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Discussion Starter #1
So after not playing for 15 years I'm back relearning the sax. When I remember my old lessons I do not recall too much about tuning, I do remember I use to mark my cork to where I placed the mouthpiece, which I realize now is kinda useless considering all the factors that contribute to the horn going sharp or flat like room temp for example. I got an app on my iPad for tuning. I realize that no horn plays perfectly in tune and that some notes will be sharp or flatter than others. My embouchure is not very strong right now so my pitch wavers at times. I know if I bite down more I go sharp, loosen jaw more I go flat. Sometimes I try to tune and I'm having to loosen my bite to bring down the note it gets buzzy, less attractive sounding. I tend to go sharp overall. How much I curl my lip in also changes the tone and tuning. Seems overall I gotta pull out the mouthpiece quite a bit. My setup is a Conn 10m with a Otto Link NY STM 6* and Legere 2 1/4 reed, I haven't had the horn looked at by a tech yet.

From my understanding I need a consistent base (embouchure) to which I can adjust the mouthpiece on the cork to get the best possible base tuning and then adjust the embrocure for certain notes on the horn. On tenor, A and B notes seem to vary in opposite directions as to sharp and flat. D with octave key is off from C-C# below it, low notes seem to require a more open relaxed embouchure than upper register. At any rate I need to figure out my embouchure center. What my lower lip is doing and how relaxed or tight my embouchure should be. I have no idea what's right because I can produce notes with a relaxed embouchure (heading towards flat) or with a firmer embouchure (heading towards sharp), there is also how much the reed vibrates by air vs lip pressure thing. Perhaps I'm looking at it all in an over complicated way. I guess I'm wondering how to train my embouchure properly, build the right muscles. Figure out if I am too relaxed or applying too much bite.

Any help appreciated.
 

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It would help to know the horn has no leaks. After a such a long time away from the horn, take your time and work on basic stuff like long tones, octave slurs... just to have a centered and focused sound. If there was a good teacher available for a lesson or two it would probably help a lot.
 

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There are lots of videos on Youtube that are aimed at beginners and talk about things like how to position the mouthpiece on the cork. You might try poking around there for a while.

But just to get you started: one way to approach this is to start by placing the mouthpiece on the neck and, without putting it on the horn yet, play a note. With a tenor, you should get an E. If you're flat, move the mouthpiece in, if sharp, move it out. Then put the mouthpiece on the horn, play a middle C, and check it against your tuner. (Remember that the tuner will usually show the concert pitch: Bb.) Again, move it in if flat, pull out if sharp. Now try the same thing with your high C. Now try it again with middle B, low B, and high B.

After going through all that, you should be at least in the ballpark as far as your position on the neck. In the beginning, while your embouchure is relatively weak, your tuning is liable to be all over the place no matter what you do. But just position the mouthpiece as best you can, and do the best you can to play in tune, checking yourself with a tuner from time to time. There's no shortcut: you just have to practice.

And it should go without saying: getting a good teacher is by far the best way to make sure your embouchure is correct.
 

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+1 for everything that has been said so far. Also remember this: embouchure is produced through practice. The more you play, the stronger your embouchure will become, and when that happens you will be able to play for even longer periods of time and, most importantly, your pitch will be much more consistent. There's no way to fast-track this process (which I'm sure you know if you took lessons previously) but a teacher will be able to help you get a really good embouchure and a refined tone, as others have said.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks all.

Going to have the horn checked soon just to rule that out. I do think there are a couple leaks. Some notes have problems coming out. I have to find a teacher too.

As said the pitch can change dramatically just by embouchure, hence why vibrato is possible. I guess I've been concerned if I am clamping down too much on the mouthpiece or if I'm too slack. I guess that's something a teacher could tell me. Considering that not all notes play in tune with the same embouchure configuration, due to the nature of the saxophone, I assume one learns to make minute adjustments to the point where it's second nature. I just don't want to develop bad habits.
 

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Standard saxophone pedagogy teaches that the saxophone embouchure should be the same throughout the "normal" range of the saxophone from low Bb to high F. This does not include jazz effects such as "subtone" or "scoops". This also doesn't mean that either the "voicing" (shape inside the mouth) and air stream do not change from one register to the next. It also does not include the player making small changes to correct the tuning of problematic notes. The practice of relaxing the embouchure for the low notes and tightening for the high notes exacerbates the normal intonation problems found on most saxophones. It also tends to produce a "pinched" sound in the upper register and a "flat and flabby" sound in the lower register.

That raises the question: "how tight should the embouchure be"? The embouchure required to play A on the alto mouthpiece and G on the tenor mouthpiece alone are often suggested as a starting point. While those pitches work well for playing with a classical tone, many jazz players purposely play with a more open (looser) embouchure producing a lower input pitch in order to increase both the volume and the higher harmonics in the sound. Vanessa Hasbrook in her thesis on mouthpiece pitch found jazz alto players who play as much as three whole steps below the standard A concert typically prescribed for a "classical" sound. What happens when playing higher on the mouthpiece pitch than the prescribed pitches is that the tone becomes thin and pinched, the volume suffers and the notes that are typically sharp on the saxophone are made sharper still. Playing on a lower input pitch in order to achieve a desired tone however requires some adjustments.

Players in both styles and input pitches play in tune by adjusting the placement of the mouthpiece on the neck. Those playing lower on the pitch push the mouthpiece on farther to compensate and those playing higher on the pitch place the mouthpiece a shorter distance onto the cork. The way to test whether the embouchure pressure and the mouthpiece placement are in agreement is by checking the pitch of the mouthpiece + neck. Without going into too much detail, Benade writes that in order for a conical instrument to work properly the "equivalent volume of the mouthpiece + neck must closely match the volume of the "missing cone". He goes on to write that in order for the saxophone to "see" an object at its upper end whose acoustical behavior is like the missing cone to its apex, the pitch of the mouthpiece + neck must be a close match to the natural resonant frequency of a cone of that length. This is why the frequency or pitch of the mouthpiece + neck is so important to how a saxophone plays. Those pitches are commonly given as Ab concert for the alto and E concert for the tenor.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Also is there a ligurature that fits an Otto Link NY STM around $50? My stock lig shifts around a lot and comes loose and it's getting annoying.
 

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The short smart-**# answer to your question in the title is---everything!

Now that's out of the way, in addition to all the excellent advice from the posters above, I'd encourage you to move toward a looser, but solid "in control" embouchure, rather than clamping down. In regard to intonation, long tones with a drone is a good way to go. You can also do a quick check using a tuner, but that's only a check because you really need to use and train your EAR. So matching tones with a drone or keyboard is important toward that end. The long tones also help to develop a steady embouchure.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
The short smart-**# answer to your question in the title is---everything!

Now that's out of the way, in addition to all the excellent advice from the posters above, I'd encourage you to move toward a looser, but solid "in control" embouchure, rather than clamping down. In regard to intonation, long tones with a drone is a good way to go. You can also do a quick check using a tuner, but that's only a check because you really need to use and train your EAR. So matching tones with a drone or keyboard is important toward that end. The long tones also help to develop a steady embouchure.
I found this video interesting about loosening one's embouchure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PAq8Um-aOw

Also the video by Jay Metcalf on Embouchure and How to Play the Sax in Tune was helpful.

One thing I did today was work on a relaxed embouchure as well as changing my embouchure to be less vice like and more rounded utilizing the muscles on the side of my mouth. My pitch dropped something like 15-20 cents flat and I still had room to drive down the note if I wanted. So I'm working with that, utilizing air stream as much as possible. Just practised long tones all of today's practice session. So I think I am beginning to understand what my embouchure should be/feel like. It occurs to me that a lot of tuning work is useless unless I get my embouchure strength and endurance up.

Other than that I also notice that embouchure greatly affects the tone. Like I mentioned before at times I can get a smoother sound and other times a more buzzy sound just by embouchure alone. So I'm trying to see if I can balance tune and tone to my liking. The only thing that is really bugging me is that on the tenor middle B can be flat and then one key press and I am play A which immediately goes sharp. Switching between the two requires some embouchure change in order to stay in tune. Not sure if this is the nature of the sax or if it's something to mention to the tech when I go see him.
 

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As said the pitch can change dramatically just by embouchure, hence why vibrato is possible. I guess I've been concerned if I am clamping down too much on the mouthpiece or if I'm too slack. I guess that's something a teacher could tell me.
You absolutely have the right idea here. At the end of the day, the truth is that even though there are many incredibly talented and experienced players on this website, no one is going to be able to help you understand your tone better than a good teacher in person. Emphasis on the "in person" there, since recording your playing and putting it on the internet is inevitably going to make you sound different, which really isn't ideal when working with something as delicate as embouchure.
 

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Other than that I also notice that embouchure greatly affects the tone. Like I mentioned before at times I can get a smoother sound and other times a more buzzy sound just by embouchure alone. So I'm trying to see if I can balance tune and tone to my liking. The only thing that is really bugging me is that on the tenor middle B can be flat and then one key press and I am play A which immediately goes sharp. Switching between the two requires some embouchure change in order to stay in tune. Not sure if this is the nature of the sax or if it's something to mention to the tech when I go see him.
Watching a tuner and playing notes to see how many cents they are off from perfectly in tune is not recommended. For most people pitch discrimination between two successive tones begins at 10 cents. Of course it is less when the tones are sounded at the same time because "beats" are created. In my experience, notes that are within about 15 cents are in an acceptable range and not a cause for concern. The better way to check and practice intonation is to play using a "drone" and use your ear to tune intervals since musicians tune with their ears and not with their eyes.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Pretty sure my horn has some leaks which I'll address soon. Have the intonation checked. On my 10M the middle "G" and "D" are considerably sharp.
 
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