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Sax been to the tech and now is out of tune

Di in France

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Hi guys, I'd like some advice please.
I took my alto sax (Yani A8833) into a tech yesterday because I've been having a small problem with a (sometimes) stuffy top A after playing for a while.

He said it needed a small regulation (petit regler - I'm in France) and could I come back in an hour or so.

When I returned to pick it up he said that he'd done some adjustment, pointing to the lower register - and he'd also looked at the octave mechanism.He'd put on a new neck cork as it was old and a bit torn and worn at the edge.

I did blow it up and down, but there were another couple of customers there so I was a bit awkward when they were trying to have a conversation, so I didn't get to give it a proper check.

I played it today and despite the new cork, managed to get the mouthpiece into its normal position, but the octaves are not in tune. The middle C, C# and D are all out of tune on the octaves, ie keying the lower register and playing up the octave with the octave key to get middle C,C# and D.

Even with the mouthpiece pushed as far as it will go, I can't get it in tune to the tuner (it's flat) and there is still almost a semi-tone difference in the octave notes. Either the middle register is flat or the lower register is sharp. Am I making sense, hope so.
Would this have something to do with adjusting the height of the pads over the holes. Sorry, not very technical.

It was perfectly in tune before he worked on it, mouthpiece in a good position about half way up the cork.
 
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Di in France

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Is the octave mechanism working correctly?

Yes -as far as I know it's opening and closing on the right notes.

The horn was perfectly in tune before, and all it had was this little niggle on the top A. Now I feel sick because also I've found that the front F key isn't closing the two keys underneath it properly. They're sealing when I press them, but the 'F' key doesnt close them enough to seal. I've checked with a light and theres a big gap.
God knows what he's done.
 
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dubrosa22

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My sympathies Di. Sounds like your tech has really botched it. I'm not a tech but it seems strange he was messing with the lower keys for a stuffy high A.

Perhaps a tech here can demystify whst has potentially occurred and what should have been done?

Geez, I hate it when you can't playtest a newly regulated horn properly because there's folks having a quiet conversation in a horn shop. Always happens to me because inevitably horn/repair shops are generally tiny in size.

I'd take it back and get him to fix it before too much time has elapsed. Of course I can understand if you're hesitant to go back to him! :(
 

Di in France

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I don't know exactly what he's done, but obviously he's messed with the keys as the top F key no longer closes the two keys that it should. I'm going to take it back and wait while he fixes it - if he can. He may have missed it trying to get it done in time for me to take home rather than leave it, but if it's not in tune on the octaves, and he's botched the top 'F' and missed checking it it's not looking good!
I took the recommendation off a french forum and it's the nearest tech to me in Limoges. I did get a recommendation for one in Toulouse, but that's a long way from me.
I'm even thinking of paying my parents a visit in the UK and taking it to my old tech Stuart in Bradford.
 

jbtsax

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I played it today and despite the new cork, managed to get the mouthpiece into its normal position, but the octaves are not in tune. The middle C, C# and D are all out of tune on the octaves, ie keying the lower register and playing up the octave with the octave key to get middle C,C# and D.

Even with the mouthpiece pushed as far as it will go, I can't get it in tune to the tuner (it's flat) and there is still almost a semi-tone difference in the octave notes. Either the middle register is flat or the lower register is sharp. Am I making sense, hope so.

To begin with, nothing your tech could have done would make your octaves go out of tune---especially in the amount of time he worked on the sax. That has to do with the taper of the bore and the position of the octave vents. If I understand correctly you are saying that low C and low C's fingering played with the octave key added do not make in tune octaves. They are not supposed to. The opening of the body octave vent will cause the first overtone of low C (middle C) to go sharp. This is because the position of the body octave key is a compromise position---usually set for the note F natural. C with the long fingering is 5 half steps away from this position and so the note is very sharp. You can compare this by fingering low C and using your air and throat to make it go to the C an octave higher. On a well made sax (with the mouthpiece in the best position) these notes should make an in tune octave. As you are holding that overtone, add the thumb octave key and hear the change in pitch. It will go sharp. You can do the same with the note C# which theoretically will be less sharp with the octave key added since it is only 4 half steps from the ideal octave vent position. D should be better still being only 3 half steps from the ideal position.

You can test this "ideal octave vent position" theory on the other side of F as well. The F# octaves are quite well in tune. The high G goes slightly sharp when the octave key is added and G# a little more so. When you hit A the neck octave key takes over and A being 2 half steps from the ideal position which is B is sharp, A# is more so. High C being 1 half step away is slightly sharp, and C# being 2 half steps away from the ideal position is even sharper.

There is not a saxophone made that plays in tune. There are however players who can make a saxophone sound in tune, with a good ear, good embouchure control and knowledge of the intonation tendencies of the instrument.

Virtually all saxophones play the middle D sharper than the low D with the regular fingerings. Since it is easier to lip down than up most players choose not to pull out and have to lip up the low D, C#, C, B, and Bb for obvious reasons.

When you say "either the middle register is flat or the lower register is sharp" it doesn't make sense because it should be the other way around using the fingerings you mentioned.
 

kevgermany

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Cork - if it's that tight, get it sanded to match the mouthpiece, otherwise you'll continually have problems, and risk having problems with bending the neck as you fight it.

Tuning. Lowering key heights flattens notes, unless the keys are set too high to start with. Not sure if it's the same amount across octaves, but I'd expect it to be different. Check the octaves using low E.

Try getting the tech to put it right, but it sounds as if you need to find someone better. Also consider the possibility that it was out before, you learned to compensate and now it's set better. But this seems unlikely to me, given your description.
 

Di in France

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Thanks for the input guys.
It was pretty much in tune before, so I know that it is now sharp playing the C and C# up the octave with the octave key. I don't know what he's done, but he must have done something as it was ok before, now it's not.
Why can't I get it in tune with the tuner even with the mouthpiece pushed right up towards the end of the cork? I could get it in tune with the tuner before with the mouthpiece in a nice position about half way up the cork.
The reason I say that the middle C may be flat is that when I try to tune to tuner with top F, F# and G it's flat and I can't push the mouthpiece any further on.
 

MMM

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Why not explain this to the repairer and find out exactly what he did? Everyone can have a bad day or are all techs infallible? OK, may not do his reputation any good and you may not want to go again, but I would give him a chance to put things right first, before despairing.

Thanks for the input guys.
It was pretty much in tune before, so I know that it is now sharp playing the C and C# up the octave with the octave key.

A quick test for the C/C# would be to play them without the octave key: any difference? You should be able to play the upper octave comfortably without the octave key (IMO the octave key makes the octave speak easier, but it's not essential). If there is no change then the octave key (or the height of the octave pad) is not at fault. Still doesn't explain the front F issue, although this is an easy fix with either thicker felt under the key, or possibly bending the key back where it was... but I would let the repairer put it right.
Just my 2p!
Cheers,
M.
 

Di in France

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Why not explain this to the repairer and find out exactly what he did? Everyone can have a bad day or are all techs infallible? OK, may not do his reputation any good and you may not want to go again, but I would give him a chance to put things right first, before despairing.



A quick test for the C/C# would be to play them without the octave key: any difference? You should be able to play the upper octave comfortably without the octave key (IMO the octave key makes the octave speak easier, but it's not essential). If there is no change then the octave key (or the height of the octave pad) is not at fault. Still doesn't explain the front F issue, although this is an easy fix with either thicker felt under the key, or possibly bending the key back where it was... but I would let the repairer put it right.
Just my 2p!
Cheers,M.

Thanks MMM, yes I agree about the top F key, I can see that now it needs a thicker felt and I presume it would be fine. I've checked the octaves without the octave key and it's sharp.
Yes, I'm going to take it back, a bit busy for the next few days, but I'll ring him and arrange a time when it's convenient to have a look at it while I wait.
 

jbtsax

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Why can't I get it in tune with the tuner even with the mouthpiece pushed right up towards the end of the cork? I could get it in tune with the tuner before with the mouthpiece in a nice position about half way up the cork.
The only explanation I can think of is that the tech replaced the cork with a shorter one that does not go as far up the neck.
The reason I say that the middle C may be flat is that when I try to tune to tuner with top F, F# and G it's flat and I can't push the mouthpiece any further on.
If the mouthpiece won't go to the end of the cork, it needs to be sanded to more of a cylindrical shape. Another random thought. Have you checked the calibration of your tuner?

Can you please clarify what you mean when you say "It is now sharp playing the C and C# up the octave with the octave key"? Do you mean fingering 3rd space C and open C# and finding the pitch of the octave played with the octave key to be sharper?

There is another possibility for the reason the front F key does not close the B. [It does not need to close the small key above it by touching it directly because the B does this on its own.] It may be that the palm F key is not opening the full distance allowing the front F to travel far enough to close the B key.

It will be interesting to hear your report after you have taken the sax back to the tech who did the work and demonstrated to him the problems you have encountered.
 

Di in France

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Hi,
What I mean is if I press the keys in the lower register for C and C# and then use the octave key, the sound for these two notes is sharp compared to the note achieved by playing C and C# the normal way.
The palm key looks to be opening normally, but it will be interesting to see what he says and does, I don't care as long as he fixes it.
 

jbtsax

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Tuning. Lowering key heights flattens notes, unless the keys are set too high to start with. Not sure if it's the same amount across octaves, but I'd expect it to be different. Check the octaves using low E.

I looked into this a while back, and although I haven't done an empirical study, I believe the effect of key height changes on notes with the same fingering in different octaves to be the same. The attached spreadsheet gives the calculated values.
 

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Morgan Fry

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If he reamed out the octave pip in an effort to clear up the A it could conceivably cause the pitch problems you're having. The cork should have been sanded to fit your mouthpieces.
 

Di in France

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If he reamed out the octave pip in an effort to clear up the A it could conceivably cause the pitch problems you're having. The cork should have been sanded to fit your mouthpieces.

Thanks, yes perhaps that's what he did.
He checked my mouthpiece on the cork to about half way up, but having tried to tune up, that's not enough. I can get the mouthpiece further up the cork but it's a struggle.
 

Morgan Fry

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Thanks, yes perhaps that's what he did.
He checked my mouthpiece on the cork to about half way up, but having tried to tune up, that's not enough. I can get the mouthpiece further up the cork but it's a struggle.

I'd sand it down some more so the mouthpiece fits. Then if there is still a problem with the scale or anything else, take it to a different tech.
 

Di in France

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I wish I could find a good tech here in France, there isn't the choice and also having to travel much further distances - although I would go further if I could get a reliable recommendation!!
 

jbtsax

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If he reamed out the octave pip in an effort to clear up the A it could conceivably cause the pitch problems you're having. The cork should have been sanded to fit your mouthpieces.

True, enlarging the diameter of the neck octave vent will cause the notes A2 and above to play sharper, but her stated problem is that the low C and C# when played an octave higher using the octave key (body octave) are sharper than their counterparts C2 and C#2 played with their regular fingerings.
 

Colin the Bear

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I reckon it's the neck cork. I'm thinking with a worn cork you were pushed well on and have got used to lipping everything down. Sand it and grease it and push further on.
 

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