SYOS

Beginner Any tips on tuning

jeremyjuicewah

Well-Known Member
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1,890
Second go again at posting this so to cut a long story short I was recording last week and I used a guitar tuner, via a mic, to get right. I played F sharp and looked for A on the tuner. Not very positive. In the upper octave it was not too bad so I reckoned I could play it in. When I checked the lower octave it was well flat. I played the piece anyway, sounded ok to me, but though I can tell if the music is working, when it comes to tune up, I find it hard. I have a couple of play along discs that give tuning notes but I am never sure I am spot on. This happens on guitars but you can adjust it. Cant see that it should happen on a sax. How do you tune up.
Best wishes
Mike
 

Pete Thomas

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Over the years I've come to realise that the saxophone is rarely an instrument that is played in tune, or rather, rarely does it always play in tune according to a tuner.

Now that I have some very sophisticated software that shows tuning extremely well, I'm finding a lot of notes on previous recordings, not just of myself, but of other players, that are not in tune according to the tuner, although those are recordings which went under the scrutiny of some very good producers.

There are various reasons for this, e.g. different tuning scales (do a search for equal temperament or just look on Wikipedia), or sometimes it's just that the human ear can be very forgiving in many cases to quite big discrepancies in tuning and can sometimes hear it as part of the expression of the instrument. It could actually be much more interesting like that.

At one time I produced a track for a publisher who asked me to redo it not quite so in tune.

In the end you need to develop your ears of course and get to trust those, and your instincts.
 

Juju

Senior Member
Messages
282
No sax plays in tune top to bottom. Find a good note on the saxophone that feels centered (g, a or b might work well) and then get the reference note on the piano/keyboard etc and adjust the mouthpiece so that you can play the note without lipping up or down too much. The tuning will change as the instrument warms up so you might have to retune. Room temperature will also affect the pitch.
Playing in tune from top to bottom requires lots of adjusting, that's the tricky thing with saxes. Many people tighten their embochure when they play up the octave and end up playing way sharp up there. If you are uncertain about the tuning, playing with a reference track can be helpful. You could create a keyboard guide track of a tune you want to learn. Or, if you get the chance, play in unison with someone who plays very well in tune. A good intonation exercise would be to play octaves up and down chromatically or do octaves with scales that you are practising. If you are not sure whether you are in tune doing these exercises, initially use a tuner. But eventually you want to trust your ears. However, occasional sessions with a tuner can be revealing, they are also helpful when you check out a new instrument. I sometimes use a tuner when I feel something is not quite right, but it can get frustrating. Don't start looking at your tuner whilst playing a tune - it will be terribly intimidating! Unless you want to play classical music tuning is relative. I absolutely agree with what Pete said.
A good degree of control is necessary, but if it was 100% in tune top to bottom it would sound weird. Once we autotuned one of my husband's recordings for fun, and the result was shocking: The saxophone sounded like a synthesiser, entirely dehumanised!
Juju
 

RayL

New Member
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20
As far as electronic tuners are concerned, the freebie that came with my John Packer sax is intended for instruments that transpose in Bb and Eb. It's called a 'Cherub WMT555C', and the 'Mode' button switches it between C, Bb and Eb so what you see is what you play. The accessories include a vibration pickup with a clip for attaching to the bell via a yard of cable so you can check tuning on a noisy stage or rehearsal room.

Ray
 

Jules

Formerly known as "nachoman"
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4,658
As far as electronic tuners are concerned, the freebie that came with my John Packer sax is intended for instruments that transpose in Bb and Eb. It's called a 'Cherub WMT555C', and the 'Mode' button switches it between C, Bb and Eb so what you see is what you play. The accessories include a vibration pickup with a clip for attaching to the bell via a yard of cable so you can check tuning on a noisy stage or rehearsal room.

Ray

+1 for cherub 555s, they're excellent bits of kit!
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
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5,545
Wonder if it is to do with harmonics? Slightly schooled but not fully educated in acoustics. Could it be that the human ear accepts the homogenous sound whereas tuners might be more sensitive to the higher odd harmonics? Not sure how elaborate the filters are in the front end of cheap tuners, perhaps electronic ace YC can tell us as the saxophone certainly does not produce a sinusoidal (trust the spell checker got that right) waveform. It was a similar argument forwarded by HiFi addicts in the valve versus solid state and vinyl versus CD comparisons.

Apologies for being serious.
 

Rikki

Member
Messages
205
Its a very odd thing tuning a sax is it not! With my current setup I did an initial tune up using an electronic tuner, getting the middle C pretty close without the top and bottom C drifting too far. I then simply noted where the mouthpiece was on the cork, and have basically simply put it on the same position ever since. I guess the thing is that, as you play a tune you will be constantly 'tuning' as you go, and I believe this is another reason why it is important to have a structure practice routine which includes scales and etudes
 

jeremyjuicewah

Well-Known Member
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1,890
Thank you all for the info. It hasnt come up for me before because I havent recorded before. This time I did two guitar tracks and vocals so needed to be somewhere close. It makes sense really that if you can slur with the instrument you can make it behave itself for pitch. I will persevere.
Mike
 

Pete Thomas

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Question on lipping down: what exactly does it mean to lip down?

It means flattening the note with your embouchure.

This can be done by slackening the jaw slightly, and also by altering the aural cavity without slackening the jaw.

It's harder to explain the second method, but a good training is to play the mouthpiece by itself and try to play scales or tunes by altering your tongue position.
 

saxomophone

New Member
Messages
22
Good breath support seems to have a big eeffect on intonation for me. Its much easier to play in tune if you breath from the diaphram (sp?). Pete has some great exercises on developing this. Also check out his long tone exercises.
 
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