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Discussion Starter #1
Hey y'all. I'm mostly a tenor player, but I've been playing alto a lot more recently so I've been gradually upgrading my gear, trying out different horns, mouthpieces, etc., and have come across some issues, I'll try to be as concise as possible.

I was playing a Meyer, then an old model "Bari" hard rubber, and then mostly a metal Link. Initially I was using it on a Cuesnon Monopole, then a "The Martin," and I was having to push it in super far on both those horns (past the end of the cork) to play in tune. Not sure if it's a product of the Link's chamber size or length, but I play with a pretty loose embouchure for tone purposes so I'm used to pushing in far anyway, and never had to push that far in with either hard rubber mouthpiece. In any case, it was never really a problem until 2 new situations:
1. Just picked up a Conn Transitional "Naked Lady" from 1933/34 with "New York" style neck with no microtuner. If I push the Link all the way in to the end of the cork, it hits up against a metal rim; seems as if the cork is actually in an indented area rather than layered over top of the end of the neck like other horns, so I can't push the Link in past the cork (this is after sanding down the cork significantly). When I push it as far as I can, it's kinda just barely sort of in tune, so it's playable but would be tough to deal with.
2. I play with a band that just got offered an endorsement from Bari Woodwind, and I tried out their mouthpieces and the only one I liked on alto was the WTII, but that thing is so damn tiny and tight it doesn't push in far enough to be even close to in tune on the Conn or Cuesnon, maybe just barely on the Martin if I remember correctly, and the other guys I tried it out with had the same issue with it on their horns.

Any thoughts on either of these issues, or the broader issue as a whole? Any crazy solutions out there such as somehow "sawing off" the end of the Link or boring out the inside of the WTII? Throw em at me!
 

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The metal Link should be perfectly in tune on your 1934 Conn.

There's only one answer:

Tighten your embouchure and practise long tones.
 

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Tighten your embouchure and practise long tones.
+1. Put the mouthpiece around the midpoint of the neck cork and play only the mouthpiece and neck combination. The pitch should come out as concert A-flat. If it doesn't, then tighten your embouchure until you get the correct pitch. Embouchure tension is different between alto and tenor, and playing just mouthpiece and neck is one of the best ways to find the proper tension.
 

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I find that tenor players going to alto tend to have the lower lip too far out and loose. Try a bit more tightness as mentioned above.
 

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Shade: I agree about the problem most probably being you and not the horn or the mouthpiece. However, I've had similar experiences where mouthpieces were shoved on as far as they could go (being prevented from going further by the inside depth of the mouthpiece, not the cork - the end of the neck butting up against the chamber opening inside the mouthpiece). I've had one mouthpiece on soprano do that (a Runyon) and there was no way to bring the horn up to pitch with that piece.

I've also had some soprano mouthpieces shortened so the bottom of the barrel didn't run into the upper octave ribbing on vintage sopranos. But shortening the outside overall length of a mouthpiece will do nothing about correcting the inside depth of a mouthpiece.

Have you had other players try your horn and mouthpiece set-up to try to replicate the tuning issues? That may be a thing to check before buying more mouthpieces or taking more drastic measures. DAVE
 

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I play tenor with a loose embouchure and have the same problem on alto. I 'adjusted' the neck with a hacksaw, about 1/4", and I still get way down on the cork - I did this 25 years ago when I was using a different mouthpiece but with my current mouthpiece its still the same. It is what it is. However, alto to me has never been more than one or two songs a night and my 'mule' for playing 'duals' with the tenor. in your case you're playing mostly alto and you're in a sax section where you must play strictly in tune. I thought it significant that you had been able to tune up with other altos and other mouthpieces, so I believe your answer is right there - you have to go back to what worked before.
As for the Bari mouthpiece, obviously the shank bore is to small since others have noticed the same thing, so its not really a factor in your problem. If you have to play it, send it back to Bari and have them adjust the mouthpiece for you or else simply use something else.
I believe it is okay to be different and its more important to have a good sound and play well than it is to not modify equipment to suit you. Given that choice I'll modify equipment every time.
If I were you I would have other alto players try my alto with their set-up to see if they also are flat on it. I believe you will find that the Conn is flat for everybody.
Sawing off the mouthpiece might not work because there's a limit to how far in the neck can go into the mouthpiece, and that's the real limit to how sharp you can get with it.
I would not recommend doing what I did although it has worked for me for many years - I think you need to change your horn and mouthpiece. Not every horn and mouthpiece go together.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
+1. Put the mouthpiece around the midpoint of the neck cork and play only the mouthpiece and neck combination. The pitch should come out as concert A-flat. If it doesn't, then tighten your embouchure until you get the correct pitch. Embouchure tension is different between alto and tenor, and playing just mouthpiece and neck is one of the best ways to find the proper tension.
See, now I have a bit of an issue with this statement, for the following reason: If I put my hard rubber Bari (much smaller chamber) on the neck alone, I do hit an Ab no problem maybe 2/3 of the way down the cork, but if I put the Link on (much larger chamber), I have to push it almost all the way to get that Ab with the same embouchure. Those results make sense to me because the difference in chamber size is in effect changing the size of the whole horn. By implying that every single mouthpiece should generate the same pitch at the same spot on the cork, you're saying.....that's not the case? Am I missing something?

1saxman said:
Sawing off the mouthpiece might not work because there's a limit to how far in the neck can go into the mouthpiece, and that's the real limit to how sharp you can get with it.
Yeah, that would apply moreso to the Bari WTII, but as for the Link, it feels like it's loose enough that it could go farther if it wasn't bumping up at the metal edge at the end of the cork, which is an edge I've never seen before, seems particular to these horns (not sure if I explained that well). So I think if it had a shorter shank it would buy me some room.

And yeah, I should have some "real" alto players try out my setup. I can acknowledge that I don't have a perfect alto embouchure, but I feel like I've played enough different horns in tune enough in various sections over the years to know if my whole approach was WAY off....

.....also, man, hacksaw to the neck????? I thought I had balls when it comes to weird instrument modifications, but that....that's serious.
 

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Just a thought. Is the Microtuner ALL the way in on the Conn?
 

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OP - What pitch do you blow if playing just the mouthpiece?
 

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If I push the Link all the way in to the end of the cork, it hits up against a metal rim; seems as if the cork is actually in an indented area rather than layered over top of the end of the neck like other horns, so I can't push the Link in past the cork!
Could it be that this horn once had a microtuner, and it was removed leaving that ridge you mentioned? In that case how about getting the ridge removed?
 

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+1. Put the mouthpiece around the midpoint of the neck cork and play only the mouthpiece and neck combination. The pitch should come out as concert A-flat. If it doesn't, then tighten your embouchure until you get the correct pitch. Embouchure tension is different between alto and tenor, and playing just mouthpiece and neck is one of the best ways to find the proper tension.
Don't do this. Embouchure tension should be about the same on every horn, and I don't know any alto that a Link will play in tune on in the middle of the cork.

Could it be that this horn once had a microtuner, and it was removed leaving that ridge you mentioned? In that case how about getting the ridge removed?
This sounds like a possibility to me, but I don't know much about the different Conn necks & vintages.


Look, just chop some shank off the Link. Or play the Martin ;).
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Ok, I should have a chance tomorrow to get some pictures up here. Also, it takes literally hours for my posts to get moderated and actually posted, probably because I'm a new poster, so.....my responses are spaced out and don't actually show up when the timestamp is, so they're also out of order. I posted one reply so far, and another 5 people's posts appeared before mine magically appeared above them all... for example, Mfry, see my response above yours to the neck-Ab thing. Sounds like we're on the same page.
And no, I don't believe it ever had a microtuner, it's not so much a ridge that sticks up, it's more like.....as the neck approaches the mouthpiece end, the metal drops off sharply to allow a cork to be wrapped around without it raising above the height of the metal, so as far as I can tell there's actually an indentation creating a sort of channel that the cork sits in. It'll be hard to show even without removing the cork, but I'll try tomorrow with some pics.
 

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'that's serious.'

Yes, it is, and not the first option anyone should consider. In my case, don't forget the Guardala mouthpiece, which probably should be considered 'small' in interior volume and bore shank diameter, still has to be pushed on almost to the mouthpiece throat to tune up, and this is a modern sax, a Selmer USA from 1983. My tenor, a MK VI with a another Guardala, also has to go in pretty far but not as extreme as the alto. This is critical because when I play 'duals', tuning has to be precise or it can really sound like crap. Plus, I'm always at standard tuning because of working with keyboards and guitars who are all on standard, so there's no question of tuning to a higher pitch. My alto still plays pretty well in tune with itself so what I did to it didn't cause any problems.
BTW, I cut the neck when I was playing a Brilhart Level Air, and the Guardala also goes on just as far. So, while my embouchure has gone through changes over the years, tuning on the alto has never changed, even with overhauls and mouthpiece changes. I absolutely do not believe you can pull that pitch up almost a whole step, which is what you seem to be saying, but adapting more of a 'clarinet' embouchure. I know when I'm out on a gig, I use many different embouchures depending on what I'm playing, and I have never observed global pitch changes because of it.
With any embouchure, you're playing 'in the center' of it, meaning there is 'room' for bending notes up or down - you cannot adopt an embouchure to pull up the pitch of a flat horn except as a very temporary measure because that would use up all the 'headroom' in your embouchure and I don't think you can actually perform that way.
I did what I had to do to be able to use that sax. I had another alto prior to that, with the same mouthpiece, that tuned up fine and I didn't feel the need to do anything to it. But for whatever reason, the Selmer played flat for me. I loved the horn overall so I basically cut the reinforcing ring off the neck and its been usable ever since. Bear in mind, at that time the horn was still in production so I could have bought a new neck anytime up til about 2000. I never felt like I needed to do that so it was a moot point.
Obviously you would not chop the neck on your vintage Conn, but if you have another alto to play that tunes up with your Link, maybe you should do that. I think there is a problem with the Conn.
 

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it's not so much a ridge that sticks up, it's more like.....as the neck approaches the mouthpiece end, the metal drops off sharply to allow a cork to be wrapped around without it raising above the height of the metal, so as far as I can tell there's actually an indentation creating a sort of channel that the cork sits in. It'll be hard to show even without removing the cork, but I'll try tomorrow with some pics.
Pics would be good because that makes no sense. Usually the thickness of the cork is thicker than the metal of the neck, so to do what you are saying the neck metal would need to be extra thick (more than double) to accomodate the "drop off"

This is not something I think anyone is aware of Connever doing. There is no point in doing anything so the cork doesn't raise above the metal.
 

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Pics would be good because that makes no sense. Usually the thickness of the cork is thicker than the metal of the neck, so to do what you are saying the neck metal would need to be extra thick (more than double) to accomodate the "drop off"

This is not something I think anyone is aware of Connever doing. There is no point in doing anything so the cork doesn't raise above the metal.
If I had to guess, I would guess that someone took the microtuner off and replaced it with a piece of tubing and somehow in the process made the whole thing too long. The "shoulder" or whatever, I've got no ideas at this point without visuals.

It's actually not clear whether it's the shank of the MP that's hitting against an external shoulder, or if the problem is that the ring on the end of an original Conn neck is hitting a step inside the MP.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
If I had to guess, I would guess that someone took the microtuner off and replaced it with a piece of tubing and somehow in the process made the whole thing too long.
That's a really interesting theory.
Pics would be good because that makes no sense. Usually the thickness of the cork is thicker than the metal of the neck, so to do what you are saying the neck metal would need to be extra thick (more than double) to accomodate the "drop off" . . . There is no point in doing anything so the cork doesn't raise above the metal.
Yeah that's a really good point regarding the thickness of the metal. The cork was actually raised up a little bit above the metal until I sanded the hell out of it to try to buy some room, now it's flush with the metal. Pictures to come when I get home from work this evening.....
 

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Some have said tighten embouchure, but I'd lean towards voicing the note higher with the back of your tongue. I used to tighten up a lot, until a teacher hipped me to playing with a relaxed embouchure, but a focused airstream. Unless there's just a problem with your horn/piece. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Some have said tighten embouchure, but I'd lean towards voicing the note higher with the back of your tongue. I used to tighten up a lot, until a teacher hipped me to playing with a relaxed embouchure, but a focused airstream. Unless there's just a problem with your horn/piece. :)
Yeah, I play with a pretty relaxed embouchure, and then adjust my voicing accordingly across alto/tenor/bari.
 
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