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Tuning with a new Mouthpiece

aldevis

aldevis

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OK, so what you do is push the mouthpiece in to where low D and middle D are in tune with eachother. 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.

Saucy! Any better material than plasticine?
And any thought about modified/custom necks?

About altitude, temperature (why F?), humidity... I must say that when the season changes suddenly (or if I go to south Europe), all my gear stops working properly and I have to find new reeds. In particular on the clarinet, more sensitive to weather changes. And I know I am not the only one.

Personally I wouldn't touch a horn that plays, but sometimes my mouthpieces are more expensive than the horn, so I don't know what I would chose to mess around with.
 
Morgan Fry

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Saucy! Any better material than plasticine?
And any thought about modified/custom necks?

About altitude, temperature (why F?), humidity... I must say that when the season changes suddenly (or if I go to south Europe), all my gear stops working properly and I have to find new reeds. In particular on the clarinet, more sensitive to weather changes. And I know I am not the only one.

Personally I wouldn't touch a horn that plays, but sometimes my mouthpieces are more expensive than the horn, so I don't know what I would chose to mess around with.

Plasticine I just like because it's easy to shape. use whatever.

Altering necks is a whole other thing that I don't understand except in principle and even then not to a degree I would recommend anything at all. It can make or break a horn. Such tiny changes can make a noticeable difference to the horn in this area.


Yeah, the weather will wreak havoc on reeds. I used to work on a ship doing LA to Hawaii. Even though it was indoors it's amazing how different reeds could play from one day to the next. Gotta keep a lot in rotation. Don't throw out your bad ones, you never know when one will go from zero to hero.
 
jbtsax

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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:

OK, so what you do is push the mouthpiece in to where low D and middle D are in tune with each other. 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.

From your statement, is it correct to assume that you are adjusting the "length" of the saxophone by getting the long tube D octaves in tune with one another and adjusting the "mouthpiece volume" (missing cone) by bringing the short tube B octaves in tune with one another?

It is not clear to me whether "if top B is sharp" means above A=440 or sharp in relation to the B an octave lower. Can you clarify your statement? In other words, at what point in the process is the tuning done to a standard pitch and not just bringing octaves in tune?

I find mouthpiece volume and the "missing cone" totally fascinating and have studied Benade's writings on the subject. In fact, I have taken part in numerous discussions that address the importance of mouthpiece effective volume vs length of the instrument as measured to the tip of the mouthpiece in saxophone tuning. Any information that you can share in this area would be appreciated.
 
Colin the Bear

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So.. let's see if I've got it... You need one saxophone for busking at the seaside and another for Tibet and a plasticine mouthpiece, a degree in Physics and a good ear. The old B&H Lafleur lost intonation completely and wouldn't play right one hot afternoon in Zurich. The plastic clarinet was fine. It was warm enough to melt plasticine so that wouldn't have helped. Where's me carrot?
 
Morgan Fry

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From your statement, is it correct to assume that you are adjusting the "length" of the saxophone by getting the long tube D octaves in tune with one another and adjusting the "mouthpiece volume" (missing cone) by bringing the short tube B octaves in tune with one another?

Not quite. You're finding the correct missing cone volume first by matching the Ds. Then you're adjusting mouthpiece pitch (by adjusting chamber length for that volume by changing chamber size) to get the B and above in line with the rest of the horn.

It is not clear to me whether "if top B is sharp" means above A=440 or sharp in relation to the B an octave lower. Can you clarify your statement? In other words, at what point in the process is the tuning done to a standard pitch and not just bringing octaves in tune?

In relation to the octave below it. We're checking the 'width' of the octave.

I find mouthpiece volume and the "missing cone" totally fascinating and have studied Benade's writings on the subject. In fact, I have taken part in numerous discussions that address the importance of mouthpiece effective volume vs length of the instrument as measured to the tip of the mouthpiece in saxophone tuning. Any information that you can share in this area would be appreciated.

I also find it fascinating. Have a good look at Rocaboy. His study on the Basson reed cycle makes all of this obvious. I'll try to sum up how I think it works (but lets try not to retread old ground only with me standing in for Lance this time):

-----------------------------------------------------------
The sax is shaped like a cone with the end cut of to put a mouthpiece on it. It will play mostly in tune when the volume of the mouthpiece matches the volume of this cut of end of cone. This is what matching the Ds fits.

Everybody knows there is a standing wave that reflects from the reed to the end of the sax. There is another standing wave from the reed to the end of the mouthpiece (which behaves as a helmholtz resonator, with some length of the neck being the port). This wave influences the lengths of the open and closed portion of the reed oscillation, but it doesn't hugely affect the pitch of the sounded note until that note is at or above the frequency of the mouthpiece. Which, on most horn-mouthpiece combinations, is somewhere around B above the staff. So if the mouthpiece pitch is higher than required, it will make the top end sharp. So it needs bringing down. How do you make a mouthpiece pitch lower? Lengthen it. How do you do that and keep the volume the same? Narrow it.

I think it isn't just the perceived pitch, either. The mouthpiece pitch should pull up or down all the overtones in is vicinity as well, which will make pitch and tone less stable, reed response more sluggish, it affects everything. You'll know everything lines up properly when the horn sings effortlessly.

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I don't think this is any more info than what we have been talking about for a couple of years now, I just hope its concise and clear enough (and correct, FTM). I have made pieces like this for several professional players and serious students, and used while designing my own mouthpieces that I manufacture. So whatever the reason it works, it obviously works. I feel like I should reiterate that this isn't much of a solution for developing players. Until you can produce a professional sound your chops will hold you back more than a slight acoustic mismatch between horn and mouthpiece.
 
Wade Cornell

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Yeah, the weather will wreak havoc on reeds. I used to work on a ship doing LA to Hawaii. Even though it was indoors it's amazing how different reeds could play from one day to the next. Gotta keep a lot in rotation. Don't throw out your bad ones, you never know when one will go from zero to hero.

I worked on the Matson line in 1969-70 as Cruise Host/Entertainer on the LA-Hawaii run. Were you playing in the band?
 
kevgermany

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Just an observation - the frequency of a Helmholtz resonator decreases as the volume of the resonator increases, and decreases as the size of the hole decreases. Length/width don't come into it, unless you're calculating the mass of air in the opening.
 
Morgan Fry

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I worked on the Matson line in 1969-70 as Cruise Host/Entertainer on the LA-Hawaii run. Were you playing in the band?

That was a bit before my time, I'm afraid. I did it for Princess about 10 years ago.

Just an observation - the frequency of a Helmholtz resonator decreases as the volume of the resonator increases, and decreases as the size of the hole decreases. Length/width don't come into it, unless you're calculating the mass of air in the opening.

If only it were that simple. The frequency changes with the shape of the chamber, the shape of the port, even the shape of the transition on either end of the port. You can verify this yourself by building a simple one with some putty inside to make differently shaped chambers of equal volume, or delve into the research.
 
jbtsax

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Thank you Morgan for taking the time and having the patience to answer my questions.

Not quite. You're finding the correct missing cone volume first by matching the Ds. Then you're adjusting mouthpiece pitch (by adjusting chamber length for that volume by changing chamber size) to get the B and above in line with the rest of the horn.

I assume by "mouthpiece pitch" you are referring to its natural helmholtz frequency and not the "mouthpiece pitch" that sounds when the mouthpiece is played apart from the saxophone. Is this correct?

In relation to the octave below it. We're checking the 'width' of the octave.

Thank you for cleaning that up. I have read your responses over and over again and I am still puzzled about what step in the process the pitch of the saxophone is adjusted to conform to A=440. I get that the D octaves are tuned by moving the mouthpiece on or off the cork, and that the B octaves are tuned by adjusting the volume inside the mouthpiece. What if neither of these adjustments puts the sax in standard tuning pitch? What am I missing here?
 
Morgan Fry

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I assume by "mouthpiece pitch" you are referring to its natural helmholtz frequency and not the "mouthpiece pitch" that sounds when the mouthpiece is played apart from the saxophone. Is this correct?

Exactly. (I assume the mpc acts as a helmholtz resonator, I may be wrong. The important thing is that (as Rocaboy shows) there is a wave there. We don't need to know how to measure it, just how to alter it).

I get that the D octaves are tuned by moving the mouthpiece on or off the cork, and that the B octaves are tuned by adjusting the volume inside the mouthpiece.

I'm going to be a bit nitpicky here, and point out difference of conception rather than practice. I think the D octaves are tuned by adjusting the volume of the mouthpiece (by moving it up or down the cork) and the B octaves are tuned by adjusting the shape of that same volume.

Thank you for cleaning that up. I have read your responses over and over again and I am still puzzled about what step in the process the pitch of the saxophone is adjusted to conform to A=440.

Good question. Tuning to 440 should have been taken care of when the instrument was made. When the mouthpiece is a match to the sax's acoustic requirements, and placed on the neck where the horn plays in tune with itself, it will do so at the pitch the instrument was designed to play in tune at. This method assumes the competence of the instrument maker as well as the player. Any horn will still have some quirks, and it won't fix a badly designed or made instrument.


BTW, I'm not saying that every (well-made) sax will be at A440 when its low and middle D are in tune with each other. A badly matched mouthpiece can still pull middle D out of pitch I think, so finish all adjustments before checking where it is w/r/t a reference pitch.
 
jbtsax

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Thank you for taking the time to satisfy my curiosity about the procedure you described. I have a drawer full of used yamaha 4C mouthpieces, that when I have the time, will experiment with these concepts.

Just one last question, if I might. It is well known that D2 on the saxophone is typically sharp due to the fact that the body octave vent is in the ideal position for F and the D using that vent is 3 half steps away from that pitch. The farther a note is away from the ideal location, the sharper it becomes using the octave key. My question then is when playing D1 and D2 and adjusting the mouthpiece placement on the cork, is the octave key used to produce D2 or is it played as an (unaided) overtone? Thanks.
 
aldevis

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Just one last question, if I might. It is well known that D2 on the saxophone is typically sharp due to the fact that the body octave vent is in the ideal position for F and the D using that vent is 3 half steps away from that pitch. The farther a note is away from the ideal location, the sharper it becomes using the octave key.

I had a similar thought. I feel more comfortable with F.
Up till now, I tuned the lower register first, to find the correct position of the mouthpiece, then checked octaves.
As an alternative (with forgiving instruments), I tuned octaves first and checked with the tuner.

A further question is: plasticine in the chamber or in the bore?

I still cannot understand why some horns can play decently in tune one a fair range of pitches, without having to adjust too much my embochure.
 
kevgermany

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If only it were that simple. The frequency changes with the shape of the chamber, the shape of the port, even the shape of the transition on either end of the port. You can verify this yourself by building a simple one with some putty inside to make differently shaped chambers of equal volume, or delve into the research.



Thanks, there's a lot mor to it than I realised.
 
Morgan Fry

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Just one last question, if I might. It is well known that D2 on the saxophone is typically sharp due to the fact that the body octave vent is in the ideal position for F and the D using that vent is 3 half steps away from that pitch. The farther a note is away from the ideal location, the sharper it becomes using the octave key. My question then is when playing D1 and D2 and adjusting the mouthpiece placement on the cork, is the octave key used to produce D2 or is it played as an (unaided) overtone? Thanks.

Thanks, this reminds me that I forgot one very important point. Don't use the octave key. You can flick it to help start the note, but that is all. We're trying to match the requirements of the bore, so we need to take octave pip issues out of the equation.
 
Morgan Fry

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I had a similar thought. I feel more comfortable with F.
Up till now, I tuned the lower register first, to find the correct position of the mouthpiece, then checked octaves.
As an alternative (with forgiving instruments), I tuned octaves first and checked with the tuner.

I say use D because it is the lowest note for which we use as an overtone in normal fingering, and on curved instruments the lowest note before the 'extra' ones on the bell.
In normal playing, I tune middle B. No instrument is perfect, and tuning middle B to where it's in tune or a hair flat seems to get the best results over the entire horn (I copped this from something Eugene Rousseau wrote FWIW, works for me). I find that I almost never have to adjust the mouthpiece any more than a hair either way from gig to gig, though.
A further question is: plasticine in the chamber or in the bore?

Anywhere in the mouthpiece. To have the least effect on sound, spread it as evenly as you can in the throat and bore. But where it is will affect everything, sound as well as pitch.
 
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?
OK ! Thanks for the feedback guys the problem has been resolved without cutting bits of the crook!
I tried using a harder reed ( Rico Jazz 3 ) with little affect, I measured the cork and the internal diameter of the mouthpiece, the Jody @ 16 mm was very tight on the cork even after sanding most of the original cork away.( As a matter of interest the 4c was 16.5 mm).
I have now removed the cork which probably measured 18mm plus in its external diameter ,and replaced it with new cork just 1 mm thick, I also extended the cork by 20 mm. I can now play A=440 with about 20 mm of cork showing, which in my limited experience is what one would expect.
Thanks so much to those who responded, much of the content was well above my head I'm afraid but interesting for all that
 
kevgermany

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Just one question - is it in tune all the way through the range of the instrument?
 
dolbob

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The instrument is a tad flat at the bottom register and sharp above top E , is this to be expected?
 
aldevis

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The instrument is a tad flat at the bottom register and sharp above top E , is this to be expected?

It happens. I am currently looking to find a way to fix this common issue. If it is not to tiring for you to compensate, it is OK, if not you can join the bluetac branch of the forum.
 

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