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Beginner Tuning...

sushidushi

Mine's an espresso
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651
I just checked the tuning of my sax. I usually just check one or two notes against an electronic tuner, but today I thought I'd try a few more notes. I noticed that the notes in the upper octave (like G played with octave key and L123) were generally a bit sharp.

I think I read on here a little while ago that it's generally best to tune to higher notes and the lower ones will look after themselves, or it might have been the other way round.

I guess it could be the (ridiculously cheap, Chinese) saxophone, but it could just as easily be its incompetent player. Any other likely candidates...?

Anyway, I can't find the thread now and would welcome any thoughts from you good people. Thanks!
 

Colin the Bear

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I recently checked mine against a tuner and was shocked to find how far I was out. We must compensate more than we realise when playing.

I find it's best to check high and low and middle to find a happy compromise. Then when playing you're not pushing and pulling too much with your embouchure and spoiling the tone. My Baritone plays flat at the bottom and sharp at the top when the middle is right according to the tuner. So I must pull the top down and push the bottom up without realising.

The reed can have a noticable effect on tuning. I fished out the wrong reed from my case and fitted it without realising. Tuning went out the window. Reed went in the bin when I realised what I'd done.

I tried a second hand startone purple alto recently. Bargain price and a nice action but flat at the top and sharp at the bottom without a tuner and unable to correct it. I suppose it would have been ok if you never left the middle. Two octaves D to D were fine.

One of the hazzards of a poor instrument. I suppose that's where a good sax is worth it's money. Never had one so wouldn't know.
 

TimC

Member
Messages
50
I read somewhere that recommended tuning middle C# and middle D and find the spot between the two notes since it'll cover most of the length of the sax except the extreme top and bottom. It seems to work pretty well for me with the few play along karaoke versions of tunes I've found and used one youtube.
 

sushidushi

Mine's an espresso
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651
I read somewhere that recommended tuning middle C# and middle D and find the spot between the two notes since it'll cover most of the length of the sax except the extreme top and bottom.

Middle C# as in open, no fingers at all, and middle D with octave key, L123 and R123?

The reed can have a noticable effect on tuning. I fished out the wrong reed from my case and fitted it without realising. Tuning went out the window. Reed went in the bin when I realised what I'd done.

Thanks, Mr Bear. Do you mean wrong as in worn out or damaged, or a strength you're not used to?

I might need to experiment a bit more with reeds, but at the same time I don't want to introduce too many variables and blame the equipment for my own inadequacies. That said, I did try using the mouthpiece that came with the sax yesterday, and it made me so glad that I had bought the Hite Premiere, which is only another cheap plastic mouthpiece, but what a difference! The original one, which I hadn't tried for more than a couple of minutes before, was pretty much unplayable.
 

TimC

Member
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50
Middle C# as in open, no fingers at all, and middle D with octave key, L123 and R123?

Yes those are the notes, I think the reasoning was that the middle C# is one of the notes that tend to be most flat, while middle D is one of the sharpest, so tuning the sax to be in between these two notes would often make for a good compromise.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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Adjust the mouthpiece so that the octaves are in tune without having to adjust embouchure. Then adjust emboushure to bring the whole sax into tune with the tuner/other instruments.
 

jbtsax

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The method of tuning that works for me is to tune to concert A (F# on alto sax).

I first adjust the mouthpiece on the cork to tune the written low F#. Then the octave key is added to check the pitch of the high F#. This octave should be well in tune with a the correct embouchure pressure and a well made saxophone. Next low B natural is fingered and "overblown" to its second harmonic F#. If this F# matches the pitch of the others, it confirms that the overall length of the saxophone is correct to play at A=440 and in tune with itself.
 

Morgan Fry

Senior Member
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Leeds
I pretty much always tune to middle B on any horn. Tune it in tune or a few cents flat. Should put the horn in a place where you'll need minimal adjustment as you play. Tuning to Bb or A concert doesn't take into account the quirks of the instrument well enough IME.

Sent from my HTC One X using Tapatalk 2
 

TomMapfumo

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I'll have to give that a go!

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aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
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I pretty much always tune to middle B on any horn. Tune it in tune or a few cents flat. Should put the horn in a place where you'll need minimal adjustment as you play. Tuning to Bb or A concert doesn't take into account the quirks of the instrument well enough IME.

Sent from my HTC One X using Tapatalk 2

Totally agree. But personally I try to tune more notes (usually fourths and fifths of the tuning note) finding a middle of the road position for the mouthpiece.

Sent from my BTW 4u using Pastawalk Bolognaise
 

Profusia

Senior Member
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Making an audience suffer occasionally out of tune notes at the extreme end of your range is just plain wrong.
You should tune to altissimo D so that the whole of the rest of the range is out of tune and help your audience to quickly adapt to and appreciate your radically new approach to freestyle jazz. :w00t:

Sent from my pidgeon loft.
 

gregerhillman

Member
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52
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Sweden
@Sushidushi:
Going back to your original question in this thread I would like to give you my best tips to work on tuning.

I recommend that you tune up your saxophone on the G note (L123) without the octave key.

There are several reasons for this and here are a few:
1. You can play your G on the sax using one hand and play a F minor (F,Ab,C tenor) or B-flat minor(Bb,D,F alto) on a keyboard
to compare and listen to how you are tuning against that chord. Using a tuner works fine too, but by doing it the way I just
explained makes it a lot easier for you to hear what needs to be adjusted and learn how it should be sounding.

2. another reason for using the G note is that it's an easy note to play and it will harmonize well if you are part of a band.
(Most orchestras/bands tune on a Concert Bb-flat. Not referring to pop/rock bands)

3. Using the G makes it easy for you to adjust the mouthpiece with the right hand which also makes it easier to tune up.

So, how to practice?

One of the most common reasons why you can sound out of tune in between the octaves and even by playing certain notes next to each other (ex. C#2 - D2 as mentioned in previous post) is the wrong use of the air in combination with biting down on the mouthpiece too much.

Do you get a more "closed sound" and loose power in the upper register as well as sound a bit sharp?

This could be the combination of too little air and too much pressure around the mouthpiece.

Practice to improve your airflow and loosen the pressure of your jaw by:

1. Using the Neck and Mouthpiece in front of a mirror. Play the note and drop your jaw until the sound disappears.
Do the same thing and now try to adjust the jaw to the position where you get the "biggest" sound.
this can take a few tries in order to get right.

2. Now add the whole saxophone and do the same thing. Again, let this take some time and listen to where you get the "biggest"
sound, using the G note (L123), no octave.

When you yawn you open up your whole mouth and throat, right?
Now, this is the "open feeling" you are going for inside your mouth in order to get that open sound.

3. Play the G without the octave key (yawning feeling) and establish that sound. Add the octave key without adjusting the
amboshure (jaw) around the mouthpiece.

Are you getting an open sound now?

Even though your G2(with octave key) should be sounding more in tune by following these steps you may still be a bit sharp.
To fix this you need to loosen the jaw and add more air. Now, remember we are talking about really small adjustments here.

My final tip:

Use a mirror and look at your mouth as you are practicing these things. You may be doing things that you are not aware of which I know I used to do before I started doing this now and again way back.

Hope this helps you out!

Play On!
/Greger
 

What

Member
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Pittsburgh P.A.
I tend to look for my trouble note for me it's middle B. I tend to fluctuate between A and B when I am out of tune. It's the only note that I don't appear to be able to hit cleanly unless the mpc is on the cork just right. That's the note that I aim for and the rest of the horn falls into place. Maybe it's just a me thing, but it's what I like to do myself.

I am sure like a lot of things especially with saxes it's a little different for each of us.
 

sushidushi

Mine's an espresso
Messages
651
Thanks very much, everyone. There are a few things to try there. I suspect I'll just have to start from the beginning again. A bit of a pain, but I might as well do it properly :)

The note that really sounds off to be is C# (with no keys depressed). It is horribly flat. I guess it could be the sax, at least in part, but that's something I'll have to live with.
 

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
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Burnley bb9 9dn
Thanks very much, everyone. There are a few things to try there. I suspect I'll just have to start from the beginning again. A bit of a pain, but I might as well do it properly :)

The note that really sounds off to be is C# (with no keys depressed). It is horribly flat. I guess it could be the sax, at least in part, but that's something I'll have to live with.

Post 5

Tune C# with the mouthpiece and adjust your embouchure to correct the rest. Maybe you're playing sharp with a tight embouchure. Move your tongue to the back of the mouth and (yawn) open your throat. The sax doesn't play in tune , you have to make it play in tune.
 

sushidushi

Mine's an espresso
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651
I think I'll try that first. I am floundering a bit at the moment. It seems mostly to be the higher notes that are sharp, which I suppose might be because of embouchure. I'll experiment and see what happens...
 

jbtsax

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Set the embouchure to play A concert on the mouthpiece alone, or Ab concert on the mouthpiece and neck. Playing too high on the pitch of the mouthpiece creates the condition you are experiencing which is the high notes being sharp relative to the low notes.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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If C# is flat, raising the key can help (take to a technician). But you should be able to lip it up and give a touch more air support to bring it into line.
 

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