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Theatres, Clubs and Tuning

OP
Veggie Dave

Veggie Dave

Sax Worker
Messages
3,066
Can't you leave your sax onstage?
As there isn't a Eureka fix, which is more than a little disappointing, I'm going to try leaving the horns onstage. I'll warm-up about 30-45 mins or so before the show's supposed to start for 15mins or so and then put them on stage to acclimatise to the stage temp. A few minutes before the show's supposed to start I'll tune them in the wings and put them straight back onto the stage.

Assuming it's safe to do so, anyway.

more about experience of having played them in different conditions and getting a feel for where on the cork they play in tune at different temperatures
I can basically do this, so that it's close enough that you can comfortably lip up or down if you need to, as long as you can hear the other instruments. I wouldn't say I placed the mouthpiece with any true accuracy, though.

Off on a related tangent again:
My most recent discovery has been that when you write horn parts for a song that's to be played as part of a larger performance, you should really consider this when creating the parts. It's all well and good writing parts that sound great, with long high notes and long runs/melodies that can only just be played with a single breath, but when you're already an hour into a performance, where you're playing at an exuberant volume, and you then have three songs back to back, which are all long, high notes and long runs in the upper register with no real rests in the song, you realise that you may have made a mistake because your embouchure will be destroyed by the end of the third song ... leaving you with another hour of playing to go, that includes at least four more songs with similar scores, except they also include much faster passages.

Over the last 6 weeks or so I've found that having to lip up even a little bit while playing the R&B/soul set I've written for the Soul Vipers is the difference between finishing the set knackered but still with an acceptable technique and finishing with more air escaping the side of your mouth than is going through the mouthpiece. The trumpet player has found the same thing.

I don't want to have to change the sheets any more than I already have (some of the songs became so much easier to play by simply removing a single crotchet here and there - surprisingly so to be honest), so I have to make any other issues less likely to cause problems. I've had to change mouthpieces to one that's much louder, with far less resistance, which has helped massively. The only other thing I can do now is make sure the tuning is as close to perfect as possible, which is how I came to start this thread.

or with tunings different from A=440Hz.
This is a situation I haven't really had to deal with yet. Well, apart from one jam with a bagpipes player, which was really fun.
 

Pete Effamy

Senior Member
Messages
2,044
It’s easy to think that you have chops of steel when doing certain 3hr gigs and not feeling a thing. A jazz gig - play the head, take a solo and rest while everyone else takes a solo. Play for ⅓ to ½ the gig! You’ll soon feel it if you ever have to play a few hymns!
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
7,603
On the "related tangent" topic, it reminds me of a "society band" I played tenor in years ago. The book was almost entirely made up of arrangements by Art Dedrick who arranged hundreds of songs for "dance bands". One thing about Dedrick's arrangements was that every instrument played all of the time. I suppose it was to give the band a big, full sound. You literally had the mouthpiece in your mouth the entire tune, some of which lasted 4 or 5 minutes. What's more the bandleader counted off the next tune right after the last one ended.

I played on softer reeds back then and just pretended to play when the saxes were in unison just to get through the gig.
 
OP
Veggie Dave

Veggie Dave

Sax Worker
Messages
3,066
You literally had the mouthpiece in your mouth the entire tune, some of which lasted 4 or 5 minutes.
This is basically the mistake I made. After playing in bands where I only played a few licks per song (if I was lucky) I decided that the horns would be playing all the time in my band. Now I know why the original players arranged their sections in the way they did... :doh:

What's more the bandleader counted off the next tune right after the last one ended.
You can't give the audience time to drift away from the dance floor. ;)

I played on softer reeds back then and just pretended to play when the saxes were in unison just to get through the gig.
I can't really do that as much as I'd like to sometimes. :D
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
1,343
That would be my preferred approach from a playing point of view, but I can't think of anything I'd like to hear less as an audience member. I still remember the days of guitar tuners that didn't mute the sound. ;)



I haven't dismissed anything - I have, however, tried to explain my question more clearly when people have replied because they're answering a question I haven't asked.



Actually I've repeatedly explained that I'm talking about making sure you walk on to the stage with a sax that's in tune, not about tuning during the show.



A tuner during the show shouldn't be needed if you start off basically in tune. Playing into a tuner between songs, unless you can walk off the stage and not be heard, is unprofessional and bloody annoying to the audience and who ever is trying to talk to the audience between songs.

However, as I have repeatedly pointed out, I'm not talking about tuning during the performance.



In your opinion. One of the things I absolutely hate, and I do mean hate, is hearing musicians tuning on stage. Trying to compare a guitarist tuning on stage to a sax on stage makes no sense. You can't hear a guitar being tuned - at least not these days, because pedal makers realised a long time ago that hearing someone tuning is really, really annoying.

But as that wasn't the question I asked, it's rather moot.
OK you have clearly taken this rather personally....I stated quite clearly no sarcasm was intended on my part. But, to be honest, when you in one part of your comments say this:

I think I'm not explaining this properly. The temperature difference between the wings/backstage and on-stage can be dramatic - easily 5C, which is more than enough to potentially throw a horn out of tune well before the first song has finished.
Taking a horn from one temperature straight to another one is going to cause tuning issues.
....then subsequently state this:

A tuner during the show shouldn't be needed if you start off basically in tune. Playing into a tuner between songs, unless you can walk off the stage and not be heard, is unprofessional and bloody annoying to the audience and who ever is trying to talk to the audience between songs.
....I can only scratch my head. First you state that the tuning issue is a problem due to moving from areas of significantly different temperatures. Then you state that tuning during a show 'shouldn't be a problem' or something you have to endeavor to achieve.

That a bit odd. The fact is, it is a problem, and the player has to address it. IMHO blowing air thru the horn in a cold area prior to playing in a warm one will help, but it won't avoid the reality of having to occasionally tune up during a set due to this sorta context. 20 minutes into a set, onstage, the horn will have settled to a different temperature than what a few minutes of blown air provided it before the band first hits, is all.

Also your premise of "a tuner shouldn't be needed onstage if you start off in tune" is ersatz. For reasons already addressed by others. If that is your expectation, then in those sorta temperature/climate situations...you will be disappointed.

FWIW, using the "it's unprofessional to tune onstage" thang, when if fact folks do this all the time, is dismissive, actually...it is no more 'unprofessional' than a bassist or guitarist tuning up a bit during the performance. Audiences are sorta used to this, it doesn't distract and no club owner is gonna say "well, boys, we'd love to have you back but....that tuning business just was a bit much for us".
 
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JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
1,343
As there isn't a Eureka fix, which is more than a little disappointing,
There's your answer, then. No magic fix. You can do some things to address it, but nothing to avoid it completely. One of those timeless issues player shave learned to deal with in a variety of ways.
I can basically do this, so that it's close enough that you can comfortably lip up or down if you need to, as long as you can hear the other instruments. I wouldn't say I placed the mouthpiece with any true accuracy, though.
or...if you can do that (i.e. hear at some point that you have to lip up or down) ...then you can just do what @Nick Wyver noted earlier: use your ears during performance and adjust the mouthpiece accordingly (perhaps 2 or 3 times during a set if necessary) so you don't have to be playing and worrying about constantly lipping up or down....
 

s.mundi

Member
Messages
541
You don't walk on stage with an in-tune saxophone. A saxophone is played in tune. I agree that many intangibles can give the impression or contribute to having a tuning concern.
Three days a week, I step on stage. When a freak tunes guitar down, I take a break and enjoy a cigar. Of course, everyone's situation is different.
Musicians can obsess and strive for perfection.
 

Pete Effamy

Senior Member
Messages
2,044
Yes, on occasion when we play out of tune, we won’t be the first or last, and that includes all styles of music at every level. All you can do is try to be as prepared as possible which is what you’re essentially asking. It isn’t an exact science though.
The argument that is against leaving the sax onstage is a potentially dried out reed - and prone to the odd squeak. You could guard against this by trying to seal your cap a certain amount with gaffa tape. Moreover, take the neck with the mouthpiece on, wrap in a duster and shove down the bell. You’d only need about 10s to hook up.
 

Pete Effamy

Senior Member
Messages
2,044
Further to this, practice moving the pitch with your chops/throat etc. As I said before, sharpness is far easier to deal with as opposed to flatness - if your put pressure on the reed it’ll strangle the sound.
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
Subscriber
Messages
5,902
The argument that is against leaving the sax onstage is a potentially dried out reed - and prone to the odd squeak.
Not just the odd squeak. I picked up my sop last summer at some outdoor festival where it was rather warm to find (after playing tenor for about half an hour) that it really didn't want to know at all. Not a sound could I coax from it. Back to tenor then.
 

Pete Effamy

Senior Member
Messages
2,044
Not just the odd squeak. I picked up my sop last summer at some outdoor festival where it was rather warm to find (after playing tenor for about half an hour) that it really didn't want to know at all. Not a sound could I coax from it. Back to tenor then.
Back in my college days I played in a Contemporary group. One concert we played Peter Maxwell Davies The Bairns of Brugh which is a five minute piece that has the clarinet player on bass clarinet playing a low C drone for most of the piece.
We were into the piece before I could blow a note or two, but the heating had dried out my reed whilst I played Bb in all the other pieces and wouldn’t play.
I blew air down the thing for about 3 or 4 minutes hoping that it would start to play and not a sausage. Until the last note - where it did a loud shouty parp. That ended my relationship with the bass clarinet.
 

Crossleyharlow1

New Member
Messages
19
You do see that very often if you watch decent sax players playing live. It emphasises the importance of being able to hear whether you are in tune with other instruments, rather than relying on a tuner showing you. It is also important to know the intonation characteristics of your own instrument.

Here's Sonny Rollins quickly adjusting his mouthpiece position about 13 seconds into a song.


With experience, you develop a feeling for how far to move the mouthpiece in/out to correct being flat/sharp by roughly how many cents (or how much lipping down/up).

Rhys
I did a note by note chromatic check on my clarinets and saxes with a newly acquired good quality electronic tuner last week and was quite shocked to find how fluctuating the intonation was note to note when applying a steady normal embouchure, on highly respected quality instruments. I found that it would be virtually impossible to play anything at all completely in tune. Sure, you can lip each and every note into tune one at a time, but not in continuous play. Mid-range, all the instruments were pretty well spot on, within 10% either way, but when you venture lower or higher, then the intonation starts to flatten or sharpen. So it’s simply a matter of trusting the ear and lip, which are the best judges, provided you have a good ear. Were it possible to see what the tuner is telling you as you play through a passage, I’m pretty sure you would find that you were technically out of tune most of the time, which is a sobering thought. But it doesn’t matter a jot if it sounds right to the player and, perhaps more importantly, the hearer. Moving the mouthpiece in or out to be in tune on concert A will also affect the intonation of the instrument across the range, as players trying to adjust to the often chronically out of tune pianos in local venues will testify to.
 
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