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Alto sax consistently flat/out of tune

altoman

New Member
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Nashville
Hi,

I noticed recently that my sax sounded off, so I brought up an online tuner and played a scale. I noticed that my sax was consistently out of tune for all the notes in the scale. So if I play E, the tuner shows F#; when I play G, the tuner shows A; etc. I know that alto sax notes need to be transposed to concert pitch when doing this, but even then, it's flat by half a step. I tried moving the mouthpiece up and down the cork and even changed the height of the sax neck but was unable to get it into tune. I did recently bump my sax case hard enough that a key fell off, so I'm wondering if it might have interior damage? There's no visible exterior damage that I can see apart from the key that fell off.

I've been playing for a few months now and practiced for several hours at the beginning with the tuner to make sure that I was playing the correct pitches. I've practiced with the tuner a few times since then and haven't had an issue with playing the wrong pitches until now. Does anyone have an idea of what the issue might be?

Thanks.

--
Sax specs:

Model: Alto sax; Jean Paul AS-400
Reed: Rico reed at strength 3.0
 
Last edited:

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
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Burnley bb9 9dn
A figered E on alto should give a concert G. If a fingered E gives concert F#/Gb it's a semitone flat, so push in.
A fingered G on alto should give a Bb. If it gives an A it's also a semitone. So push in.
A semitone will equate to a centimeter or perhaps a little more.
A shorter tube gives a higher pitch. Lengthening the neck in the socket will make the tube longer and subsequently flatter.
Locate the neck snuggly in the socket. Push the mouthpiece further onto the neck cork till it plays in tune. You may have to go to the end of the cork or even past the end of the cork. Add a liberal amount of cork grease to make this easier and grease the cork every time before you assemble the horn.

Flat push in. Sharp pull out. Simples
 

jbtsax

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It would be a good idea to get your sax checked if it took a bump large enough to make a key "fall off".

You might try checking the input pitch of the mouthpiece and the neck. With the mouthpiece somewhere near the middle of the cork, play the "tone producer" with a big full sound using lots of air and see what note sounds. It should be an Ab concert. Adjust the embouchure and move the mouthpiece a small distance if necessary to get that note "in tune". When you can sustain that pitch, put the sax together and play F2 with the octave key using the same embouchure, airstream, and shape inside the oral cavity. It should play the exact same pitch if the saxophone is working properly.

An additional thought: Are you putting the top teeth on top of the mouthpiece when you play and are you rolling the bottom lip back just far enough to cover the bottom teeth? Not doing these things can make it hard to play up to pitch for a less experienced player.
 
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nigeld

Too many mouthpieces
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I assumed that the OP meant that a key pearl fell off.
If a whole key fell off then presumably a visit to a repair person would have been necessary.
 

Dr G

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Northern California
I assumed that the OP meant that a key pearl fell off.
If a whole key fell off then presumably a visit to a repair person would have been necessary.

Or it needs the gentle touch of a screwdriver. It is amazing that some people don’t periodically look over their horn to see if it requires a little TLC. Actually, it is sad that some people choose to ignore their saxophones, then get upset when they don’t work properly.
 

saxyjt

Saxus Circus Maximus
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Or perhaps, the OP swallowed a frog. They can flatten your pitch dramatically when swallowed whole. This is why we tend to only eat the legs. Not even the entire legs. Just the meat covering the legs...

It may be a wild guess! :confused2:
 

nigeld

Too many mouthpieces
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@altoman - I think you need to get your horn checked by a repair person.
We don’t seem to have any theories about what is wrong.
 

nigeld

Too many mouthpieces
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Or perhaps, the OP swallowed a frog. They can flatten your pitch dramatically when swallowed whole. This is why we tend to only eat the legs. Not even the entire legs. Just the meat covering the legs...

It may be a wild guess! :confused2:
Eating snails, on the other hand, improves intonation.
 

altoman

New Member
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8
Locality
Nashville
@nigeld I think you're right about getting it checked out. I wanted to see if it was something simple that I could fix myself first before taking it to a shop, but I guess not. Thank you all for responding though!
 

altoman

New Member
Messages
8
Locality
Nashville
sax key.jpeg x key.jpeg
The key in question. It's the one marked X in the diagram. The article I got it from says it's used for an alternate fingering, which might be why I can (generally) play without it? Is there a formal name for this key?
 

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