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Cheap sax, how to correct flats or sharps?

ProDigit

New Member
Messages
13
Suppose I would buy a cheap soprano sax to practice my fingerings on, but some of the valves are a bit off, and the notes out of some sound a bit sharp or flat,
can I correct this?

I know if all the notes are sharp I'd have to loosen up the mouthpiece a bit, flat and I'd have to push it deeper on the cork.

But what if the sax is off in the lower register only, some notes sounding flat OR sharp?
I've read that a different mouthpiece (with larger or smaller chamber) could do the trick?

and what if it's just a random note that sounds bad; could I compensate with the mouthpiece to correct this note (by eg putting a bit more or less pressure on the reed for that note?

I've also read that installing domed resonators could make a tone sound a bit more sharp.

What is your opinion?

Thank you!
 

jonf

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,680
Even a cheap sax shouldn't be out of tune, at least not by much. Strictly speaking, pretty much all saxes are a tiny bit out - acoustics is a complex science and making a sax with virtually every note bang on is nigh-on impossible. What tends to happen is the player, as part of the process of becoming experienced, learns to compensate for very minor tuning issues subconsciously by varying his/her embouchure. The key thing is to not buy a sax which has tuning problems from the beginning. Try before you buy. A cheap Chinese soprano (I've sold several) should still be perfectly playable, and would be likely to be far better than a European or US built student sax from a few years ago, which would cost about the same.

If a sax is fundamentally out of tune, varying the mouthpiece won't do much. Some older saxes don't work so well with modern small mouthpieces, but that's not really the same issue.

Installing domed resonators may make the tone brighter, but it won't sharpen the notes. OK, if the domes were massive, it could sharpen the instrument, but as all the pads would be affected, the relative pitch of notes would be unchanged.
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,797
Check the keyheights. This might be a job for a tech. To install domed resonators/reflectors is not helping up the intonation. I think it gives you a "louder" sax. But you must set the keyheights after you installed domed resonators/reflectors, so it may cure your intonation as well.

Thomas
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Try taking a look at music medic's site. There's a lovely section on crescents.
 

ProDigit

New Member
Messages
13
You think a flat sounding sax in the lower registers (below the low C) is the cause of bad tuned valves (they're too much closed, or perhaps others are leaking)?
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,797
I think a flat sounding sax in the lower registers often caused by the player. To practise the bottom tones you need a mouthpiece and reeds thats fits both you and the sax. Of course, the sax should seal proberly.

There are many way to practise the low tones. I do longtones in various volume in differnt patterns and keys.

I also think it's more important to practise your tone instead of the fingers. Try to blow every tone at the right pitch and "full timbre". If it's possible, play with a welltuned acustic piano.

Thomas
 

SaxyMalcolm

Member
Messages
77
You should be tuning the sax to your low register notes, this will make you push the mouthpiece in to the optimum position for the instrument, so it is in tune with itself. You then have to adjust all other notes that are out of tune by adjusting your vocal cavity/embouchure. Practicing scales/long notes on the mpc alone and playing harmonics will help.
 

picconose

Member
Messages
75
If only one or two notes are out of pitch, it is likely that the key opening height is not correct (except for the second register D, which tends to be a bad note on most saxes) My repairman once told me that ideally, keys should open a distance equal to 1/2 the diameter of the tone hole. He also said that if they do not open far enough, the tone will be stuffy, and if they are too open, it will be a little sharp on that particular note.
 

jonf

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,680
My repairman once told me that ideally, keys should open a distance equal to 1/2 the diameter of the tone hole.
No way, man. That would leave the bell keys open to about 2cm on a tenor, which is above the height of the guards. The right hand F E and D keys have tone holes of about 3.5cm, but open to just under 1cm. If they were open to half the diameter of the hole they would be out at 1.75cm and the sax would be virtually unplayable.
 

Morgan Fry

Senior Member
Messages
447
I seems to remember from Nederveen or Benade that there was a theoretical key height, but can't remember what the number was.
It's 1/3 the tonehole diameter. More than that has no effect, less than that affects pitch and tone(which may be desirable). Some horns are made to be set up with low key heights and don't play properly in tune if you open them up, some only play properly with keys set open.
 
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