Tutorials

Middle D intonation

Gallen

Senior Member
Messages
397
Hi everyone!
I am trying to get my Middle D more in tune. Currently, it is sharp (on the tuner, 30-35 cents). I can make it go down to maybe 25, but after that, it will drop a register to the low D, and that's with the octave key definitely pressed down. :confused:

Any thoughts on this? D# oddly seems to be correctable, as is E. C# and C are alright as well.

Thanks!

Alvin
Hanson SA5 Alto, Vandoren Optimum AL4 mpc, BG lig, Legere Signature #2.5
 

Two Voices

Senior Member
Messages
1,113
This is quite common. Mouthpiece selection can have affects on intonation and tuning. Having said that Long Notes and tuning yourself to the horn is the only real way to improve - 20 cent isn't too bad. If I was you I'd put the tuner away and concentrate on listening to each note careful and it'll come. Bring the tuner back out after say three months I'd you'll see an improvement I'm sure. I take it the sax has no leaks!
 

Gallen

Senior Member
Messages
397
Hi Paul, thanks for that. How's your new tenor?

I'm not sure how not using the tuner will help, could you explain a bit more? Right now when I'm doing long tones - doing the first exercise from Top Tones for Saxophones as my long tones practice - it's very obvious my C# to D transition is quite off *by ear*. The tuner only reinforces the fact how bad it is. I don't quite get how to bring it lower, does it come with more practice?

Alvin
 

Two Voices

Senior Member
Messages
1,113
Hi Alvin,

Unfortunately I don’t get the new Sax until Wednesday! They say patience is a virtue … :)

From my own point of view to play the sax I feel you really need to get to know your sax / set-up. Work through its intonation problems and being able to compensate for it! The tuner just hampers that process in my opinion.

No sax is perfectly in tune top to bottom. That would be impossible. Add a Mouthpiece, Ligature and Reed to mix and you’re compounding it!

The only way to work through it is to listen to your self play. Not looking at a tuner that’s telling you that you’re 30 cent sharp or flat! That’s just frustrating!

When playing the long notes really listen to the note you’re playing. Keep trying to get the best out of that note! It will come with practice I can assure you of that! It might appear that you are on a plateau for a while then suddenly you get it! That’s an awesome feeling! If you use a tuner you are looking at that and not really listening to the note. Try just playing one note for five minutes a day. In your case try middle D. Just play it and really listen to it!

Also without a doubt running up and down the scales really improves your intonation, but you have to really listen so you know when it’s out or not! Practice makes prefect! At the end of the day learn to hear whether or in tune or not, rather than relying on some soulless electronic thing that only serves to frustrate a player! I hate it when a sax player whips out a tuner at a gig or jam session! Anyhow, who says you have to have perfect intonation? Didn’t Charlie Parker play sharp?

Whoops! Sorry for the rant :)))

I’m sure some experts will be along to put you on the right track!

Happy blowing,

Paul
 
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Gallen

Senior Member
Messages
397
Hi Paul! I assure you, I am not looking at my tuner as I play - in fact it is in another room. It's that D, it sounds so different to the notes around it :-/ It just grates when playing with a backing track, it's obviously so off. I guess it will come in time.

Alvin
 

Two Voices

Senior Member
Messages
1,113
Hi Alvin,

Is there anyone you could test play your sax to ensure there isn't a problem such as a leak?

Having said that, that middle D was a problem for me for quite a while but it came good in time :)

Happy blowing,

Paul
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,908
This is just a guess, but coud it be that the C key isn't lifting high enough from the tone hole. Is the bottom D OK?
 

Two Voices

Senior Member
Messages
1,113
Hi Alvin,

If bottom D is slightly flat then nothing is wrong with the sax. I've just got the tuner out of the cupboard to try something out.

When playing middle D my embouchure is very relaxed. Try blowing the note with as a relaxed embouchure as you can and see if you play it more in tune. If so you can work on the adjustment until it becomes natural.

Just a thought :)
 
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Gallen

Senior Member
Messages
397
Ah, I wish I'd checked this thread earlier, I just finished today's practice session, could have given those tips a whirl.

@Paul: I've had my teacher check out the sax, and it seems alright. I'll be sure to quiz him more about the middle D intonation issues when I next see him though. On a whim today, I switched over to cane, vandoren #2.5s, and I think it's performing slightly better against the backing tracks. So maybe, it's just the reed. The vandoren 2.5s also allow me to hit one semitone higher with my mouthpiece exercises. Will need to check out the relaxed middle D tomorrow!

@Bigmartin: Low D seems to be working great... not sure how to check the keys though.

@Kev: Yes, with the LH palmkey it brings it right down to about +10 cents, and that's with octave and LH palmkey though. LH palm key alone is very flat. As an added side effect, it makes the transition between C# to D very similar too (i.e. not D not stuffy). I'm not using it as I spoke with my teacher about it and he says it's better to correct it via embouchure vs using the palm key :-/
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
lol - teachers vary, mine taught me about it - specifically as a remedy for a stuffy middle D on tenors, fact is it's one of the keys that isn't properly vented and needs a touch of help, especially on older saxes. I usually forget about it and just blow, I'm too busy concentrating on the dots to worry about helper keys.

Paul, why no octave key?
 

Morgan Fry

Senior Member
Messages
447
Sharp middle D is a common problem, but 30 cents is a lot. Try it without the octave key. If it's still that sharp you need to push in and loosen up generally. Also, venting it with the D palm key instead of the octave key is a common fix for a stuffy D.
 

JasonC

Member
Messages
217
I also have this problem and with the middle E, the rest of my notes are pretty much bang on in tune according to the tuner so it's very frustrating! If I relax my embouchure more on these 2 notes to get them in tune it starts to creep into the lower octave notes! the only way I have found to get around this is to support my air flow much more, but it feels quite unnatural at the moment so I think it will take some work.
 

Gallen

Senior Member
Messages
397
Good morning!
@Morgan: Do you mean try to overblow the low D to middle D without the octave key? Also, do you mean push the mouthpiece in if it is still sharp?

@JasonC: Hmm I think I get exactly the same thing except it's my D. I'll give that breath support a god. It already feels weird in the mouth when the drops the octave, hopefully more practice will work!
 

JasonC

Member
Messages
217
Good morning!

@JasonC: Hmm I think I get exactly the same thing except it's my D. I'll give that breath support a god. It already feels weird in the mouth when the drops the octave, hopefully more practice will work!

Yes I get it with the middle D as well as the middle E. What I do is relax my embouchure until it's in tune and it's just verging on dropping to the lower octave, then I support the air much more (keeping the same embouchure) and this gets it in tune, but as I say its not that natural to do (for me anyway!), especially when playing a tune.
 
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picconose

Member
Messages
75
Believe it or not, practicing subtones on the lowest notes of the horn will improve your emnbouchure to the point that the middle D will probably start behaving for you. That note tends to be sharp on every tenor I have ever wrapped my fingers aroiund, and most baris as well. If you learn to play subtones extremely softly, and in tune, you will find that your embouchure relaxes a great deal. You will probably have to begin pushing the mouthpiece on a little further, to get everything up to pitch, but believe me when I say that is not a bad thing.

If you are relatively new to the sax, you will probably not be able to play a subtone all the way down to a Bb. Start with a low D. When you can make that note speak at a subtone, with no accent at the beginning of the sound, try a C. FOllow that with a B, and last, get the Bb and C# under control. (For some reason, C# is usually a little more difficult -about the same as a Bb - on most horns.) If you can't play a subtone on the D, either the horn has leaks, or your reed is too hard. INcidentally, a subtone is not just a quiet volume; it has a lot of air passing through as well. The best way I can describe the sound is "fluffy". Listen to the beginning of Coleman Hawkins' Body and Soul, or Ben Webster's Danny Boy. That is the sound you are after.
 
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