looser intonation whereas the modern horns (I'm thinking Yamaha and Yanagasawa) have both a more focused tone and also a more locked in intonation.

Does this sound right to other players or am I imagining the concept of "locked in" intonation.

Comde to think of it, one big difference in these vintages of horns is their bore size. Does a larger bore horn lend itself to "looser" intonation?
 

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When I sent an R&C Two Voices tenor to Les Arbuckle to reign in the intonation on that horn, he at first limited my expectations on a horn's intonation, saying that intonation came from the player, not the horn. After working on the horn, he commented that it had some of the least flexible intonation of any horn he has played. (He also got it to play with spot-on intonation when he was done with it.) I think-- and I might be misquoting him-- that he said that a smaller bore horn such as a Mark VI has a more flexible intonation, which is desirable to create interest and expression when playing. Les is also known to favor the tone of a Conn 10M over any horn; since it is a larger bore horn I'd like to ask him how he feels about the flexibility of it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I think I’m still not explaining my concept of “flexible” vs “locked in” intonation. “Flexible” intonation does not mean “out of tune” and “locked in” does not mean “in tune”.

That is, my SBA tenor plays very much in tune, but I can still move the pitch around very easily, so I would say it is “in tune, with flexible intonation”.

I could imagine (but have never come across) a horn that played out of tune, but that was relatively difficult to move the pitch around, a horn that is “out of tune, with locked in intonation.”
 

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People just like terms.
Spread, focused, dark, bright, but it’s all a joke really.
My spread, focused, dark, bright, locked in, loose, is how I feel about whatever it is, which means **** to someone else.
For example, a well know mouthpiece seller calls one of his pieces spread, to me this piece is just a stuffy inefficient piece of overpriced Hard Rubber.
The early 12m I used to own was described to me by its previous owner as being very loose intonation wise.
I found it perfectly fine with all but real peashooter type pieces that were still workable with a tad more consciousness.
Some like to say that Yamaha’s are bland sounding.
If your a bland player I’m sure this is true.
 

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When I sent an R&C Two Voices tenor to Les Arbuckle to reign in the intonation on that horn, he at first limited my expectations on a horn's intonation, saying that intonation came from the player, not the horn. After working on the horn, he commented that it had some of the least flexible intonation of any horn he has played. (He also got it to play with spot-on intonation when he was done with it.) I think-- and I might be misquoting him-- that he said that a smaller bore horn such as a Mark VI has a more flexible intonation, which is desirable to create interest and expression when playing. Les is also known to favor the tone of a Conn 10M over any horn; since it is a larger bore horn I'd like to ask him how he feels about the flexibility of it.
I find this very interesting. I agree with your interpretation that generally larger bore horns seem less flexible, although this may be only one aspect of it. Regarding Conns, I think they don't have such big bores as Rampone or Keilwerth for example and thus are not as "locked in". I think this is why I love Martins, they feel like a sweet spot.
 

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There have been threads on this observation and theory before. "Slots" is a term some folks use, as if the notes snap to pitch more easily on modern horns than older horns. I have to say, my modern horns do seem to snap to a specific pitch, where the older horns are less inclined to go to a specific pitch. I will also say, I find my playing and pitch are always better on the horn I'm playing the most, but the perceived "flexibility" or "spread" nature of older horns seems to favor better pitch and expression for me.
 

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I'm not convinced that the flexibility of the intonation has something to do with the size of the bore.
The intonation is more locked in when the impedance peaks are higher and well aligned (i.e. with a frequency close to a multiple of the frequency of the fundamental) and (almost?) all modern manufacturers have tried to design new horns with this characteristic -sometime, to the detriment of tone and expressivity.
 

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I can say that the vintage 30's Conns and Bueschers sound to me to be on opposite ends of the (flexibility or slotted) nature. The series 1 Aristocrat seemed very slotted and locked in while the Conn seems more flexible. Interestingly, the Aristocrat also seems very focused while the Conn seems very spread. So maybe there is some correlation between spread - flexible and focused - slotted?

I wonder if when people think of "spread" it is referring to a sound with more overtones that stray from or compete with the fundamental. If there is some truth to that, then I could see why a sound like that would be perceived as less slotted, because at the instant you hear a beginning of a note, the less clear the fundamental is. Maybe with a tone that is more focused, our brains identify the notes more immediately as they are sounded, hence perceived as more slotted, precise, and instantaneous.
 

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I mostly play on vintage (SBA) saxophones, which are sometimes described as having "spread" intonation, meaning that it is relatively easy to lip notes up or down.

I recently bought a modern soprano (Yanigasawa) which is described as having "tight" intonation, meaning that the notes are more fixed in place and not so easy to lip up or down.
I have never heard of "spread" intonation, it seems very ambiguous a spread is used for tone (as opposed to focussed. The word spread implies the same as stretched tuning, in which the octave is larger than 2:1 (or 12:6)

But I have to admit I've never found intonation to be more flexible or inflexible on one instrument compared to another. But that maybe be because I've done a lot of work on flexibility of pitch and note bending.
 

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I'm also not convinced, till I see measurements, that certain instruments reputed to have larger or smaller bores really do. You can't just measure the open end of the neck and reach a conclusion.

I am sure that bore dimensions vary amongst brands, but I suspect that actual measurements would refute a lot of commonly held beliefs.
 

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...
The intonation is more locked in when the impedance peaks are higher and well aligned (i.e. with a frequency close to a multiple of the frequency of the fundamental) and (almost?) all modern manufacturers have tried to design new horns with this characteristic -sometime, to the detriment of tone and expressivity.
Agree, but where do these higher (and narrower) and well-aligned impedance peaks come from? Aren't they determined by bore profile, tone hole diameter, tone hole height?
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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When I sent an R&C Two Voices tenor to Les Arbuckle to reign in the intonation on that horn, he at first limited my expectations on a horn's intonation, saying that intonation came from the player, not the horn. After working on the horn, he commented that it had some of the least flexible intonation of any horn he has played.
Again, this is odd. When I got my Two Voices I played it with my long time session musician cohort Dave Bitelli who commented "whoa Pete, that's the most in tune I've ever heard you sound!" (maybe a double edged compliment there but I had to agree - that is just one reason I bought it. The other being it had the best sound aspects of both my Conn 10M and my Martin Committee III.

Horses for courses.
 
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