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Beginner I may be way out of tune

photoman

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I've posted this question on an old thread in another forum, too - so I hope you don't mind the crossover. But it is PT quote I saw about the Cleartune app that I'm referring to.

I have seen this tuner mentioned a few times online and just downloaded it, although I already had a "3D" chromatic tuner that is not transposable. I've had my sax (BW alto bronze AI) for less than 1 day, but I'm managing to warble out something resembling notes, so far.

But, when I transposed to Eb on the Cleartune app, what should be a B - first key left hand - is reading as a (slightly flat) Bb, and what should be Bb is reading as Ab (a tone out). Either I have set the transposition wrong (which I hope is the case) or either me or the sax is way out of tune.

All thoughts are welcome.

Stephen
 

Colin the Bear

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Slide the mouthpiece further up the neck to go higher. Slide it further out to go lower. Find a spot using several notes. Make sure there is some cork grease on the cork. Less is more and use a gentletwisting action to move the mouthpiece on the cork.

You might want to explore some of the excellent resourses provided by our host.

http://tamingthesaxophone.com/learn-to-play-saxophone.html
 
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photoman

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Slide the mouthpiece further up the neck to go higher. Slide it further out to go lower. Find a spot using several notes. Make sure there is some cork grease on the cork. Less is more and use a gentle twisting action to move the mouthpiece on the cork.

Thanks for that, Colin and for the link which I'll have good look at. I've altered the MP position a few times, but I seem to be a semitone or a tone out at times, according to the tuner. I don;t think I will be able to move the MP up a full tone. It may be more about my embrochure at this stage than anything else though.

Nearly 4 hours practice, so far since I bought it (yesterday) - so if I keep this up I'll crack it in a year or two! I was just concerned that the sax by by actually out of tune, but it's not likely, really.

Stephen
 

MandyH

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Hi Stephen,
just to check --- can you set your tuner back to concert pitch, then play F# on your Alto. That's L1 L2 L3 R2.
This should play concert A.

I don't have a transposable tuner, so always tune to a note that I know, concert A = F# fingered on Alto (often used in larger bands to tune to)

Oh, and on all of my saxes, the mouthpiece needs to be on so far that about 12mm (half an inch) of cork is visible, and on my bari on a cold day, no cork is visible. I say this just to give you some idea of how far down the cork is actually a reasonable distance. All saxes and mouthpieces vary, but to have the mouthpiece just on the end of the cork is almost certainly not far enough.
 
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photoman

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Hi Stephen,
just to check --- can you set your tuner back to concert pitch, then play F# on your Alto. That's L1 L2 L3 R2.
This should play concert A.

Hi Mandy, thanks for that. I'm getting Ab (about -2 flat). There is no cork showing at the moment, and I can't get it any closer to A. it's a good tone (I think). But I'm now concerned the horn may be flat (not Bb, obviously). :shocked:

Stephen
 
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photoman

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Just to update - after a long time trying almost a full birthday :shocked: - I'm now getting low E and low C to pitch perfectly (or within a point or two), using the Cleartone tuner app transposed to Eb.

F# is still blowing as F on the transposed to Eb Cleartune, and as A# (not A) in concert pitch on another app "Pro Tuner".

I think it's probably my embrochure!

Stephen
 
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kernewegor

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As you are a beginner on sax (even if you may play other instruments) it is well worth finding a good teacher. Ask around and use your savvy - don't go on the advuice of the first person you ask.

A good sax teacher will tell you if there is anything wrong with your horn. Saxophones are quite complex bits of machinery with quite small tolerences. Quite small maladjustments and faults can make playing very difficult, particularly for a beginner, slowing up your progress badly. And you won't know if it's you or your horn...

Once the teacher has decided that your instrument is OK (or not!) he/she will show you how to look after it, clean it etc. Then the teacher will deal with embouchure, stance, holding the instrument, breathing, note production and so on.

The earliest stages of learning are the most important otherwise you are likely to develop bad habits which will be hard to break. Once you have the basics of playing you could stick with having regular lessons, have lessons at longer intervals, or decide to teach yourself - cost might come into it, of course.

An alternative to formal lessons if you are short of dosh is if you are lucky enough to have a friend who is experienced enough and willing to help you to get on the right track.

Whatever, find someone. When I was a kid I spent three months or so learning clarinet without a teacher and the first lesson with one picked up lots of basic faults. At the time I remember wishing I'd gone to him straight away. After a while he sold me a nice vintage alto sax for a very reasonable price - which I still have. Which is another point - if you want to move to another make or type of sax (tenor or bari, say) he/she will give good advice which could save expensive mistakes.
 

photoman

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As you are a beginner on sax (even if you may play other instruments) it is well worth finding a good teacher. Ask around and use your savvy - don't go on the advuice of the first person you ask.

Thanks for the advice, Kernewegor.

As a teacher myself (I have a masters degree in adult education, 25 years experience of teaching adults at universities and colleges up PhD level, mostly full time and at some very senior positions, and I'm now an online teacher with the biggest photography Diploma course in the world), I certainly am aware of the value of booking some lessons.

In another thread, posted before I actually received the sax, earlier this week, I metioned that I called my local music school to try and book some tuition - but they are closed for the summer. I live literally in the middle of nowhere and there is not another music school for over 100 miles. So, I looked into some Skype lessons as a stop-gap and hope to take those up soon.

I have also subscribed to a paid video course and ordered 2 books and a DVD to fill the void before the lessons materialise.

My questions here are to get some information before I can go and talk to someone in person, and I have to say that the feedback has been really helpful so far.

Stephen
 

Colin the Bear

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To be honest I'd put the tuner away for a couple of months. Just get used to blowing it and work up some chops. Further down the road you may need to try softer or harder reeds and a different mouthpiece but for now I'd concentrate on annoying the neighbours.
 

kernewegor

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cocks hill perranporth KERNOW
Thanks for the advice, Kernewegor.

As a teacher myself (I have a masters degree in adult education, 25 years experience of teaching adults at universities and colleges up PhD level, mostly full time and at some very senior positions, and I'm now an online teacher with the biggest photography Diploma course in the world), I certainly am aware of the value of booking some lessons.

In another thread, posted before I actually received the sax, earlier this week, I metioned that I called my local music school to try and book some tuition - but they are closed for the summer. I live literally in the middle of nowhere and there is not another music school for over 100 miles. So, I looked into some Skype lessons as a stop-gap and hope to take those up soon.

I have also subscribed to a paid video course and ordered 2 books and a DVD to fill the void before the lessons materialise.

My questions here are to get some information before I can go and talk to someone in person, and I have to say that the feedback has been really helpful so far.

Stephen

Ha! Ha! Didn't realise I was trying to teach granny how to suck eggs! Nor did I see your earlier posting... doh!

The Skype and DVD sounds interesting - there is a lot of excellent distance learning stuff these days.

Regards

Paul
 

photoman

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To be honest I'd put the tuner away for a couple of months. Just get used to blowing it and work up some chops. Further down the road you may need to try softer or harder reeds and a different mouthpiece but for now I'd concentrate on annoying the neighbours.

Thanks again Colin. These are great points and quite reassuring to be honest, I'm sure the sax is basically "sound" (pun intended). I'll need to blow even harder than I do right now though to annoy anyone - my nearest neighbour is at least half a mile away!

Stephen
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
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First of all don't fret. As a beginner, pitching is hard and until your embouchure develops, you will have a tendency to pitch flat, with some notes being worse than others. That was certainly my experience.

Getting the reed strength right is also key and a teacher will help.

You refer to a 'local music school'. Are there no private teachers in your area? There are usually some. I live in a somewhat rural area and nearest teachers that I know about are about 20 - 25 miles away. I'm used ot regarding that as "local". There is a link on this site to sax teachers.
 
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kevgermany

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Agree with the comments about not worrying too much about pitch at the moment.

One thing that helps with embouchure development is playing just the mouthpiece with a tuner. Concentrate on getting a constant pitch. It takes a while to control this, and until then the sax will never be in tune, cos you'll be changing the pitch without knowing it. It's the change of mouthpiece pitch that allows you to bend notes as you play. Alto mouthpiece should be a concert A, tenor concert G played alone.

Get hold of Larry Teal's 'The art of saxophone playing' and work through the exercises in there, especially the lip ones for developing the embouchure muscles. Little and often is the key. Don't overdo it and get sore, then have to lay off for days.
 

photoman

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County Limerick Ireland
just to check --- can you set your tuner back to concert pitch, then play F# on your Alto. That's L1 L2 L3 R2. This should play concert A.

I've just realised a complete beginner's mistake - and finally solved the problem. I was playing F and not F# at first - and it's not wonder that I was getting Ab and not A.

It may also explain why I thought F# was blowing as F on the transposed tuning (Eb set on the "Cleartone"). :blush:

But, having tweaked the MP along as mentioned by others here and got a reasonable embrochure in place (I'm getting used tohaving my top teeth on the MP) I'm now blowing A (or F#) and quite few other notes in tune.

After only 3 days of owning a sax - I have to say I'm feeling quite pleased with myself (alongside feeling slightly foolish!)

Stephen
 

BigMartin

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Get hold of Larry Teal's 'The art of saxophone playing' and work through the exercises in there, especially the lip ones for developing the embouchure muscles. Little and often is the key. Don't overdo it and get sore, then have to lay off for days.
Alternatively (and in my opinion much more usefully) get Rob Buckland's "Playing the Saxophone" and go through the early parts on sound production. Best (and least mystifying) description of fundamental technique I've seen.
 

photoman

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County Limerick Ireland
Alternatively (and in my opinion much more usefully) get Rob Buckland's "Playing the Saxophone" and go through the early parts on sound production. Best (and least mystifying) description of fundamental technique I've seen.

Amazon.co.uk doesn't seem to have "Playing the Saxophone" but there are 2 or 3 other Rob Buckland books. I found it on his website - and will order it today.

Thanks for the book suggestions to all who posted. I may end up with several - not unlike the way I have collected photography books (I have over 200 as of the last count).

Stephen
 
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Profusia

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I've just realised a complete beginner's mistake - and finally solved the problem. I was playing F and not F# at first - and it's not wonder that I was getting Ab and not A.

It may also explain why I thought F# was blowing as F on the transposed tuning (Eb set on the "Cleartone"). :blush:

But, having tweaked the MP along as mentioned by others here and got a reasonable embrochure in place (I'm getting used tohaving my top teeth on the MP) I'm now blowing A (or F#) and quite few other notes in tune.

After only 3 days of owning a sax - I have to say I'm feeling quite pleased with myself (alongside feeling slightly foolish!)

Stephen

Don't beat yourself up over that tiny gaff - you have plenty of opportunities coming up to make much worse ones! :w00t:

The sax seems a very intuitive instrument at first. Take your fingers progressively off the keys to go up the scale, put them progressively on the keys to go down. But then the F/F# finger swap seems totally counter-intuitive (until you think about what's actually happening to the holes). Similarly with middle B & C. Oh and then there's the adding an extra lower finger to go UP from low D to Eb. The list goes on. The confusion ends when you finally are able to stop thinking about what keys to press because its all "muscle memory" (not there yet myself on alternative fingerings by any means). But if it was too easy, what would be the point? ;}

I remember when I went to sit in at a band for the first time (on tenor). They asked me to play a concert A to tune up with the Altos. They reckoned I was a semi-tone flat. I'd never thought much about concert pitch and tranposing instruments at that point but knew I should be a tone lower than concert on tenor. It turned out that, somewhere in my inexperience and panic (perhaps thinking about tenors being in Bb) I was playing a Bb instead of the required B natural. The conductor spotted it but obviously you can imagine what an idiot I felt. That was about 6 months ago now but I can imagine I'll do something equally stupid again soon enough. Enjoy your learning in the comfort of knowing that you are far from alone in the clangers you drop :thumb:
 

photoman

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Great Message Thomas - and very helpful, thank you. It's a while since I sat in with a band (I played Eb and Bb Cornet with brass bands as a teenager over 40 years ago) but your message reminded me of similar gaffs I made back then. I'm actually quite glad to be back on the learning curve. Got my first lesson with a well known local (to me) jazz and classical style saxophonist early next week - I'm really looking forward to him point out a few more clangers! Stephen
 

MandyH

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:)))
Don't beat yourself up over that tiny gaff - you have plenty of opportunities coming up to make much worse ones! :w00t:

The sax seems a very intuitive instrument at first. Take your fingers progressively off the keys to go up the scale, put them progressively on the keys to go down. But then the F/F# finger swap seems totally counter-intuitive (until you think about what's actually happening to the holes). Similarly with middle B & C. Oh and then there's the adding an extra lower finger to go UP from low D to Eb. The list goes on. The confusion ends when you finally are able to stop thinking about what keys to press because its all "muscle memory" (not there yet myself on alternative fingerings by any means). But if it was too easy, what would be the point? ;}

I remember when I went to sit in at a band for the first time (on tenor). They asked me to play a concert A to tune up with the Altos. They reckoned I was a semi-tone flat. I'd never thought much about concert pitch and tranposing instruments at that point but knew I should be a tone lower than concert on tenor. It turned out that, somewhere in my inexperience and panic (perhaps thinking about tenors being in Bb) I was playing a Bb instead of the required B natural. The conductor spotted it but obviously you can imagine what an idiot I felt. That was about 6 months ago now but I can imagine I'll do something equally stupid again soon enough. Enjoy your learning in the comfort of knowing that you are far from alone in the clangers you drop :thumb:

Occasionally I still find playing Db (on the 4th line of the stave) a challenge.
D requires all finger and then Db (being enharmonic to C#) requires none.
Occasionally I feel my brain explode as I attempt to play the right note!
 

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