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Discussion Starter #1
I got ahold of my school's bass saxophone today, which I will be playing in Wind Ensemble. It's a Buescher, and had the original mouthpiece and a few rico #3 reeds in the case.

I spent about 20 minutes with it before I got out my tuner and discovered it was playing about 40 cents flat, consistently. I tried pushing the mouthpiece in more, up to the point where the scale was thrown off, but still couldn't get my A tuning note anywhere near pitch.

I figure my reeds may be too soft, but I can't imagine that making such a huge difference. I've played smaller Bueschers with large chamber mouthpieces in tune.

What's the deal? Any ideas/suggestions?
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member/Bass Sax Boss
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First, check that there is nothing stuck in the various bows of the saxophone bore. I've never owned a Buescher, but my friend Bill Prince actually had to extend the neck to get his Buescher DOWN to A=440. Something is wrong here.
Next, although the Buescher mouthpiece should play in tune, try any mouthpiece you can find, whether it is a bass sax piece or a baritome mouthpiece.
 

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Our school's bass has the EXACT same problem. I've tried the original mouthpiece, S80 C* and D bari, The Woodwind Co. bari, and rousseau jazz and classic bari pieces. I have response issues with all but the Buescher and the Woodwind Co. And with both of these pieces, it still plays extremely flat.
 

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That huge metal thing will never be warmed up by the player's body temp. air to the extent that a much smaller horn will be. Put a little heater under it.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I spent more time with it last night. I tried all my baritone mouthpieces on it. For the most part, they responded poorly, sounded awful, and were still flat. I will ask the saxophone teacher if I can try some of the studio's baritone pieces on it.

The room where I initially tried the horn was pretty cold. It hadn't occurred to me that that could be an issue, but it makes sense. I was in a warmer area this time (tuba storage) and after I got it warmed up, I could get it to play up and down on the flat side of in tune. There were a few notes that I couldn't get up far enough, but I think I can fix that by putting some cork in the tone holes.

Thanks everybody.
 

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One last suggestion, and that is, be sure you are pushing the mouthpiece onto the neck far enough. Seems like a simple, common sense suggestion, but remember, to accomplish the same change in pitch, on a bass sax you have to move the mouthpiece twice as far as on a tenor sax. Maybe you will have to sand down the cork on the neck (especially at he back) to get the mouthpiece on far enough.
After doing this, if the notes near the top of the range, especially the palm keys, get sharp then that is a different problem. One problem at a time - first push that mouthpiece on farther than you thought possible. This big horn is twice the size of a tenor!
 

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How flat is low Bb?
This is an excellent question. The low notes tend to get really flat without a the right mouthpiece, and you really want those notes to sound great. On many vintage basses, the low Bb is sharp, although the other lowest notes (B natural, C, C sharp, D and E flat) are flat, maybe REALLY flat. Check carefully.
 

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The pitch of any wind instrument will change +/- 3 cents for each +/- degree change (Celcius, or +/- 1.67 cents for Fahrenheit) in air temperature. Studies have shown that the mean breath temperature at normal room temperature is 35C/95F. If the room temperature is 21.1C/70F, that's a difference of 41.7 cents. Since the heat sink tubing of the massive bass sax body never warms up, most of the bass sax will be much cooler than the upper portion of the tube. The long tube notes will be very flat to the short tube notes. Pushing in to bring up the low end will raise the upper register proportionally even more. This appears to be what your are experiencing.

A low baffle mouthpiece will bring the high register down some, compared to a more modern, baffled mouthpiece.

You could run a 12v wire heating element through the body tube.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Here are the intonation tendencies of every note on the instrument, in cents, from bottom to top. I did my best not to adjust but there are probably some fluctuations that are not the instrument's fault due to my lack of familiarity with it.

With the mouthpiece at the end of the cork: low Bb 0; B -30; C -30; C# -30; D -25; D# -20; E -30; F -20; F# regular -30; F# SK -20; G -5; G# -15; A -20; A# -30; B -20; C regular +10; C SK -20; C# -20; D -0; D with palm d instead of octave -20; D# 0; E 0; F -15; F# -20; G -5; G -5; A 0; A# 0; B -20; C regular 0; C SK -20; C# +25; D +60; D# +45.

With the mouthpiece in as far as it can go (the end is touching the neck):
Bb +20; B -20; C -25; C#-25 D -20; D#-5; E -20; F -10; F# -30; F# sk 0; G 0; G# 0; A -20; A# -20; B -15; C +30; C sk -15; C# 0; D +20; D sk +20; D# +20; E 0; F +10; F# -10; F# sk +20; G +10; G# +10; A 0; A#+10; B +25; C +30; C sk +25; C#+60; D +80(!); D# +60.

I haven't looked into heating it because I don't have the proper equipment or money. If I could find someone who could loan me a space heater, would that do the trick, or would it be too much?
 

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Indistinguishable Resident Buescher Bigot and Foru
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An electric blanket put over it before you play might work. I don't recommend having it on there while playing though.

It's interesting that pushing the mouthpiece on all the way brought low Bb up 20 cents, but only affected low B by 10, low C by 5 and the rest of the keys by curiously disproportionate amounts.

Are you sure you're using a bass sax mouthpiece. Does it look like the original neck? Very curious.
 

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Indistinguishable Resident Buescher Bigot and Foru
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That's what I was thinking -- although it strikes me that as a school horn it's probably all over the place regarding regulation.
 

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get it all the way in until the B is in tune. sometimes on these things, and sopranos too, some of the notes will come in tune, but the whole scale will be all sorts of mucked up. Get the mouthpiece in far enough and everything will pop back in place.
 

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Does it look like the original neck? Very curious.
I too was wondering this, though whether this is the problem or not is another story.

But I've seen enough basses with non-original or modified necks that it would be worthwhile to look into it as a possible cause of intonation problems.
 

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My Buescher bass sax neck was shortened by Paul Woltz, a phenominal bass sax player who also plays a Buescher bass. Fixed it for me but really upset a *lot* of people. (Not sure I care about how those people feel.) I also purchased a Gloger neck which is my all-time fav because I no longer need to use the side D minus the octave key for D2. Moving to the Eppelsheim bass sax brought even more joy.
 

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It's hard to comment on these problematic old horns, because in the days of more hand-made construction there were so many variables. I have seen necks on old Conn basses that are very different than the neck on my Conn Pan American, or the Conn Wurlitzer that I sold.
Bill Prince, one of the finest woodwind doublers anywhere, found it necessary to lengthen the neck on his Buescher bass sax for his Berg Larsen mouthpiece. I respect his opinion. Jim Glass found it necessary to shorten his Buescher neck, and I respect his opinion also.
Best (and easiest) solution is to try every mouthpiece available on the horn you have, without changing anything. It's cheaper to do this, and you may find the ideal mouthpiece without altering a good horn.
 
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