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Discombobulated SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 201
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Discussion Starter #1
I said months ago that I'd provide a review of my CJS Black Nickel alto. It took a while for me to get it into the shop, a while to get it back, and a while to familiarize myself with it. Now that these are available again from WWBW as indicated in another thread, it seems like a good time to provide a little feedback and pose a question.

Those who have seen these in person or in a good picture already know they are great-looking horns. I am pleased with many of its playing aspects as well. It has a beautiful, smooth, dark tone that is flexible enough both for classical playing with a tilt to the dark end of the tonal spectrum or, with mouthpiece and reed adjustments, for a nice full-bodied jazz sound. The keywork is generally comfortable, and of course it's modern, so I could easily be very happy with that as well.

What I'm still not adjusted to is the tuning of the horn. For background info, I've mainly been playing a Buescher Big B lately, and I feel like I can play the "normal" range of the horn in decent tune without a lot of embouchure or air adjustments. My perception on the CJS is different - the same approach carried over to it results in the notes above the staff sounding quite flat. The problem is fairly easily adjusted for on my classical, close-facing old Sumner round-chambered mouthpiece. I've been mainly using a streamline or standard profile Couf Artist (which has a medium round chamber) in about .075" opening for jazz, and there the adjustment is much more difficult.

Has anyone else noticed this issue on these horns? Any thoughts? I suppose I would eventually make the embouchure and air adjustments required to fix this, but I'm trying to figure out to what extent I want to put in the effort, especially since this seems so much different from most of the other altos laying around the house here.

I do love the sound of this horn though, so I'm really torn...

Any thoughts or suggestions? Oh, I did try a number of different open tip mouthpieces without finding one that made much difference. Most are similar design though. The one that's a little different is the Yani hard rubber, which seems to have a smaller chamber, but it didn't affect this problem much.
 

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I am guessing that you just have to play around until you find something that works (or until you adjust to the horn.) It seems that whenever I switch altos the new one plays out of tune compared to the current one. I have a number of altos including a couple of CJS, Yanis, MK VI, and an SML Rev D. I find that the CJS horns play more readily in tune than the other horns. I use an old Selmer Jazz F metal piece, a 60's Berg 85 1/m, and a Yani metal 7. Occasionally a Brancher J21. They all seem to work quite well for me. In fact, I like playing chromatic "exercises" on the CJS because the finer pitch distinction are so readily obtainable. As I recall, the B&S piece and a Meyer 7M also played nicely.

Just keep working with it. Good luck.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member and Forum Contributor 20
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If I'm having tuning issues on a particular horn, I try pieces that are very different in design from what I'm using (large chamber vs. small chamber, concave walls vs. straight, short facing vs. long). Sooner or later you'll find a combination that works.

For me, I could never get large chambered pieces like Links to play in tune easily on my Keilwerths. Smaller chambers with straighter walls seem to work for me.
 

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Chitown,
I have a CJS alto. I have been mostly playing my tenors though. However, I do seem to remember some issues with the CJS. Will get it out tonight and see what they are. I have eight saxes and it's hard to recall their individual idiosyncrasies. How flat are those notes?
Candy
 

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My understanding is that the length of the mpc affects intonation in the high end, while the internal volume of the mpc affects intonation in the low end. This means if your only problem is that the high notes are flat you might want to push in on the cork and try a larger chamber. I would only do this, however, after making a good effort to acclimate your embouchre to the tendencies of the horn.
 

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Discombobulated SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 201
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Discussion Starter #6
candiceartisan said:
Chitown,
I have a CJS alto. I have been mostly playing my tenors though. However, I do seem to remember some issues with the CJS. Will get it out tonight and see what they are. I have eight saxes and it's hard to recall their individual idiosyncrasies. How flat are those notes?
Candy
If I play the way I normally play, very flat. I can get them closer by lipping but I still can't get them up to pitch.
 

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Well, I don't know does this help but..

I own a CJS tenor. I used to play a metal Link on it, but I've recently switched to a metal RIA (straight sidewalls, bullet chamber). Compared to the Link the RIA plays a bit more focused and it projects more.. and the intonation is the best that I've ever experienced on a tenor. Also on tenor I 've switched the original neck to a Reference 54 neck. If you have a chance to experiment with different necks, try Selmer necks. The Ref 54 neck really gives more warmth and body to the sound (on tenor that is).

Cheers,
Tuomas
 

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Discombobulated SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 201
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Discussion Starter #9
OK, thanks all for the helpful feedback! I've got some leads to pursue now.

If this wasn't such a great-sounding and cool-looking horn, I'd probably save myself the trouble, but it really does have a bit of a hold on me.
 

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i have a CJS and i have problem in getting the right sound of the low B and low Bb. It seems it has a lot back pressure when i play it. It either has too much subtone or too boomy.
 

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polywine said:
i have a CJS and i have problem in getting the right sound of the low B and low Bb. It seems it has a lot back pressure when i play it. It either has too much subtone or too boomy.
Sounds to me like you've got yourself a leak!
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2016
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Ask a technician. Sometimes key heights in the upper stack can affect intonation up high.

I have a B&S tenor and an alto, BTW. Love them both, though I play tenor much more.
 

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Discombobulated SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 201
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Discussion Starter #14
I think I'm starting to get to the bottom of this.

So far I've discovered two issues that have made a difference.

First, I was going a little too macho on the mouthpiece tip opening, given the little amount of time I'm able to spend on the horn on a daily basis. I backed off from an 0.085" to .076" and that seems to help a lot.

Second, I've been fiddling with the voicing quite a bit and that's making a huge improvement.

Still haven't got this problem solved completely but I'm feeling a lot more confident that I eventually will.

And still loving the sound of the horn a lot. There are some ergo issues that I wish were different, but that's of secondary importance to me.
 
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