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  1. #1

    Default Acceptable intonation errors?

    To start, I've been learning on a late model King Zephry Baritone. I work with a large chamber mouthpiece (rascher), and a softish reed (vandoren Trad. 3), and in general, I do pretty well on only a six months of dedicated practice... so far.

    My questions is about how much one should expect to have to "adjust" on your saxophone to correct for the sax itself. With 0 adjustment at all, I can run from low Bb to mid-C# and never come off more than 10 cents flat. That is only for F and E that I'm flat anyway, and it takes almost no adjusting to fix it. In the low register, I feel pretty good.

    As I hit the octave button, things go nutso for me. No single embouchure keeps the register nearly in tune. If I hold over from C# to D, I'll be in tune up to E, but F comes in sharp, G comes in very sharp (25-30 cents), and then A to C# is back in tune again or a bit flat. If I try to lip down the G, I get that nast pitch instability that high G is problematic for. It rips into a weird waver between low G, High G, and a fifth over that. It sounds awful. I can hold high G only by putting extreme air behind it. If I really crush air into high G, it holds for longer, with only a hint of the other harmonics. This is true even when I slur up from below, so the octave key isn't sticking. This makes high G the least subtle note I can play.

    If I accept a completely different sound from the saxophone, I can back off the mouthpiece to the very tip, use almost no lip pressure, and play the upper register from top to bottom, but then the low register is hesitant to sound and impossible to adjust up since I'm too close to the tip to put any pressure on it. The adjustment is too radical to manage mid playing though, so that can't be right.

    The horn was recently leak-fixed by the best shop in the area, twice. I didn't have the cash on hand to have them adjust every little hole for intonation, but the guy in the shop did as best as he could with my resources and his time.

    So how far off should I allow myself? 20 cents seems extreme to me, but + or - 5 cents isn't super noticeable against my shaky piano recordings or my tuner. That high G problem is of course killing me, since I can't play anything that hits that note without blasting it in comparison to the rest of the song, or blasting the whole song.

    When your are playing a piece without major inflection or expression, how far off do you let yourself get? For instance, If you played a classical piece, would you let yourself stray by 10 cents? 20? When playing a fast, technical passage, do you let your tuning get off by a bit more than normal, or do you adjust that quickly on the fly? Are 10 cents really that noticeable?

    Any advice is appreciated. I know I need more work on my air column and any exercises for that would also help me keep the pressure steady from low to high, and across that troublesome G. Long tones (35-40 minutes a day... gruelling, boring work at this point) are helping, but I can barely hold that G in tune and stable for 4 beats, even when slurring up to it from an in-tune F.

  2. #2
    Distinguished SOTW Member
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    Default Re: Acceptable intonation errors?

    My thoughts-

    1. The reed is possibly too hard (a vandoren blue box 3 is not "soft-ish")
    2. The reed being too hard causes you to possibly bite in order to get notes to sound (which closes off the tip and can cause intonation issues)
    3. Push the mouthpiece on farther so your lower register is flat-out in tune, then you can relax your embouchure and hopefully the upper register will come down to Earth

    My .02
    Ska Ska Ska Ska Ska

  3. #3

    Join Date
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    Default Re: Acceptable intonation errors?

    Usually the bari (being lowest except for bass) has the least tuning issues, try a soprano if you want issues. Most beginners clamp down on the mouthpiece to offset muscle strength and finesse just like buddy lee said. I commend you for your efforts, but I would get some lessons from a reputable teacher. Nothing like expert hands on advice. We all tune on the fly. The best get superhuman control and flexibillity from countless hours of practice/performance on their specific instrument(s). Part of what makes the sax's sound is the hunting for note intonation and timbre. On a small scale though, not bending lik mad, unless that's your intention for effect.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Acceptable intonation errors?

    Yeah, I'm planning to move states in just over a month, so it might be a while before I can sit reliably with someone. I desperately want a teacher, if only once a week for suggestions and corrections, but until I get my relocation handled, that is right out. On the other hand, I have a box of 2.5 reeds I could try as per buddy's advice. I'm afraid to relax too much though, since the G warble gets worse as I relax. Trial, error, and a whole lot of practice are in order for now.

  5. #5
    Distinguished Member, Forum Contributor Merlin's Avatar
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    Stratford, ON, Canada
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    Default Re: Acceptable intonation errors?

    Quote Originally Posted by buddy lee View Post

    1. The reed is possibly too hard (a vandoren blue box 3 is not "soft-ish")
    On a close-tipped mouthpiece like a Rascher, it certainly shouldn't be too hard.

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