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Tuning with a new Mouthpiece

dolbob

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I have just aquired a new Jody Jazz mouthpiece which sounded fine but I didn't think to try tune it up to pitch, and it was only playing at rehearsal I found I could not push the mpc far enough on to the cork to get up to A-440.
Filing the cork has enabled the mpc to reach nearly to the top of the cork but the baffle is now hitting the end of the neck and I am still 5 cents short of concert pitch. The alto is a Bw, my old Yamaha 4c just tunes to concert, but its reached the end of the cork. Has anyone else had this problem with the Jody and BW?
 

aldevis

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Has anyone else had this problem with the Jody and BW?
I had a little with the JP, and there are few threads on the issue around.
Trying different reeds could be the answer.
Please note that it takes time to get used to a new mouthpiece and its tuning characteristics. I am assuming you play a JJ HR, a much more flexible mouthpiece, compared with the Yamaha. Try to tune the instrument with itself (correct octaves) before switching on the tuner. It will take some time. If it doesn't work, there will be few tricks to experiment.
 

Wade Cornell

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Reeds (as Aldevis says) and embouchure not quite pulling up the pitch are the most common problems. However some saxes and setups in certain situations will never come up to pitch. Altitude, cold and design of the mouthpiece or the horn can make it seemingly impossible. The last resort after you have tried everything else (mostly different mouthpieces) would be to file down the neck until you can play up to pitch. I've done this on two saxes, where I have a specific mouthpiece and sound I want, but unfortunately due to altitude (up to 900 meters or 3000 ft.) and occasional cold, I can't otherwise play in tune. I use a hand file and do this slowly. You don't want to take off more than than what's needed.

If it seems that you may need to take off more than 3 mm, I'd be looking for a different sax.
 

TomMapfumo

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5,219
I only ever had this problem when I started off playing on soprano 7 years ago - agree about the embouchure issue as all my mouthpieces have been fine ever since, but do need slight adjustments on the cork.
 

Colin the Bear

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13,063
I've had this problem with my alto, tenor and soprano from Gear4music. I took the plunge and got out the hacksaw. The problem was a bezel or ring on the end of the neck, presumably for protection from knock damage. Cutting behind this bezel removed a couple of millimetres from the length of the neck exposing a section with a narrower outer bore allowing the mouthpiece to slide further on. I re-corked the neck for a snugger fit. All is well now and the tone has improved significantly too I suppose because it freed up the airways in the mouthpiece.

A bit nerve racking with the first one being brand new and all.

If persistence and changing the reed doesn't sort it have a word with your local technician
 

Morgan Fry

Senior Member
Messages
447
Reeds (as Aldevis says) and embouchure not quite pulling up the pitch are the most common problems. However some saxes and setups in certain situations will never come up to pitch. Altitude, cold and design of the mouthpiece or the horn can make it seemingly impossible. The last resort after you have tried everything else (mostly different mouthpieces) would be to file down the neck until you can play up to pitch. I've done this on two saxes, where I have a specific mouthpiece and sound I want, but unfortunately due to altitude (up to 900 meters or 3000 ft.) and occasional cold, I can't otherwise play in tune. I use a hand file and do this slowly. You don't want to take off more than than what's needed.

If it seems that you may need to take off more than 3 mm, I'd be looking for a different sax.
I've had this problem with my alto, tenor and soprano from Gear4music. I took the plunge and got out the hacksaw. The problem was a bezel or ring on the end of the neck, presumably for protection from knock damage. Cutting behind this bezel removed a couple of millimetres from the length of the neck exposing a section with a narrower outer bore allowing the mouthpiece to slide further on. I re-corked the neck for a snugger fit. All is well now and the tone has improved significantly too I suppose because it freed up the airways in the mouthpiece.

A bit nerve racking with the first one being brand new and all.

If persistence and changing the reed doesn't sort it have a word with your local technician
OMG You guys are killing me with this stuff. I don't mean to be unkind but seriously, this is just the craziest advice I've ever heard. I have never seen a situation where a mouthpiece could not be shoved on the neck far enough to play in tune. OK, on some Vandorens the bore tapers too much for some saxes, so it needs widening a bit, but you bore out the mouthpiece. A little.


You cut off the neck and you alter the acoustics of the entire instrument, ruin the scale, it will never play with the intonation it was designed for. Have a little respect for the guys who put the thought into designing the thing.

The problem in every case is that the player is at fault (or the reed is completely clapped out).

Wade -- pitch doesn't vary with altitude. It varies with temperature, but only until the air in the horn warms up. Unless you're playing the wrong neck for the sax to begin with (or something like a tenor mouthpiece on an alto), I'd lay pretty good odds that even your issues are with your chops, not your gear.

dolbob -- your BW and JJ should be able to play reasonably well in tune. As long as you're using a #2 or stronger reed the solution to your problem is a lesson or two. Your embouchure and vocal cavity aren't doing what they need to do yet. It's nothing that a few lessons with a decent teacher and some practice can't sort out pretty quickly. Once you do sort it out, you'll find yourself making a better sound and enjoying your playing more.
 

rhysonsax

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4,365
Wade -- pitch doesn't vary with altitude. It varies with temperature, but only until the air in the horn warms up. Unless you're playing the wrong neck for the sax to begin with (or something like a tenor mouthpiece on an alto), I'd lay pretty good odds that even your issues are with your chops, not your gear.
Wikipedia has some interesting stuff on this (well it interests me as an engineer with a background in thermodynamics and fluid mechanics):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_of_sound

Altitude variation and implications for atmospheric acoustics
In the Earth's atmosphere, the chief factor affecting the speed of sound is the temperature. For a given ideal gas with constant heat capacity and composition, sound speed is dependent solely upon temperature; see Details below. In such an ideal case, the effects of decreased density and decreased pressure of altitude cancel each other out, save for the residual effect of temperature.

Since temperature (and thus the speed of sound) decreases with increasing altitude up to 11 km, sound is refracted upward, away from listeners on the ground, creating an acoustic shadow at some distance from the source. The decrease of the sound speed with height is referred to as a negative sound speed gradient.

However, there are variations in this trend above 11 km. In particular, in the stratosphere above about 20 km, the speed of sound increases with height, due to an increase in temperature from heating within the ozone layer. This produces a positive sound speed gradient in this region. Still another region of positive gradient occurs at very high altitudes, in the aptly-named thermosphere above 90 km.
Rhys
 

Fraser Jarvis

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Messages
1,910
I took the plunge and got out the hacksaw. The problem was a bezel or ring on the end of the neck, presumably for protection from knock damage. Cutting behind this bezel removed a couple of millimetres from the length of the neck exposing a section with a narrower outer bore allowing the mouthpiece to slide further on.
A bit nerve racking with the first one being brand new and all.
I would suggest this is the worst bit advice I've heard for a long while and would emploor anyone considering it DON'T! or you will ruin the sax and probably end up with an instrument that plays way sharp, and when you do the damage is done and theres no going back....the thing was designed and made like that for a reason after probably many hours of R&D...dont do it!
 

TomMapfumo

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5,219
I wonder how many budding sax players are having to revisit B&Q as we speak, or suddenly show a renewed interest in DIY to other family members. I'm glad that I have only ever sanded down the cork on a couple of saxes so that the mouthpiece can actually get on the neck.......................:thumb:
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
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While we are here, does anyone know on the spot the size/kind of the reamer for a tenor mouthpiece?
 

Colin the Bear

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13,063
Playing a new Chinese saxophone with a vintage metal mouthpiece was always going to be a mismatch of technologies.

Any saxophone doesn't play in tune by itself. I can bend the alto reed an octave mouthpiece alone. At the top end with the sax a fifth easily. How would losing 2mm of obstruction ruin the intonation?

If you can't get up to pitch you can only play solo or transpose everything a semitone. I didn't fancy an A tenor or a D alto.

Boring out a mouthpiece might change it's whole character. You can't replace a vintage piece easily so your whole sound is out the window forever.

The neck on a modern Chinese sax is easily and comparatively cheaply replaced.

I offer my experience as one solution that worked for me and did recommend the OP to talk to a technician if all else fails.

Sheesh. Mention a little simple engineering and some people freak out.


"Hey! You! Put down the hacksaw and step away from the saxophone."

I suppose you'd faint if I got out the blow lamp and did a little soldering.



I posted in another thread the problems I had with the soprano and had to strip it down and take the angle grinder to it.



Smelling Salts anyone


.
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
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"Hey! You! Put down the hacksaw and step away from the saxophone."
Exactly how I feel when I visit a repairer. When I had a major accident on my VI I didn't want to watch.

Back to tuning.... My best piece on a cheap Chinese is a Florida (that is too loud on my new Sequoia).
I find modern student horns generally more suitable for Yamaha/Selmer pieces (square chamber). Messing around with chamber reductions could be a harmless experiment to start with.
 

jbtsax

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8,000
I would be interested to know which Jody Jazz mouthpiece is involved in this discussion. I have had this experience with certain soprano mouthpieces that could not go on the neck far enough to play up to pitch because of the internal design. In these cases it was far more than 5 cents, and there was nothing wrong with my "chops".

Doing some quick math, the neck in question would need to be shortened 1.15 mm to accommodate the pitch change of 5 cents which represents 1.308 hz or (vps) vibrations per second. This amount of change to the overall length of the saxophone would not "ruin" the intonation of the entire instrument. Cutting off a half inch would, but a millimeter? Let's be reasonable. It is important to remember that the volume inside the mouthpiece as it is played is a major factor in the pitch of the standing wave inside the saxophone.

Looking at the OP's profile, he is an experienced player who knows about reed strengths and embouchures so I would hesitate to instruct him on those things. As an experienced tech and a student of woodwind acoustics, I would be the first one to advise against a novice making significant and unreversible changes to his instrument, but shortening a neck by a millimeter does not fall into that category IMO. However, my mind is open if anyone can show facts to prove otherwise.
 

Wade Cornell

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Wade -- pitch doesn't vary with altitude. It varies with temperature, but only until the air in the horn warms up. Unless you're playing the wrong neck for the sax to begin with (or something like a tenor mouthpiece on an alto), I'd lay pretty good odds that even your issues are with your chops, not your gear.
With all due respect, and not knowing the precise physics involved I've observed when playing at altitude that it's harder to bring the pitch up. I don't know if this is only due to cold, but suspect that there are other dynamics to this equation which may be due to drier air not holding heat etc. In each case the horn that wouldn't come up to pitch was a soprano.

Interesting that you would presume the wrong neck or lack of embouchure. I've played for 53 years and have played many different instruments and hundreds of mouthpieces. I play sopranino with perfect intonation (so I'm told) so doubt that it's a problem that starts with me other than my (obsessive?) desire to play in tune. The sax may have principles of physics at its core, but is an imperfect instrument in its build that incorporates a lot of compromises. Once again the soprano tends to be the most obvious culprit. The Yanis I've owned all required a tighter embouchure for the top end. The B&S required a relaxed embouchure, and the Couf and Selmers and others were somewhere in between. When you can't even bring the bottom notes up to concert pitch it's the instrument.

Fact: I shortened the neck by about 2 mm and it came up to pitch. No theory, no screwing around with modifying mouthpieces, no self blame for poor chops. A simple fix that worked as the problem was with the horn. As said I wouldn't do this first, but if you have exhausted all other avenues AND have developed your chops, then this is the last resort which one should do with caution and not try to take off too much.

You certainly have a lot of knowledge, but if you haven't had the problem, then you haven't needed to make the fix. You make a living modify mouthpieces so likely consider this to be the solution to problems. Likewise Priests, Chiropractors, Yoga instructors, and nutritionists all think that their practices and beliefs are the key to life and health. When I need a mouhtpiece refaced I'll certainly call on you. When I need a horn modified I'm not likely to.
 
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Morgan Fry

Senior Member
Messages
447
With all due respect, and not knowing the precise physics involved I've observed when playing at altitude that it's harder to bring the pitch up. I don't know if this is only due to cold,
Knowing the physics involved, what you observe could only be due to the cold, and then only while the air in the horn remained cold. A sax playing in a room at 70°F at sea level will have the same pitch as in a room at 70°F in Tibet.


Once again the soprano tends to be the most obvious culprit. The Yanis I've owned all required a tighter embouchure for the top end. The B&S required a relaxed embouchure, and the Couf and Selmers and others were somewhere in between.
Yeah, sopranos are the hardest to make in tune and to play in tune. That said, you experience the expected problems with a mouthpiece/instrument mismatch. It sounds like you put a mouthpiece with to small a chamber for it on the Yani and one with too large a chamber for it on the B&S (actually, the chamber size isn't exactly the problem, the pitch of the mouthpiece (not the mouthpiece pitch as played by itself off the instrument, it's pitch as a helmoltz resonator while it's attached to the instrument) is, but chamber size is usually an effective proxy for that). Of course, there are several assumptions implied in the above.


So if you have two parts that don't acoustically match each other, what do you do? You change one or you change the other. Of course everybody is free to do whatever they want with their stuff but I submit that changing or altering the inexpensive detachable unit (mouthpiece) is preferable to permanently altering the expensive one (saxophone).

But like I said, there are a lot of assumptions here, importantly the assumption that the player is not at all at fault. Which is rarely the case in my experience. What I've been suggesting so far is what is most often appropriate and most effective, and cheapest -- working on your chops doesn't cost anything but pride.
 

Wade Cornell

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2,120
Although I haven't counted I've got maybe around 15 soprano mouthpieces with various chambers, sizes etc. and it's normal for me to occasionally go through all of them with any number of different reeds to put together different combinations to be used with various instruments (I currently have four sopranos). As said when there is an instrument, in this case a Barone sop, that isn't in tune with any mouthpiece the "cheapest option" isn't to buy yet another mouthpiece in hopes that it's somehow going to be OK (I don't live near anywhere where I could ever play test). I have reference to a lot of other sops plus other horns where there is no problem. So according to you I should blame myself and and just try harder to squeeze the notes up? I don't think so. No, the cheapest option and the logical one is that the instrument is at fault. This was corrected by taking a little off the neck and it now plays in tune. Where's the problem?

Morgan, you have a great reputation but I don't think you're doing it much good by exhibiting such a pedantic attitude. You've completely ignored the issue of higher elevations having drier air. You've lectured us about instrument physics. OK there are other aspects of physics such as dry air not holding heat. At altitude it appears to be more difficult for the sax to warm up and attain pitch. You've quoted 70 degrees at sea level and 70 degrees in Tibet, and I'm sure you are right, as long as the instrument remains at 70 degrees or both equally warm to the same degree, and that's the problem. At altitude if you are starting at 60 degrees, and the internal temperature of the horn stays there, then this won't be equivalent to playing at the same ambient temperature in a thicker wetter atmosphere where the internal temperature can more easily warm and hold that heat. Should be easy for you to check this out as it's pretty basic physics.

Would love to hear more about mouthpiece design as this always fascinates.
 

Morgan Fry

Senior Member
Messages
447
Sorry Wade, I don't mean to get to pedantic. Sometimes I find it hard to talk about technical things without becoming so. The reason I ignored your point about the relative humidity is the following: If you are correct, then it must follow that in dry climates, below some temperature about 60°F, saxophones can not warm up enough to play in tune. I am awfully skeptical of this.

The thing about trying different mouthpieces, etc. and horn pitch -- I'm not suggesting going out and buying again and again until you get it right. You're a DIY kinda guy -- I'm saying take one large chambered piece and fill in the chamber with plasticine until it plays in tune. Or get a small chambered one and hog it out with a file or a dremel until it does. Evidently your solution works. Cool. But as a recommendation, for me, we're well into last-saxophone-on-earth territory. And if this untuneability crops up on several different horns, I'm inclined to look at the one thing they all have in common.

------------------------------------

I know the OP doesn't have this particular problem but since we're talking about it --the procedure for the above mouthpiece adjustments, if you have a horn that is too sharp at the top:

This assumes the horn is in good regulation and set up properly. If it leaks like a sieve and/or can't play in tune to begin with you're wasting your time. And for this process, use your ears, not a tuner. If you can't tell with your ears when an octave is in tune, you should not be doing this, you should be practicing long tones.

OK, so what you do is push the mouthpiece in to where low D and middle D are in tune with eachother (eta: don't rely on the octave key on middle D. Just flick it open then hold the note with octave key closed). Then play middle B then B above the staff. If top B is sharp, fill in the chamber some. If it's flat, open the chamber some. Repeat.
 
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