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Intonation Tendencies and Sax Bore Design

Discussion in 'Saxophone (technical)' started by rhysonsax, Nov 4, 2010.

  1. rhysonsax

    rhysonsax Well-Known Member

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    I have got quite a collection of saxes, vintage through to modern but I don't understand why diferent saxes seem to have such different tuning tendencies when I play them.

    I have just bought from Milandro a lovely Mauriat alto - great tone and nice action. But when I blow it with a variety of mouthpieces I find that the upper octave is generally about 10-20 cents sharper than the lower octave. This is (honestly) with no alteration of the embouchure when going between octaves, just use of the octave key. And the difference holds true wherever the mouthpiece is positioned - in tune down below means sharp up top, in tune up top means flat down below.

    This is the same thing I have experienced on other nice horns like Keiwerth SX90R (alto and tenor) and Maxtone (alto and tenor) - good saxes which seem almost identical to the Mauriat. Upper octave tending to be noticeably sharper than lower octave.

    My usual alto and tenor are MkVIs and the octaves are pretty even (say within 5 cents), although there are rogue notes in each register.

    Many other saxes I have played tend to follow the Selmer intonation tendency for me. That includes Buffet S1 (alto), Grassi (alto & tenor), Walstein (alto), Yamaha (alto). So those ones have got reasonably in tune octaves.

    Can it be that I play better in tune on "Selmer-style" bore saxophones and out of tune on larger bore horns ? And if so, what is going on ?

    Rhys

    PS I would love to play the Keilwerths and Mauriat a bit (for their tone), but not if that means learning a whole set of playing adjustments that just mess up my playing on the Selmers.
     
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  3. Nick Wyver

    Nick Wyver noisy

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    S'funny - I play Keilwerth alto and tenor and find them pretty easy to play in tune. Selmers tend to go sharp at the top for me if I play them in the same way. No idea what's going on. I guess it's just what you get used to.
     
  4. Pete Thomas

    Pete Thomas Chief of Stuff Cafe Moderator

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    I have noticed this on some horns.

    The first thing to check is to try playing the upper register without the octave key, it should be possible. If the sharpness starts at A with the octave key but it's oK without, that points to something not quite right about the octave pip. I have noticed this, but mostly on older horns.

    The other thing is mouthpiece mismatch, though it's just as possible that it's embouchure mismatch - you get used to one type of bore and have a set shape of your oral cavity.

    The mouthpiece matching is quite interesting and is based on the "missing cone". The saxophone as we know has a conical bore, but is not a complete cone or it would end in a point, but this has been truncated so we can use a mouthpiece and blow into it.

    To compensate the mouthpiece volume should equal the extra volume of the neck, if it were extended to "complete the cone" . However (I have heard) that lower register tuning depends on volume of mouthpiece (ie chamber size and position of mouthpiece on neck) but upper register tuning is by purely by length, ie by mouthpiece position and chamber volume is irrelevant.

    Now put that in your pipe and smoke it:

    Enlarging a chamber therefore flattens the lower register, reducing the chamber smaller sharpens it. But adjusting the position of the mouthpiece, ie lengthening or shortening the air column, will affect both registers

    This implies that a sharp upper register can be cured by using a mouthpiece with smaller chamber, as this sharpens the lower register in relation to the upper register, and you then pull the mouthpiece off a bit to tune the whole thing.

    However this is all theory, if you say you have tried a variety of mouthpieces, and I'm sure you have a few small chambered pieces in your collection, then it remains theory.

    EDIT: however it is a very well respected theory which you can read about in Benade's acoustics book.

    Another thing though: the strength of the reed and the individual player is also part of the equation, so it's maybe not that simple.
     
  5. milandro

    milandro Well-Known Member

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    very nice explanation Pete and it could explain why I am finding most comfortable playing with a small chambered highbaffled mouthpiece Ponzol M2 80 on alto and M1 105 on tenor (with which I get pretty dark result ) and both with 3 1/2 reeds (Francois louis or Gonzales 3). I play mostly a King super 20 tenor and a HL sax alto (not a relation of P.Mauriat although they look and feel pretty similar). When I was playing a Grassi (my Wonderful Model also resides in England now, with Capitanbeeflat ) I felt the most comfortable and in tune with a round and large chambered piece, in that case a Ponzol Vintage 80 or a Phil Barone NY 6M.
     
  6. rhysonsax

    rhysonsax Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the ideas guys. I had a long experimenting session with six more mouthpieces, mainly higher baffle and smaller chamber pieces.

    The results were pretty consistent: all the mouthpieces gave me a significant step sharper in tuning at the start of the second octave with D2, E2 and F2 being between 20 and 30 cents sharper than the notes in the first octave. Things were a bit better in tune above the G2, but on the whole I could not play the Mauriat sax with anything like as nice tuning as my Selmer or my Walstein.

    Unless I can come up with a solution to this (technical on the sax, mouthpiece and reed or technique on my embouchure and blowing) then it looks like I will have to move the Mauriat on to a player that it suits better.

    It's a cracking horn, but maybe just not for me.

    Rhys
     
  7. kevgermany

    kevgermany Landrover Nut Cafe Moderator

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    Rhys, if you can't sort it with mouthpieces/reeds, it may be a neck issue. Can't remember exactly what, but in 'the saxophone is my life', there's a description of the effect of neck bore on tuning. And there are separate areas in the neck for each note. Closer to the tip of the neck, the higher the note affected. Will try and find it/details - but you may find that experimenting with different necks helps or hinders it.

    May be worth an email to Phil Barone - he does aftermarket necks, maybe he's come across the problem.
     
  8. Pete Thomas

    Pete Thomas Chief of Stuff Cafe Moderator

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    But he is famous for saying his saxophones are P.Mauriats but cheaper. So I can't see how one of his necks would help.

    I'd be interested in trying that horn if you are ever round the Soton area Rhys.
     
  9. kevgermany

    kevgermany Landrover Nut Cafe Moderator

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    Fair comment Pete, hadn't heard it before.

    It's 'The Saxophone is my Voice', author's Ernest Ferron. And there's a section in it on necks and how they affect tuning. And how to correct, but it's tricky. You need to narrow the section of the neck that affects the sharp notes... And not be much. Sounds like fun (not!).

    May also be that neck, any chance of trying other Mauriat necks?
     
  10. rhysonsax

    rhysonsax Well-Known Member

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    I've got Ernest Ferron's book and have just re-read the relevant bit which is interesting.

    But I don't think it is that relevant to my situation, because it is not a rogue horn - I am getting similar symptoms with my Maxtone alto (another Mauriat clone), my Keilwerth SX90R and my Buffet (which is really a Keilwerth SX90).

    So that says to me that there is something about me (e.g. the shape and size of my oral cavitiy) or my playing (e.g. embouchure too tight) that this style of horn doesn't like ! My long-time alto and tenor are Selmer MkVIs and they are pretty well in tune for me.

    I remember taking my Buffet/Keilwerth to Steve Howard for some work and afterwards remarking on the tuning problems, which he said didn't happen at all for him - he blew it nicely in tune.

    There is a current thread over on SOTW that is about something called "Pitch Slotting" http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?147747-Saxophone-Pitch-Slotting This seems to be about saxes, on some of which it is difficult to bend the pitch as it almost "slots" into the frequency that the horn wants, whereas other saxes are much more flexible.

    I wondered whether I need a sax that drags pitch from where my poor technique or strange physiology wants it to be playing sharp, back into tune.

    I have also noticed that I tend to prefer horns whose sound is "focussed" rather than those with a spread sound. Could the characteristics of "slotting" (if it exists) be tied in with those of "focus" ?

    Rhys
     
  11. Nick Wyver

    Nick Wyver noisy

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    'Focus' is a word that gets used a lot when talking about the sound of a horn. I have never known what anyone means by it. An explanation would be useful.
     
  12. rhysonsax

    rhysonsax Well-Known Member

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    That's funny - that's what I think or at least thought.

    When I recently tried taking my Maxtone tenor on a gig instead of my MkVI (but using the same mouthpiece, reed etc) I suddenly realised that I could hear a lot less of my own sound. This was in a venue we have played before and with me using the same "Soundback" reflector thingy. I interpreted that as being because the Maxtone's sound "spread out" (was less focussed) and therefore didn't sound so loud in the "direct line of fire" as I am used to with the Selmer.

    That's probably a lot of old rubbish.

    I know that some of Steve Howard's reviews of saxophones talk about the focus, like this one of the Bauhaus Walstein M2 tenor http://www.shwoodwind.co.uk/Reviews/Saxes/Tenor/bauhaus_pro_tenor.htm: The Bauhaus has a focussed tone, you get the sense that you can point the horn in a certain direction and send the notes just 'there'. The Mauriat has more of a sawn-off shotgun approach - anyone in range gets an earful.

    What do you think ?

    Rhys
     
  13. Nick Wyver

    Nick Wyver noisy

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    Well, my initial reaction is that it sounds like a load of cobblers. I find it difficult to see how one saxophone could project its sound in a particular direction more than another. I suppose if the key heights were all lower then more sound might project out of the bell but I feel I'm clutching at straws here. In your case of the MkVI versus the Maxtone I would have thought that the Maxtone was simply not as loud. But I don't mean to be rude, it's just not an aspect of saxophone sound that I've ever had cause to consider - or even notice.
     
  14. Stephen Howard

    Stephen Howard Senior Member

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    Whenever I used the term 'focus' with regard to a horn's sound it refers to way in which the sound presents itself to the player.
    The ears are pretty good when it comes to spatial awareness - it's one reason that surround sound cinema systems are popular...you get a more 3D soundscape as helicopters, trains, spaceships, Schwarzenegger in a bad suit appear to come from behind/left/right to finally end up 'centre stage'.

    The majority of saxes are 'unremarkable' in this respect - they do pretty much exactly what you'd expect. You blow them, the sound comes out and wanders off in a more or less forward facing direction. But some horns seem to have the ability to direct the sound more noticeably.
    It's probably not something most players notice if they're playing just the one horn, or several horns with similar properties - but when you switch between horns with very different focus you really do notice it.
    It doesn't seem to be related to volume, I've found that the Mauriat 66R and the Borgani Vintage 09 are both loud horns and yet present very different soundscapes.

    In theory it ought to be a load of old cobblers, and yet it's possible to hand these two horns to a player who's never before encountered focus and find that they too remark on it.
    There's probably a very good scientific explanation for it - perhaps relating to the way each horn presents its array of harmonics?

    Regards,
     
  15. Nick Wyver

    Nick Wyver noisy

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    Thanks for that explanation. So, if you faced a blank wall and slowly turned whilst playing, some saxes would give more of a distinct maximum when you're at right angles to the wall?
     
  16. milandro

    milandro Well-Known Member

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    Well, a neck issue could be indicating a problem with a specific horn if this were the case with one horn alone of one particular brand but if this happens with different horns of different brands ......there could be a problem of personal compatibility with a certain type of design (which is what , I think, Rhys himself is postulating in his original post) . I am not saying that it is an ability problem (who am I to question an experienced player ability!?) that is not the point. The think is also that playing any wind instrument implies a certain level of " corrections" and when we get used to a particular instrument or type of instruments we might just have problems to adapt our normal correction to a new instrument which probably needs different adjustments.
     
  17. Pete Thomas

    Pete Thomas Chief of Stuff Cafe Moderator

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    Added to that I have a few different necks here that would be interesting to try.
     
  18. rhysonsax

    rhysonsax Well-Known Member

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    Hi Pete,

    That would be really fun to do. Work has gone mad until the end of November with silly deadlines driven by customers, but once we're into December it would be enjoyable to meet up and hear how the sax is supposed to sound. Maybe even take in a beer and a pizza as I should be back on the carbs by then !

    Rhys
     
  19. Pete Thomas

    Pete Thomas Chief of Stuff Cafe Moderator

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    oops, I just noticed it is alto not tenor, I was thinking of tenor necks.

    But do drop by if in the neck o woods anyway I can try it out, though Stephen Howard is more likely to know what the issue may be than I would.
     
  20. singlereed

    singlereed Member

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    Regarding the intonation on a Keilwerth, I remember getting similar advice to that given by Pete above - a mouthpiece with a smaller chamber should help tame sharp high reguster notes. This worked for me and good ones to try are Vandoren V5 series (say A28) for classical style or a V16 S chamber for a jazzier sound. I am sure this is true as these moutpieces did not work for me when I switched to a Buffet S1 and later a Selmer. I am glad I read this actually as my daughter has a Mauriat alto which is a bit flat right at the bottom and it has reminded me to re-visit this issue. I recently bought one of those new SD20 Selmer mouthpieces that isn't really doing it for me on my Mark VI alto but maybe I'll give it to her ladyship to try.
     
  21. rhysonsax

    rhysonsax Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the suggestion - I am going to give it a go with a V16 6S and see whether that helps on the Mauriat.

    What mystifies me is that on the Selmers I can play in tune (once I have got used to it) with a huge range of mouthpieces from high baffle screamers (Brilhart Level Air, Dukoff) through jazz pieces (Link, Meyer, Lawton, Brilhart) and classical pieces (Selmer, Buffet). On the Mauriat and Keilwerth, I play sharp in the upper octave on every mouthpiece I have tried to date.

    I found this interesting article on tuning by John Robert Brown http://www.john-robert-brown.com/reed-clinic-tuning.htm Here is an interesting extract:
    "In the days before we were so concerned about hygiene, I remember a particular occasion when I swapped clarinets with a colleague. We had been discussing the use of a short barrel on the clarinet. At the time the most popular clarinet, particularly with orchestral players, was the Boosey and Hawkes 1010 model. Among those of us playing in theatre orchestras (and required to double extensively), some players had the notion that the 1010 played flat, and needed a short tuning barrel. I disagreed. In fact, on my 1010 I had to play with a full-length barrel, pulled out by about 2mm, to be at concert pitch. This frequently caused comment.

    One night, curiosity took hold. My section colleague, Joe, always used a very short barrel on his 1010. That night he asked to swap clarinets with me for a few numbers. What we both discovered was a surprise. Playing Joe's clarinet, I still needed to have the barrel pulled out by about 2mm to get down to concert pitch. And Joe still required his short barrel to get up to concert pitch when playing my clarinet. That is, the tuning characteristics remained with the player. It wasn't a problem with the clarinet itself. Using the same clarinet and mouthpiece, one musician played relatively sharp, the other relatively flat. It seemed that naturally my pitch was higher and Joe's was lower. At the time, we didn't devote much energy to finding out why this was so. We put it down, slightly wrongly, to embouchure or reeds

    The explanation lies in the different physical characteristics of the musicians, their morphology. When playing a saxophone or clarinet, all of our oral cavities are involved. They resonate, as they do when we speak or sing. If you've ever suspected that there is a connection between a reed player's speech quality and his instrumental tone, you are right. Yes, the late Jack Brymer's beautiful clarinet tone and his resonant speaking voice were related, because of his morphology, though of course the role of his clarinet reed was taken by his vocal chords when speaking or singing.

    That is to say, our mouths act like a resonator. Just like the body of the saxophone or clarinet, they contain a series of displacement and compression nodes and antinodes. The node is the narrow part of the wave (at the mouthpiece tip, for example), the antinode where the wave is wide enough to touch the side of the bore. You've seen those diagrams of curved lines drawn inside the bore of the instrument. Those nodes and antinodes continue into the mouth. That is to say, between your tongue and the roof of your mouth (hard palate at the front, soft palate at the rear) there are displacement antinodes. If a displacement antinode is narrow (low), the pitch is lower. Conversely, if a displacement antinode is wide (high), the pitch is higher.

    In other words, if one has a thick tongue and/or a low palate, the displacement antinode is 'squashed', and the pitch is lower. With a thin tongue and/or high palate, the displacement antinode is 'broadened', and the pitch is higher. Observe that singers open their mouths widest when they are singing their highest notes. From this, because I play at a sharper pitch, I can conclude that I must have a thin tongue or a high palate. This means that the antinode is wider, which in turn makes my clarinet (and my saxophone) play sharper than average, all other things being equal.

    Therefore you can understand that a dental appliance with a plate against the palate is going to affect one's playing. The volume of the mouth is said to have greater effect between 500 and 2,000 Hz. That is, from an octave above middle C (512Hz, just above concert A) upwards for about two octaves. In saxophone terms, that will have most effect on the working ranges of the alto upper register and throughout the soprano range. With the clarinet, concert A is again your reference pitch. The affected clarinet range is from the second register upwards - *from the middle of the treble clef, that is.
    ."

    But the situation he describes here seems a bit different to mine, where the tuning difference I experience compared with other people only affects part of the range of the instrument.

    Hmmm.

    Rhys
     
  22. kevgermany

    kevgermany Landrover Nut Cafe Moderator

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    Rhys, that article was fascinating, got me looking through others. Then I came across this, not sure if you've seen it: http://www.john-robert-brown.com/snake-davis.htm

    Take a look part way down, next to the photo - he talks a little about the effect of the bell length on intonation of the lower notes on Mk VI altos.

    Thought struck me - assuming what's said is right (and there's precious little detail) - does your Mk VI have this affliction, and are you unconsciously compensating for it - and thus finding other instruments difficult which don't have the problem?
     
  23. rhysonsax

    rhysonsax Well-Known Member

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    Hi Kev,

    Thanks for the pointer to that article - I vaguely remember it from when it was in the CASS magazine but didn't remember the technical talk about saxes and MkVI altos.

    It's not clear to me, but I think that when the article mentions "the intonation of the low notes" it means the bottom ocatve, and so the low Bb, B, C and maybe C#.

    I know that Selmer alto MkVIs had some variation at the bottom end, but thought that was the bow design rather than the bell length. Some eras of MkVI altos suffer from "gurgling" low down and Selmer had to fix it with a baffle down in the bow. I had to do that myself for my low A MkVI alto, but weirdly enough the gurgling didn't affect everyone who played that instrument.

    I don't think I am doing any compensating on the MkVI that is messing up on the Mauriat or Keilwerth. Because when I play on Grassi, Buffet, Walstein, Dolnet and my Grafton there is no such tuning problem.

    It's a mystery, but one I'll probably have to put down to the weird way I am built or the peculiar way I blow.

    Rhys
     
  24. Morgan Fry

    Morgan Fry Senior Member

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    Rhys, if you're playing relatively in tune on two drastically different mouthpieces on many instruments, and playing very sharp at the top end of one, this really sounds like a neck/mouthpiece matching problem. Yes, your chops make some difference, but you can change the size of the upstream resonator (vocal cavity) by altering your tongue position and shape. The biggest difference w/r/t pitch is made by how much you "bite" or pinch the reed.

    There are two things you have to match to match a mouthpiece to a saxophone -- the mouthpiece has to have both the volume of the missing cone section and its resonant frequency. Both are very troublesome to measure, and will be different for every player because of differing amounts of reed compliance (the travel of the reed counts as chamber size, and differs depending on how much you restrict the vibration of the reed).

    If you match the volume pretty well, the horn will play in tune up to about a B above the staff. Above that, the resonant frequency of the mouthpiece has a greater influence on the pitch (as it affects higher harmonics more than the fundamentals), pulling it up or down depending.

    So try a neck with a steeper taper. Or a smaller chambered, longer mouthpiece. But any instrument that has difficulty playing in tune with standard equipment is a problem IMO.
     
  25. rhysonsax

    rhysonsax Well-Known Member

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    I just noticed this extract in Steve's Haynes Manual, under the heading of User Error (I hope he doesn't mind me quoting it directly)
    I know what he is getting at, and I'm sure it applies to me in some respects, but I really think there is something going on related to my physiology as well - there is such a marked and consistent contrast between the tuning behaviour on Selmer and similar instruments, compared with Mauriat and Keilwerth horns.

    I hope that my small-chambered Vandoren V16 arrives soon and helps to overcome this tuning issue. Otherwise the Mauriat may have to be moved on, possibly in favour of a Yanagisawa.

    Rhys
     
  26. Stephen Howard

    Stephen Howard Senior Member

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    It's not uncommon.
    I like to think that after all these years of playtesting a huge variety of horns, I have a 'universal embouchure'.
    It's hard to explain, but to me it feels like I play a couple of notes on a horn and there's a whirring of cogs and whatnots as the old brain thinks "Up a bit, down a bit, as you were...".

    Every now and then though I come across a horn that just doesn't seem to want to work for me - and it can sometimes be quite an expensive brand.
    This is the cause of all those posts from people who say "Yamaha/Selmer/whatever? Pah! They don't play in tune". It's nonsense, of course - but for them it's true.

    I think it helps to think in terms of compromises. Every horn is built with them. If you make a horn bright and projecting you might stand a better change of making the tuning more even...if, say, you make it full and rich it might end up a bit wild in the tuning...if you go for a full, loud sound you get some instability in note production etc.
    What you have to do is match up the compromises that best suit your own.

    Regards,
     
  27. old git

    old git Tremendous Bore

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    The sensible answers to these problems is to throw away the tuner and turn off your hearing aid.

    Alternatively, if you start talking about using Indian or Egyptian Classical tuning and the thirty-six tone scale, you will be held in awe.
     
  28. Pete C

    Pete C Member

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    As I understand it, saxophone tuning is always a compromise and different manufacturers have used different tuning schemes. I had a lot of tuning problems with my Mauriat 66 when I first started playing it, having come from playing a Selmer Ref 54, and remember getting some very searching looks from the trumpet player I was working with at the time. This no longer seems to be an issue and I haven't changed mouthpiece or reed strength or anything. I think I have just learned to play the horn in tune (or enough in tune). I was with Iain Ballamy one time when I first got the Mauriat and he blew through the range against a piano and remarked straight away that it used a different tuning scheme to Selmers, though he didn't see this as a problem, just something the player has to learn to control. I think there may be a difficulty if you want to switch between horns all the time.

    Pete
     
  29. koumou

    koumou Member

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    I would not say that, but I'll say that the pads and resonators aside, his vintage line is identical to the Walstein Bauhaus M2, and the Thoman custom line big bells.
     
  30. rhysonsax

    rhysonsax Well-Known Member

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    My small chambered Vandoren mouthpiece came yesterday and I had an extended blow with that. It made the intonation problems even worse ! The D1 to F1 were quite flat (say 15 cents) and the D2 to F2 were really sharp (say 25 cents).

    Aha, I thought, let's try my largest-chambered alto piece, which is an Otto Link STM. That was just appalling. The low notes played a whole semitone flat and the sound quality was awful. It made me wonder whether the STM was in fact a tenor piece rather than for alto !

    Looks like I just don't suit this Mauriat horn and I will have to give up on it. Maybe I will try to trade it for a Yanagisawa or a similar horn - any takers ?

    Rhys
     
  31. Nick Wyver

    Nick Wyver noisy

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    With your sales technique you should have plenty of takers. :)))
     
  32. rhysonsax

    rhysonsax Well-Known Member

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    What I meant to write was "Mauriat PMSA-60 in nickel silver, in as new condition, superb professional horn".

    Or maybe, as you often see in the small ads "Mauriat PMSA-60, not much use". :)))

    Rhys

    PS I'm sure it will be great for someone, just not me.
     
  33. kevgermany

    kevgermany Landrover Nut Cafe Moderator

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    I guess 'professional horn' means that only a pro has the ability to play it in tune >:)

    Sorry Rhys, now you've been called on it, the only option is some poor unsuspecting person on the devil's junkyard.... :w00t:

    Or I could make a charity offer based on it's value as a wall exhibit... Say 20 plus postage.... :)))
     
  34. Pete Thomas

    Pete Thomas Chief of Stuff Cafe Moderator

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    Or SOTW (Sorry Mike, harri) >:)
     
  35. rhysonsax

    rhysonsax Well-Known Member

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    What I really have to do is take Pete up on his kind offer to blow on this particular horn and see whether it's the Mauriat or me that's the problem. I know where my money would be !

    Rhys
     
  36. rhysonsax

    rhysonsax Well-Known Member

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    I have made an intonation chart for this Mauriat horn. Playing with a nice SR Tech Legend mouthpiece, I recorded some long tones in a random order and this is what I got.

    The data was exactly as it happened first time, so I haven't gone back to try again with any particular notes that look as though they might be rogue points in this dataset.

    The second octave seems sharper, especially from D2 to F2, but what does it all mean ?

    Rhys
     

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  37. Nick Wyver

    Nick Wyver noisy

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    Good grief! That looks terrible. I guess you're not looking at the tuner as you play? You just recorded a load of long tones with your ear as a guide and then checked the tuning later?

    Interesting idea though. Perhaps I'll try it on mine.
     
  38. rhysonsax

    rhysonsax Well-Known Member

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    After tuning up the horn in the mid range I turned the tuner off and played a whole load of long tones in a random order using my usual embouchure, as fixed as possible. I wasn't trying to tune with my eyes (no tuner) or my ears (random notes with random intervals and no comparison pitch from another instrument). It sort of works for the range F#1 to C#2 where the tuning is OK (and this covers the area where I had originally tuned up), but outside this it's all over the place.

    Maybe I'll try the same experiment on my Selmer and see what happens.

    Rhys
     
  39. phooesnax

    phooesnax Member

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    MY BW Bari is dead on with the stock mouthpiece and was terrible with my Meyer 5<which was always great on other horns>. Sold the Meyer and happy with the stock.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 19, 2010
  40. rhysonsax

    rhysonsax Well-Known Member

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    Wanting to do the best I can on intonation charts (see my previous post with attachments) I remembered seeing something in Ernest Ferron's book "The saxophone is my voice" and more good stuff in Wyman's PhD thesis "An acoustical study of alto saxophone mouthpiece chamber design". I wanted to see what they have to say about capturing the intonation data and making an intonation chart, but they also say interesting things relevant to the discussion of intonation in general and spread octaves in particular.

    Ernest Ferron: The saxophone is my voice (see first attachment)

    It is impossible to do good work on a musical instrument by conjecture. An objective basis is necessary, or at least a directional framework which permits a person to understand what is done and why a particular result is or is not obtained.

    Regardless of the desired result, the first thing to do is to make a tuning chart which will reveal an instrument's inherent intonation flaws, or those fairly frequently caused by a particular mouthpiece, or those equally often resulting from the musician's morphology.

    The saxophone will sound full and rich when the octave relationships are exact and the upper harmonics lined up, meaning that their frequency must be as close as possible to a whole multiple of the fundamental's frequency.

    If the octaves are out of tune, there is little chance that the instrument will respond well.

    A tuning chart must never be made in a dead or sound insulated room, any more than a reverberant room. First of all, play the instrument for about ten minutes so that it will be warm. To do precise work, the room temperature should be 20 deg C / 68 deg F and the surrounding hygrometry 60%. A tuning chart provides a real plan of action for the repairer. Reading it gives immediate and sure information about the type of work needed to be done.

    Make the measurements with the help of a high quality tuner (which is not so common) or with a stroboscope. The musician plays facing away from the machine so as to not be influenced by it, and lets the instrument speak without the slightest pitch correction.

    It is preferable, if not indispensable, to use a rather soft reed. Above all, do not play a chromatic scale. Instead, go through the octaves, for example low Bb, then middle Bb, the high Bb. Next play low B, then middle B, and then high B, etc...

    It is wise to try each note twice, once rising from the lower note, and once descending from the higher note, to avoid attacking the note directly. This work is rather tedious and demands very good concentration from the musician.


    Wyman: An Acoustical Study of Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece Chamber Design (see second attachment)

    Pitch charts constructed for a range of alto mouthpieces by averaging the recorded pitches played by a range of musicians on their own alto saxophones (nine different Selmers from serial # 14,600 to 173,322) for eleven selected test pitches. The test protocol is given in an appendix and identifies the pitches to be played (Bb, F, A, C#2, D2, F2, G#2. A2, C#3, F3 & Bb4) at mf dynamic level. Pitches played in three different orders (ascending, descending and mixed order for greatest disassociation). Musicians were instructed to "play all pitches with your mind directed toward the production of a good resonant musical tone. Do not be primarily concerned with playing in tune. Try not to think of the pitches in relation to each other as in a melody for you will then try to play each pitch in tune."

    Here are a few extracts from the thesis document that I found particularly relevant and interesting:

    Octave spreading generally increased as the length of the bore being used decreased. Figs 56 through 59 show the charcteristic octave spreading for each mouthpiece. Mouthpiece E was superior to all others in minimizing octave spreading. [Mouthpiece E was a "Meliphone Special"]

    Each length of tube used has its own ideal spot for the placement of this venting hole. The intonation and quality of the "overblown" tone depends upon the proper placement of this hole. Since it is impractical to have a separate hole for every note, a single hole is made to do service for several adjacent notes. The location of the hole has to be a compromise and is not equally staisfactory for the pitch and quality of all tones. The farther the hole from the ideal spot, the sharper the "overblown" pitch tends to be.

    The saxophone uses two venting holes. The first serves for the chromatic tones between d2 and g#2 while the second serves for the notes from a2 upward. The lowest notes served by each venting hole are the sharpest in pitch, i.e. d2 and a2. "Overblown" tones in the second register are generally slightly sharper than a true octave above the same tones in the lower register.
    [Ref. to Benade at this point] The player must bring these tones down to correct pitch as he plays.

    Fig. 49 shows a comparison of the shortest and longest mouthpiece chambers used in this study. The extension of the conical walls of the neck is shown as well as the extra volume in shading. Although the two mouthpieces are in correct tuning position on the saxophone neck, one mouthpiece is about 0.8 inches longer than the other. [Mouthpiece A was a Martin and mouthpiece C-1 a Berg Larsen rubber]

    The pitch flexibility of the saxophone allows for considerable modification of the pitch by the player. The author found that it was possible to play all of the mouthpieces in tune for all notes. Some of the mouthpieces tended to be sharper than others for tones in the second register, but they could be played in tune with a little extra effort. The intonation characteristics of a mouthpiece are more easily corrected by the player than are tone quality problems caused by mouthpiece design.

    The intonation tests .... were designed in such a way that the player was disorientated tonally. This was done in an effort to obtain pitches that were in an unlipped state. The reader should bear in mind that tones in the charts of this chapter appearing to be very sharp would not be as out-of-tune in a melodic context.


    The eleven tones used for this test were carefully chosen to include notes which generally tend to be out of tune on the saxophone.

    ******************************************

    What this all makes me think is that my own attempts at intonation charts were probably not as outlandish as they appear to me, as some good studies show significant intonation deviations as well.

    I think that I should stop chasing a mouthpiece that locks onto perfect intonation on my Mauriat alto sax, recognise the imperfections of any saxophone (especially in the second register) and open up my ears.

    What do you think ?

    Rhys
     

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  41. kevgermany

    kevgermany Landrover Nut Cafe Moderator

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    Yes, from a seasoned expert ( lol )
     

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