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From day one in band you learn to "Tune up" by typically playing a concert A or Bb. I started to question this the other day when I was trying to isolate some problem areas on my Alto. I was having issues with the horn playing in tune with itself, so I set out to "map" each note on the horn. Basically I wanted to know how many cents sharp or flat each note was.

When I started the process I had read an article by a Yamaha sponsored clinician, that said you should tune your Alto playing on Low B. The reason he said was because it is a note that is very hard to affect the pitch on by inadvertantly lipping it up or down. So you know you are starting out using an accurate point. I performed my test on each note of the horn after tuning up to fingered low B ( D concert ) The results were pretty interesting, but that is for another post.

Because I was dealing with some Manufacturer issues I sent my results to Yamaha, and was told my results were skewed because I tuned to low B and that you should always tune to fingered G on alto ( Bb concert ) I didn't think to ask if tenor was any different .

When I retuned using the fingered G tuning the results changed, ( though I still had huge intonation issues ) A number of notes that were out of tune were much closer but other notes had moved farther out of tune.

So my question is... What note puts the horn in best tune with itself and others?
 

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There is no way you want to tune to low Bb That is typically one of the most out-of-tune notes on a sax after middle C# and D. middle F# is usually the best note to tune, followed by G.
 

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It's a good article, but it's function is to get you to put the mouthpice in the optimum spot so the sax will play in tune with itself. Having put it there, it's then up to you to play in tune with other people (assuming that they're playing close enough to A=440). Subsequent adjustments have to be made to you, not the sax!
 

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I tune to my middle B and my high F#. The saxes I have play a bit flat on middle B,C and C# and play pretty sharp on high E,F# and G. If I tune the B a tad flat and the F# 5 cents sharp I find the horn plays pretty close to intune. the biggest exception being middle E that is about 20 cents sharp and I have to lip it down. That's the best solution I've found.
 

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stefank said:
It's a good article, but it's function is to get you to put the mouthpice in the optimum spot so the sax will play in tune with itself. Having put it there, it's then up to you to play in tune with other people (assuming that they're playing close enough to A=440). Subsequent adjustments have to be made to you, not the sax!

That, sir, is exactly what the article says.
 

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Gbelair said:
Here is where I got the info about Tuning to low B. Take a read and see what you think...

http://www.yamaha.ca/advertising/downloads/wsp_articles/Wind_Tips_Duke.pdf

My bad, I thought you said low Bb in your post. I got this article from a different thread yesterday and tried it out on my intonation-shakey Selmer. It worked... My intonation is a lot better, I just have to remember to keep my throat in the correct position.
 

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this might be the key to some problems I have with my Baritone, and perhaps, less noticebly, with tenor and alto. Need investigating!
 

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There's not a wind instrument made that will play 'perfectly' in tune. There are many factors--the fact that equal temperment doesn't follow physics, and the fact that compromises have to be made in the placement of tone holes. Every horn is different, even within the same brand.
 

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that is rather clear, thank you, Hakukani, but I liked very much this Yamaha article on the positioning of the mouthpiece and its consequences on intonation since it has a different approach to what I've always heard and learned until now. Worth investigating especially when finding freak problems...
 

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i always like to tune to a B major triad. if i have my air going to my fingers i should be able to keep the horn in tune with no manipulation. no one note is perfect for tuning. but if you can find a rational succession of notes going over the break, then you'll be a little closer.
 

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I find that the f# with the octave is the prettiest sound note on my alto, so I usually tune with that. Almost every time I play f# now, I can play it with a nice tone right away, so I find it's a really good note to start with.
 

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that would be a Concert A.......not an uncommon note to use when tuning :)
 

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yea, unfortunately, every high school band instructor I've met tunes all the instruments to concert Bb. Not that there is anything too wrong about that, concert Bb is an accepted note on most instruments, but I think that more attention should be focused on tuning, especially in high school, and that there should be more than one note to tune to.
 
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