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I am in need of some advice. I am currently playing on a Conn 10m from around 1959, with a Theo Wanne Kali 7* metal mouthpiece, on Vandoren Java 2 1/2 reeds. Most of the notes in each range of the instrument are really sharp. I can get these notes in tune if I am looking at a tuner, but I need to be able to keep them in tune without having to have a tuner on my stand nonstop. I get them in tune by adjusting my embouchure, but I have to adjust it a dramatic amount. I have the mouthpiece pulled out about halfway up the neck, and if I pull it any further, it does not get a good seal on the neck. I have taken the horn to a technician, and he found that a lot of the pads are leaking. Can the leaky pads affect my intonation? If it is not the pads, then i suspect that is is just my inability to get in tune, so I am still working on that. Any suggestions on exercises to work on intonation? Thanks.
 

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Did you ask the tech these questions? Adjusting certain key heights can have an effect on intonation. In addition, check to see if the G# key is sealing well when you play certain notes (e.g., low Bb - D). I'm not a tech, but my tech adjusted the key height of my low C to correct a similar issue. He also said that my G# was opening slightly when I played certain notes, so he tightened it.

Hope this helps.
 

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I'm not sure about a 1959 10M, but older ones have a tendency to be sharp. The original Conn mouthpieces were longer. I can play my 1942 10M in tune with an Otto Link Super Tone Master. Also, you can wind some teflon tape around your cork to get a better seal when the mouthpiece is farther out. Teflon tape is with the plumbing supplies in your hardware store.
 

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I have taken the horn to a technician, and he found that a lot of the pads are leaking. Can the leaky pads affect my intonation? If it is not the pads, then i suspect that is is just my inability to get in tune, so I am still working on that. Any suggestions on exercises to work on intonation? Thanks.
Regardless of the intonation issues, if your horn is leaking I'd get that taken care of immediately. Nothing worse than playing a horn full of leaks.

From your description about the entire horn playing sharp, you probably do need to pull the mpc out a bit farther on the cork (use plumber's tape as suggested above or have the cork replaced so the mpc fits properly). The other option is to use a larger chamber mpc. Regarding your embouchure, if you are biting that would tend to make you play sharp also. So make sure you are using a loose embouchure. Finally, as a general rule the best way to work on playing in tune is to use a drone or other tone-matching exercise, using your EAR to play in tune. A tuner is fine for a quick reference point, but it won't train your ear.

Still, I think the main problem has to do with mpc chamber size and/or where it's placed on the neck of the horn.
 

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Chamber, throat, and floor design all affect intonation of a mouthpiece on a sax. My Conn Steeley Bari sax mouthpiece, plays very flat (A=438) on the stock neck. Its actually a lot shorter of a mouthpiece than my Drakes are too, which both play easily in tune. I would bet the Steeley would be right at home on a Conn! I don't have trouble with my Theo Wanne large chamber pieces on my other saxes. Point is, some mouthpieces don't match up well to some saxes. Sometimes modifications can be made to make them work, but that depends on how much you love the mouthpiece, when there are so many options now!

And get those leaks fixed! By compensating past the leaks, you're not getting a true representation of what that mouthpiece can do for you, your tone, intonation, or the sax!
 

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If the pads on your sax are OK, it should not be too expensive to have it regulated so that it does not leak. You definitely want to fix the leaks; it will make a big difference for you. You also (after getting the leaks fixed) might want to try several different mouthpieces to find one that sounds good and plays in tune. One more thing: If you came to sax from clarinet, your embouchure may be too tight.
 

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We have Conn 10M and Buescher TH&C tenors in our home ('48 and '51). Both tend to play sharp across the board unless you have the right mouthpiece--one with a larger chamber. The Buescher plays pretty much in tune for me with a Drake Son of Slant.

Certainly, get any leaks fixed. And while you're at it, get the neck re-corked so the mouthpiece can be a little farther out without losing its seal. I did that with my daughter's 10M, and it seemed to do the trick.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for the help! I am going to get the pads fixed as soon as possible, and I will also look into getting a new cork on the neck. I do think that I bite a bit, so I will also work on that, and I will work on the ear training stuff you suggested. Thanks again!
 

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Intonation is mostly in your head, not your setup. It's also a muscle: the more you play the more you will inherently play in tune, assuming you are listening to yourself. Plus continuous strong air support is key. If you want to goose your progress you can get something that is, I believe, called the "Tuning CD." It plays a drone tone with all of the harmonics in it and if you're out of tune you can hear it clearly and immediately and the only thing you will want to do is get back in tune right away to make the pain go away. Even after a week or so of this you will notice marked improvement and soon you will unconsciously play in tune. Playing while looking at a tuner can be helpful in order to acquire a sense of how your scale sounds when playing in tune and which direction to make your adjustments but it also involves your eyes, which takes away from your ears. Drone CD is much better because it forces you to hear and correct your intonation issues by using your ear which in turn will involve you doing all the other things (like breath support) that it takes to play in tune by focusing on the result rather than the means.
 

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Intonation is mostly in your head, not your setup. It's also a muscle: the more you play the more you will inherently play in tune, assuming you are listening to yourself. Plus continuous strong air support is key. If you want to goose your progress you can get something that is, I believe, called the "Tuning CD." It plays a drone tone with all of the harmonics in it and if you're out of tune you can hear it clearly and immediately and the only thing you will want to do is get back in tune right away to make the pain go away. Even after a week or so of this you will notice marked improvement and soon you will unconsciously play in tune. Playing while looking at a tuner can be helpful in order to acquire a sense of how your scale sounds when playing in tune and which direction to make your adjustments but it also involves your eyes, which takes away from your ears. Drone CD is much better because it forces you to hear and correct your intonation issues by using your ear which in turn will involve you doing all the other things (like breath support) that it takes to play in tune by focusing on the result rather than the means.
You have obviously never played a mouthpiece out of pitch with a sax! Just ask Soprano Planet guru. He's run across much worse than either my Conn Steeley or this example of the OP. At least these are tunable to get to A=440. Some mouthpieces can be as far off as A=430 to A=455!

Sorry, but on either extreme, those become useless mouthpieces. A=438 to A=444 can be corrected by neck length.

The mouthpiece isn't the problem, per se here though. But 10M Conns are notorious for their pickininess on what mouthpieces play best in tune on them.
 

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Is it possible to achieve someone perfect tuning on the upper register of the saxophone (in my case alto) on high D, D# and E...everytime i check my tuner i realize that high F is more in-tune than the previous notes...let's say that a player has the best cane reed as possible and of course no leaks on the horn exist and the set up is matched perfectly!

I am asking this cause my high D (especially high D# to E), seem to be very fragile...


Thanks!!

PS: My embouchoure is loose enough and i am not pinching the corners of mouth!
 

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I'll second some of the suggestions already made:

1. Get your horn fixed. If you're fighting the horn to make notes sound, it could cause you to bite and bring the pitch up.
2. Get the new cork and find a good place for your mouthpiece where the horn is in tune. However, if you have a decent sense of pitch, you can actually play sharp when your mouthpiece is too far out. If you have a decent sense of intonation, your ears pick up on your flatness and try to autocorrect by tightening the embouchure. Though this works to some degree for the middle register of the horn, it degrades the sound and always results in a sharp upper register. So, find the sweet spot on the cork.
3. Not biting will definitely help you find that spot. Being able to play a smooth wide vibrato on overtones and paying attention to breathing in deeply (diaphragmatic) are good techniques to counter biting.
4. Lastly, something people haven't suggested - if you have your ligature too far back on the mouthpiece, the reed can become too sensitive to embouchure pressure and easily play sharp. This also almost always results in a sharp upper register (think palm keys).
 

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4. Lastly, something people haven't suggested - if you have your ligature too far back on the mouthpiece, the reed can become too sensitive to embouchure pressure and easily play sharp. This also almost always results in a sharp upper register (think palm keys).
That's true, but for an intermediate like me, it helps me play more relaxed and punching the reed easily with a very loose embouchoure...also i think that it helps me more with the air support in the horn! Thanks for the recommendation mr Britton!
 

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Intonation is mostly in your head, not your setup. It's also a muscle: the more you play the more you will inherently play in tune, assuming you are listening to yourself. Plus continuous strong air support is key. If you want to goose your progress you can get something that is, I believe, called the "Tuning CD."…
A lot of good advice. This is it guys. No saxophone plays in tune. You have to listen to each note and make adjustments.

There were some long threads on here about making tuning charts for your sax. I did this and it was very helpful. Basically, you go through every note on the horn using a tuner and write down what the pitch tendencies are. For example: D2 - 50 cents flat. Once you do this for every note on your sax, you can prepare yourself to adjust on the worst notes. Some saxes are better than others.
 

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A lot of good advice. This is it guys. No saxophone plays in tune. You have to listen to each note and make adjustments.

There were some long threads on here about making tuning charts for your sax. I did this and it was very helpful. Basically, you go through every note on the horn using a tuner and write down what the pitch tendencies are. For example: D2 - 50 cents flat. Once you do this for every note on your sax, you can prepare yourself to adjust on the worst notes. Some saxes are better than others.
Still need a mouthpiece that plays in tune with the sax though! Some mouthpieces simply won't play in tune on some saxes, no matter how good you are! Some saxes have tone holes in the wrong spots too!
 

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Conn 10Ms are well known for needing a large chamber mouthpiece to play in tune (yes, yes paulwl I know that actually once you push it in the chamber volume will be the same, but let's just agree to temporarily call it a "large chamber MP" for now). If you pull the MP out, whether just pulling it out, or extending the neck (thus having to cut off the little formed ring at the end of the neck, thus mutilating the instrument), or extending the MP shank, you will disturb the length relationship of the end of the MP with respect to all the tone holes.

Every MP/horn combination has a total tube length (this means the sax tube plus the MP) at which it plays the best in tune with itself. If the sax/MP are well matched, that tube length (= position of MP on neck) will yield A=440 tuning. If they are not, then A will be some other value than 440. For best results you need to investigate this. Of course you can compensate by lipping notes, but you are taking flexibility away from yourself. Also, with some horns having the total tube length off spec can create individual weird tuning anomalies (as in the notorious sharp middle E and F of Conn 12M baritones), and it can make altissimo very difficult.

I have had good tuning results on a 10M with: a copy of an old Link with a large chamber; Dukoff D7; Meyer 8.

A lot of people try to claim "it's all in your head"; unfortunately, they are using an analogy of a fretless instrument like a violin. No one tells a guitar player than intonation is all in his head. Everyone knows the frets are there. The tone holes are the equivalent of our frets. They are fixed in position. It is true that our sound production mechanism allows pitch flexibility, but you should try to have the horn requiring the minimum of lipping to play it in tune, then you can use the saxophone's flexibility for artistic effects rather than just trying to get the darn thing in tune.

Flute players struggled with this for decades: The old Louis Lot flutes were designed for A = 435. When standard pitch was set at 440, most people just had the head joint shortened so they could play in tune with the oboe's A. Unfortunately, by trimming the head joint and pushing in, they screwed up the scale. Then the Haynes "French model" flutes copied chopped-down Louis Lot flutes, and then Powell copied the same scale, and generations of flute students, when they got their first pro flute, were told that it was just that way, the high notes always sharp and the low notes always flat. But it was because the tone hole spacing was wrong; they were playing a tube with A=435 tone hole spacing, at A=440. Strangely, the Haynes Commercial models (closed hole) used a German model for the scale, which was much closer to A=440. Many student flutes in the 40s-70s were copies of the Haynes Commercial, so we had the odd situation where the cheapo student flutes played better in tune than the Haynes and Powells you had to wait 6-12 months to get. Finally, people like Albert Cooper and the Japanese re-figured the scales and suddenly you didn't have to lip the upper register down all the time.

This is not something mystical or spiritual, it's basic acoustics. Save the mysticism for places where it applies, like "how come Trane always sounds like he's saying something profound?"
 

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A lot of good advice. This is it guys. No saxophone plays in tune. You have to listen to each note and make adjustments.

There were some long threads on here about making tuning charts for your sax. I did this and it was very helpful. Basically, you go through every note on the horn using a tuner and write down what the pitch tendencies are. For example: D2 - 50 cents flat. Once you do this for every note on your sax, you can prepare yourself to adjust on the worst notes. Some saxes are better than others.
I always study with a tuner, but most of the times i play "hide and seek" with the intonation above high D...but when i put on a synthetic reed yes things are more in tune but i lose this sweet and warm cane tone!! Of course intonation is in the brain and our muscles!!
 

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I have intonation issues with my LC curved soprano. All the low notes from D to Bb are about 20% flat especially if I play soft with less airstream. The rest of the notes are in tune but I noticed though that when I play louder all the low notes I mentioned which are flat become in tune. Any advice would be appreciated.
 

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Theo Wannes large chamber mouthpieces are not always the best choice when a large chambered
piece is what's needed.
A large chamber with a big high baffle and a power ring is not likely to help your intonation issues.
A large chamber with a moderate baffle without a reducing ring following it would go a lot closer to what is needed.
An Ambika or Gaia would likely come closer to the type of large chamber piece that would work with your Conn.
 
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