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Very flat bottom C, B and Bb on a curved soprano

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EdJ

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I have a curved soprano that is good but the bottom C is very flat B and Bb too though somehow I feel C is flattest. It is like the bell joint is too long and those last two tone holes are a little further away than they should be. I took it to an excellent technician and he couldn’t correct it. He described perfectly what I was doing to bring it in tune (“honking in a subtone”). I asked about shortening the bell joint from the joint end to bring the last tone holes in closer. He was resistant to that idea, no doubt sensibly so. The rest of the notes are pretty good and relatively easy to play in tune. It is a Bauhaus curved. Any “sharp” ideas to improve this issue gratefully received as it is portable, a great fun piece of kit and paradoxically has good tuning higher up. Thanks Ed
 
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lydian

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Sounds like a poorly matched mouthpiece to me or embouchure that needs work. Raising the cup heights can help a little, but you can only go so far. I’d try some different mouthpieces first.
 
LostCircuits

LostCircuits

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I have a curved soprano that is good but the bottom C is very flat B and Bb too though somehow I feel C is flattest. It is like the bell joint is too long and those last two tone holes are a little further away than they should be. I took it to an excellent technician and he couldn’t correct it. He described perfectly what I was doing to bring it in tune (“honking in a subtone”). I asked about shortening the bell joint from the joint end to bring the last tone holes in closer. He was resistant to that idea, no doubt sensibly so. The rest of the notes are pretty good and relatively easy to play in tune. It is a Bauhaus curved. Any “sharp” ideas to improve this issue gratefully received as it is portable, a great fun piece of kit and paradoxically has good tuning higher up. Thanks Ed
Don't change the bell joint / length of the horn.

When you "tune" the instrument, center it around low D or E, that might make the higher notes go a bit sharp but also alleviate some of the flatness. In addition, unless you can check it yourself, have your tech look at the key height. If your key opening is too large, those notes will play sharper than they should. Lowering the keys, specifically the lower stack will make those notes play more flat, which will bring the C and lower back into relative tuning.
Also make sure that the C-key opens all the way, you may have to shorten the bumper a bit to give it more room (but I don't know the Bauhaus sop so I can only guess).

Those are the first easy things to check. The next is your MPC because as @lydian suggested, it could be the MPC/embouchure/blowing angle that causes the issue. What mouthpiece are you using? Also make sure you take in enough of the MPC and blow parallel to the reed without squeezing it. Relax your embouchure to be a non-embouchure and raise/lower the horn's angle - you will immediately know when you hit the right angle/position.
 
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Stephen Howard

Stephen Howard

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I'm pretty sure it'll be a combination of mouthpiece/embouchure problems and bell key heights.
The BW curvy is a copy of a Yanagisawa - so it's highly unlikely to have a misdimensioned bottom bow.
However, tuning issues are common with these horns - and it always comes down to not having the mouthpiece pushed on far enough. And it really does have to go on quite a bit further than you think in order to bring the horn in tune with itself.
Of course, this raises the pitch of the whole horn - so you'll have to re-train your embouchure to bring the horn back into concert pitch.
 
Colin the Bear

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Sop takes some getting used to. It took me quite a while to play in tune and adjust to the idiosyncratic intonation. It's not a little tenor. So easy to bend notes in and out of tune.
 
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jbtsax

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You might try tuning to A concert---B natural on the soprano, and then fingering low B and playing it's harmonic an octave higher. Finding the mouthpiece location where the two come closest to matching in pitch might be a good place to start. Loosening the embouchure to play the lowest notes on the saxophone can produce the problem described.

If that is the case, practice playing low G with a "firm" embouchure and quickly slur down to low C using the same embouchure, and hold it as a long tone. When this feels comfortable do the same on low B and Bb.
 
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EdJ

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Thanks all.

I certainly pushed the mouthpiece right on with the cork sanded to a thin film (funnily enough I have recently found pulling it off a tiny amount is better though still more or less to the hilt). I tried 3 mouthpieces and stuck with the best one.

I lifted the bell keys as far as they go abutting the key guards. The Tech checked this and agreed.

I also have a Bauhaus straight sop which is totally in tune by comparison with the same mouthpiece. the bottom notes are bang on. I find a few problems with middle and top As and Bs on the straight one but I am used to lipping them without too much thought.

I did find the curved sop marginally better in tune with the straight neck from the straight sop but the playing position was not good.

I was going to sell the curved when I got the straight one but I am playing soprano a lot (mainly the straight one), I love the curved sops sound and it fits in a Brompton T bag in a Berkeley case (unlike the straight one) so I kept it for travel.

Interestingly the tech who looked at it for me is a good player and a professional player tried it too. Both found the same issue as I did. The tech described the technique of “honking in a subtone” which works.

It is manageable but makes playing sustained quiet C, B or Bb in an ensemble a chore. Paradoxically it is pretty good from C# upwards it’s top notes up to F# are great and it was that which made me replace my original Yanagisawa 800 series curved with it.

I’ll soldier on and based on this feedback I will
a) play it more than the straight one to get used to it again adjusting mouthpiece position and developing embouchure.
b) Possibly try other mouthpieces (though I am very happy with my Selmer C* on Bauhaus straight, Conn C and this one bar these 3 notes so the psychological bar is high to changing).
c) If see Bauhaus curved sops (and other economy brands) for sale I will try them in parallel and may swap if better. Though it will take some beating as otherwise it is pretty good.
d) I’ll get some lesson and read more of the Dave Liebmann book the teacher who solved my back pain and improved my playing advised. I would recommend him to anyone in Bristol, Bath, Somerset or Wiltshire. He doesn’t advertise as a teacher but I met him at workshops and was impressed.

Chopping off the near end of the bell joint is not seriously on my list of things to do though it should work in theory. A lot of pain and mess for little gain and probable knock on negative effects

Thanks for the feedback I should have thought of asking the members here a while back. Rapid sensible and expert advice on tap.
 
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EdJ

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PS the playing more and tuning will include the very specific technique points suggested in the postings - great stuff. Thanks
 
Stephen Howard

Stephen Howard

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For what it's worth I've always found curvies to be a little more demanding when it comes to tuning.
If I have to play a soprano my preference is always for a straight single-tube one...like the old Yamaha 62.
 
Nick Wyver

Nick Wyver

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More anecdote.
My curved BW sop is well tuned over the whole range.
This is the optimum position for a PPT mouthpiece (today, that is - a smidgen further off in hot weather).
PPT Bauhaus s
 
LostCircuits

LostCircuits

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More anecdote.
My curved BW sop is well tuned over the whole range.
This is the optimum position for a PPT mouthpiece (today, that is - a smidgen further off in hot weather).
View attachment 19549
That's consistent with what I see on my saxello, regardless of the MPC I use. Tune "sharp" and play flat (where necessary) but if you blow at the right angle, you don't need to.
 
Colin the Bear

Colin the Bear

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Or buy a swanee whiste.
 
Colin the Bear

Colin the Bear

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Mirror mirror on the wall
What's the hardest sax of all?
 
LostCircuits

LostCircuits

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My Bear, the soprano is the hardest here, so true! But behind the mountains, where the 7 dwarfs are home, there is a sopranino which is a thousand times harder than thou's soprano!
 
Colin the Bear

Colin the Bear

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Nah! I've blown a nino. Eb innit. Much easier. ;)
 
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EdJ

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More anecdote.
My curved BW sop is well tuned over the whole range.
This is the optimum position for a PPT mouthpiece (today, that is - a smidgen further off in hot weather).
PPT Bauhaus s.jpg
I was inspired by this to see if I could push it on even further than what I previously thought was the stopping point of metal on plastic. To my surprise a bit of extra shove it did move and it was better. I tried again and really got it as far as it will go, right to the pip. The sound quality seemed worse across the range then though.

Thanks to the forum, a new mouthpiece position, more practice and a slightly different spectrum of intonation battle I have decided it is a keeper

Could I check the precise model of the PPT sop mouthpiece too?

Thank you all.
 
Colin the Bear

Colin the Bear

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Mouthpiece position is critical on sop. Pitch is very flexible.
I found that tone and embouchure needed more work and effort than the others but once you get it dialed in it's just a matter of practice to keep it up.
I don't think I'll ever be satisfied with it.
 
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EdJ

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Yes rammed on a tiny amount further meant more of a battle at the top which is now sharper but less of a battle at the bottom which is now less extreme in flatness.

I don’t know why the fraction of a push further right to metal on plastic, mouthpiece on pip seemed to strangle things. It’s hard to explain what precisely was wrong but it was definitely beyond what seems the new sweet (or at least not so sour) spot. To go on any further would require cutting something.

Thanks again
 

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