Tutorials

Intonation or rather my lack of it...

Chris98

Senior Member
Messages
1,076
I’ve become increasingly dissatisfied with my intonation, the lower octave is generally okay up to middle C, with which I struggle to get a good tone and C♯ just sounds horrible and flat. The next troublesome note is the D as its tendency is to be sharp, particularly if coming up to it from the lower octave. Things generally even out a bit then but I get increasingly sharp the higher up I go.

Anyway I want to improve my intonation and rather than look at the LEDs on my tuner I decided to push GarageBand into use, I want to train my ears not my eyes. So I thought I’d borrow a simple chromatic long tone exercise and get the computer to play the notes via a midi instrument along with a clave click track. I used a flute as the midi instrument as it has the purest tone which makes it easier to determine if I’m out of tune or not.

I’m still tinkering with it, for example I’ve just put tuning notes on the front end but once done I can burn to CD or put it on my ipod so I don’t have to have my computer on when I want to do the exercise.

I’ve only been using it a couple of days but it has put a new lease of life into the long tones as I’ve got something to really concentrate on, my mind always used to wander a bit. It was really quite straight forward to set up and I’m thinking of making up other useful intonation backing tracks like octave jumps and arpeggios.

All the best Chris
 

Jules

Formerly known as "nachoman"
Messages
4,413
Location
brighton by the sea
what mouthpiece have you got? My intonation, or to be exact, my ease of holding tuning varied hugely from 'piece to 'piece.
 
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Chris98

Chris98

Senior Member
Messages
1,076
Hi Nachoman,

I remember reading your post about your experiences with different mouthpieces and that some were better in tune than others, it partly prompted me to look a little more closely at my own intonation issues.

I'm using a Vandoren Java A35 with Superial #3 reeds. The only other mouthpiece I have at the moment is a Java A45 so I can’t really do a similar experiment.

My alto sax is a Yamaha 62II and I read over on SOTW that E. Rousseau mouthpieces were designed for Yamaha saxophones and so perform well on them, I’m not sure if anyone has had any experiences with E. Rousseau mouthpieces as they don’t often come up in peoples posts.

I'm finding it difficult to know whether my intonation inadequacy's are due to my equipment not being well matched or as I'm happy to admit, I've probably been a little lax and less than discriminating about intonation when practising. It’s difficult to know what is acceptable adjustment by the player and what is excessive and therefore an equipment issue and I’m not sure I’ve been playing long enough to make that call.

All the best,

Chris
 

jonf

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,611
Location
Betelgeuse
Your kit

Both mouthpieces and sax are high quality and should work well together. Might be worth getting a second opinion, but they should be fine in themselves.
 
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Chris98

Chris98

Senior Member
Messages
1,076
Both mouthpieces and sax are high quality and should work well together. Might be worth getting a second opinion, but they should be fine in themselves.
Hi Jon,

Sorry if my previous post was misleading, I don't think the intonation issues are to do with my kit, they lie I think with the fool on the other end!

Forgive me if I've got it wrong but I thought saxophones and probably clarinets, oboes, flutes etc all have inherent intonation issues that need to be overcome by the player. It was this desire to improve my 'ear' and my intonation problems that prompted me to play around in GarageBand to make a backing track to help work though some of these issues.

All the best,

Chris
 

jonf

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,611
Location
Betelgeuse
Hi Jon,

I thought saxophones and probably clarinets, oboes, flutes etc all have inherent intonation issues that need to be overcome by the player.
Chris
Yup, to a greater or lesser extent, but you've actually got some of the best kit available in terms of intonation, at least from my limited experience of Yamaha 62 series horns. The margins of intonation requiring adjustment from the player should be pretty slight.

As well as mucking about in Garageband another thought that might help is to get a few playalong books and play along with the demo sax, rather than just the backing. If you pick tunes that feature your 'problem' notes heavily, by playing along with the demo you'll have a reference source to pitch against. Bob Mintzer does a cracking one that's got pretty easy tunes in it called 15 Easy Jazz Blues Funk Etudes. Blues Saxophone by Dennis Taylor is great and a bit more advanced, and there are hundreds of Guest Spot and Aebersold alternatives.
 

half diminished

Senior Member
Messages
1,361
Location
Buckinghamshire
I too have been 'up and down' with my intonation. Karen my teacher tells me not to worry as it will come. I asks how come she sounds so much deeper, robust, fuller tone than I do and with so little effort?

She laughed and said 15 years of practice is all it takes!

I have noticed a big change (improvement) in tone recently. Don't panic and don't spend loads of money trying to solve it. Just practice and more practice.
 
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Chris98

Chris98

Senior Member
Messages
1,076
As well as mucking about in Garageband another thought that might help is to get a few playalong books and play along with the demo sax, rather than just the backing. If you pick tunes that feature your 'problem' notes heavily, by playing along with the demo you'll have a reference source to pitch against. Bob Mintzer does a cracking one that's got pretty easy tunes in it called 15 Easy Jazz Blues Funk Etudes. Blues Saxophone by Dennis Taylor is great and a bit more advanced, and there are hundreds of Guest Spot and Aebersold alternatives.
Hi Jon,

I do that as well, although I'm trying to wean myself off playing along with the demo as I was falling into the habit of reading the music for the notes and using the demo for the rhythm. But it would be good to go back to stuff I know and use the demo as a way of refining my intonation.

All the best,

Chris
 
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Chris98

Chris98

Senior Member
Messages
1,076
Don't panic and don't spend loads of money trying to solve it. Just practice and more practice.
Hi Ian,

Don't worry this was never about new equipment, I don't want a new mouthpiece, reed, ligature or saxophone. I am just using what I have to hopefully improve my playing.

All the best,

Chris
 

ManEast

Member
Messages
214
Location
Southsea .Portsmouth
Hi Ian,

Don't worry this was never about new equipment, I don't want a new mouthpiece, reed, ligature or saxophone. I am just using what I have to hopefully improve my playing.

All the best,

Chris
Hi Chris
Sounds like you need some lessons bud.

First of all you play Alto ...The Alto has a much smaller sweet spot when it comes to getting good tone and intonation. It has to be wined, dined and made a fuss of before it lets you in for coffee.

The Tenor is much more forgiving and up for a good time...has a big sweet soft spot that you can blow off center and still sounds fantastic, and some days on a good reed, better. As you can tell i love them both.

When you tune your Alto , tune it into upper A. It is more easy to bring the lower notes up into tune...than it is to take the higher notes down.
You Dig ?

Get a copy of Jamey Abersold Vol 24 Major & Minor.
This is where you not only lay the foundations of a solid Technique, but also, where you form a relationship with your instrument.

Also find a player you like the sound of and ask them for a few lessons.
Regards

ManEast
 
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Chris98

Chris98

Senior Member
Messages
1,076
I would look at the David Beecroft tuning book/CD. I'll dig out the info ASAP. (Simon from jazzwise, where are you?)
Hi Pete, is this the book?

All the best,

Chris
 
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Chris98

Chris98

Senior Member
Messages
1,076
Hi Chris
Sounds like you need some lessons bud.
Hi ManEast,

I totally agree with you.

First of all you play Alto ...The Alto has a much smaller sweet spot when it comes to getting good tone and intonation. It has to be wined, dined and made a fuss of before it lets you in for coffee.
Yeap that sounds about right and some nights are better than others, I've yet to be invited in for coffee but I usually get a peck on the cheek and that's enough to keep me hooked and coming back for more.

When you tune your Alto , tune it into upper A. It is more easy to bring the lower notes up into tune...than it is to take the higher notes down.
You Dig ?
I've been tuning to the low A, I presume you mean F♯on the alto, A (440) on the piano, or do you mean tune the A on the alto to C concert pitch?

Get a copy of Jamey Abersold Vol 24 Major & Minor.
This is where you not only lay the foundations of a solid Technique, but also, where you form a relationship with your instrument.
I have a copy, although I'll be the first to admit that having a copy and using it regularly are two different things.

Also find a player you like the sound of and ask them for a few lessons.
Regards

ManEast
Both my teacher and her mum have great tone and if I could even come close to approaching them in terms of tone and musical spirit I'd be very happy.

All the best,

Chris
 

ManEast

Member
Messages
214
Location
Southsea .Portsmouth
Hi Chris

A on your Alto (with the octave key open) All of this is a very common prob esp in the first years of playing.

A + Octave key is just a center point to start from ...so you can pull the notes either side of it into focus. (Mess around it may be G + octave key for you)

A Peck on the cheek, Hmmmm ...thats a very good, I think it likes you. Stay with it.

Vol 24 ...Pheww where to start ...stax to do on this. I would think your teacher must have set you alot of stuff ! ?

A far as tuning in with Vol 24 go's... Just do as much as you can to blend in with the rest of the band, Get the sax to make Piano,Bass & drums sound good.

ManEast
 
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half diminished

Senior Member
Messages
1,361
Location
Buckinghamshire
I think this intonation lark is like the dreaded 'golf swing'. One minute you have it...... the next its gone!

Take tonight. Practicing scalar improvisation- beautiful tone (for once) - right throughout the range low Bb to high D, Slight interruption leads to 5 minute break. Bugga! Where's the tone gone!! :crying:

Muscle memory maybe, anyways, it didn't return!

Must have it in me though which was nice to see.
 

Linky Lee

Member
Messages
182
Location
Salisbury, UK
Intonation gets every player.

It plagued my playing for a long time and still does but to much less of an extent.

The best things for my intonation were playing in bands (especially in a sax section), to backing tracks and ditching the tuner.

A note on tuning. Play an arpeggio on the note you're tuning too. It will give you a better idea of how 'in' you are. There is a greater boundary of being in tune to our ears when playing unison notes.
 
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