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Help - I'm sharp over the break and more so in the altissimo range

Tobes

Member
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174
Hey, have a high profile gig in a couple of days running throughout the summer - was lucky to get it as I knew the singer! Down-side is, my tuning has got to be absolutely spot on throughout and the MD and the sound guy has pickedup me being sharp (he's got razor sharp ears) in a lot of the expose passages that go into the altissimo range. I moved the mp out very slightly only to betold I was then flat!?

I am playing a tenor and I’ve got a good Korg tuner and generally if my tuning is spot on in the lower register I am mostly about ‘+20’ over the break,although it does depend on what notes I am playing. I have always thought this discrepancy was so minimal that no one would notice (including me) – obviously not!

I do fine it quite difficult to continually lip down the notes to get them in tune, as my sound becomes weaker / less solid, so I am really stuck aswhat to do?

1) I know this is not a problem with the sax – It’s a Yamahaand I’ve tried a couple of different tenors and have the same problem.

2) Changing the mouth piece is not an option at present.

3) I am concerned that I could get the upper register spoton but as the sax warms up I will obviously need to pull the mp out, but I can’treally test the difference as I will be on stage, so will be guess work as to how much I pull it out.

4) I think possibly my only solution is to work on my Ears and sense of intonation: My ears are not yet really defined enough to spot when I am this much shapr – I think this is the heart of the problem so I need to do some extensive ear training fast! Anyone got any suggestions…or on any of the above please?

Many thanks…
 
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Two Voices

Senior Member
Messages
1,113
Poor intonation can be down to the mouthpiece, reed, poor embouchure or alignment problems.

If a reed is too soft it has a tendency to be flat. If it’s too hard it can be sharp. This is mainly due to biting down to produce the sound rather than increasing the air support.

When playing loudly most relax the jaw causing the notes to go flat and when playing quietly there’s a tendency to increase the pressure on the lower lip causing everything to go sharp. Poor breath support exaggerates this.

Sharp intonation in the upper and high registers must often be attributed to the student desire for a brilliant tone. Like many a brass player, the saxophone student may think this can be achieved through application of force. Not only is more air then forced through the mouthpiece but it is also under greater pressure. The resulting tone is not more brilliant but is edgy, piercing, and lacking in body and modulation. - Sigurd Rascher
 
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Nick Wyver

noisy
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+20 is hardly 'minimal'.

I'd have thought that working on embouchure is the only real solution. Sounds like it's just too tight generally. If you know any other experienced players, get them to play your set up and see what their tuning is like. I'd hazard a guess that they'd play flatter than you.
 

Tobes

Member
Messages
174
Hey thanks for the advice. I can drop my jaw a lot to get the upper notes in tune but feels quite awkward / unnatural. I'll try relaxing embouchure more.

Btw: How sharp is '+20' on the tuner - a quarter tone, 1/5 of a tone or 1/5 of semi-tone etc?
 

Two Voices

Senior Member
Messages
1,113
I’ve just had a thought! If you are taking into too little mouthpiece it can make the pitch sharp and pinch. Too much will have the opposite affect making it flat and unfocused.

A relaxed embouchure is essential but I have found that if you roll your bottom lip away from the tip of the reed allowing it to vibrate more will improve your intonation in the higher register. You will need to roll the bottom lip towards the tip of the reed on lower register so it vibrates less.

Stan Getz playing ‘Lush Life’ shows this too great affect!

 
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jazzdoh

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,300
Which are the notes that are causing you a problem?,over the break from 1st to the 2nd register there are some saxes including the big 4 which are sharp on D2,Eb2,E2 you just have to lip down on these.
My Mauirat doesn't but i have had both Yamaha's and Yani's that have been sharp in this area.

Brian
 

Tobes

Member
Messages
174
Hey Thanks guys - have tried putting more in my gob while relaxing embouchure a bit and also playing a bit louder also...and hey presto - the tuner needle is almost at 0, so I must be in pitch! I think putting the mp more in my gob and playing less on the tip has made the biggest difference to flatten the pitch. Problem is that the tone is not quite as good, but I guess, I'll just have to keep practicing and hopefully will get more secure over time. Wish me luck - will need a little!
 

griff136

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,048
playing in tune is always a bit of a compromise.

I would firstly find the position on your mouthpiece where the most note are in tune - then you will have less notes to adjust.

secondly i got this tip from a pro player and its the best advice I've ever had for tuning. play the notes chromatically against a tuner and write down which are sharp or flat and by how much play the chromatic scale slowly every day for a month ensuring you look at your "tuning sheet" making adjustments as you go and before you know it you will be automatically adjusting the notes to get them in tune.

Do this every time you change your mouthpiece.
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Commercial Supporter
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14,264
I don't find putting more mouthpiece in in order to cure intonation issues is necessarily a good idea. It's a short term fix that can cause other problems.

The key as others have said is to relax. You say that relaxing your jaw to bring the pitch down is tricky, and so it can be. The secret is to combine this with altering the shape of your mouth cavity.

The best way to get a grip on how to do this is to try mouthpiece only exercises:

Try playing scales and arpeggios or tunes on the mouthpiece alone, it's possible to get over an octave variance in pitch by combining mouth shape (including tongue position) and jaw relaxation.
 

Tobes

Member
Messages
174
Many thanks for the advice. Still struggling to get all notes in tune over the break on the tenor - still often 20 cents sharp on some notes. The thing that confuses me, is that on alto I am almost completely in tune, albeit occasional +/- 10 cents. Would experimenting with different crooks on the tenor potentially improve things - Tenor is YTS 32 (alto YAS 62)?
 

johnboy

Senior Member
Messages
1,179
Many thanks for the advice. Still struggling to get all notes in tune over the break on the tenor - still often 20 cents sharp on some notes. The thing that confuses me, is that on alto I am almost completely in tune, albeit occasional +/- 10 cents. Would experimenting with different crooks on the tenor potentially improve things - Tenor is YTS 32 (alto YAS 62)?

Hi Tobes,
I don't think changing crooks is a good idea!
I do think that the problem is caused by the rediculous (in my opinion) idea, that as your abillity improves, you change to harder reeds. You are probably in the situation, where you have done this and you are now tightening up to get clean notes.
My answer (and this is not a quick fix), would be to use softer reeds, which will make things even worse! and force you to relax your emboucher to stay in tune. After a while you will find it much easier to control things, your ears taking over from the tuner.

John
 
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Tobes

Member
Messages
174
Hey John, cheers for this. I am actually using pretty soft reeds, between 2 and 2.5 as I usually sand down Rico 2.5's slightly - otherwise I can't get a clear low D. Surely if my tuning is good on alto then it should also be good on tenor?
 

Pete Thomas

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14,264
I usually sand down Rico 2.5's slightly - otherwise I can't get a clear low D. Surely if my tuning is good on alto then it should also be good on tenor?

Have you had the tenor checked by a tech for leaks and/or keyheight adjustment?
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Commercial Supporter
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14,264
Yeah I did - technically it's all working perfectly.

OK well the most likely diagnosis (as far as that is possible over the internet) is getting used to a "tenor embouchure" as something different to an alto embouchure, and even more different to a clarinet embouchure.

It's possible to transition from clarinet to alto without such a considerable change as is necessary for tenor. Make sense?

You could even try to tune tad bit sharper and relax more. But it's not just relaxing the jaw, which you say you found uncomfortable but needs practice to get used to, it can also involve changing the shape of the inside of your mouth. Not something that is easy to describe but doing mouthpiece only exercises will help: play scales, tunes and bends with just the mouthpiece.
 

Tobes

Member
Messages
174
Thanks Pete, I'll keep working at it - I can get about an octave just playing with the mouthpiece at present, but nothing that musical!

One other idea I had is getting a longer neck strap for the tenor as currently at full-length is does sit quite high - obviously with alto I shorten it but have more leaway to experiment. I have just found that when the tenor is lowered, it changes the angle of the MP, creating less pressure on lowere lip, meaning that I can relax a bit more and I can vary the pitch more - posture is not as comfortable but there we go...?
 

johnboy

Senior Member
Messages
1,179
Thanks Pete, I'll keep working at it - I can get about an octave just playing with the mouthpiece at present, but nothing that musical!

One other idea I had is getting a longer neck strap for the tenor as currently at full-length is does sit quite high - obviously with alto I shorten it but have more leaway to experiment. I have just found that when the tenor is lowered, it changes the angle of the MP, creating less pressure on lowere lip, meaning that I can relax a bit more and I can vary the pitch more - posture is not as comfortable but there we go...?

If you are standing, try relaxing you left leg so that your weight is on your right leg, right hip to one side.
I think you will find this comfortable. With a longer strap of course.

John.
 

jazzdoh

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,300
Is there an option of playing these gigs on alto for a short time while you work on the problem with your tenor.
Also playing with softer reeds takes more time to control the sound.
I started off 20 years ago on 1 1/2 s then moved through to 3 s and 3 1/2 s and now i am back to 2 s and 2 1/2 s and love the sound but it took time to adjust.
I also think putting the tuner away and training your ear to pick up when your sharp or flat is a great idea but that is a long term project.

Brian
 
Messages
69
When you play in the higher register, you REALLY need to open your throat and you need to raise your soft pallette. (Or should, anyways) It not only prevents you from going sharp, but it does WONDERS with tone.
 
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