Saxophone Forum


by CatfishJazz
(7 posts)
9 months ago

Perpetually sharp vintage Bari

I have a 1937 Buescher Aristocrat baritone sax with an interesting problem. For a while now it has been playing extremely sharp - in the range of about 50 cents just tuning from the mouthpiece. I can get it down to about 20 cents by dropping my jaw to the floor and tuning from the neck joint. It is a low-B not a low-A, so it already runs a little sharp compared to modern horns. But this is just ridiculous.

I'd like to start by saying I am about 95% sure it's not me, because I can make other baris play in tune (I actually tend to run a bit flat.). However, my repair tech never lets an instrument go out his door if he can't play it in tune, and mine has been past him. So either he was too busy to check or he was able to lip it down into what he considered an acceptable range. When I first tried the horn before purchasing it, I thought it was fine. I was pretty new to bari then, so who knows, though. I really noticed a problem about 6 months into playing it, but by then it had already been to a repair shop I don't really trust. Maybe they broke something (they did detach+reattach the Q to remove a dent and someone fiddled with the octave mechanism).

I am at a complete loss. This is a list of stuff I have tried, all with no luck:

  • Tuning from the mouthpice. I've pulled it out to where it barely stays on, and it's still sharp.
  • Tuning from the neck joint. Not technically something you're supposed to do, but it was a tutor's suggestion. Unfortunately, I can only pull out the neck about 1/4" before my octave mechanism stops connecting.
  • Using different mouthpieces. Cheap ones, expensive ones, vintage ones, modern ones, jazz, classical, rubber, metal, all sorts of bore sizes. You name it.
  • Getting the horn repadded. It originally had Beuscher snap on pads. I've had a shop (not my usual one) repad it with snap-ons. This was also the time they fixed the dents. I took it in to my regular shop to fix the sharpness issue about a year later; they noticed leaks and repadded with regular pads after grinding the snaps down.
  • Varying reed strengths. I've played on everything from a 2-3.5 of various cuts. Yes, I have noticed that softer reeds play flatter, but it's not enough to fix the problem.
  • Messing with my embouchure. I've tried biting more of the mouthpiece, dropping my jaw, opening up my throat. Open to furhter suggestions, though.
  • Playing in different temperatures and humidities.

Thanks to anybody who's read this far down. :) I'm so out of tune all the time that the conductor of my band has asked me never to play on my poor Buescher. I just hate to give up on this beautiful old horn! I came across this post: https://www.saxophone.org/forum/thread/id/11785/name/pitch+problems+on+old+bari+sax which led me to try asking for help here.

Any ideas at all are appreciated!

Reply To Post [Report Abuse]

Report Abuse

Replies

  1. by mijderf
    (131 posts)

    9 months ago

    Re: Perpetually sharp vintage Bari

    First the disclaimer.  I do not play bari.  But here is a thread from another forum that discusses this problem.  Pay attention to the 2nd posting.  That guy is a Buescher expert and plays bari very well.  His statements about the old pickle barrel mouthpieces and projection may not be immportant to you in the band you play in.  
    He also refences mouthpiece maker and refacer Eric Greiffenhagen.  He can be contacted at www.mouthpieceguys.com

    Good luck.

    https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?160877-Vintage-Buescher-quot-Big-B-quot-Aristocrat-Bari

    Reply To Post


  2. by historicsaxwhisperer
    (211 posts)

    9 months ago

    Re: Perpetually sharp vintage Bari

    You first mentioned that for awhile now it has been playing sharp.

    That tells me that it did not do this in the past:

    *First, lets try and rule out that it may be a high pitch as opposed to a low pitch horn.

    *Some Europeans actually special ordered high pitch horns STILL during this time frame, 1938. Does the horn have either an L or an HP marking Under the True Tone emblem on the back of the horn. Possibly neither in 1937.

    *You also mentioned the repadding. I am inclined to feel this is your issue.

    The key height may have been affected during this procedure, so I would take the horn to someone trustworthy. Ask around and find out who uses who in your area. Did you notice any difference in the overal feel at this point? Like your fingers were closer and the horn just seemed different.

    If a shop can play test it in front of you with a turner and give you an acceptable result, then blame yourself. If it truly played fine in the past, it is simply something like key height on a key or keys that stand open for the majority of notes, Maybe simply the bell keys, giving an overal smaller chamber for air and sound to excape.

     

    Check out this link from the museum link on this site here referring to HP and L horns

    https://www.saxophone.org/museum/saxophones/specimen/1556

     

     

    Good Luck.

    Reply To Post


  3. by bjroosevelt
    (47 posts)

    9 months ago

    Re: Perpetually sharp vintage Bari

    I have a high pitched vintage tenor with a similar problem to what you are facing. I am still the only one in my band who has the mouthpiece pulled almost all the way out rather than shoved all of the way in.  The horn was quite annoying when I got it.

    Solutions worked for me.

    1). Eliminate any beginner mouthpieces.  The gap on my mouthpiece is about 90.  I think that typical tenor mouthpieces are between 40 and 70.  (These are tenor measurements, not bari measurements.  Your gap might need to be different....it is just that you need a big gap)

    2). Get an open throated mouthpiece without any baffling.

    3). Get a softer reed.  I think that changing to a softer reed has a small impact in the correct direction; but if you jump from a tip opening of 40 to 90 or so without softening up your reed, you mouth is going to be in a lot of pain.

    These changes had a shocking impact on the tone of my sax.  I think I was almost a half step sharp before I figured out the mouthpiece/reed combination I needed.  

    So even though I still play with the mouthpiece pushed in only some, I am able to stay on pitch with some adjustments to my lower jaw......I am yet to be accused of playing my sax flat.....

    If that doesn't work, you might need to consider lowering your key heights.  Yikes! 

    Reply To Post


    1. by CatfishJazz
      (7 posts)

      6 months ago

      Re: Perpetually sharp vintage Bari

      Thanks to everyone who gave their opinion here.

      I looked into having a mouthpiece extension built, but that fell through.

      Also, my horn is Low Pitch and marked as such.

      I'm thinking I will try to find a mouthpiece with a massive barrel and see if that fixes it. Little worried that this is gonna lower my max volume, though, as I've never been a very loud player. So I'm also considering finding a shop to fix the key heights, but most I've run into have told me they're way too busy to take time for complex repairs like that, especially around the holiday season.

      Anyway, fingers crossed that one or both of these fixes gets my Buescher playable - eventually.

      Thanks again!

      Reply To Post


      1. by mijderf
        (131 posts)

        6 months ago

        Re: Perpetually sharp vintage Bari

        Seriously, you should contact Erik Greiffenhagen and discuss mouthpieces with him.  He is an excellent mouthpiece refacer and designer.  I have had some wonderful work done by him on my alto and tenor pieces.  His email address is:
        erikgmouthpieceguy@yahoo.com

        You can learn about what he does on his website: www.mouthpieceguys.com.  You might even want to call and discuss this with him.  His full contact info including ph number is on the aforementioned site.

        Reply To Post


    2. by mijderf
      (131 posts)

      6 months ago

      Re: Perpetually sharp vintage Bari

      You are not alone with this issue.  Here is a discussion from another saxophone forum where a player is having issues with a much newer Yamaha bari playing very sharp.  
      https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?302178-Yamaha-YBS-61-Baritone-Tuning&p=3258873#post3258873
      The concensus is that you need to play with a very relaxed (loose) embouchure to play a bari in tune.  
      I know you say that you about drop your jaw to the floor and still play sharp, but you would be surprised that you can still put too much muscle tension into your embouchure even when dropping the jaw.  Try not dropping the jaw and imagine relaxing your embouchure like you were about to fall asleep.  When I did this on my horns, I was shocked that what I thought was a very loose embouchure really wasn't.

      Good luck, and don't give up. 

      Reply To Post


      1. by bjroosevelt
        (47 posts)

        6 months ago

        Re: Perpetually sharp vintage Bari

        I agree with mijderf.  If you have tried different mouthpieces and reeds and you are still having the same problem, it is probably your embouchure.

        I am not a Bari play, but am a tenor player who struggles with a similar issue.  I thought the ’sharp’ problem was my vintage Conn being pitched high, until I bought a new horn and the problem was still there.

        I’ve dealt with it for sometime.  I would like to share my solutions, as one of them might work for you.....I have no idea if they are considered good form or not, but they get me much more consistent.

        1). Try channeling the air in your mouth through your lower lip.  (Cheeks stay tight, lower lip puffs out some). I find that when I do this, my pitch goes down a lot.....like 10 to 20 cents.  When I play in tune, the area under my lower lip is puffed out.  I think that this puffyness makes my lower lip softer, thus allowing the reed to vibrate properly.  When I blow into the mouthpiece without focusing on channeling the air this way, I go sharp.

        2).  Try adjusting your reed up or down by micrometers, not millimeters.  I am always surprised at how much difference a very slight movement of the reed makes.  I think that for me, extending the reed up drops my pitch some.

        3).  Focus on the mouthpiece angle in your mouth.  I find myself making significant adjustments to my neck strap length based on a variety of factors....it definitely has an impact on pitch, as a tighter neckstrap will push your lower lip against the reed more firmly...and it changes the angle the air enters the reed.

        4). Focus on the other mouthpiece angle in your mouth.  Do you know what ’Roll’ is.   Sometimes I need to rotate the mouthpiece slightly clockwise or counterclockwise to get my pitch correct.

        5). And for some bloody assed reason, if I don’t wear a thick collar around my neck (and under my neck strap), I play sharp.....If you are using a shoulder strap for your Bari, this won’t be helpful.  I think the simple problem is that when the horn is resting primarily on my neck, my airways get screwed up.....weight distribution needs to change More towards my shoulders.

        6). Focus on making an upside down half-moon around the top of the mouthpiece with your upper lip.  Do not do the same with your lower lip. No clue why this helps me, but it does.

        7). Try tucking less of your lower lip over you bottom teeth.

        8). Push air up from your stomach, not out from your mouth or chest....I’m sure you have heard this about 1,000 times.......As much as I know this, I still fight with it.

        That is it for my experience, and the ongoing battle of staying in tune without changing gear.



         

        Reply To Post