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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I play the sax for 2 years now. My main concern has always be my two main issues as well: playing in tune and playing fast. But i find the first more important. My tuning goes good in the low notes but starts getting bad on the end of the first octave, gets TERRIBLE on the D to F department, and beyond is always very variable.
Going on and on on this two problems i noticed how important the economy of movement is on the sax. I notice that i obviously move my mouth and throat much more than needed, and when i try to keep it to the minimum i see everythings still not good but more controled.
I practice singing mayor scales with a piano almost everyday but seems my ear isnt being educated and as well my playing, sometimes i think im in tune..cjeck tje tunner and im not in tune at all, sometimes more near the next note than the actual...this issue is really frustratiing me..any sugestions? thanks
 

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First and foremost: make sure your instrument is mechanically in good condition, with zero leaks. Take it to a certified professional and make sure it is sealing correctly.

The D2-F2 range is typically sharp on most saxophones, you'll need to voice down on these particular notes to stay in tune with the rest of the horn.

Keep in mind that no saxophone is "in tune"...the pitch will vary across the range and it is up to you to voice the correct tuning for a note.

Instead of singing with the piano, try playing your horn with the piano. This can help you adjust your pitch. Try pushing the mouthpiece really far in so that the sax blows sharp, then play a note with the piano. Then try pulling the mouthpiece out as far as you can, and play the same note. This exercise can help you start to identify sharpness/flatness in your overall playing.

Ear training exercises are something you can do everyday to help your pitch. You'll also want to make sure you're studying with a teacher who can advise you on proper embouchure technique, air support, and throat/tongue position to help with intonation.

Hope this helps!

- Saxaholic
 

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Playing "in tune" with an accompanying instrument, in a saxophone section, or when playing with another player in its simplest form is having the ability to "match pitch". Until good tone production skills which include embouchure, air stream, oral cavity control are mastered you will be "chasing your tail" when it comes to intonation. Work every day on playing long tones at various dynamic levels to develop control, take some lessons with a good instructor, learn to "listen deeply" to what you and others are playing.

Saxophones do not play out of tune. People play out of tune. When I studied music education in the late '60's - early '70's the term used was "humoring the pitch". On all wind instruments the player has a degree of control of where the pitch on any given note is going to be. When playing in unison, or in octaves with another player, one "humors" the pitch on every note to match the pitch of that individual. It doesn't matter if he/she is sharp or flat as measured on a tuner. It is your job as an ensemble player to match the pitches you hear. This is what playing "in tune" is all about. An experienced player will sometimes change the placement of the mouthpiece during a rest in the music to make it easier to "humor the pitch" when the other player is out.

So how does one "humor the pitch" on a saxophone? That's easy. When playing with a lip or jaw vibrato there is a slight tightening and relaxing of the embouchure which makes the pitch go up and down creating the "waves" in the sound we hear as vibrato. Some would argue that it is easier to "lip down" on a saxophone than to "lip up". There are some players who purposefully put the mouthpiece a bit too far on the neck so that most of the "humoring" is in a downward pitch direction.

Two notes that are in unison, an octave, a fourth, or a fifth apart will create "beats" when they are "out of tune". The faster the beats, the farther out of tune they are. The slower the beats the closer in tune they are. Of course the goal is to tune out or eliminate the beats as quickly as possible by humoring the note. On other intervals such as 2nds, 3rds, 6ths, and 7ths there will not be "beats" that you can hear and count, but when these intervals are "humored" in tune they sound pleasing to the ear.

To sum it up, playing a saxophone in tune is exactly like singing (or playing a damn oboe). Every note must be listened to and made to fit pitch wise into its musical and harmonic context. This can be made easier by having a good instrument and set-up, but even then 99% is up to the player.
 

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Two things:

1) Play with a drone, not a tuner, and try to hear the difference tones between your horn and the drone note. When you lock into the tuning, you will often hear extra notes, both high and low, that are the result of the combination of the frequencies. My clarinet teacher in high school showed me this - playing a major third, we'd hear the root an octave below when it was in tune.

2) Push in your mouthpiece and then play in tune with the drone. You may well find, as many have, that it's easier to get a good sound if you have a more relaxed embouchure. Most people that have problems going sharp in the 2nd octave have too tight an embouchure, and pushing in forces you to relax.

You are right of course about not moving your embouchure too much. Throat and tongue is OK to move, that's called "voicing", but you need to keep the pressure on the reed at just the minimum required to produce a solid tone.

If you have a real piano with strings and all, play some long tones or slow scales while holding the damper pedal down. You will be able to hear when you cause strong sympathetic vibrations in the piano - which means you are in tune (with that piano, anyway! - don't do this if your piano is badly out of tune.)

I do not believe in using a tuner other than to check that I'm in the ballpark. For one thing, playing in tune with other instruments requires listening to them and adjusting so the blend is good. For another, tuners are tuned to the equally tempered scale, which is really out of tune everywhere a little bit. Pianos are often tuned in "stretch" tuning, which means that the high notes are a little sharp, and the low notes a little flat - so a piano will be out of tune with the tuner, and if you are tuning to the piano, so will you. String players, vocalists and many horn players tune so that chords sound in tune, but this will be out of tune with a tuner - because an in-tune chord will have notes that are out of tune with the equally tempered scale.

It's best to learn to play in tune with other players and other instruments rather than tuning to a tuner.
 

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In addition to all that has been said already, I may add that something which greatly helped me to reduce my tuning issues has been to practice on the mouthpiece alone.
First to find different pitches, second to match the pitches to the piano, third to play simple things on the mouthpiece only (don't pay attention to the tone).

Before that I had great troubles with intonation.
Now that I systematically warm-up with a few minutes of this, I have just the occasional 'regular/small' intonation problems.
Maybe that'll work for you too...

Beware of the angry neighbours... ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thank you for all your advice. Its difficult to practice with a piano and the sax at the same as i do with the voice. I found an app that does the scale 2octaves up and down but only that, no 3rds or more "complex" stuff, you know any?

As for my road on the tuning thing ive noticed that i may have to play a little bit more like i sing,to be more conected to the instrument, but im finding a hard one on that becaude its been already some years playing like this. But i have the suspicion that that may be doing bad to my playing.
 

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If you have the Fishman Phrasing and etude books sing along and play along. Besides great style, he has impeccable intonation. If there are others you know play in tune play along with them. I have one recording that is slightly flat probably because the piano was slightly flat and the combo was tuned to the piano. Besides confirming that you hear the pitch in your head, if you use your saxophone breathing you will sound better.

Tuners are great, but they’re one of a number of tools available to musicians. Tuning to the meter is awesome until the piano isn’t. Also disabuse yourself of the notion that tuning to one note on the piano or guitar or X is tuning up. More modern horns have better scale than older horns but that didn’t stop the historic greats from playing in tune.
 
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